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Lights Out:

The beginning of the race was halted over a stalled Marussia and this caused an additional formation lap. Probably to be expected given the delicate nature of the new power units.

It was clear from the start that Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg’s muted commentary post-qualifying was due to his having a plan and that plan immediately materialized at the start with a shot from a cannon into the lead.

It was also clear that his teammate, Lewis Hamilton, had an engine issue, as he became a sitting duck for the drivers behind him. He would later retire the car.

It was also a bit of bad luck for a reinvigorated Felipe Massa as his Williams F1 car was struck heavily from behind by Caterham F1’s Kamui Kobayashi as his car had a braking issue that seemed to be no brakes at all given the incident.

Win

Win:

One can’t ignore the drive of Valtteri Bottas and although he caused his own grief and was mad at himself for clouting the wall and bringing out the Safety Car, that full-course caution actually saved his bacon and got him back into the race to finish and impressive 5th.

Kevin Magnussen proved to be the star of the show as well with an impressive 2nd place beating his venerable teammate Jenson Button who placed 3rd giving McLaren the lead in the constructor’s championship.

As for teammates and comprehensive butt-kicking, Force India’s Nico hulkenberg proved, yet again, why he should be Fernando Alonso’s teammate as he pummeled Force India’s Sergio Perez. Nico finished 6th while Sergio floundered in 10th with tire puncture caused by a collision with fellow countryman Esteban Gutierrez. In Perez’s defense, he had to make an unscheduled stop costing him any real potential of finishing close to Hulkenberg.

Toro Rosso has to be pleased to get both cars in the top ten with an 8th for Jean-Eric Vergne and 9th for rookie Danill Kvyat who displaces Sebastian Vettel as the youngest driver to ever score a world championship point.

Don’t miss the huge news that Marussia has claimed 13th and 14th on Sunday. This is massive news and thanks to the reliable Max Chilton, the team could have just secured 10th in the constructor’s championship should the teams only progress from here with reliability and performance which would make it very difficult for Caterham F1 to best a 13th place finish in the season ahead. This means millions of dollars for Marussia.

Fail

Fail:

I guess you’d have to pick the Red Bull fuel-flow rate sensor as the big culprit in today’s race. Red Bull says the sensors have been dodgy all during the pre-season testing and that they feel it was giving bad readings during the race. They say the FIA sensors are crap and that their injectors measured the correct flow and the car was compliant to the regulations of 100kgs per hour. Regardless, Ricciardo was disqualified from the race.

The team will appeal the decision but regardless, the big loser is Daniel Ricciardo who drove brilliantly and got on the podium for his home race…I feel terrible for him.

You could certainly put your finger on the 8 cars that didn’t finish as having lost the plot for the season opener but we knew all along that attrition was going to be an element this weekend. Some feared over half the field would fail to finish the race and others envisioned nearly all the cars falling short of the finish line. Those fears were a little over the mark.

Williams F1’s Felipe Massa has to be one of the biggest losers of the race having been punted by no fault of his own spoiling what otherwise may have been double points haul for the team and a good finish position for the Brazilian.

Both Red Bull and Mercedes have serious reliability issues with their most-favored drivers in Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton respectively. I’ve maintained that if Mercedes can come on song, Nico Rosberg would be the man to beat at Mercedes and so far, it seems to be the case but as quick as you can suggest that, Hamilton can turn the tables just as quickly and this is why the Mercedes teammate duel is the one to watch in 2014.

Lotus F1 has to be this weekend’s comprehensive loser in context given their performance last year. The team are beside themselves with the loss in pace, reliability and progress. Development this year will be key and it could very well becoming the threshing floor for Lotus F1 as well as Williams and Sauber if they do not have the cash to support an aggressive development cycle.

While not as bitten as the above, Ferrari has to be displeased with their efforts so far. Running 5th in the race and inheriting 4th on red Bull’s disqualification can’t be what they envisaged heading into the 2014 season. Some felt the team could be hiding pace during practice but it seems the Scuderia are plainly out matched this year too. Can they develop the F14T chassis into a winner? Heaven knows they have the cash to do so and yet they haven’t been able to accomplish it in the last three years.

WTH

WTH?

