Sidepodcast - All for F1 and F1 for all

Class of the Field
Adam Barton

A Formula One fan since he was six, back while Häkkinen and Schumacher were having many an epic battle, Adam has seen a great deal. From German domination (twice), to British determination (once) and a Spanish invasion. A near compulsive fan who one day hopes to write about the sport for a living, outside of F1 Adam also authors his own blog One Guy's Opinion.

Williams star on Hamilton’s big day - An anti-climactic title fight but Massa was more interested in victory


Okay, so we didn’t get a title decider for the ages. It wasn’t 2008, or 2012 but it was still a fascinating weekend and a great battle between the two worthy contenders from Mercedes, right up until the moment that Nico Rosberg suffered an ERS failure. But the championship already appeared within reach for Lewis Hamilton after a lightning fast getaway that launched him into first and control of the race.

The battle ebbed and flowed until midway through the race when Rosberg’s problems became apparent. Congratulations to Lewis Hamilton on securing a second world title and a first for Mercedes since 1955, but also I have to say I gained respect for Nico Rosberg, who fought to the end and insisted on finishing the race despite being severely hampered by the unreliability of his Mercedes.

Massa comes up just short

Felipe Massa, Williams Martini Racing: Started 4th, Finished 2nd

Hamilton was managing his car from the moment that Rosberg dropped out of contention for the race victory, and therefore serious championship consideration, but Felipe Massa was just 2.5 seconds behind Hamilton come the end of the race. The Williams looked quick throughout the weekend, benefitting from the long straights of the Yas Marina circuit, and clearly hindered by the twisty final sector, where the slippery chassis struggled in the slower corners.

It was Massa who got the perfect start on Sunday
Credit: Glenn Dunbar/Williams F1

Massa appeared to be the biggest threat to Mercedes on Saturday, he was the faster of the two Williams and was just a couple of tenths shy of the Mercedes in Q1 and Q2, setting the best first and second sectors of Q2. Ultimately, Valtteri Bottas came up with a mega lap at the end of Q3 to pip Felipe Massa to third on the grid.

However it was Massa who got the perfect start on Sunday, benefitting from his teammate's poor getaway and challenging Nico Rosberg into turn one. From there, the Brazilian set about keeping the gap to the Mercedes as low as possible. What put Massa right in the hunt was his ability to conserve his tyres, lasting a few laps longer than anyone else on his Q2 tyres at the start of the race, eventually pitting at the end of lap 13, maintaining the gap to the pair of Mercedes ahead despite worn Supersoft tyres. This would have a big bearing on the end of the race. Having breezed past the powerless Rosberg, Massa led the race after Hamilton’s second stop until making his own second stop with 12 laps to go, able to go back onto the supersoft tyres having run long in the first and second stint.

The Williams took huge chunks out of the Mercedes’ lead lap after lap. At times the gap was coming down by more than a second a lap

The chase was then on for the final 12 laps as Massa knew Hamilton was taking no chances with the title in hand and the Brazilian had fresher, softer tyres. The Williams took huge chunks out of the Mercedes’ lead lap after lap. At times the gap was coming down by more than a second a lap, but with five laps to go, the lead plateaued as Massa’s tyres wore down and battery issues hampered the Williams.

Regardless, it was a great effort from Felipe Massa who stormed to a third podium of the year and Williams’ best effort compared to the Mercedes since Austria.

Button saves McLaren’s bacon, but will it save his job?

Jenson Button, McLaren Mercedes: Started 6th, Finished 5th

Button came out ninth but was able to clear the Force Indias
Credit: McLaren Mercedes

In all likelihood the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was Jenson Button’s last. What’s sadder is the fact that due to McLaren’s treatment of their drivers we still don’t know if it was. But if Jenson Button is forced out to be replaced by Fernando Alonso again, he sure gave McLaren an idea of what they will be missing.

