The Circus Returns: Formula One 2014

The lads are back from the winter off. The 2014 F1 season opens this weekend in Melbourne down under Australian way. But things are different this time. After several years of relative stability in the top teams, there has been all kinds of driver movement. And, of course, there are entirely new specs for the cars and engines. In short the whole snow globe is turned upside down.

Qualifying will be at 2 am EST Saturday morning (11 pm tonight PST) and the race goes off at at the same times one day later, all coverage on NBCSports Network.

Four time defending World Champion Sebastian Vettel is back to defend his title. But no longer will he pair with Mark Webber, who has moved out of F1. Instead, Vettel is partnered with young Daniel Ricciardo for Red Bull. Likewise at Maranello, Fernando Alonso returns for Ferrari, but longtime partner Felipe Massa is gone and replaced by the aging, but still very fast, Kimi Raikkonen. Massa has moved over to Williams, where he will be paired with up and coming hopeful Valtteri Bottas. It is good to see Kamul Kobayashi back in the show, but he is saddled with a back bench team in Caterham. Jenson Button is back at McLaren, and can’t possibly have a worse year than he did last year. Button will be paired with another unknown quantity, Kevin Magnussen. Lewis Hamilton returns again for Mercedes, where he will be paired again with Nico Rosberg. A rundown of all the teams, drivers and principles can be found here. Somewhat sadly, Vitaly Petrov once again could not find a ride, even as a tester.

More importantly, the equipment is vastly changed for 2014. Gone are the naturally aspirated screaming engines of the recent past and in are turbocharged 1.6 litre power units with enhanced energy recovery systems (ERS). An extra gear has been allowed in the gearbox which, combined with the more efficient motors, allows reduced on board fuel load. Aerodynamically, the noses have been substantially lowered and the rear wing architecture tailored. The new lower front wing design makes this year’s car (with the possible exception of the somewhat pug nosed Ferrari) quite a bit more attractive. The tire compounds seem to be overall harder, resulting in longer life, but reduced cornering grip. It also results in less rubber being laid down on the course, which also reduces grip. Bottom line is the cars look a little squirrelly early on.

So, who is fast coming out of winter testing at Jerez and Bahrain? Not Red Bull. Despite having Vettel and Adrian Newey, the airflow design engineering genius, Red Bull is lagging badly. Mercedes powered vehicles are the clear leader so far, and this was borne out in the first practice session in Melbourne. Ferrari and Williams are close but not quite there. But the Renault engines are just flat bad right now, and poor Lotus is behind even Red Bull in the Renault pecking order.

One thing should also be mentioned. The season starts with a bit of a cloud over it as Michael Schumacher still seems to be languishing in a coma. The latest report is Michael is showing “small, encouraging signs” of progress in awaking from the medically induced coma he has been in. That is certainly good news, but it still seems rather bleak. The sport is just better with Michael in it. Wake up Schumi.

There is so much that is different that there has to be a shakeup. Good, things had gotten too predictable the last few years, it was time for a change. One thing I don’t care much for so far is the voice of the new engines. They are quieter and the awe inducing scream is gone. The sound is going to take some getting used to.

Okay, that is it for now. We will check in with the circus at key points as the season progresses. Consider this wide open Trash Talk, all subjects welcome whether sporting, food or political.

40 replies
  1. scribe says:

    Schuhmi went headfirst into a rock wall. He ain’t waking up and, if he does, he won’t be much more than he is now while he sleeps. F1 needs to move on.

    I’m not the big racing fan, but it will be interesting to watch….

    • Peterr says:

      F1 may need to move on, but until Schumacher’s condition changes — one way or another — that’s going to be hard to do. He has such a place in the minds of F1 fans that as long as he’s still in a coma, lots of people are going to have a hard time forgetting that he’s lying in that bed.