The media I’ve read says that I will get used to the new sound of Formula 1. That F1 needs to be eco-friendly and lead the way in hybrid technology. Some journalists say that I need to respect what the teams have achieved in little more than 24 months. They say the sound is not a big deal and that the friendlier, quieter F1 is actually much nicer if you’re trackside or in the paddock.

They argue the racing is more exciting now too. They say I should really respect the notion of a more green racing series and how innovative the new engines, hybrid systems and entertainment constructs are—I have news for them, No I don’t.

Putting a positive spin on the current state of affairs in F1 is fine and understandable but there are major disconnects for F1 fans at home. The lack of that visceral sound has taken away the tangible way in which we knew the drivers and cars were going flat out. Where they put throttle input, where they braked, how much energy they were putting into a turn or a high-speed corner. We have lost nearly all of our ability to actually hear that on TV now. We assume they are going fast but we certainly can’t hear that they are. It’s like watching The Walking Dead with the sound off…how the hell do we know when a zombie is coming if we can’t hear that haunting, gurgling sound?

I suggest F1 needs closed captioning now with someone typing “WHAAAAaaaaaaaa, WHAAAaaaaaaa, WHAAAaaaaaaa” just so we know when someone is giving it some welly.

The Delphic journo core is right, I’ll get used to it in time. This, of course, means that I will get numb to it over time but I will never like it because it isn’t F1. Someone may have done well to ask fans if being green with electric cars is something they want. Formula E won’t have a muted 6-cylinder making sounds like a Toro Leaf Blower masking the sound of the electric whirring of the power unit so in that case, maybe we’ll be able to hear something of note. The combination of the V6 masking the ERS means that everything sounds muddled and unidentifiable.

Our own Adam Vella was at the race and posted his first-hand experience of the sound here. I agree with him, I’m about as gutted as F1 is right now. Surely revving the V6 higher would help? Or would it?

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An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry and as a CTO, he focuses on technology integration in commercial workspace design, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • cconf1

    I like the sound … just not for F1 cars. For most any other series, it would be a very cool sound.

    Also, this may be one of the hardest races ever to pick a Drive of the race for (although the homer in me is going with Magnussen).

  • jeff

    I agree with all of Todd’s observations here, but disagree regarding the fundamental point of sound and speed perception. The sound is exciting, visceral, but what does it have to do with how fast the cars are going?

    I’ve made the point I like the engine noises (from Mercedes at least), but the engines need to be louder. That being said, I’d much rather have Aus GP 2014 than Monaco 2013. In Monaco, those engines were screaming per usual. But, it was obvious that the drivers were just trundling around. The cars, Visually, were rounding apexes, early and soft on brakes, even lifting and coasting. That, to me, is so much “less F1” than anodyne or even crappy-sounding cars being obviously pushed to their and their drivers’ limits. F1 is about performance; I bet if engineers could take all that waste heat and sound and convert it into more performance, they would. Would I watch it? As long as the cars have more power than grip, and the drivers are visually at their limits, then yes.

    To each is own; as stated, we will get used to it, whichever side of the fence one sits. Just the vehemence of posters (myself included) either defending or claiming “I give up on F1” show there’s passion still for F1.

    • That’s really the point, Jeff, these are just my thoughts but there are just as passionate arguments on the other side and that’s perfectly fine.

      • Rapierman

        I will posit this: If that’s what they’re saying about F1, then what are they saying about the world in general? Are we the old bunch that can’t get out of the way of the next generation? Are we, the generation labled “baby boomer”, supposed to die and make way for the “Millenial Generation”? I don’t know ’bout you guys, but I’m not ready to die just yet. We’re just going through what we actually put our parents through. We’re now the “establishment” that’s being a real downer on the new kids (and them doing it to us in turn). “What goes around comes around,” as they say.

        • jeff

          Not quite of the Babyboomer age, but found myself saying, upon seeing the young 20 year olds partying for St. Patrick’s Day Saturday, “Put some clothes on, Honey,” and worrying if my God daughters will one day dress that slutty.

          YIKES!

      • jeff

        Oh No, I understand you’re positing something, and both understand and respect it. I was positing a question; of course, we’re all resistant to change, particularly if we like the status quo. The question was whether or not this new formula, with something we or I don’t like is, on balance, preferable to said status quo.

