AUSTRALIAN GP 2014 – A BUCKET OF COLD WATER

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - Australian Grand Prix - Race Day - Melbourne, Australia
Hello 2014 season. Hello sportsfans. Hello V6 turbo engines AND AWFUL VACCUUM CLEANER SOUND!! *Boo.. Hiss* Well, thats a fine how do you do, you say. Perhaps. But a man needs to vent. I reserve my right to bitch and moan over an era that is now gone by. The howling metallic sound that shook your body and pierced not only your ears but your entire being. It was literally breathtaking. And another overused word: Awesome. Because you were truly in awe hearing those machines fly past you.

Are the cars more advanced now? Sure they are. But people now say that you cant really hear them before they are in front of you. And that is nothing but sad. I am not the only one who is upset either. After the race in Australia, the local organizers are claiming a breach of contract due to the flat sound and disappointing spectacle: http://www.planetf1.com/driver/18227/9218290/Aus-organisers-claim-breach-of-contract

I hope something can be and will be done with the sound. I was planning to go to Monza this year, but I must admit that I am having a serious rethink. Why pay hundreds of euros to listen to go-kart sounds? It is hard enough to comprehend the speed of these cars with the sound. Without the audio part of the experience its frankly just meh..
All right. Thats enough whining about the new turbo engines. For now..

QUALIFYING

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - Australian Grand Prix - Qualifying Day - Melbourne, Australia

Let me try to ease into the race weekend. I didnt cover pre-season testing here. But Kimis return to Ferrari was not without its niggles. Fact is, he had 1000 kilometres less pre-season testing compared to Alonso. And that showed this weekend. In qualifying, he only managed 12th (upped to 11th after Bottas’ penalty) compared to Alonsos 5th on the grid.

I did follow qualifying on the new F1 timing app and Kimi had traffic every single time he went out. And that made sure he didnt make it into Q3. His spin into the wall played no part of it. But it was a small sign of what a handful the car was this weekend. I will get to that.

By the way – thanks FOM for making the Live Timing on F1.com completely crappy. So you can force us to buy your app instead I suppose. No more sector times. Just green, white or purple dots. No weather data or top speed and so on. Thanks for nothing. I am surprised you had time to work this out. Between removing harmless fan videos from youtube and thinking up new ways to extort money from the fans. Well done.

This is crap.

This is crap.

As expected, the Mercedes cars were up at the front. The surprise was that it was a Red Bull that split them apart. A double surprise it being Ricciardo and not Vettel. The Red Bull shows signs of still being ahead of the pack on downforce. But the Mercedes engine has some serious oomph and it has leveled the playing field. Especially when the Renault power plant has been a problem child from day 1 for Red Bull (and the rest of the Renault powered cars).

My countryman, Kevin Magnussen (I just had to get that in there), shone bright on his F1 qualifying debut and lined up in 4th for McLaren. McLaren fans can breathe a sigh of relief seeing that their car is in pretty good shape this year.

THE RACE

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - Australian Grand Prix - Race Day - Melbourne, Australia

The lights go out and it is a polite humming as 22 cars race towards the first corner. Kobayashi in the Caterham locks up and plows into the back of Massas Martini car and both retire. Massa was so mad that his lisp was twice as bad and it made him sound even less intimidating as usual as he called for a race ban of Kobayashi. Turns out it was rear brake failure for Kobayashi, so not his fault this time and he was cleared by race control.

Kimi gets a rocket start from 11th and shoots up to 8th after escaping the mayhem in turn 1. But just barely as replays shows that the back of his Ferrari receives a heavy bang from Kobayashis front wheel. Could just as well have been game over there. But after a short while he makes a brilliant pass on the outside of Vergne on the run to the fast turn 11,12 combination. With Hamiltons retirement he ran as high as 6th just behind Alonso. For all intents and purposes I should just stop here because it pretty much only went downhill from there.

As the tires started to grain, “the car’s handling was not the same.” as Kimi put it to the press after the race. The car was locking its wheels far to easy and he had understeer. The handling was therefore unpredictable under braking but also on corner entry. Add to that a safety car that came out just as he had passed the pit entry, meant that he had to wait behind Alonso and thus losing a position. That Kimi finished 7th is not only thanks to his talent. But mostly to retirements and penalties of better cars ahead of him.

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - Australian Grand Prix - Race Day - Melbourne, AustraliaBottas is on a rampage. The Williams is looking better than it has in many years. That Mercedes deal could not have been timed more perfectly for them. And before you know it, he has taken 6th place from Raikkonen and is about to take 5th place from Alonso when he makes just the slightest mistake. He touches the wall hard enough to break his wheel and give him a puncture. He limps back to the pits and he has plenty of time to lament his mistake. In the end Bottas still finished 6th (5th later on) from being down in 16th after his stop. The Williams is a well engineered car this year. No doubt about it.

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - Australian Grand Prix - Race Day - Melbourne, AustraliaSo Nico Rosberg crosses the line completely unchallenged and 20-some seconds ahead of Ricciardo and Magnussen. Probably having turned the engine way down 1/3 into the race. Ricciardo is the happiest man on the planet up on the podium. Even trips and falls Webber-style. The joy would not last long as he was disqualified after the race. Reason – the Red Bull used more than 100kg of fuel per hour. Which is the limit. Full story here: http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/112965

On a lighter note, we had a very happy Dane on the podium as well. And he is still smiling. His 3rd place turned into a 2nd place after Daniels penalty. That means that Kevin Magnussens first F1 race is one of the most successful debut races ever for a rookie in Formula 1. Not bad. Not bad at all. It will be hard to equal that in every race. But I hope he shines throughout the season. A very likable down to earth guy. Just like his dad is.

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - Australian Grand Prix - Race Day - Melbourne, Australia
THE GLOOMY TRUTH

To be honest, I cannot remember the last time I have seen Kimi struggle with a car as much as he did this weekend. The back was stepping out. He had understeer. And maybe the worst was him locking up the brakes every other corner. I have never seen him lock up so much. Ever. If that was not enough, both Ferraris had electrical problems – especially Kimis car. Oh wait, I forgot. The steering is also still crap. Not giving him the feedback he needs.

Pat Fry: “On both the F14Ts, we had some electrical problems, especially on Kimi’s car, which meant he couldn’t use all the car’s potential.” So Kimis car were down on power as well. Putting all that together, its amazing that he finished the race. Even more so in the points. But almost half the field retired – so that obviously helps.

And dont expect Kimis problems to have disappeared in Malaysia. If we are lucky, Bahrain will be better. This link gives a good insight into Kimis serious issues that has to be dealt with on the car: http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/112974
New parts have to be made and fitted and then again adjusted. If they work and improve the car that is. There is something worrying under the surface here. And I will post a piece later this week that takes a closer look at that.

What am I saying? The Ferrari is simply not a good car. It is down on power and downforce to the front runners. And its not pleasant to drive. Not at the moment anyway. The Ferrari engine is down on power to the Mercedes. They are down on downforce to the Merc and the Red Bull. The Williams and McLaren seems to be on par or thereabouts on downforce but are ahead on engine. And those cars are simply more sorted at this point. Machinerywise, the F14T is the 4th best car. And that is with a glass half full perspective. When Red Bull get their power unit problems fixed, Ferrari will be the 5th best car. Unless they improve. And fast.

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - Australian Grand Prix - Race Day - Melbourne, Australia

Is it all doom and gloom? No, but its bad. They have the most experienced and arguably best drivers in the cars. And they will make up for some of the shortcomings. But enough to challenge Mercedes? Or Red Bull when they get everything in working order? A fired-up McLaren team with Ron Dennis back in charge? I just dont see it happening. They can develop and try to catch up, sure. But Mercedes and Red Bull are not exactly teams that are short of cash or know-how. Neither is McLaren. Ferrari will have to strike gold both on aero and power plant tune-up (within the regulations) to be able to fight for wins. That is my assessment. I wouldnt mind being proved wrong.

Could be worse though. Kimi could have been in a Lotus this year. That being said, put your money on Rosberg or Hamilton this year. Now wasn’t that a fun review?

UPDATE

I saw some encouraging tweets from @PitLaneTalk concerning the Ferrari PU (power unit) that I would like to share.

He tweeted yesterday that Mercedes was miles ahead on engine performance compared to Red Bull. In the region of around 100 horsepower. Which is insane. He also tweeted that Ferrari is unable to exploit engine potential because they have ERS problems and cant run at full power. Ok, not exactly uplifting but here are the tweets in question:

@pitlanetalk
We believe the Ferrari engine is as powerful as Mercedes (!), but their ERS cannot run at full capacity yet due to electrical glitches.