      • bmaz says:

        I hear it is a big topic around the teams in Melbourne, and I bet it is.  There is a weird dynamic about drivers about death of colleagues. It is not humor, but an uneasy familiarity. I saw it in an older generation of drivers, the newer ones are not nearly so familiar. But still…

        • Peterr says:

          Dealing with the death of colleagues is one thing, but watching one in a coma is something else entirely. Had Schumacher died immediately, other drivers know how that goes. Had he engaged in a slow, steady recovery, they’d know how that works, too. But day after day of only the barest of signs that offer the slimmest hopes . . . most folks aren’t comfortable handling that.

          That probably goes double for racers who are used to their crews tinkering with their machines and seeing instant results. If it isn’t working right, tweak it and get it fixed. Now. Doesn’t work? Then trash it and get something else. Now.

          That kind of approach doesn’t help people come to terms with what Schumacher is going through.

          • bmaz says:

            Maybe, but not necessarily. Schumacher in this condition is effectively dead to the drivers by my guess.

            • Peterr says:

              That may be how they think about him, but he’s not dead enough that they can go to his funeral, send flowers to his family, have a ceremonial lap in his honor, or do any of the other things they might do once he’s (to borrow some language from Miracle Max) all dead and not mostly dead.

  2. newtonusr says:

    Quali was fantastic. If you have access to the SKY livestream, watch the replay in about 75 minutes.
    Torque is back, with predictable results.

    • Peterr says:


      Qualifying is always a real kick. Everyone is still officially “in it” and no one can yet complain about being cut off by an unscrupulous opponent, being the victim of someone else’s tire that came loose, etc.

      It’s like us Cubs fans, who love spring training. “Sure, last year we lost, but this year . . .”

  3. nomolos says:

    Yeah, real car racing again. No racing round and round and round and round with drivers chewing tobacco, shooting guns taking drugs and making racist jokes. Real racing…such a treat.

    Interesting changes this year…it is a constructors championship and the constructors have been given an enormous task this year. Red Bull/Renault have so far failed the test with their car so we shall see what the petulant prick Vettel will do…probably go off in a snit somewhere.

    Williams seem to have their act together and now have a superb driver, Massa, who will really help their development throughout the year.

    Mercedes do look to be the pick of the litter so far but it is early days yet.

    Ireland play France today in Brian O’Driscoll’s last appearance in a Six Nations Match and it could well be (probably is) his last appearance for Ireland after an illustrious career. Ireland could win the Six Nations Championship this year in Paris…a fitting way for O’Driscoll to go out.

    And of course the ICC World Twenty20 tournament starts today in Bangladesh…Sri Lanka are the favourites going in.

  4. nomolos says:

    So Riccardo qualifies #2 while his team mate only made it to #13. Of course with these new, twitchy, cars the driver becomes a greater part of the puzzle. Already F1 has improved this season. Good drivers will come to the fore.

  5. Nigel says:

    Tremendous qualifying session.

    Australia is a notoriously poor guide to form over the season – and you can x2 that if it’s wet – but what impresse me most (setting aside the power of Mercedes) was the performance of a couple of rookies.
    Magnussen and Kyvat look to be ones to watch.

    • bmaz says:

      Agree completely about Magnusson. Have to be impressed with Ricciardo too, although he is not a rook.


      Mercedes seems to be the class so far, but not so much that they look like they can run away with anything. Going to be an exciting year I think.

  6. Bay State Librul says:

    It’s about fucking time with Trash Talk.

    Patriots added Browner and Revis, but apparently will let Edelman go.
    UMass will finally be selected to the sweet 64.
    Roger is due in NY to see MacNamee in his defamation suit. Bend over, Roger so I can inject you with B-9.
    The New York jury will convict Roger’s lying arse.

  7. bmaz says:

    Well, well, well.


    Julius Peppers has signed with the Packers. Hope he is ready to eat some Bears and Lions.

    • Jim White says:

      Heh. The way I handled it is that we test drove a Prius and then test drove an E320. 102,000 miles later, the E320 still looks new, diesel is just now getting broken in and I smile a lot whenever I wrest the car from her. And the damn thing gets over 35 mpg.