        I prefer the new Formula; I’ve been on your site for years, but never felt the desire to post. Pre-2008, the racing was what I new as an independent viewer free from my Father’s influence. 2009-2013, I hated the new Formula and had nothing to say, as it was a spec series (for the most part), too reliant on aero, in which drivers drove well below their abilities. For 2014, I saw a Formula in which power overtook aero, in which drivers would need to wrestle cars around again. That was an exciting development, for me, and wanted to talk to fellow fans about it.

        Now, I’m no soothsayer, F1 2014 could still turn out to be a pill, but early indications are that indeed, the drivers are on their talent-limits, driving the fastest circuit cars of any other Formula. I’m excited about it, despite the lack of engine-noise drama, and wanted to hear others’ opinions.

        • Rapierman

          No, your question is a good one, and I think it’s also a reflection of society in general. Part of what constructs the ‘status quo’ are the people that either construct it or observe it. This is a small portion of the classic ‘generational wars’, where the future generation struggles against the past in its effort to define the status quo according to how they feel it should be as opposed to the previous generation’s aspirations. Soon, it will be their turn to defend themselves against another future generation. It’s a cycle that repeats itself while it replaces the players that act out this struggle. There aren’t any good guys vs. bad guys in this thing, just the faces that change every 20 years or so.

  • Danfgough

    Sure I miss the sound of the V8s, the same way I miss the V10s, the V12s before them and if I were around then I’m sure I would miss the sound of the 80s turbos, the Cosworth DFVs, the Climax engines etc. etc. There is no ‘sound of F1’.

    The thing I am choosing to focus on is what these new engines have given us. Cars with more power than grip. For the first time since I last watched Senna I saw cars with the rear end dancing in the dry as the power was put down, and drivers properly working at the wheel! I love that corners that weren’t corners last year are now challenges in their own right. Fast forward to Spa and Eau Rouge will be a challenge again. If the price of this is a little less volume then I’m ok with that.

    Also, I LOVED hearing the crowd go mental when Ricciardo put it on provisional pole. That really made the moment for me and brought me closer to the action on TV. I’m also enjoying trying to work out what each new sound I’ve never heard before is.

    I get it that most people don’t like change, and that’s fine, but let’s look at what these new regulations have given as well as what has been taken away.

    • I can’t disagree with you Dan, I think more power than grip is good but I think Richard Petty said that it’s only better if it actually is better. Just because it’s new doesn’t make it better. I think F1 is over the line of being obsessed with the entertainment element that they’ve lost the plot and the DNA of the series. There is a sound of F1 it’s just less of it now. The V8, V10 and V12 all had a visceral, tangible sound to and these do to but it is very difficult to hear on TV.

      My concern isn’t the sound alone but I will say that it is just one more thing F1 has done to alienate the veteran fans and try to appeal to people who aren’t fans. As Nigel Roebuck says, they’ll end of having neither. Perhaps, as an old luddite, I just wasn’t ready for a big electric racing series lightly sprinkled with V6 turbo wholesomeness. We can’t claim the guttural roar and whine of the former turbo era has much similarity with these machines.

      • jeff

        I guess my problem, if any, Todd, is when people make claims that as an old or true fan or luddite, one can’t condone current F1. I consider myself a true racing fan, one who enjoys the driving skills, technology, and strategy of F1, yet I disagree w/ other fans’ viewpoints at times. That doesn’t make me, or them, wrong, just different. To me, saying something alienates the veteran fans while appealing to new fans is egotistical and elitist, in my view.

        Again, elucidate your point. I can understand even if I don’t agree ( I do agree) about your notion the sound is less exciting to you. But, also again, how does that influence the racing on track, something I’d think a veteran or true fan would like?

        My assertion, and that of Dan’s I believe, is that since the beginnings of Grand Prix racing, there was a surplus of power vs grip in the cars; this made the drivers have to balance cars on throttle i.e. they couldn’t just stomp on the gas and use the grip to choose a line. The drivers had to be careful in essence, or they’d make a mistake that’d cost them time or even crash.

