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GP Week : Issue 198
19 GPWEEK.com // 19 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: What is it about Formula One that bring out the negative Nancys? We started the season with some of the most exciting technology seen on a racetrack in recent memory, yet all anyone wanted to do was moan about the engine noise (or perceived lack thereof). Now we’ve had a weekend with a textbook drive from Lewis Hamilton, two men on the podium who didn’t finish the first race of the season, and proof that while both Mercedes drivers are strong, Red Bull are improving (and fast). But instead of getting excited by the potential of the next 17 races, there are those who get their kicks by predicting a dull as ditchwater year of dominance by the Silver Arrows. But it’s not the racing that’s boring, despite Hamilton’s near lights-to-flag win in Malaysia. Far from it. What’s dull is the endless stream of complaints. To paraphrase Jenson Button’s Thursday riposte to the moaning minnies in the paddock, if you don’t like it, you can always turn your attention to another category. The big difference between 2013 and 2014 (technology aside) is that while Sebastian Vettel dominated last year (and the year before that, and the year before that...), Mercedes have already shown that they have two strong drivers both capable of challenging for wins. Red Bull had two quick drivers in 2013, but only once was Mark Webber in the position to win a race. And we all know what happened there. While we had a taste of team orders this weekend in Sepang thanks to Williams’ incredibly tactful radio call to Felipe Massa, we can and should expect to see quite a bit of careful negotiating taking place in the Mercedes garage this season. With a car that is currently the fastest on the grid and two 2014 race winners behind the wheel, even if Mercedes’ on-track dominance continues, the intra-team battle will provide considerably more tension than Vettel’s 2013 walkover. And that’s assuming that Mercedes are able to hold position at the front. From where I’m sitting, having watched Red Bull humiliate themselves in Jerez and impress in both Albert Park and Sepang, that looks like a pretty stupid assumption to make. In an ordinary season, underestimating Red Bull is far from wise. They are a team who have proved time and time again that they know how to win races and titles. They are well- equipped, both with intelligent and innovative people working trackside and back home in Milton Keynes and with the high-tech equipment that enables them to develop quickly. And that’s without mentioning their not inconsiderable budget. But this is not an ordinary season. For the first time in years, teams have an in-season opportunity to test with their current race drivers. The first such opportunity will arise in Bahrain, following next weekend’s grand prix. Any simulations or models that the factory team have been working on since Melbourne yet not developed to their fullest extent can be tried out by drivers who are known quantities on a track that less than 48 hours earlier had generated terabytes of race data. It is an opportunity that every team will have, true. But it is an opportunity that Red Bull will maximise, for that is their wont. With two podium finishes (one currently contested) under their belt in two races, any improvement from the Milton Keynes racers is something to be feared. But even if Red Bull aren’t regularly challenging for wins by the time the F1 circus returns to Europe, we still have the Hamilton-Rosberg head-to-head to relish. Those who think that the 2014 season is simply a repeat of 2013 with a different team calling the shots are wearing very rose- coloured spectacles with regard to Mark Webber ’s performances last year. NO! NOThINg lIkE 2013 All OVER AgAIN OPINION OPINION KATE WALKER