@pitlanetalk
F14-T will receive a software update expected to optimize ERS and boost power by 30%. Ferrari will apply remapping in Bahrain.

@pitlanetalk
Even if it’s mechanical, they can modify the PU despite homologation, since it’s a reliability measure to prevent electrical glitches.

So I leave you with a shimmer of hope. Assuming the guys sources are correct. Ferrari will still have to play serious catch-up as we expect another Mercedes win in Malaysia.

Take care now
Soren

Kimi is not quite sure who this Magnumsen guy is.

Kimi is not quite sure who this Magnumsen guy is.

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17 Responses to AUSTRALIAN GP 2014 – A BUCKET OF COLD WATER

  1. ms. g says:

    You are THE BEST F1 writer- currently out there. Spill the beans and count what’s there!! love it. ms.g

  2. kimifan100 says:

    Hi, Soren . you have a special skill to give us hope and then to take it away after some more lines… Oh, I dont mean it seriously, I m a bit desparate by myself as well.
    I dont dare to say aloud (and it was discussed a thousand times) i still dont understand Kimi’s decision going back to Ferrari. I hope very much he is more patient than we are… But we wished so badly a successful comeback for him.
    Thanks for your review, it has opened new aspects for me (being a complete layman in things technics) to understand better the issues Kimi is struggeling with.
    Better luck for Malaysia – and no rain!
    P.S. I have saved two pics – only fir my own “entertainment”… Shall I delete them? Hope they can remain in my Kimi-files :)

    • Soren says:

      I appreciate your feedback, kimifan100. Sorry to sound gloomy. But I have added some optimism this morning at the end of the post that you may not have seen. Some encouraging tweets about the Ferrari power unit.

  3. jee1 says:

    Here is a good article from AMus about the problems faced by Ferrari during Aus GP race..

    http://www.auto-motor-und-sport.de/formel-1/ferrari-probleme-in-australien-12-punkte-mehr-als-vettel-und-hamilton-8201204.html

    Some points:-
    1)Alonso drove the first ten rounds without or with only half the power of the electric drive.

    2)Kimi Raikkonen also had problems with the overtaking. His DRS did not work at times. Although he was within one second behind Jean-Eric Vergne, the rear wing would not open. Domenicali thought, “There was probably a problem with the FIA ​​signal.”

    3)the Spaniard was in the third sector of the absolute fastest..
    4)The problem of Ferrari is that it can retrieve its full power only for a few rounds.

    5)Rumours have it that , the drive unit alone is 13 kg too heavy..The limit for the Power Unit is fixed at 145 kilograms..

  4. Laffen says:

    ” I was planning to go to Monza this year, but I must admit that I am having a serious rethink. Why pay hundreds of euros to listen to go-kart sounds? ”

    Hey, you just stole my thoughts, Søren! I am now -just as you-. reconcidering my Monza trip. First and foremost due to the Vespa sound, but it sure does not help that mercedes is 20% up on engine power compared to the next best. It is not even close to being an interesting fight. The past 4 years, we have been hearing the mantra “RBR is dominating the sport”. Well, THIS is domination: At cruising speed, leaving the next best team nearly a minute behind (taken into account the SC scramble)!

    The good things to save from the race are Kevin and Bottas. The rest was terrible from a Kimi-fan perspective. I do not believe that the Williams is THAT much better than the Ferrari on the aero-part, so the MB engine must be some powerful art of engeneering. I heard they`ve spent 400 mill.Euros on it. Bottas was actually playing with Kimi, and even though he was sent back to p16 after his mistake, he finished ahead. Only RBR will be able to mix with the MB engined cars I`m afraid. Hoping as you, Søren, to be proven wrong of course.

    Well, thanks again for a brilliant review, Søren, -the only sure success we will be enjoying this year!

    • Soren says:

      Cheers Alexander. Sad that we may not meet up in Monza after all. But lets wait and see what happens. There is talk of tweaks to improve the sound this season.

      Word is that the Ferrari PU is just as powerful as the Mercedes one. They have just not been able to utilize it yet. There is a software upgrade coming that should increase the total power output by 30%. So that should be a welcome boost to the performance. If they could also work flat out to get the car to Kimis liking, that’d be great.