        As the AUS GP Quali and race showed, that is now again the case; we have drivers making mistakes because the cars can’t use all the power available. The geek in the seat must balance the car and meter out the power or suffer the consequences; this is something one can see on the TV feed. I personally prefer this, think it’s truer to “true” F1, more so than the sound spectacle being the indicator of “true” F1, but that’s just me.

        Now, whether this is better than the previous formula, where drivers had a surplus of grip and drove below their limits to conserve fuel, that’s for each his own to decide. I respect all us-as fans’ viewpoints. But to claim one is better than the other because a supposed purist or whatever claims it’s so is bunk.

        • I don’t think Nigel meant that statement, and I’m not agreeing with it, out of an elitist notion, I think it’s more of a sense that it has strayed far from what our true passion about the sport was. I’ve been watching since I was a young boy with my dad back in 1972 so I have seen a lot of engine formats come and go, this one is of particular annoyance to me for a host of reasons that go beyond the sound but that does contribute to it a lot.

          To your point, though, it is nice to see the driver back in the driver seat to some extent. The cars are twitchy and difficult to handle and that’s kind of fun to see…again, to the point of more power than grip.

          I’m being a bit heavy-handed here but if you think about it, I’m sitting here working on Podcast show notes realizing that the outcome of the race is down to a fuel flow sensor that has been deemed dodgy and a team penalized for flowing more fuel than allowed because they didn’t trust the sensor. Did they flow more fuel and is that against the regulations of the new power unit? Yes. Is that what I’d like to be arguing over in F1? No. A new fan is thinking..”wait, why did he get DQ’s? A Flow sensor? What the hell is that?”. that’s a bit odd in my book.

          • Tom

            To your last point:
            There have always been dodgy DQs. And while a flow sensor may seem to be obscure to the average viewer, it is an essential part in F1 as it is. Without it, we could get bursts of power of 1300hp or more. In fact, this has more of an impact on actual race performance than any DQ I can think about in the past. Compare it to Vettel trailing the safety car for example.

            If the whole fuel sensor thing is too odd for the new fan, then it’s up to the TV presenters and news media to cover it in a more accessible way. One could for example phrase it this way: “The FIA accuses Red Bull of running their engine with a banned configuration that provided them with a power advantage over their competitors.”

            There, everyone can relate to it without the need to get into too much detail like fuel flow, etc.

    • Here is what they turbo sounded like back then, quite different in my mind. It’s a great video BTW with Jackie but you can skip to the live shots of the car with Nigel.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4JIXPqgwQHk

  • Michael in Seattle

    We live life through a combination of our senses. Food, if one blocks their nose, tastes bland. Touching a penguin’s head, feeling one’s finger sink past the first knuckle into the bird’s bed of downy feathers, is seductive. A 2D print of a Renoir painting will never replace the breath-halting experience one gets from viewing the 3D original in all its layers and textures.

    I have an incredible hi-fi system. I love listening to music on it. My system, however, can never replace the live experience for its ability to put me in touch with the music. Hearing a symphony orchestra explore Saint-Saëns 3rd Symphony at the boundaries of 108dB in an acoustically wonderful environment is chill and tear inducing. The impassioned blues riffs of Eric Clapton move me and ‘force’ me to pay attention when driven at 100dB+. They are just not the same when performed acoustically. Prop-driven aerobatic planes put on a hell of a show, but add the visceral, tearing-of-fabric screech of an FA-18 performing the same routines and the aerobatics become another, more involving experience, all together.

    The aural immersion of a screaming F1 engine produces physical responses that significantly amplify and support the beauty of what we witness and love as race fans. The new turbo power units cannot do this; they will never cause one’s hair to stand on end nor one’s skin to break out in goose flesh, and that is a shame. The racing is good (I especially love watching the drivers struggling to tame their beasts under the onslaught of the increased torque in this year’s cars), but the racing experience in total is now neutered.

    F1 fans, Bernie and team owners (like V.J. Mallya did on television) need to make sure that the FIA hears us. If the current aural experience remains as it is, eventually, attendance at race venues will wither and television audiences (and ad revenue) will retreat. That scenario can only be bad for F1.

    • Agreed Michael, Paul and I were with Shell at turn 1 in Austin and I cannot describe the feeling as they all came up the hill and turned in and powered out of the corner, it was otherworldly. A sensory overload. Incredible.

