GP of Malaysia

Vettel behind the Mercedes

After going it alone at the front of the Malaysian Grand Prix on the Sepang circuit, Lewis Hamilton carried off his first victory of the season ahead of team mate Nico Rosberg and quadruple World Champion Sebastian Vettel.

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The facts

Following the perfect start, Hamilton, who had claimed his 33rd pole position under the previous day’s rain, ahead of Rosberg and Vettel, maintained his lead at the first turn and never relinquished it, well served by both his talent and his machine. Rosberg, who won in Australia, couldn’t match his pace and had to make do with a second place ahead of Vettel, whose performance was a marked improvement on his withdrawal during the inaugural race.

Fourth place should have gone to the other Red Bull driver, Daniel Ricciardo, who fell victim to a final extended pit-stop due to a imperfectly secured wheel. The Australian, who is still waiting for the decision concerning his Melbourne podium place (the appeal will be ruled on in Paris on 14 April), eventually withdrew after his front wing broke. He ceded the spot next the podium to Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari.

The figure

0 – The Lotus team has not yet scored a single point in 2014, whereas it had already notched up 40 by this time last season. Only Romain Grosjean has finished a race, this weekend in Malaysia – a first milestone for the guys from Enstone. The team’s new driver, Pastor Maldonado, had to withdraw early on in Sepang to spare his Renault engine.

The quote

“I kept remembering our battles with Kimi to make sure he didn’t get past.” Grosjean, who finished in eleventh position, successfully fended off his former team mate, back in a Ferrari, at the end of the race.

The anecdote

Much has been said about the noise made by the V6 engines due to their lack of decibels. Opinions can be very cut-and-dried. “I think Formula 1 should be spectacular and that sound volume is one of the most important things” declared Vettel this weekend

Next GP

Bahrain (4-6 April)

GP of Qatar

Superb one-two for Rabat and Kallio

By finishing first and second in the Moto2 Grand Prix of Qatar, Tito Rabat and Mika Kallio started their 2014 campaign in the best possible way – confirming the Marc VDS Racing Team’s status as favorite for the title.

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The Races

Despite a poorly negotiated first corner, Tito Rabat was sufficiently patient to take command of the Moto2 race in the thirteenth lap, and never let go afterwards. The winner of the pole position couldn’t have hoped for a better start to the championship and his debut with the Marc VDS team. After a heavy fall during the practice test sessions which forced his mechanics fully rebuild his machine before the start, Mika Kallio crossed the finish line in third position, but Takaaki Nakagami’s disqualification finally gave him the second place in the Qatar Grand Prix. In MotoGP Stefan Bradl created a sensation by leading the race for eight laps. Unfortunately for the LCR Honda team, the German rider crashed out into the gravel after making a braking error, as did Lorenzo earlier. In Moto3, Miguel Oliveira on his Mahindra fought it out until the very last turn to make it to the podium. The Portuguese rider finally finished behind Efren Vazquez, his former teammate. Suffering from tonsillitis, Arthur Sissis was unable to start.

The Championship

If Stefan Bradl failed to score any points in the inaugural MotoGP Grand Prix of the season, Tito Rabat and Mika Kallio have taken the first two places in the Moto2 overall classification. In Moto3, Miguel Oliveira ranks fourth behind Miller, Marquez and Vazquez.

The Background

The Losail circuit has the reputation of being one of the most demanding in the MotoGP world championship. Last year, several riders ran out of gas as soon as they crossed the finish line. But this season, the works riders have no more than twenty liters to complete the twenty-two laps – i.e. one liter less. “One liter means 5% less petrol,” is the analysis of Christophe Bourguignon, technical director of the LCR Honda team. “That’s why we’ve been working this winter on “engine mapping” to reduce our consumption without losing too much ease in operation when opening the throttle or at top speed. To make an engine more fuel efficient, you either play on the initial throttle opening at the risk of making the engine aggressive or very hollow or in the high revs with the risk of losing km/h or on the engine brake by reducing the opening of the injectors during deceleration. But here again, you quickly reach the limit because the rear wheel will hop and lock and the bike will become nervous and imprecise when entering a bend. The last possibility is to reduce the safety margins, the aim being to cross the finish line with very little fuel left. The days are long gone when we kept 400 cm3 of fuel as a safety margin.”

GP of Australia

Ricciardo, podium lost on a fall of the dice

The Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo finished second in the season’s opening Grand Prix on his home turf in Australia. However, he lost the benefit of this result after having been disqualified by the race commissioners. An appeal has been lodged.