  5. Charlie says:

    Good work S-Man,

    But I don’t think it’s really all that bad. Look at it this way: last season a few teams (ahem…Red Bull) kicked up a massive fuss in order to ensure that the tyres were altered. At that point in the season Kimi looked like he could take a surprise WDC from under the noses of Ferrari or Red Bull by a 2003-style consistent accretion of points. The tyres were changed and Red Bull won the remaining races of the season. If ever there was a season of sport to be derided, hated and ultimately wholly disappointed in it was last year. It was the most fixed, contrived abomination in the world of major sport ever…and F1 journalists have such a short memory, and their livelihoods depend on not turning people off the sport too much, that they completely forgot the fact that Red Bull won the championship in shadowy corners, sound-proofed meeting rooms and by bullying Pirelli rather than on the track. Kimi did the right thing and stuck his finger up not only to Lotus but the entire sport and went home for an early shower. Like a lad.

    This year is a different kettle of fish. Yes, it’s upsetting that the Mercedes is the best engine, but we’ve had this in F1 before and we have to deal with it. My only real issue is that the Mercedes is so good this year while the company’s incompetence robbed Kimi of a WDC in 2005. That’s right, I hate you for that Mercedes.

    Meanwhile, what do we have this year? Well, Ferrari is a manufacturer of chassis and engines so will benefit from that in a way that rivals such as Mclaren and Williams wont.

    Kimi is up against Alonso. This, for me, is the real key to the season. If Kimi beats Alonso his premium will go through the roof. Nobody really believes that he can win. But they’re not Kimi fans. They don’t really watch him. They look at points tables and race winners and decide who the best drivers are. Meanwhile we, his fans, know quite well what he’s capable of. It was interesting seeing a chart the other day that shows the popularity of drivers over the last few season. Kimi’s popularity has sky-rocketed in the last 2 years, more than any other driver. Why? Because he “does what he wants”? No. It’s because he took an average car and got seriously impressive results while his chuckling team-mate went around playing dodgems with carbon fibre. If the team pulls in his direction they will get results.

    And here, I believe is where the interesting nature of this season will be revealed. Does Alonso have plans to move next year? Does the team trust him to stay? I’ll tell you this for free: if you have an employee who wants to win and you give him 5 years of failure, you have to assume that he will be looking for another company. I don’t think that Ferrari employees get excited about what Alonso can do. They know he’s fast and reliable. But they also know that he’s a petulant school-kid who will jump ship if someone offers him a bigger lolly-pop. In Kimi they have a no-nonsense bad-ass, a Ferrari World Champion, who will do things with the car that nobody knew possible if they give him the tools to do it. If you’re a Ferrari employee what are you going to focus on? Bettering a car for a grumpy bastard who is never happy unless he’s world champion and who publicly shopped around for another drive last year? Or the icy badass who will get ridiculous speed out of the car if you fix his steering issues and who will stay in the sport for as long as he’s having fun, and probably has every intention of finishing his career with you?

    I know what I’d do.

    So yes, we may have to watch Hammy and Nico “I’m definitely not cool or good enough to call myself Finnish” Rosberg romp away with the world championship. But really, who cares? Yes, it’s disappointing. It’s like Jenson Button’s world championship: peripheral, insubstantial, boring, meaningless. Jenson beat a single driver to get his world championship, a 90 year old Brazilian. Ok, perhaps he also had a stiff fight against his own averageness, but really he had no competition. At least Brawn/Honda built that car under the regulations. Ok, double diffusers are similar to Mr. Alonso’s title winning mass-damper, but at least they didn’t all change the rules half way through the season because a rich Austrian fizzy-drink maker couldn’t bear to lose…

    So we fans of Captain Kimbo can focus on what’s really important: Kimi just being awesome. After all, do you go around telling your mates that you support Kimi because he won the WDC in 2007? Of course you don’t. You say he’s a badass because of his personality. Because of his win in Japan in 2005. Because he was shit in Brazil in 2005 because he went on a 2-week booze-fest after Japan 2005. Because he should have won in 2003 and 2005. Because in every race he completed without any regulatory punishments or mechanical failures in 2005 he ended up on the podium. Because he finished Montoya’s career. Because Sterling Moss thinks he’s the fastest driver on the planet. Because he sleeps when other drivers are pissing themselves, and he shits when other drivers are being obsequious idiots grinning at Pelle.