McLaren appeared to be off the pace throughout practice but did get closer to the ultimate pace as the weekend wore on. But it was Button who had the speed when it counted in qualifying. Kevin Magnussen was marginally faster in Q1 but in Q2, Button was three tenths faster, leaving the Dane stranded in 11th as Button progressed to Q3 and ultimately qualified eighth, but was elevated to 6th after Red Bull’s exclusion.

Button made a good start to move up to fourth. At the first round of stops, the Brit lost time and dropped back into the pack, losing out to both Valtteri Bottas and Daniel Ricciardo as he got caught up in a battle with Kevin Magnussen, Sebastian Vettel, and Fernando Alonso, with the Dane and German holding Button up on alternate strategies.

After his second stop, Button came out ninth but was able to clear the Force Indias, who had yet to run the supersoft tyres, Nico Rosberg and Vettel again. The result was critical for McLaren as it secured fifth place in the championship ahead of Force India. Had Button gone off the boil as Magnussen did, who struggled on the option tyres in his middle stint, McLaren would not have beat their long time technical ‘customer’ over the course of a season.

Jenson Button’s experience saved McLaren’s blushes and their wallets in Abu Dhabi, though experience is presumably the reason that the Woking squad want Alonso to partner Magnussen in 2015.

Ricciardo recovery ends Red Bull’s season on a high

Daniel Ricciardo, Infiniti Red Bull Racing: Started from the Pitlane, Finished 4th

Ricciardo was the top driver in qualifying without Mercedes power

Daniel Ricciardo closed out his rookie season with Red Bull in tremendous fashion. Clearly the car hasn’t suited four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel but regardless, the German has been comprehensively beaten by his Aussie teammate, both on Saturdays and Sundays.

Ricciardo was the top driver in qualifying without Mercedes power, pipping his teammate to the accolade, though it may have been aided by the flexible front wings on his Red Bull car that he and Vettel managed to qualify on the third row. Exclusion followed and Ricciardo was unfairly placed behind Vettel as the pair started from the pitlane. It wasn’t much of a hindrance as the Australian passed Vettel early in the race and never looked back.

Running the soft tyres in the first stint allowed Ricciardo to move up the field as the midfield pitted early to dump their worn supersofts. It launched the Red Bull man up into a battle for top points, especially as he would spend the final stint on the option tyre. In the end, his race was settled before his second stop, well clear of Jenson Button and the Force Indias but unable to open up enough of a gap to Valtteri Bottas. Nonetheless a great recovery to fourth place.

Running the soft tyres in the first stint allowed Ricciardo to move up the field
Credit: Clive Mason/Getty Images

F1 is broken, but there is hope

18 drivers, 20 drivers, two car teams, three car teams, four months to solve the sport

F1 appears to be playing its favourite trick again, and I’m not sure how much longer they can continue with it. As of now, we don’t know how many cars will be on the grid in Melbourne next March, nor how many cars per team. We don’t know the final calendar, which is quite important given that F1 personnel do several laps of the globe over the eight month season.

As someone who started watching F1 with my Dad as a young child, and still has nowhere near enough money to buy a Rolex, I would love to see the significant changes in the political structure of F1. It’s all very well Bernie Ecclestone saying that the small teams spent too much money and that teams like Jordan didn’t, but even spending well beyond their means still had them well off the pace, largely because of the wealth inequality within the sport. Serious changes need to be made after careful consideration. This is a pipedream of course but with four months to the next race, a plea to those in charge to sort out the mess that they themselves are causing.

But let’s end with a positive. The much-maligned turbo charged engines were a success, though we need to look into levelling the playing field to the other three suppliers. We had a championship fight that went down to the wire. And I must say with the dominance of the Mercedes up front, I noticed the great racecraft and genuine racing exhibited right down the field throughout the season. Well done to 24 drivers who raced in 2014 and the thousands of staff who supported their efforts to showcase the dawn of the new era of F1.