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Rosberg The Wizard Of Aus

(c) Mercedes AMG F1 Team

Nico Rosberg stormed to victory at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, a race which proved to be all about the survival of the fittest. Pole man Lewis Hamilton and reigning World Champion Sebastian Vettel both retired very early on while two men took to the podium for the first time.

Even before the lights went out today, Romain Grosjean had been handed a drive-through penalty for leaving his garage before he was allowed to. The Frenchman suffered through a dismal Qualifying and later opted to start from the pitlane so that his team could work on his car. On the plus side, Grosjean was spared the chaos at the start of the race.

Max Chilton failed to take the formation lap when his car simply turned itself off, meaning he had to be wheeled slowly back to the garage while the grid weaved around Albert Park. Two minutes later, Hamilton led the 20 cars on the grid and the 2014 season was very nearly underway – until Jules Bianchi suffered a similar problem in his Marussia and prompted an aborted start. As he too was wheeled to the pits, the grid underwent another formation lap.

Finally the five red lights came on, went out, and the nineteen eager drivers rushed forward. Pole man Lewis Hamilton lost his lead immediately to fast-starting Nico Rosberg while Kevin Magnussen got sideways in his McLaren and missed an overtaking opportunity on local hero Daniel Ricciardo. Kamui Kobayashi, after his absolutely stunning Qualifying performance, braked far too late and smashed into the rear of Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari. His front right tyre was completely disconnected from the car, and the left one subsequently came loose when he slammed into the back of Felipe Massa’s Williams, sending both Kamui and Felipe into the gravel and out of the race. Kamui later claimed responsibility for the crash and was eager to apologise, but said that when he pressed the brakes, the car simply wouldn’t slow. Massa slammed the Japanese returnee, who missed last season, for braking far too late.

Pole man Hamilton was dropping down the order fast: his Mercedes was noticeably struggling and it was not long before the team told him to pit to retire the car. He stayed out for a further lap, hoping against hope that the car might fix itself, but inevitably pulled in on lap three. A devastating weekend for the pre-season title favourite. The reigning World Champion fared no better, dropping like a HRT on the front row from his starting position of eleventh, eventually falling behind Max Chilton who overtook him on the back straight. He followed Hamilton into the pits on the fifth lap and started his title defence with a retirement.

Sebastian Vettel falls behind Marcus Ericsson
(c) Red Bull/Getty Images

Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas had a nice scrap for P6 with the Williams driver outmaneuvering his more experienced countryman and moving up to sixth. It was the start of a strong race for Bottas and a disappointing showing for Raikkonen’s first race since his return to Ferrari.

Once he had cleared Raikkonen, Bottas went in search of the next car down the road, which turned out to be Kimi’s team-mate, Fernando Alonso, who himself was chasing Hulkenberg for fourth. Bottas was closing Alonso’s gap and looking ready to overtake before he slid wide coming out of the turn 10 chicane and whacked the wall, losing his rear right tyre. The Finn hurried back to the pitlane where his car was given the all-clear and returned to the race. But as he got out on track, so did the Safety Car which was deployed to give marshalls a chance to clear the debris on the long back straight caused by Bottas’ accident.

The Safety Car stint led to an obvious flurry of pit stops as Rosberg, Ricciardo, Magnussen and Button leading the bulk of the grid in for the first tyre change. After a slightly prolonged Safety Car period and the warning of very light drops of rain, the Safety Car came in and Rosberg charged away in the distance ahead of Ricciardo and Magnussen.

The race recovery was back on for Valtteri Bottas who began his charge by passing former team-mate Pastor Maldonado for eleventh. Ricciardo was simultaneously told that he did not need to save fuel while Hulkenberg dropped further behind Magnussen and into the clutches of Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari. He was noticeably struggling to keep ahead of the Prancing Horse and suffered several huge lock ups. Bottas moved past Marcus Ericsson’s displaced Caterham when he made his first pit-stop, and subsequently passed Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso for ninth. Raikkonen, who let Vergne passed him following a huge lock up and slide wide, was now in Bottas’ sights.

Not long after his pit-stop, Marcus Ericsson compounded Caterham’s bad luck when he stopped his car at turn 4 due to an oil pressure issue. The same fate befell Maldonado’s Lotus which pulled over on lap 31 after a pit-stop. Button didn’t retire after his pit-stop, but did come out without the front tip of his nose after the front jack man accidentally knocked it off when he was lowering the car.

Hulkenberg pitted and opened the door for Alonso while Raikkonen went wide in the other Ferrari and allowed Bottas up to 5th place – much to the hidden delight of a noticeably nervous Claire Williams. Alonso was the next man to stop for a fresh pair of boots, swapping the soft compounds for the medium Pirellis, and rejoined the track narrowly ahead of Nico Hulkenberg. Ricciardo and Magnussen pitted and Magnussen hoped to echo Alonso’s overtake through pit strategy. He failed to do so, however, and rejoined the race very close behind Ricciardo’s Red Bull. Rosberg pitted from first and had no problem keeping his lead – rejoining almost twenty seconds ahead of Ricciardo.

Hulkenberg leads Alonso, Vergne and Ricciardo
(c) Sahara Force India F1 Team

Bottas was closing on Vergne, Magnussen was up Ricciardo’s gearbox but couldn’t pass the Aussie and Daniil Kvyat was closing on Raikkonen. Vergne had a huge sideways moment in the final corner and allowed Bottas to cruise past the Toro Rosso, while Magnussen was first told to save his tyres in case he has to defend against Button, but then told he was free to race Ricciardo.

Raikkonen was still defending hard against a feisty Kvyat and overtook the other car of Vergne following another error from the Frenchman. He was subsequently asked to let Kvyat past, but didn’t. Magnussen was unbelievably close and saved fuel for four laps before turning the fuel mix up to catch Ricciardo on the last three laps. He came mighty close but Ricciardo’s home crowd drove him on and Magnussen just about missed out.

Nico Rosberg crossed the finish line twenty-five seconds clear of Ricciardo, who led Magnussen across the line – both of whom were on the podium for the first time. Button was close behind his team-mate and finished fourth in the race which he has three times won, followed by Fernando Alonso and Valtteri Bottas.

Nico Hulkenberg finally finished the Australian Grand Prix, having not completed a single racing lap in his previous three races at Albert Park. Kimi Raikkonen finished eighth, Jean-Eric Vergne in ninth and Daniil Kvyat in tenth to score points on his first race. Sergio Perez was eleventh, the Sauber duo of Sutil and Gutierrez twelfth and thirteenth respectively, and finally the Marussia drivers of Max Chilton and Jules Bianchi who, despite their pre-race troubles, made it to the chequered flag.

Final standings:

  1. Nico Rosberg
  2. Daniel Ricciardo
  3. Kevin Magnussen
  4. Jenson Button
  5. Fernando Alonso
  6. Valtteri Bottas
  7. Nico Hulkenberg
  8. Kimi Raikkonen
  9. Jean-Eric Vergne
  10. Daniil Kvyat
  11. Sergio Perez
  12. Adrian Sutil
  13. Esteban Gutierrez
  14. Max Chilton
  15. Jules Bianchi

Felipe Massa – Collision
Kamui Kobayashi – Collision
Lewis Hamilton – Engine issue
Sebastian Vettel – Engine issue
Marcus Ericsson – Oil pressure issue
Pastor Maldonado – MGU-K failure
Romain Grosjean – MGU-K failure

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Massa Fastest As Jerez Test Draws To A Close

massaWilliams

Felipe Massa was the fastest man in the fourth and final day of pre-season testing at the Circuito de Jerez.

The Williams driver set a fastest lap time of 1.28.229 on the rain affected circuit, clocking up 86 laps in the process. His closest rival was his former team-mate, Fernando Alonso, whose prancing horse was nine-tenths shy of Massa’s best. Alonso set 115 laps throughout the course of the day which was the most of anybody.

Daniel Juncadella was in the driving seat at Force India. The Spanish reserve driver ran an impressive 81 laps, putting him third overall on the timesheets. Kevin Magnussen, McLaren’s Danish rookie, was fourth overall, having led yesterday’s test. His 110 laps, double his total from yesterday, were interrupted in the final minutes when he stuck the nose of the MP4-29 into the barriers. Daniil Kvyat simultaneously spun his STR9, leaving his total amount of laps at a mere nine.

Lewis Hamilton was fifth down the order with 41 laps under his belt, ahead of Jules Bianchi who took the new Marussia out for the first time this season. The Frenchman set an below-average 25 laps en route to a 1.32.222 lap time. Adrian Sutil was next down the order with 69 laps for Sauber. His C33 was remarkably off pace today, with Sutil’s best lap time over eight seconds behind that set by Massa. Sutil spun the car too, but caused no damage.

Nico Rosberg had the morning shift in the MGP-04, lapping Jerez 91 times. His 1.36.951, set in the wet morning conditions, were six seconds behind that set by his team-mate in the dry afternoon running.Kamui Kobayashi finished the day ninth overall for Caterham, his 54 laps giving him a lap time fifteen seconds behind the Ferrari up front. He was followed by Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo, the latter who had another disastrous day in the RB10 whose mechanical woes look to be far from over.

Felipe Massa Williams 1.28.229 86 laps
Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1.29.145 115 laps
Daniel Juncadella Force India 1.29.457 81 laps
Kevin Magnussen McLaren 1.30.806 110 laps
Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1.30.822 41 laps
Jules Bianchi Marussia 1.32.222 25 laps
Adrian Sutil Sauber 1.36.517 69 laps
Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1.36.951 91 laps
Kamui Kobayashi Caterham 1.43.193 54 laps
Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1.44.016 9 laps
Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1.45.374 7 laps

Photo via Felipe Massa. 

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Magnussen Fastest In Jerez As Red Bull Problems Continue

McLaren rookie Kevin Magnussen was the fastest man today as pre-season testing continued in Jerez.

The Dane set 52 laps throughout the day, setting more laps than team-mate Button did on Wednesday, and beating his time which was set while testing Pirelli’s wet tyres. But the focus was very much on Red Bull whose week failed to improve, leaving Daniel Ricciardo going up in smoke on his first lap out of the pits. The Aussie was no sooner out of the pitlane than his RB10 started smoking.

It was costly for Red Bull who, after bringing the car back and fixing it up, managed only a further three laps. This brings their testing total to 11 over the three days. Nico Rosberg, in comparison, set 97 laps yesterday. Ricciardo later admitted that Adrian Newey had gone back to the drawing board in an effort to make the RB10 more stable. It’s no reason to be anxious about the reliability of the car, however, as knocking out the kinks is the purpose of pre-season testing.

Felipe Massa was the second fastest man, running 47 laps for Williams and recording a 1.23.700. His best lap time exceeds that set by his Finnish team-mate, with Williams looking particularly strong in the hands of Massa and Bottas.

Lewis Hamilton was third for Mercedes and eager to make up time lost after his early shunt on Tuesday, which was caused by a front wing jamming itself under his car and disabling both the steering and the brakes. His former McLaren team-mate, Jenson Button, was next down the order for the British team, clocking up 40 laps with a best time of 1.25.030 after he took the MP4-29 on track for the afternoon session.

Fernando Alonso was fifth for Ferrari, four-tenths of a second shy of Button’s fastest lap. Alonso’s 58 laps were not without issue, however, as his Ferrari ground to a halt around the track during the morning session. Nico Hulkenberg was in control of the VJM-07 today, but set a mere 17 laps. Jean-Eric Vergne had an average run – his 30 laps producing a best lap time of 1.29.915, some nine and a half seconds off the pace of Magnussen.

Adrian Sutil was on his 35th lap for Sauber before spinning out of control, hitting a barrier and knocking the front of his car clean off. It was a premature end to the day that the team did not want.

Robin Frijns, Max Chilton and Daniel Ricciardo were all left without a time, despite running 10, 5 and 3 laps respectively. Chilton was finally on track for Marussia, who missed the first two days, but their running was hampered by consistent technical issue. The only team yet to grace the track is Lotus who announced that they would skip the test to focus on the car’s development.

Testing continues tomorrow for a fourth and final day in Jerez.

  1. Kevin Magnussen – McLaren1.23.276 – 52 laps
  2. Felipe Massa – Williams1.23.700 – 47 laps
  3. Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes1.23.952 – 62 laps
  4. Jenson Button – McLaren1.25.030 – 40 laps
  5. Fernando Alonso – Ferrari1.25.495 – 58 laps
  6. Nico Hulkenberg – Force India1.26.096 – 17 laps
  7. Jean-Eric Vergne – Toro Rosso1.29.915 – 30 laps
  8. Adrian Sutil – Sauber1.30.161 – 34 laps
  9. Robin Frijns – Caterham No time – 10 laps
  10. Max Chilton – MarussiaNo time – 5 laps
  11. Daniel Ricciardo – Red BullNo time – 3 laps

Image courtesy Getty Images.

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McLaren Sign Rookie Magnussen As Perez Replacement

McLaren have ditched Sergio Perez after a mere year at the team and have instead taken Kevin Magnussen on as his replacement.

The Dane, son of Jan Magnussen who also raced for McLaren, won the Formula Renault 3.5 Championship this year and impressed McLaren at last year’s Abu Dhabi Young Driver test and this year’s test which was held at Silverstone in July.

McLaren say that after analysis it was found that Perez was significantly slower than team-mate Jenson Button – a gap, they say, that would be hard to close. Comparing Magnussen’s test times with Perez, they also believe that the rookie is faster than Perez. Magnussen will be the first rookie to race for McLaren since Lewis Hamilton signed for the team in 2007. Magnussen, like Hamilton, was brought up through the McLaren young driver programme.

Perez meanwhile, will be knocking on relatively few doors for a seat in 2014. Earlier today Williams finalised their driver line-up for 2014 meaning that if Perez wants a spot on next year’s grid, he will be looking to Force India, Marussia, Caterham or former team Sauber.

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Perez Confirms McLaren Exit

In the latest of several big driver announcements this week, Sergio Perez has confirmed he will not be racing for McLaren in 2014.

The Mexican driver, who made the move from Sauber to McLaren to replace Lewis Hamilton this year, confirmed his exit on a statement released over his Twitter profile.

First of all, I would like to thank McLaren for giving me the opportunity to be with them this season,” read the statement. “It has been an honor for me to have been in one of the most competitive teams in the sport and I do not regret even a big having joined them. I have always given the best of me for the team and still despite this I could not achieve what I aimed for in this historic team. 

“I am committed to deliver very good results in these last two races, especially in Austin. I am so much looking forward to see all my people gathered together, feel their energy and show them the best of me. I would like to say to every single one of my fans around the world and in my country that I am eternally grateful to them. They have never let me down, especially in difficult moments like these, I truly appreciate their support, they have never forgotten me.

I would like to wish the team the very best for the future. I will always be a fan of McLaren. In the meanwhile I will be looking at my future to ensure my position in the best possible package to fight for wins.”

Speculation had arisen earlier this week that suggested that Danish rookie Kevin Magnussen would step in to replace Perez, after the team found that Perez was consistently significantly slower than team-mate Jenson Button. This speculation was furthered when Perez publically bashed the team over their lack of organisation in what has turned out to be the historic team’s worst season since 1980.

Perez will be left with very few options for next year, with Lotus, Force India, Sauber, Marussia and Caterham the only teams offering seats.

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YDT – Day One: Magnussen And McLaren Top The Time Sheets

Kevin Magnussen ended the first day of the three-day Young Driver Test on top of the  time sheets.

The 20-year-old narrowly pipped Force India’s Paul di Resta to the top spot with a late 1.33.602 for the Dane in comparison with 1.33.774 for di Resta who completed 58 laps to Magnussen’s 100.

Antonio Felix da Costa was third overall for Red Bull with 82 laps completed with a fastest lap time of 1.33.821. James Calado was the first man out on track and finished fourth for Force India when he took the morning session and put in a 1.33.986 in only 27 laps – joint least amount of laps set today.

Daniel Juncadella set 55 laps for Williams and finished the day with a 1.34.098, while Johnny Cecotto Jr took the Toro Rosso for a spin and clocked 1.34.193 after 75 laps. Robin Frijns was seventh for Sauber who completed a total of 72 laps today, as did Nicolas Prost for Lotus who set a 1.34.810 lap time, six tenths slower than Frijns.

Davide Rigon was on-hand for Ferrari and finished ninth after 76 laps, merely six-hundreths shy of Prost’s fastest lap while Alexander Rossi was eight-tenths down in the Caterham which completed 69 laps of Silverstone. Finally were the Marussia duo of Tio Ellinas and Max Chilton finishing 11th and 12th respectively. Ellinas’s best lap was a 1.36.676 after 36 laps while Chilton had to overcome an ECU issue to complete 27 laps with a 1.38.347 time.

  1. Kevin Magnussen – McLaren – 100 laps – 1.33.602
  2. Paul di Resta – Force India – 58 laps – 1.33.774
  3. Antonio Felix da Costa – Red Bull – 82 laps – 1.33.821
  4. James Calado – Force India – 27 laps – 1.33.986
  5. Daniel Juncadella – Williams – 55 laps – 1.34.098
  6. Johnny Cecotto Jr. – Toro Rosso – 75 laps – 1.34.193
  7. Robin Frijns – Sauber – 72 laps 0 1.34.236
  8. Nicolas Prost – Lotus – 72 laps – 1.34.810
  9. Davide Rigon – Ferrari – 76 laps – 1.34.874
  10. Alexander Rossi – Caterham – 69 laps – 1.35.651
  11. Tio Ellinas – Marussia – 36 laps – 1.36.676
  12. Max Chilton – Marussia – 27 laps – 1.38.347

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