      • P J Evans says:

        Hey, I’ve been driving a Prius for nearly 12 years, and it’s still getting more than 40mpg. Didn’t need a hundred thousand miles to get the engine broken in, either.

  8. JohnT says:

    Julius Peppers?

    Is TT desperate, or is he partaking in Medicinal MJ? Taking Peppers would have been a good move 3 or 4 years ago. But now …?

    And, Go Giants!

  9. bmaz says:

    Wow, bizarre start and first couple of laps. These small turbo motors look maybe a little too finicky.


    Poor Felipe Massa. Jiminy, Hamilton out already too.

  10. sluggahjells says:

    Nico Rosberg and young Daniel Ricciardo show they will not take a willing backseat to either of the glamorous teammates.

    Vettel really looked bad this weekend compared to Ricciardo great home display, and so necessary was these changes for Formula 1 as Nationwide Series/Sprint Cup popularity increases throughout.

    Vettel will struggle for at least the pre-European races and it will be interesting to see how his mindset is if Ricciardo continues to outperform him badly like he did this entire weekend.

  11. Bay State Librul says:

    Maybe we will finally learn the truth?
    Shield my ass.

    “A U.S. District Court Magistrate ruled on Jan. 30 that Clemens’ baseball agent Randy Hendricks and public relations strategist Joe Householder are not covered by attorney-client privilege. The decision stymies Clemens’€™ attempt to stop McNamee from using the trio’€™s communication in his defamation lawsuit, according to the New York Daily News.

    According to Judge Cheryl Pollak, the majority of the documents Clemens claimed were shielded because they were part of preparation for litigation were not protected because they mostly deal with the former pitcher’€™s public relations problems. Pollack added that since Clemens did not give an appropriate log of documents, the court could not deem if the documents were in fact privileged. Pollack ordered Clemens to hand over the documents in September.

    “If the assertion of privilege or work product has been frivolously claimed with respect to any document, the court will consider imposing sanctions in the former of waiver as to all documents and/or award costs and attorneys’€™ fees incurred by plaintiffs counsel,” Pollack said in her court order.

    Clemens has until Friday to produce the documents, and both Clemens and McNamee will need to appear in Brooklyn federal court to go over the documents on March 7. The judge also ordered that Clemens and McNamee discuss a settlement of the suit that McNamee filed in December 2008.”

    “It’€™s a ringing endorsement of the court’€™s unwillingness to tolerate Clemens’€™ attempts to hide the truth and facts of the case,” said McNamee’€™s attorney, Richard Emery. “It’€™s more attempts to deflect from the core for the case — which is whether Clemens lied.”

    • bmaz says:

      Richard Emery is so disingenuous and full of shit, his eyes are glowing brown. The mandatory pre-trial settlement conference is not just common, it is embedded in the fucking Federal Rules. Don’t bite off on procedural goings on you and idiot reporters don’t understand. Either Clemens or McNamee may ultimately win or lose, but this gibberish means exactly nothing to that ultimate result.

      • Bay State Librul says:

        I’m listening to the Judge Cheryl Pollak who seems to be a fair and reasonable.
        It seems that you love Rusty and hate Emery.
        They are both representing their clients, don’t get so emotional with NY lawyers, they
        will bite you in the ass…………..

        • bmaz says:

          Nope, just telling you the truth about civil procedure. And, yes, Richard Emery has always struck me as a piece of trash as an attorney.

          • Bay State Librul says:

            I understand civil procedure. They have to meet to discuss settlement. But, Clemens will never settle cuz that will show he defamed. They are both going through the motions until
            they next meet on 4/29/14. (lawyer bullshit)
            In the meantime, Clemens has to turn over the documents that he sought to exclude.
            I view this as a net loss for Rusty…..
            If it goes to jury, watch out…. New York doesn’t like the Con Man.

  12. What Constitution? says:

    Well, shoot, if we’re gonna mention baseball — did y’all see Trout’s HR over a 30′ wall at 410′ in dead center yesterday? Get ready.

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