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F1 - SILVER HAT TRICK

 

  Well here we are three races into the new season and what are the headlines about? The super form of Mercedes Grand Prix? The quality of the racing throughout the field as drivers struggle to tame the excess of power from the new generation of turbo engines? That Daniel Ricciardo has generally been on top at Red Bull over Vettel? The aesthetics of the mandrils ar…err…nose cones or the stupidity of the double points rule for the final race? No, none of the above. But because Bernie wants to back up his mate Ron Walker, who is really about the only one who has complained, all we hear about is the supposed lack of noise from the current F1 engines. Here’s a tip guys. You put a turbo on an engine it IS going to be quieter because the exhaust gasses are now doing something useful instead of just blasting out into the atmosphere. Here’s another tip, as most of the viewers of F1 watch it on TV, they don’t actually care that the sound has dropped by 10-15 decibels. And when a single engine is punching out about 110 decibels and there are 22 of them it is still plenty loud if you are at the track.

 

 Hamilton and Rosberg battle for the lead in Bahrain

 

  Personally I enjoy being able to tell one engine from another just from the sound again. You haven’t been able to do that since everyone had to go down the V10 route all those years ago. I recall back in ‘95 at Adelaide turning up on the Friday morning a little late and the morning practice had just begun. There was a chap just standing in the middle of the infield park, with his eyes closed, just listening to the glorious sound of the Ferrari V12. Not just that it sounded so much better than the V10s of Renault and Mercedes et al but we all sadly knew we would never hear its like again. And it sounded different. Then they all became V10s. And then V8s. And they all sounded like over-amplified Japanese buzz-boxes, all the same. Loud – yes, but boring as hell. A few years ago I almost went to sleep during one Australian Grand Prix. The sound was (again) loud but boring. The racing was processional and boring. There was no chance that anyone was going to retire from a mechanical failure (with the revs capped the V8s were just about bullet proof) and as the drivers were just circulating with little hope of passing they weren’t really pushing so there was bugger all chance of any of them making a mistake. From memory all but two finished and pretty much in the order they started. Snooooooooore….

 

 

 

  And now here we are in a brave new world where these power units (it’s not just the engine any more) are pumping out more grunt, especially out of the corners, than the grip available so the cars are stepping out at every opportunity. The drivers are struggling to control the cars once again. Those who have a more sensitive backside, more instinctive car control, are showing their genius. You can tell from the sound one engine from another. Engine power has once again become a performance differentiator (which they bloody well should be – F1 is NOT a spec series) and with the cars no longer running on rails you can actually get passing on the track (Yes - even at Albert Park) without the dangerous situation that Pirelli was put in last year with their “designed to degrade” tyres. OK so far no-one has gotten near the Sliver Slings but even they are putting on a good show, and think about it, just how many cars did Valtteri Bottas pass at Albert Park? He alone probably put on more overtaking moves in one race than in the all the Grand Prixs held at that venue. F1 is alive again. Exciting, unpredictable (except for the Mercs but not even they will finish all the time) Visually spectacular – imagine the fun if it is wet at Monaco - and still pretty loud. Bernie – don’t sweat the small shit…

 

 

 

  I said before the season that Mercedes were quietly ominous, not so quietly anymore is it? Three from three and barring a $1 rubber spark plug cover it would have been three 1-2s from three. But while on the surface of it that may seem dull their two drivers, Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton have been at it like alley cats. I will need to watch it again to tell just how many times Rosberg got past Hamilton in Bahrain only to run a touch wide and have the Brit steal the lead back. Despite having the team boss come over the radio to tell both to “bring the car home” they continued to battle it out with some of the most thrilling side by side racing seen in many years. And not just for the spectators, the excitement and adrenalin was clearly still bubbling away in the drivers as they talked it over and joked around before the podium ceremony. It was also good to see the public backing both got from Mercedes manager, Niki Lauda, for racing so hard. Let us hope that it continues but maybe not until the final race. It would be a horrible shame if the title was decided by one or the other picking up more points in that race than would be awarded elsewhere.

 

 Riccardo was briefly a podium place getter in Australia

 

  The pick of the rest so far is still Red Bull. When they are finishing or not being disqualified that is. And a pleasant surprise is just how much Vettel is struggling with his new team-mate. Only in Malaysia has the reigning champion gotten the better of Ricciardo and he had no answer to the young Aussie’s pace at either Albert Park or Bahrain. The appeal for Ricciardo’s disqualification in Australia will be heard on Monday and Red Bull are confident that they will have his second place restored. Ricciardo was excluded after the fuel-flow sensor on his car indicated that he had consistently breached the maximum 100kg/h fuel-flow limit. Red Bull argues, however, that the fuel-flow sensor was faulty and that it had no choice but to use its own data instead. Red Bull also claims that a technical directive issued by the FIA in early March outlining when teams would be allowed to base readings on their own data holds no regulatory value and therefore it fully complied with the regulations regarding fuel-flow limits. If they are successful it will put Ricciardo up into third place in the drivers standings with 30 points and Red Bull second in the constructors standings with 53.

 

 

 

  Another pleasant surprise is that Force India are currently second in the constructors championship and on merit. Hulkenberg has been consistently scoring points while Sergio Perez must be glad McLaren sacked him as in Bahrain he picked up the team’s first podium since Giancarlo Fisichella’s second place at Spa in 2009. Just how many times did a Force India pass a Ferrari in Bahrain? There’s the beauty of an engine being a “performance differentiator” again. Using the Mercedes engine has allowed a relatively small team to battle with, and defeat the giants. But just having a Mercedes engine will not guarantee you top billing. McLaren, despite the podium places (one of which they may lose on Monday if Red Bull win their appeal) at Albert Park have been underwhelming since. Williams, despite the occasional flash of real pace have been in the lower half of the top ten finishers so far but are at least scoring regular points, which is a vast improvement over the last few years and hints of promise to come. A return to the top by Frank’s team would be welcomed by just about all, even by some of his opponents. And wouldn’t it be great to see those Martini stripes taking the chequered flag once more?

Those beautiful Martini stripes

 

 

  Those with Ferrari engines are struggling for straight line speed, including the red ones. Ferrari haven’t had a sniff of a podium yet while Sauber is not much further up the grid than Marussia. Ferrari’s horses just aren’t prancing at the moment and they have a lot of work to do. It may be early but I’m starting to think they can kiss this year goodbye already. Kimi, King Fernando and the tifosi must be hoping some Maranello magic is just around the corner. Renault seem to be overcoming their pre-season horrors and would appear to have the second best engine at the moment. Or perhaps just another piece of Adrian Newey genius is making it look so. In the hands of the Red Rag boys and to a lesser extent their Toro Rosso cousins they have at least been knocking on the outside gate with both Ricciardo and Vettel standing on a podium while Vergne and Kvyat have been pinching some early points. Lotus are only just getting to the point that their car will get to the finish of a race and with a best grid placing of 15th are yet to better that of perennial back-markers Caterham, who got Kobayashi to 14th on the grid at Albert Park. Team Enstone, like Ferrari, have a hell of a lot of work to do and it’s never nice to see names such as Ferrari and Lotus not near the top of the time sheets.

 

 

 

For full results go to;

 

 

 

http://www.mmmsport.com.au/index.php/database/cat_view/1-formula-1-races/13-2010-2019/89-2014-formula-1        

 

 

 

Sam Snape

 

 

 

10-04-2014