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GP Week : Issue 197
Yes, the post-race media conference continued the atmosphere apparent on the rostrum, three young men all exhilarated and overjoyed at their achievement on a day when the microscope was on Formula 1 itself. For Nico Rosberg, there was pleasure at delivering reward for the millions of dollars and extensive development undertaken by Mercedes. Sure, there was the mystery of his pole-sitting team-mate's early demise, but for Nico it was a perfect day – Silver Arrow start, car performing better than ever, no real fuel issues. It all went like clockwork. It sure did. Mercedes, and Merc engines, were the clear testing form horses going in and Rosberg was in command after the opening lap. A 10-second gap back to Ricciardo was only briefly disturbed by a Safety Car after 11 laps, but it was quickly restored, courtesy of a fastest lap on lap 19, and thereafter quietly grew. In short, Rosberg, and his Merc, were never put under any serious pressure. Behind him, Ricciardo delivered an equally accomplished performance to back up his qualifying effort – fractionally slow off the line (“most of us were – it was just that Nico made a really good one”) but still second out of Turn 1 and pretty much unchallenged throughout – except late in the race when McLaren’s young signing closed in to within a second, but with no seeming realistic chance to challenge for the spot. All followed much the same two-stop pattern, starting on Options, a new set of the same at the Safety Car-induced stop, then a switch to the harder Primes in the lap 36-38 window. Pretty much clockwork for all three. So where were their esteemed team-mates? Lewis Hamilton was told to quit after a lap “to save the engine.” Sebastian Vettel’s problems started as early as the second parade lap (Jules Bianchi stalled his Marussia at the first attempt) when he reported “no boost” . The world champion struggled around for three laps before the decision was made to retire the car. After five laps, the Australian Grand Prix wasn’t looking promising! Things were somewhat better for Magnussen’s senior. Jenson qualified badly, ran out of the top 10 early on, but ended up being the clear beneficiary of the ‘track debris’ Safety Car. The McLaren was almost past the pit entry when the Safety Car was called, but just – just – managed to turn sharp right and get in and out first. It moved him up to sixth. By race’s end, that was a strong fourth – McLaren lead the Constructor’s points as a result. The toe-to-toe on-track action was limited but, at one point, heading towards mid-race, a group made up of Hulkenburg, Alonso, Button, Vergne and Raikkonen circulated together in a promising queue – although longer-game concerns on fuel economy probably meant no-one was going to put it all on the line to break clear. Of the other impressive efforts, Valtteri Bottas’ was notable. It was he, just clipping the wall out of Turn 10 and breaking a wheel, which brought out the Safety Car. Fortunately, there was no other damage and his drive thereafter into sixth underlined the potential of the Williams-Mercedes. His team-mate, Felipe Massa, had no chance to match that potential. Kobayashi’s Caterham simply didn’t stop well enough at Turn 1 and cleaned up Felipe big-time. Both were out on the spot, and Felipe was hopping mad (see news story elsewhere). The other result of note came from Danil Kvyat. On debut he scored a point, backing up his excellent qualifying result and, in doing so, now takes over the record as the youngest points-scorer in F1 history (see Race Stats). So, while questions remain over the ultimate pace and reliability of the new cars, and the debate about their sound rages, it was nevertheless an upbeat day in Melbourne; a day for the F1’s Gen Y to strut their stuff – and weren’t they happy about it. Late on sunday evening came the news. Fuel flow; Ricciardo disqualified. Nothing that could be affected by the driver, they said. such a let-down. Massive sympathy for the young Aussie. Red Bull to appeal ... 29 GPWEEK.com // 29 GPWEEK.com // F1 >>> AUSTRALIA PARTNERS: