2014 Australian Grand Prix saw an impressive display of talent from both the young guns as well as the experienced lads as a new era dawned upon Formula 1. Kevin Magnussen’s second place finish in his debut race takes him on par with Jacques Villeneuve record, set back in 1996. Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat became the youngest ever point scorer, displacing another driver from Red Bull’s young drivers programme, Sebastian Vettel.
Talking about the more experienced drivers, Nico Rosberg put on a fine show to record his fourth Grand Prix win, while Jenson Button made his pits call at the right time that put him on third spot in the final race result which were announced nearly six hours after the race. Honourable mention also goes to Daniel Ricciardo for his faultless drive which didn’t yield the same result it should have and to Valtteri Bottas for his commendable recovery drive after being put to the back end of the grid following a brush with the barriers.
Nico Rosberg found the gap between front row starters Lewis Hamilton and Daniel Ricciardo to take the lead of the race, even before the field made it to the first corner. He extended his lead to over one second by the time DRS was activated and from there he never looked back, increasing his advantage to over eight seconds by the time Safety Car came out on track to remove Valtteri Bottas’ tyre carcass. He followed the same procedure once the Safety Car went into the pits and eventually finished the race with a gap of 24.5 seconds to then second place driver, Daniel Ricciardo. If we add his pre-safety car gap to the gap he had when the chequered flag was waved, the total comes out to be 33.2 seconds which is on par with Vettel’s final gap at last year’s Singapore Grand Prix. To remind you, it was the Singapore Grand Prix which provoked former Minardi team principal Giancarlo Minardi to speculate about a traction control system on Red Bull’s 2013 challenger. However, this 33.2 second gap by Rosberg doesn’t take into the account the fuel saving the German would have to resort to in the absence of a Safety Car period.
Daniel Ricciardo proved that he is worthy of an elusive Red Bull seat with a faultless drive to second place, which came a day after an impressive showing in qualifying. The Australian lost out to fast starting Nico Rosberg on start/finish straight but soon regained second position after overtaking the other Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton. He didn’t have the pace in his car to challenge Rosberg for the lead, but he was able to retain second place despite coming under increased pressure from debutant Kevin Magnussen. It must have been heartbreaking for the 24 year old to be stripped of a dream result in his home race because of no fault in his own. But the season doesn’t end after one race and he will have plenty more opportunities, not just to finish on the podium, but to stand on top it.
In an age where F1 is criticized for not having the best drivers of the lot in light of teams persistent attempts to hire drivers on the basis of size of their budget, Kevin Magnussen proved that there is space for talent in the pinnacle of motorsport with a superb drive from fourth on the grid. The Danish driver passed Hamilton on the opening lap and challenged Daniel Ricciardo for second spot on the podium during the latter part of the race, eventually grabbing that spot due to a post-race decision by FIA. With this second place result, he now jointly holds the record of best Formula 1 debut with Jacques Villeneuve.
Valtteri Bottas showed signs of speed throughout his debut season in 2013. All he needed was a quick car beneath him. Luckily for him, he has one now and despite a kiss with the barriers, he finished the race in sixth place, which eventually became fifth following Ricciardo’s disqualification.
Williams didn’t look particularly strong in wet conditions in qualifying with Valtteri Bottas qualifying in only 10th place, with his teammate Felipe Massa a position ahead in ninth. A five place grid penalty didn’t make life easier for Bottas, prompting him to start from 15th place. However, it didn’t take much time for Bottas to reach the sharp end of the grid and by lap eight he was running in sixth place. In a battle between him and Fernando Alonso, he brushed the barriers, losing his right-rear tyre. That put him at the back of the grid again. What followed was a superb recovery drive which ended with Bottas finishing the race in fifth place. It would have been interesting to see where he would have finished, had he not made contact with the barriers.
When Toro Rosso announced that they are going to hire the services of Daniil Kvyat, questions were raised whether a 19 year old guy was good enough for Formula 1. They quoted the example of Jaime Alguersuari, another member of the Red Bull’s drive programme, who was thrown out of F1 after just two years, with the team insisting he was not a race winner. Daniil Kvyat, in his defence won the GP3 title in style with a dominant drive in Abu Dhabi.
Fast forward to 2014, Kvyat locked his car in eight place on the grid, two spots behind his teammate Jean Eric Vergne. In the race, Toro Rosso didn’t seem to have the pace of other front runners but Kvyat still managed to hold on to 10th place in the race, thus becoming F1’s youngest point scorer. Following Ricciardo’s penalty, he was promoted to ninth. An important thing to note is that Vettel became F1's youngest point scorer when points were rewarded for top eight spots only. Nevertheless, this fact doesn't take anything away from Kvyat who has already impressed everyone in the paddock.
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