The Ferrari Owners’ Club
of Great Britain

GRAND PRIX: Australia: Crazy New World


by Winston D’Arcy

So, how did you get on with the new regulations? The little turbo engines, the Saturday night exhaust pipes? The ERS, MGU-K, DRS, and all the other bits whose details we all intimately understand? The fuel-flow meters, the double-points, ‘heat-rejection’ and the ugliest race cars invented?

No, I didn’t either.

I have slowly, over the years, accepted that Formula 1 is no longer the epitome of bare-arsed wheel to wheel racing but has become an artificial entertainment business, a bit like the X Factor, generating huge wealth for the ring holders but completely losing sight of what its original purpose was. For plain simple racing there is nothing like a clubbie at Brands or the shattering speed of a single-seater hurtling up Shelsley, and even further up the ladder some of the FR3.5 or GP2 races can be quite entertaining with decent and honest racing going on.

But the new F1 world baffles me even further. The radical rules changes, with little 1.6 litre turbo ‘power units’ (as we must now call them) and masses of energy recovery systems, make the whole thing even more opaque to the average viewer, and the extra level of cost imposed on the teams has further threatened the stability of this fragile house of cards. Whilst there have not been the business failures widely predicted a year or two ago there is a dangerous funding gap between the top few teams and the rest of them. The rise of the ‘pay drivers’ to support all this also means that we no longer have the assurance that we are watching the best 22 drivers on earth. Some of them have no right to be in a support race….

But, on a brighter note, I expect all my readers will have noticed that there was nothing new about the post-turbo energy recovery systems of these F1 cars; back in 1953 the Lockheed Constellation, surely one of the most elegant designs ever, already had the exhausts of the 18 cylinder Wright radial engines blowing into three turbines and adding another 550 bhp to each engine.

Pre-season testing brought some surprises, and not a little ‘schadenfreude’. The previously dominant Red Bulls had enormous problems with their Renault engine installation, as did all the Renault teams, with the engine requiring unexpected levels of cooling to run anywhere near its designed power output. This meant extra cooling slots, bigger radiators, and more air circulation, all of which impeded the aero systems that Adrian Newey is so good at. The Merc-engined cars however hit the ground running, got in lots of testing mileage, and were able to work on set-up and handling refinements rather than just trying to get the car to pop and bang down the pit lane. The so-called Silver Arrows (nee Tyrrell, BAR, Honda, Brawn) performed particularly well, as did the Williams of Ferrari refugee Massa and the highly rated Bottas.

The Ferrari FIAT (or is it F14T?) looked to be ok in testing and made progress, but won the prize for the ugliest nose and perplexed everyone with the winding-down noise as the power unit was turned off in the pits after a run. It was more akin to a turbine aircraft powering down, and actually quite impressive – which is more than can be said for the sounds of the cars on the track. With their low-revving engines (still 15,000 rpm, mind you) and huge amounts of turbo-torque, the noise was only ever going to be a flat drone variously compared to a lawn-mower, a quad bike, or even worse.

By the time we got to Australia for the first GP anticipation of a calamity of mechanical failures was high. There had been no sign as testing finished that the Renault-powered cars had solved their problems, and there was speculation of a 2-lap Mercedes victory with at least half the field retiring to the pits. In the event this proved wide of the mark.

That Hamilton put his Merc on pole was no surprise, but that the Aussie Daniel Ricciardo would put his Dead Bull into second certainly was. He was on form from the very start of the weekend, mostly outpacing his team mate Vettel who could not even get past Q2. Rosberg put the other Merc into third spot and then came another welcome surprise, newcomer Kevin Magnussen in the decent looking McLaren. The Ferraris struggled a little with Alonso dominant over Raikkonen throughout, the two of them ending up 5th and 11th on the grid, with concerns that the power output was nowhere in the same league as the Merc engines. It was good to see some of the other younger talents well up on the grid: Vergne and Kvyat showed that maybe the younger lads coped with these awkward ‘power units’ better than some of the old hands, especially as it was wet. Button, Vettel and Raikkonen were well down the order – and don’t even get me going on the likes of Perez, Maldonado and Gutierrez….

Click here for FIA lap chart.

Stefano Domenicali:“The first race of the championship has provided a clear picture of the hierarchy at the start of season. It’s also shown which teams appear to have done the best job of dealing with these new regulations. Today, we achieved our objective in terms of reliability, but the gap we need to make up, especially to Mercedes, was clear to see.”

Fernando Alonso:“I had some problems with the electric motor at the start and had to make a few changes from the steering wheel, but after the first ten laps everything went well. When I managed to pass Hulkenberg after the pit stop my pace was definitely better, although it was impossible to overtake. 35 seconds down on the leader is too big a gap and to work out what we need to do to close that gap, we will need to analyse the race, work out what are the strong and weak points on the car and with that in mind, the laps I did behind Nico can provide very useful information.”

Kimi Raikkonen: “At the start, I managed to get away well and even though I was hit from behind by another car at the first corner, my car was undamaged. The speed was good, but at one point I was suffering with graining on the front tyres. From then on, the car’s handling was not the same. When it was time for the first stop, we had to do a double stop and that cost me a place. We can’t be pleased with this result and we know there are many areas where we need to improve.”

Pat Fry: “Going into this race, getting both cars to the finish seemed like the most difficult task, but in the end, we managed it. Today we saw how reliability can never be taken for granted: it caught some people out and it also affected our performance at some stages of the race. On both the F14 Ts, we had some electrical problems, especially on Kimi’s car, which meant he couldn’t use all the car’s potential. Fernando found himself behind Hulkenberg for many laps and he was only able to show what the car was capable of once he got ahead thanks to a spot on pit stop strategy.”