F1 Goes To Malaysia

This weekend we saw the second race of the 2014 Formula One season at the Sepang International Circuit, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

At the moment it looks like Mercedes is this year’s Red Bull: Lewis Hamilton quickly left the rest of the field from pole position, causally leading the entire race from start to finish. This was Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel’s role last year, but 2014 hasn’t been as good to the German driver as 2013 was. Having retired from the first race in Australia, he “only” managed to finish 3rd in Malaysia. I say “only” since finishing 3rd isn’t bad, but it’s unusual for him, having finished 1st in 13 of the 19 races last year. Of course it’s a good thing that Vettel isn’t that dominant in 2014, but it’s a shame that it looks like there will be another dominating driver this year, and even worse that it’s Lewis Hamilton.

Out on the track isn’t the only place where Red Bull is slipping this year. They are also having problems in the pits, where they were on top of every other team last year. During the Malaysian Grand Prix, Daniel Ricciardo left the pit box before the front left tire was properly secured, and he had to stop and be pushed back to the Red Bull box. That incident earned Ricciardo a ten second stop-and-go penalty and a ten grid penalty in the next race for an unsafe release. Just to top it off, the front wing on his Red Bull failed on the out lap, forcing Ricciardo to return to the pit yet again. During all this he was lapped by Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso twice and eventually retired four laps before the checkered flag. It certainly looks like the Aussie driver has come down with a serious case of the Webber Curse.

In Formula One in general, there have been two main talking points among the commentators, spectators and fans at the start of this season: The new noses and the engine sound. In both these cases people need to sit down and shut the fuck up.

Looking Ahead: The 2014 Formula 1 Season

The calendar says January 25, which means there are only 47 days left until the first free practice session of the 2014 Formula 1 season kicks off at Albert Park in Melbourne, Australia! From there, the teams move to Malaysia, and they will continue to race across the globe in a total of 19 races, with the final race of the season being held in Abu Dhabi in November. This is a big change to the calendar, as the last race of the season usually is held in Brazil. In addition to the change of usual location of the last race, there are a few new destinations on the 2014 Formula 1 calendar. For the first time in history, Russia will host a round of the Formula One World Championship. The location is the Sochi International Street Circuit, in the city that will host the 2014 Winter Olympics. Another piece of good news on the 2014 calendar is that Formula 1 will return to Austria for the first time in 10 year with a race on the Red Bull Ring. New circuits are always interesting, so this is really something to look forward to.

As with every new season, there are a few notable driver changes. Mark Webber has left Formula 1 after twelve seasons and is now racing a Porsche 919 Hybrid in the FIA World Endurance Championship. Mark Webber was a highly respected Formula 1 driver and many fans will without doubt continue to follow his new career and realize that endurance racing is a great motor sport as well. Webber is replaced by Daniel Ricciardo, who moves from Red Bulls “junior” Formula 1 team, Toro Rosso. 2013 GP3 Series champion Daniil Kvyat replaces Ricciardo at Toro Rosso. Kvyat is not the only new rookie driver coming to Formula 1 in 2014, he is joined by Swede Marcus Ericsson (Caterham) and Dane Kevin Magnussen (McLaren). This means that every Scandinavian country, with the exception of Norway, now have at least one driver in Formula 1. Finland even has two, Kimi Räikkönen (moves from Lotus to Ferrari this season) and Valtteri Bottas (Williams). As a Norwegian, I have to admit that this is a bit embarrassing, and to add insult to injury, we’ve never actually had a Formula 1 driver and it doesn’t really look like we’ll have one in the foreseeable future either.

But even if calendar and driver changes are always intriguing, those changes are hardly comparable to the new 2014 engine regulations and the addition of one of the dumbest sporting regulations in the history of Formula 1.

Petronas Malaysia Grand Prix

Another weekend, another Formula 1 entry! The teams have moved to the Sepang International Circuit outside of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for the second race of the 2013 Formula 1 season. Some of the teams, especially Red Bull and Mercedes, have been struggling with the Pirelli tyres this weekend, and Mercedes has even said that they want Pirelli to go back to the 2012 season tyres. But seriously, if you can’t handle the tyres, deal with it: The tyres are a part of the game, and all the teams use the same tyres. McLaren is also struggling at the start of the season, and they had one of their worst first races of a season last weekend in Melbourne. Unlike Mercedes, McLaren is not blaming the tyres, but has flat out admitted that they have a shitty car and that they didn’t realize it before the first race weekend. McLaren is not panicking yet, but rumours have it they have been toying with the thought of going back to the 2012 car.