    If Kimi beats Alonso this season, and on Sunday’s evidence I think he will. Then he will have beaten the driver that everyone thinks is one of the best ever. And even better: he’ll do it with one eye closed, no heroics, and vodka swimming peacefully through his blood system at all times.

    Maybe Ferrari will sort out the engine, and maybe they wont. I don’t really care as long as Kimi acquits himself as usual. That’s all we can ask for…

  6. John Field says:

    Howdy Soren

    I’m going to swim against the tide and say that actually I’m not pessimistic!
    This is only the first race. OK it went like auntie Fay had done the cooking instead of Mama, but I’m sure as one can be [without evidence] that Merc will not romp home with this championship, and Rosberg will not make wdc this year.

    True Kimi had big problems with the handling and balance, but lets not forget: this is the man who drove the undriveable F2009 to wins and podiums. So I’m not worried and I expect he and Alonso will be battling at the top soon. Allison is there, also Pat Fry unfortunately, but let’s be fair and give them the chance to rectify. It won’t match the Mercs on power, but that is not always crucial.

    Only one little cloud on my horizon of laughable optimism: Kimi’s race engineer. The guy doesn’t look to be on top of things, but then again, looks can be deceptive. I’ve seen Kimi on a couple of occassions get slightly bad tempered with him, which is not like Kimi. SD needs to deal quickly and decisively with this, if it is in fact the case that this guy is not up to it.

    If you know more about this young engineer, please correct my impression if it is way off the mark.

    Here’s to you and surprises next time round.
    John

    • Soren says:

      Hi John. Thanks for your feedback. We can always use a positive outlook around here. And you are right, things may not be as bad as I portrayed them. And it has recently come to light that the Ferrari engine is as powerful as the Merc – but has not been able to utilize it yet. But an update is coming. That being said, the situation is not good at all. It will take them a little while to get on top of things and todays F1 waits for no man. It may be too late then. But lets hope not.

      The F60 of 2009 was actually a pretty well handling car. It just lacked downforce. Kimi said this himself a couple of times. At least it became a well handling car when Massa was out and Ferrari was forced to listen to Kimis demands. Go figure. Let us hope Ferrari have learned their lesson this time around. One does not simply ignore the changes requested by the Iceman.

      The race engineer is Antonio Spagnolo. And I have heard that he is quite capable. I hope so. A shame Mark Slade would not tag along to Ferrari though. Anyway, I will put up a blog post this week that touches on some of the things you mention here. Stick around ;)

  7. Darshan says:

    As usual a good detailed review Soren :)

    I hope those tweets from pitlanetalk are true as i would love to see Kimi being one of the title contenders this year. If he needs another WDC i think this will be his best shot. He appears motivated more than ever, so lets hope Ferrari gives him a car capable of winning races. :)

  8. Carlo Biscotto says:

    Hello Soren,
    Always great to read your articles I like your style, a mixture of fun, seriousness and commentary all up its a very entertaining read. Do you really think Ferrari are that far behind? I don’t ! Yes im a red car fan :o) We’ll just have to see how the year pans out.

    I have to agree with you on sound although on TV I didn’t mind it, as you could hear things normally masked by the sound of the cars previously. Very clearly to me sound isn’t everything but F1 does lose something without it. I really feel that once more cars are racing side by side, we will tend to be not so bothered by the lack of sound.

    I really felt it was a shame both Massa and Hamilton were not in the mix of this grand prix. Had they been in the race for the entire distance it would have be an awesome (oops I said that word haha) GP. Magnussen and Bottas are future champs in my view.

    With RB I feel no wrong was done by the stewards esp. since they RB were warned prior and during the event. I think the disqualification is well justified. RB’s threat to leave the sport before this appeal is almost trying to blackmail a favourable result. RB I say this loud and clear: You wanna go, GO! You have made good use of the last 4 yrs PR wise, and I still don’t drink your stuff. Cheers all.

    Carlo

    • Soren says:

      Hi Carlo. Well, like I said I would not mind being proven wrong. And judging from the first 2 practice sessions in Malaysia, Ferrari seem to have found some improvements. So it is probably not as bad as I first feared :)

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