      • Danfgough

        You know, the best thing going on right now is that we are having this debate. The thing that really ticks me off in this social media world is people jumping all over something as bad before it has a chance to settle in. I totally get that the lower volume is disappointing, and in fact (I realise this goes against my own post further up this chain) when I try to persuade people to come to a grand prix I describe it as a full sensory experience. The sound was a huge part of that. But while it is clear what we have lost, it is going to take a good few races to accurately see what (if anything) we have gained.

        So to all the people saying ‘The sound was the sport. I won’t watch any more’, please nurse the bruise on your knee from your knee-jerk reaction and engage in the debate.

        There is real potential in this new world. Lets try to encourage that potential and identify the tweaks that need to be made in other areas.

    • My reaction to the engines is restricted through the speakers on my computer and television. Racing is about speed and drivers exhibiting car control. However, it is also an emotional experience. Race cars have always been pound and that is what resonated with me as a fan. When that noise is taken away, I feel driven less in regard to the sensation of speed and the sheer terror that F1 cars should inflict on one.

      F1 is also supposed to be a platform for innovation and power. When they are restricted, or forced, then it also makes me feel . . . some kind of way.

  • jeff

    Really interesting discussion by all, particularly concerning perception and understanding of the sport by fans. We all either are or were “new” fans once. Rhetorically, what drew most of us in, the human spectacle, the noise, the cars, the technical complexity?

    That a criticism of the flow-sensor being too complex for the F1 audience initially read (past tense) as lazy to me. Formula 1, by its very nature, is a technical formula; the greatest drivers in the world racing, and developing, the fastest cars in the world. This is not a spec series, whose drama centers around the driver/team and the show; one must either accept technical literacy and learn its intricacies, brush and by and accept the racing as is, or switch to a different series (as much as it’s ridiculed, nothing wrong w/ watching NASCAR, Indycar, etc if you want that sort of show).

    I was reminded however, that here in the states, television, in my view, has done a very poor job defining F1 contrasted to said NASCAR/Indycar. The few times I’ve watched Speed nee NBC coverage, it’s been a shockingly vapid experience. Little of what makes F1 so distinct from those series is talked about.

    Growing up here in the US, but with a well-traveled father, we watched F1 on the local broadcasts, but I also had Dad explaining his views to me. As such, I got a much more “European/British” insight into the sport than many others here. With friends abroad, I was 1st sent DVD’s of ITV/BBC broadcasts, and now via slingbox/etc., I’ve had access to the excellent English broadcasts, which are easily-understood by the casual fans, but in-depth strategically, technically, and interpersonally i.e. it delves into the F1 Rabbit Hole and viewers keep up as much as they want.

    So, perhaps it’s perception based upon viewing history; I find race-strategy/technical development and LEEWAY, and visible-to-the-dummy driving styles to be fundamentally Formula 1; if I was presented via TV, say “Boogity Boogity listen to that engine!” and “WOW here comes a pit stop!” without my Dad’s perspective and British TV, then perhaps I might feel different.

  • You know what isn’t F1?
    Frozen engines.
    Mechanics and engineers unable to work on motors on a motorsport. Unable to improve it.
    I don’t care if they can keep working on aero. This isn’t planes. These are CARS. Why on earth are the motors frozen?
    This sport lose its DNA the moment they started with this “frozen engine” malarkey.
    I don’t care for the sound, I care more for seeing underpowered cars for a whole season…

    • Tom

      While I don’t think the cars are “underpowered”, I totally agree with you larger point. I hated the idea of an engine freeze with the V8s and I hate it now. I wish more people would be angry about that instead of fuel flow, etc.

      • Oh! Not that all current cars are underpowered. I meant that some of them are, because they’re not allowed to develop their full potential.
        I mean, Renault and Ferrari (and Mercedes, of course) engines could have a lot more power if this engine freeze rule was not there…
        But as it is, they have to stay as they are now (with marginal improvements) because development is frozen.

  • Steve

    As fo Nico Hulkenberg deserving to be Alonso’s teammate, I don’t see that as being a big prize. What has Ferrari done for Alonso or anyone else recently. Better to score points when your talent is showcased and unexpected, than score them when you are expected to do so, even if the the reality is that cars may have the same chance in winning.

  • Steve

    I also feel terrible for Daniel Ricciardo, but I have to say that Red Bull has acted typically like someone who has been in power for too long, entitled and thinking the rules don’t apply to them.

  • Tom

    Having spent much time debating the Red Bull Ricciardo issue, it’s time for me to move on and finally talk about the race properly.

    It’s a shame that behind all of the fury about fuel flow and engine noise, the performance of Mercedes and Rosberg didn’t get the appreciation they deserve. Finally someone is breaking the Red Bull dominance and they do it in a commanding fashion.

    Despite all the rumors during testing, I didn’t really trust the predictions that Mercedes would dominate. And yet that’s exactly what happened. A brilliant pole by Lewis who suffered from bad fortune and an even more brilliant race by Rosberg.

    Whether or not Red Bull is really back remains to be seen. Ricciardo has shown great pace, but he did so with an illegal car, while the car that Red Bull tried to make legal failed to do anything. Without what Montezemolo would call “trickery”, it is very doubtful Ricciardo would have been anywhere near the podium.

    McLaren however is definitely back. Magnussen didn’t put a foot wrong and showed some great pace while Button lucked into the safety car phase that ultimately sealed his podium position.

    Ferrari was a disappointment, but there’s more to come, I’m sure. During the race, it was rumored that Ferrari has problems and can’t run their engine at 100%, so there should be some room for improvement. Also the lap times weren’t too bad actually. Yes, Kimi struggled all weekend and Alonso was stuck behind Hülkenberg for a long time, but once he had a clear road, his lap times were pretty much on par with Ricciardo and Magnussen.

    Williams also had great pace, definitely on par with McLaren, Red Bull and Ferrari, possibly even better. Unfortunately Massa was the victim of a Caterham with breaking issues while Bottas clipped a wall. Still a promising performance. I’d say that Williams is back.

    Force India was slightly underwhelming. To be honest, I expected more of them. But then Hülkenberg once again outperformed his car, giving us a good show.

    Toro Rosso had a great weekend, completely shattering my expectations. I thought they would be trodding around the back end of the field, yet they were up there in the points, competitively racing with the big boys. Not to forget: Kvyat broke Vettel’s record as the youngest point-scorer ever.

    Sauber was very disappointing. Other than reliability, there really isn’t too much to take home from this weekend. Too bad as I do have a soft spot for the team.

    Caterham didn’t show much unfortunately. Kamui had a great qualifying, unfortunately a technical defect prevented him to follow through.

    Marussia was also somewhat disappointing, however Chilton continued his finishing record and helped the team to a 13th position which could already be very helpful in the fight with Caterham.

    Lotus of course was abysmal. Enough said.

  • jeff

    Race anecdotes:

    -Mercedes had pace in hand And preserved tires while stretching gaps. Scary for the opposition.

    -I don’t have a feeling as to where Ferrari nor Red Bull are. There’re the aforementioned hints that ferrari need solve a PU issue; if so, perhaps they have more pace. I didn’t notice much one way or the other, save for Kimi’s difficulties slowing down. Red Bull; I would have liked to have seen more on track/onboard.

    -Williams dry pace looks 2nd fastest. Interesting how they got into 8th gear and ran through the gears quickly; shorter ratios, sacrificing the faster tracks? Interesting strategy

    -Also Williams: Both Bottas and Massa in Quali/FP were flinging their cars around, consistent drifts, lively but visually-predicatable car movement; the car or the drivers?

    -Why so much fuel saving for Magnussen at race end? Safety cars periods, double start… Rossberg was running faster deltas the entire race, yet when he needed a gap, got right on it w/ the same Power Unit.

    -Riccardio seemed to short-shift much more so than others. For traction, fuel consumption?

    -Torro Rosso looks terrible in the traction zones; no mechanical rear grip.

    -Acceleration out of the 11-12 chicane mighty impressive.

    -Braking still a big issue; many instances of rear lockup and snap oversteer. I think I saw Kimi lock up 1 (!) rear tire in straight line braking.

    -Broadcasts: FOM needs more graphics; end of straight speeds, lap stint counters, DRS usage, ERS power percentages. In a new era of vastly more complex machinery, they give us less info?

    Overall, lots to unpack for the upcoming season.