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Australian Grand Prix: What we learned

Crash.net's team in the paddock bring you some of the F1 whispers from behind the scenes at the Australian Grand Prix.
The 2014 engine formula is kind to rookies

Three rookies started the 2014 season, and two of them qualified in the top ten for the first race of the year and scored points while they were at it. And one of them only went and landed himself on the podium.

There's no denying that K-Mag is quick and full of talent. He's long been viewed as one to watch, the most hotly-anticipated F1 debutant since Lewis Hamilton (who, incidentally, also started his career with a P3 at Albert Park). But given what looked to be a decline in performance for the MP4-29 over the course of winter testing, few were expecting the young Dane to shine quite so brightly driving a difficult car in a race that was expected to be anything but ordinary.

Much the same could be said of Daniil Kvyat, who was less hotly-anticipated and saddled with the burden of a less desirable engine.

But shine both men did. The step up in downforce from junior categories to F1 meant that Kvyat and K-Mag had less to complain about than their more experienced rivals when it came to a loss of rear-end grip and tricky cornering, while their lack of a fixed idea of how their cars should behave around Albert Park made them better able to adapt to what their cars threw at them.

It's far too early to predict 2007 Hamilton seasons from either man, but the two youngsters of the F1 pack both demonstrated maturity and racecraft far beyond their years with their performances in Australia, failing to struggle as expected with the raft of complex systems that also made their F1 racing debuts this weekend.

Ferrari weren't sandbagging with their engine

Heading into the Australian Grand Prix weekend, there was the odd bit of chatter concerning the likelihood of some sandbagging over engines. Or, to be precise, the Ferrari engine. It was felt that the Scuderia's hand had not been shown in testing, and that there would be a lot more to come from Maranello and their customers. There was also talk of possible post-race protests from the other teams concerning Ferrari's unique approach to turbo housing.

But during the course of Sunday's race it became apparent that the Ferrari engine was much as it had appeared to be in testing – neither brilliant nor terrible, but a complex device capable of getting the job done.

And given the middle of the road results achieved by Ferrari and their customers at Albert Park – 14 points from the works outfit, and zero from either of their customers – the spectre of post-race protests disappeared. For now.

There's still every chance that the turbo-housing row could rear its ugly head again later on, even if Charlie Whiting has declared himself satisfied with the solution. The FIA has only so many people to assess the legality and grey areas of various regulation-pushing components, while rival teams have banks of engineers available to run endless simulations to prove a point. If a rival team finds a problem that the FIA hadn't considered, Whiting may well order the case reopened in future.

The FIA have a lot of long nights ahead

Someone get Charlie Whiting an assistant, stat! And while you're at it, Jo Bauer could probably do with a team or two added to his roster. For all the complaints made by teams about the hours (weeks! months!) it currently takes to rebuild a car or change out a power unit, one things the teams don't lack for is trackside manpower.

The same cannot be said for the FIA, who now have to spend 90 percent of their waking hours at the track, scrutineering the vastly more complex machines while preparing technical reports and official documentation on roughly five times the number of components they had to deal with in years past.

It was very late on Saturday night before the various technical reports had been written, signed off, and distributed to the necessary stakeholders, while there has been a noticeable increase in the number of FIA-headed documents circulated inside the press room. When an engine is changed it is no longer one engine release that needs to be issued, but individual documents relating to the status of the energy store, the MGU-K, the MGU-H, and so on.

With the Federation as hard-working and vigilant as ever when it comes to establishing that there is no 'trickery' taking place (thanks for the vote of confidence, Signor Montezemolo…), the FIA's technical team needs to be boosted as quickly as possible if decisions relating to technical infringements and irregularities are to be disseminated with any efficiency.

The Australian podium is cursed

While Mark Webber's fifth place on debut for Minardi in Melbourne was a fantastic home result, it's been a tale of woe since then. Admittedly, Webber was never a favourite to score a podium driving for either Jaguar or Williams, but his time at Red Bull provided ample opportunities for success. It was never to be, though, as Webber never even finished on the podium at his home race.

With Red Bull struggling so much during pre-season, it seemed Daniel Ricciardo was set to continue the long wait (1980 was the last time an Australian – Alan Jones – actually WON his home race) but Red Bull's rapid recovery left him second on the grid. Even that didn't make a convincing case that the podium drought would be ended, however, with the RB10's reliability still clearly an issue.

With Sebastian Vettel retiring after four laps, expectations remained low, but Ricciardo drove a measured race and withstood late pressure from Kevin Magnussen to finish second – his first podium in F1 – much to the delight of the Albert Park crowd. It was a popular and potentially important result – next year is the last on the current Australian GP contract – but just as locals may have been hitting the hay, Ricciardo was excluded over a fuel flow issue.

The team is adamant that it can prove Ricciardo was not exceeding the fuel flow limit but, regardless of the outcome of Red Bull's appeal, as it stands no Australian has finished on the Albert Park podium even if one stood on it within the last 24 hours.

Stanford's Williams future in doubt

One team member who was conspicuous by absence in Australia was Williams team manager Dickie Stanford. Having been with the team for a number of years, Stanford will have become well-known among F1 fans on Twitter for his behind-the-scenes photos of the Williams operation at each grand prix.

Deputy team principal Claire Williams was asked about Stanford's whereabouts on Thursday and confirmed he would no longer be working in his previous role:

“Dickie has unfortunately, he's decided to step down at the start of the season. It's been thought about for a little while. It's obviously a long season and Dickie has been with us for quite a long time. He got us through testing and he did a great job but he now wants a different role within the team so we're now talking to him behind the scenes to decide exactly what we want to do and what he wants to do.

“So we're working on that, and then once we've got an idea of what that will be we'll let everybody know. It's a shame but times change and he has worked for the team for a long time … He is with the company still”

However, paddock whispers suggest that Stanford's change of role might not have been quite so long in the pipeline, and it remains to be seen if he will continue working ay Grove in a different capacity.

By Kate Walker and Chris Medland

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
16.03.2014- Race, Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W05 race winner, 2nd position Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB10 and 3rd position Kevin Magnussen (DEN) McLaren Mercedes MP4-29
25.06.2017 - Race, Sebastian Vettel (GER) Scuderia Ferrari SF70H and Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W08
25.06.2017 - Race, Sebastian Vettel (GER) Scuderia Ferrari SF70H and Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W08
25.06.2017 - Race, Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W08
25.06.2017 - Race, The Safety car and Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W08
25.06.2017 - Race, Esteban Ocon (FRA) Sahara Force India F1 VJM10 and Felipe Massa (BRA) Williams FW40
25.06.2017 - Race, Sergio Perez (MEX) Sahara Force India F1 VJM010 and Sebastian Vettel (GER) Scuderia Ferrari SF70H
25.06.2017 - Race, Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W08 and the Safety car
25.06.2017 - Race, Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W08
25.06.2017 - Race, Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W08
25.06.2017 - Race, Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W08
25.06.2017 - Race, 1st place Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB13, 2nd place Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Mercedes AMG F1 W08 and 3rd place Lance Stroll (CDN) Williams FW40
25.06.2017 - Race, Esteban Ocon (FRA) Sahara Force India F1 VJM10
25.06.2017 - Race, Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W08 leads Sebastian Vettel (GER) Scuderia Ferrari SF70H
25.06.2017 - Race, Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W08 leads Sebastian Vettel (GER) Scuderia Ferrari SF70H
25.06.2017 - Race, Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W08 leads Sebastian Vettel (GER) Scuderia Ferrari SF70H
25.06.2017 - Race, Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Scuderia Ferrari SF70H leads Felipe Massa (BRA) Williams FW40 and Esteban Ocon (FRA) Sahara Force India F1 VJM10
25.06.2017 - Race, Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Mercedes AMG F1 W08 leads Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W08

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