The facts

Nico Rosberg dominated in Melbourne, driving to a well-deserved success crafted right from the start. The German rapidly established a lead over his pursuers, led by Ricciardo, upon the early retiral of pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton – a move swiftly imitated by Sebastian Vettel. Ricciardo, the new Red Bull driver, held Danish rookie Kevin Magnusson (McLaren) at bay, maintaining position to finish second, but was disqualified after his car was found to have exceeded the maximum permitted fuel flow rate (100 kg/h). His team has lodged an appeal.

Magnussen, who finished third in his first ever Formula 1 Grand Prix, consequently moved up a slot to second place in the ranking ahead of his team mate Jenson Button. In the Lotus camp, neither car finished. Pastor Maldonado and Romain Grosjean both retired in the second half of the race suffering the same energy recovery system problem. The team was under no illusions regarding this race following a particularly harsh winter, and were focussed on the race as a learning exercise.

Ricciardo, podium lost on a fall of the dice

The Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo finished second in the season’s opening Grand Prix on his home turf in Australia. However, he lost the benefit of this result after having been disqualified by the race commissioners. An appeal has been lodged.

The facts

Nico Rosberg dominated in Melbourne, driving to a well-deserved success crafted right from the start. The German rapidly established a lead over his pursuers, led by Ricciardo, upon the early retiral of pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton – a move swiftly imitated by Sebastian Vettel. Ricciardo, the new Red Bull driver, held Danish rookie Kevin Magnusson (McLaren) at bay, maintaining position to finish second, but was disqualified after his car was found to have exceeded the maximum permitted fuel flow rate (100 kg/h). His team has lodged an appeal.

Magnussen, who finished third in his first ever Formula 1 Grand Prix, consequently moved up a slot to second place in the ranking ahead of his team mate Jenson Button. In the Lotus camp, neither car finished. Pastor Maldonado and Romain Grosjean both retired in the second half of the race suffering the same energy recovery system problem. The team was under no illusions regarding this race following a particularly harsh winter, and were focussed on the race as a learning exercise.

cr1-F1-australie-2014

The figure

8 – The number of retirals during this first race of the season, more than in any race in 2013. Rule changes have, as planned, strongly emphasised reliability-related constraints.

The quote

“I expected 15 or 20 laps, and we managed double that.” Following his withdrawal due to an electric motor malfunction, Grosjean, with 45 laps under his belt, emphasised the bright side, looking forward.

The anecdote

Sebastian Vettel, who holds many records, lost one this weekend. The Russian Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso), ninth, at 19 years and 322 days old, became the youngest driver ever to score a point in F1, beating the German’s record by 27 days.

Next up

Malaysian Grand Prix (28-30 March).

Rally of Mexico

Citroen’s hopes in Mexico

A promising Ostberg

Once he got rid of an offensive Mads Ostberg, Sébastien Ogier took Mexico Rally, the third event of the World Rally Championship. Volkswagen managed another one-two but Citroen remains second in the Constructors table in spite of Chris Meeke’s retirement.

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Facts

 

For the first full gravel round in 2014, Ogier reclaimed the points lead from the hands of Jari-Matti Latvala, who ended up second in the mountains and streets surrounding the cities of Guanajuato and Leon. The Frenchman delivered another massive drive but his Day 1 was a testing one as Ostberg lead for four special stages.

 

 

 

The Norwegian’s DS3 WRC then hit a bank 200 m from the finish in the first Special Stage on Saturday morning. As a Rally 2 contender, he took points for his 9th rank, making way to Thierry Neuville and newcomers Hyundai to round the podium.

 

 

 

Number

 

6. – The figure of special stages won by Citroen drivers in the event as VW harvested the other 15, including 14 for Ogier. Meeke took one before a crash in the Power Stage, and Ostberg five.

 

 

 

Quote

 

“My pace notes weren’t right.” That’s Ostberg’s explanation for his incident late in Ibarilla 1 on Saturday morning. “I didn’t’t brake hard enough, so we carried too much speed and hit a bank on the outside of the corner as we exited it. We managed to finish the stage but the suspension was too damaged to be able to continue. We worked as hard as possible to carry out repairs but we just didn’t have enough time to make it to the start of the next stage,” the 26-year old added.

 

 

 

The story

 

Mexico rally kicked off on Friday night in very special landscape. The first special stage, cheered by tens thousands of local fans, went through the subterranean streets of Guanajuato, a mineshaft that plunges a breathtaking 600 m, dug when Guanajuato became the world’s leading silver-extraction centre in the 18th century. They are part of UNESCO World Heritage nowadays.

 

 

 

Next up

Portugal, 3-6 April