Compared to last week’s qualifying session, the qualifying on the Sepang circuit was rather uneventful. Adrian Sutil (Force India) has been away from Formula 1 for a year, but is now back. And he is flying, at least compared to how he did last time he tried his luck in a Formula 1 car. He did a good race in Melbourne, and blew everyone away in Q1. One guy who didn’t blow anyway away was Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull), who ended Q1 on P15, a very unusual position for him. But fortunately for Vettel, Q1 is all about finishing P16 or better to avoid elimination.

At the start of Q1, there was no chance of rain, but at Sepang you never know. 8 minutes into Q1, the skies start to look pretty grim over the long straight opposite the start/finish line and with 8 minutes left in Q2 it started to pour. Paul di Resta (Force India) was caught off guard, spun around and was eliminated from the session. Vettel, on the other hand, managed to wiggle is way from Q2 to Q3, finishing P9.

In Q3, the rain continued, and DRS was disabled. With a lucky tyre decision from Red Bull, Sebastian Vettel managed to secure pole position, with Felipe Massa (Ferrari) and Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) on P2 and P3 respectively. The Ferraris are usually very quick during the start, and I wouldn’t be surprised if both cars are ahead of Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull into the first corner. Last week’s winner, Kimi Räikkönen (Lotus), qualified P7, but got a three place grid penalty for impeding Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) during qualifying. In my opinion, a totally idiotic penalty since there really wasn’t anywhere for poor Räikkönen to go. If this sets the standard for impeding penalties this season, we’ll see a lot of them.

Today is race day, the track is partly wet, too wet for slicks and all the teams are starting on intermediates. The track temperature is 25 degrees, a massive 20 degrees less than the maximum temperature this weekend and that might be a good ting for Mercedes and Red Bull as it will reduce tyre wear. Now the question is – like it always is at Sepang – will the rain come?

Rolex Australian Grand Prix – Q1

This morning I got up way too early for a Saturday: At 06:30. The reason was, of course, the start of the 2013 Formula 1 season in Melbourne, Australia, and what I thought would be the first qualifying session of the season. Unfortunately, the Australian weather wanted different things this morning.

It all start with rain. Lots and lots of rain. These are the most exciting F1 conditions because everything gets totally unpredictable. But over the years, safety has become a very important issue in Formula 1 and it doesn’t take much rain to postpone a qualifying session or even a race start. The circuit in Melbourne is a street track and since it doesn’t drain very well, it takes even less rain than on a real race track for the stewards to raise the safety flag. That flag was raised today and Q1 was initially delayed by 10 minutes before it was delayed yet again for another 10 minutes. I can totally understand this, an aqua planing Formula 1 car at 250 kmh (~155 mph) is more of a Formula 1 canoe; still going at the same speed, but impossible to control. As a driver you don’t want to become a passenger in your own car, and as a spectator you just don’t want a race car (or parts of it) in your lap. They tried this during a NASCAR race back in February and it didn’t end well.

Sitting, waiting in their cars can be physically straining for the drivers, especially the rookies. Even though they are all more or less seasoned drivers in their own right, coming from other race classes where they have done well, Q1 of the Rolex Australian Grand Prix was their first Formula 1 qualifying session. Getting all psyched up and then suddenly having to wait for 20 minutes must be a mental pain. For the spectators, on the other hand, it was all about physical pain. The rain poured, and the a harsh wind blew away their umbrellas. It looked really crappy, to be honest.

Season Countdown

Yes, the start of the first race of the 2013 Formula 1 season is coming towards us like a runaway freight train. But where an oncoming freight train most certainly would result in instant death – unless you decided to move out of its way – a brand new Formula 1 season can only be a good hit. The teams have finished their pre-season testing, and all the teams now finally have their driver lineup confirmed and economic obligations sorted.

This year’s winner of the Team Voted Most Likely Not to Make it Through the Entire Season is Marussia: Rookie driver and GP2 Series runner-up Luiz Razia was almost sitting in the cockpit of the Marussia car when the second pre-season test in Barcelona started, but he was suddenly removed from the testing line-up. It was later reported that his sponsors had missed payments to the team, prompting the decision to suspend his testing programme. Poor guy had already updated his Twitter bio with “Formula 1 driver”. Marussia also got into some economic trouble before the pre-season testing had even started: Timo Glock was initially signed to compete for Marussia until the end of the 2014 season, but later announced that he would be leaving the team. Marussia team principal John Booth cited “tough economic conditions” as the reason for the team being forced to let Glock go. Glock literally took one for the team.

But this is what Formula 1 is all about: Drama on and off the circuit. I am a bit concerned about the volume of pay drivers on the grid, however. Should Formula 1 be about driving talent or the ability to bring in sponsor dough to the team? The former, of course: With the talent, the sponsors will flock to you.


With only four days left until the first practice start in Melbourne, Australia, it’s important that you start to prepare for the season. First of all, here’s the race calendar, shamelessly ripped from the Wikipedia 2013 Formula One season article: