F1 2014: REVIEW OF THE SEASON

By Daniel Wilson.

19 races, 5 continents, 8 months, 3 winners, 1 champion! 2014 has had it all – and now the circus of this amazing sport has taken breath for the winter, it’s about that time where we take a trip down memory lane and remind ourselves what a year it has been in Formula One.

ROUND 1 – AUSTRALIA

Many teams suffered reliability issues in Melbourne.
Many teams suffered reliability issues in Melbourne.

Excitement ahead of a new era in F1 was at bursting point as the new season got underway in Melbourne. Championship favourite – even at this stage – Lewis Hamilton put his Mercedes on pole in wet conditions ahead of newly promoted home-boy Daniel Ricciardo in his Red Bull – a remarkable place considering the team’s dreadful testing performances. The other Mercedes’ of Rosberg was third on the grid.

However, Rosberg jumped the top 2 to head into turn 1 leading the race. Lewis was forced to retire on lap four with a cylinder problem while four time champion Sebastian Vettel suffered a similar fate with a power unit issue. Despite a great drive by Ricciardo to finish second, he was disqualified for an illegal fuel issue, promoting both McLaren’s onto the podium for the first time in 18 months. But it was Nico Rosberg who struck first, showing the true dominance of the Mercedes.

ROUND 2 – MALAYSIA

Mercedes secured their first 1-2 finish since 1955.
Mercedes secured their first 1-2 finish since 1955.

The top three were pretty much as you were in Kuala Lumpur. The two Mercedes drivers of Hamilton and Rosberg were split by a Red Bull – but it was Vettel this time. There were no such troubles for Hamilton this time out as he dominated his teammate to take his first win of the season and first win in Malaysia, 17 seconds clear of Rosberg. Vettel finished third, and this time, Red Bull could keep their points. Daniel Ricciardo didn’t have an easier weekend, as his front wing came loose to secure his retirement.

ROUND 3 – BAHRAIN

Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg delivered one of the season's most exciting races in Bahrain.
Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg delivered one of the season’s most exciting races in Bahrain.

Bahrain was arguably one of the best races of the year. It was the first time we had seen the two Mercedes drivers battle wheel to wheel. Nico seemed to halt Lewis’ qualifying form as he took pole position. However, Lewis took the lead from the start, and the two battled it out in every stint, with Lewis holding Nico off on slower tyres to take the chequered flag – perhaps an indication of his intention for the world championship.

Force India were the stand-out team however. Sergio Perez fended off Ricciardo to finish third and take the team’s first ever podium, and with teammate Nico Hulkenburg coming home fifth, the team now sat second in the constructors championship – a sign of things to come? However, Jenson Button’s 250th Grand Prix ended in retirement as McLaren struggled to emulate their performance in Australia.

ROUND 4 – CHINA

Lewis Hamilton won three races in a row for the first time in his career.
Lewis Hamilton won three races in a row for the first time in his career.

The third wet qualifying session of the year shook things up a little bit more. Lewis Hamilton took pole position but had some breathing space over rival Nico Rosberg who spun at the final turn to leave him fourth on the grid. The Red Bull’s of Ricciardo and Vettel were second and third with Alonso fifth ahead of the Williams.

Lewis went on to take another dominant victory as Rosberg failed to get away well from fourth. The Red Bull’s simply didn’t have enough raw pace which meant they missed out on the podium to Fernando Alonso, who won his first race trophy of the year. The season then took a three week break before the European leg began.

ROUND 5 – SPAIN

Hamilton's first win in Barcelona saw him snatch the championship lead.
Hamilton’s first win in Barcelona saw him snatch the championship lead.

The move to a new continent brought old tricks as far as Mercedes were concerned. They secured their fourth one-two in a row and Lewis Hamilton’s first win at the Circuit de Catalunya – oh, and the championship lead to ice off the cake! The decision to split the strategy of the two Merc’s brought another thrilling climax as Nico hunted down his teammate on the faster tyres, but it wasn’t enough.

Daniel Ricciardo continued to outperform teammate Vettel and secured his first classified podium finish. However, Sebastian drove an impeccable race from 15th on the grid to finish fourth ahead of Bottas and home favourite Fernando Alonso, who struggled to get the best out of his Ferrari.

ROUND 6 – MONACO

Tension between Rosberg and Hamilton was beginning to bubble up in Monte Carlo.
Tension between Rosberg and Hamilton was beginning to bubble up in Monte Carlo.

A controversial qualifying session raised the first sign of tension between the two Mercedes drivers when Nico Rosberg’s mistake on the final run brought out yellow flags, preventing Lewis from completing his lap to challenge Nico’s provisional pole time.

And with Monaco being the most difficult place on the calendar to overtake, unsurprisingly, Nico went on to win around the marina. Lewis remained within a second of his teammate for much of the race before falling back because something had got in his eye. It left a tense end to the race as the impressive Ricciardo was gaining on the championship leader, but Lewis held on to take second, and in doing so, lost the title lead after just one race.

But the tension was evident after the race as Lewis said the two were no longer friends – a poignant moment in the season without doubt.

The best achievement however went to Marussia, as Jules Bianchi’s ninth place secured the team’s first points in their racing history – sparking huge celebrations that night.

ROUND 7 – CANADA

Daniel Ricciardo took his first F1 win in Montreal.
Daniel Ricciardo took his first F1 win in Montreal.

The European season took a brief breather as the F1 world moved to Canada. Nico Rosberg edged out Hamilton for pole position again, with Vettel ahead of the Williams in third.

However, Montreal was the first time we saw that the Mercedes wasn’t the perfect car as both drivers suffered mechanical issues throughout the race – an energy recovery system (ERS) failure. The issue saw Lewis suffer his second retirement of the season when his brakes failed, while Nico was able to limp to the end. However, three laps from the finish, Daniel Ricciardo stormed passed the Mercedes driver to take the lead and race win after some epic racing from sixth on the grid.

Nico was the ultimate winner though, gaining 18 points on Lewis to take a 22 point lead back to Europe. Ricciardo’s first ever F1 win was sealed behind the safety car after a huge crash between Sergio Perez and Felipe Massa on the final lap.

ROUND 8 – AUSTRIA

Felipe Massa stormed to his first pole position in six years at the Red Bull Ring.
Felipe Massa stormed to his first pole position in six years at the Red Bull Ring.

For the first time this season, Mercedes failed not only to get pole position, but failed to get on the front row. That now belonged solely to Williams for the first time in ten years as Felipe Massa and Valterri Bottas lined up first and second with title leader Rosberg third. Lewis Hamilton was a lonely ninth after a spin in qualifying.

However, a potential victory was thrown away to Mercedes as both Rosberg and Hamilton, who made up five places on the opening lap, used the undercut to storm to another one-two finish, with Bottas beating Massa to the final podium place.

The Red Bull’s had a disappointing weekend as Vettel retired after a momentary loss of power left him lapped after two minutes, and teammate Ricciardo could only manage eighth.

ROUND 9 – BRITAIN

Lewis Hamilton won the 50th British Grand Prix at Silverstone.
Lewis Hamilton won the 50th British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

The best of British luck seemed to be with Lewis Hamilton at Silverstone, or at least on Sunday. After misjudging a drying track in qualifying, he handed pole to Rosberg and left himself in sixth.

Race day, and reliability yet again played another hand in the championship as Rosberg was forced to retire at half distance with a gearbox issue, handing the lead to Hamilton, who had stormed through the pack in the opening stint. It was a simple drive to the finish then as he won the 50th GP at Silverstone in front of his home crowd – his second home win and one which narrowed the gap in the title to four points.

Valterri Bottas demonstrated his skill once more as he drove up to second from 14th on the grid while Ricciardo finished third after starting eighth, at the expense of Jenson Button who just missed out on a first podium finish in Northamptonshire.

ROUND 10 – GERMANY

Nico Rosberg extended his championship lead with a home win at Hockenheim.
Nico Rosberg extended his championship lead with a home win at Hockenheim.

It was Nico’s turn to take a home victory as he dominated the German Grand Prix to win ahead of Valterri Bottas and teammate Lewis Hamilton, who drove a superb race after starting 20th on the grid – because of a brake disc failure in qualifying which saw him crash at turn 10.

The start of the race was the most dramatic, when Kevin Magnussen flipped Massa’s Williams 360 degrees into the air after attempting to go up the inside of him into the first corner. He was therefore handed a penalty and finished ninth as McLaren’s disappointing run of form continued.

ROUND 11 – HUNGARY

Lewis Hamilton started from the pit lane after his engine caught fire in qualifying.
Lewis Hamilton started from the pit lane after his engine caught fire in qualifying.

Lewis Hamilton’s poor form in qualifying continued as, for the second time in succession, he was to start at the back after his car caught fire on the out lap in the first session in Budapest. Teammate Nico Rosberg took another pole position ahead of Vettel, Bottas and Ricciardo.

A heavy shower before the race left the track wet, and all cars were to start on intermediate tyres. Nico stormed off into the lead, whereas Lewis spun at the second corner with cold tyres, managing to keep it out the barriers. However, a series of accidents in the first stint brought out the safety car and sudden pit stops shook up the order somewhat. Rosberg was unable to come in immediately and so lost the lead to Daniel Ricciardo.

The chaos and confusion left the two Mercedes drivers two places apart and with Rosberg on an extra pit stop strategy, he was forced to chase down his teammate in third, but was unable to do so as Ricciardo took his second win of the year with Alonso second, Lewis third and Nico fourth – an awful result considering Lewis started 21 places lower than the German.

ROUND 12 – BELGIUM

Rosberg punctured Hamilton's tyre on lap two, putting their relationship at breaking point.
Rosberg punctured Hamilton’s tyre on lap two, putting their relationship at breaking point.

After a cold, wet qualifying, Nico made the best of a tricky session to edge out Hamilton for pole position. However, Lewis got a much better getaway at the start of the race, and stormed into lead with Vettel second and Rosberg now third. However, a mistake from Vettel at the top of the hill handed second back to Nico and set up another thrilling duel.

At the same place on lap two, Nico tried to make a move on Lewis, who had moved to the inside to cover off his teammate. However, Rosberg refused to back out of the move and ultimately clipped Lewis rear left tyre, puncturing it and damaging his front wing.

Lewis limped back to the pits, but damage to the floor sealed his third race DNF of the year after 38 laps, while Daniel Ricciardo went on to take a third win in six races ahead of Rosberg, who received a round of boo’s on the podium as well as strained relations with the team and Lewis – a turning point in the season?

ROUND 13 – ITALY

Nico Rosberg runs wide to hand the race win to Lewis Hamilton.
Nico Rosberg runs wide to hand the race win to Lewis Hamilton.

Needing to come back stronger as the season entered the final third, Lewis Hamilton did just that by securing his first pole position since Spain in May ahead of Nico Rosberg.

However, the race start didn’t run so smoothly as an issue on the car affected Lewis’ getaway to see him slip behind Nico, Massa and Magnussen by the first turn. Nevertheless, the issue was rectified and Lewis picked off the Williams and McLaren to leave a straight fight between him and Nico for the win.

And on lap 29, Lewis was gifted the lead when Rosberg ran wide at turn 1 for the second time – seemingly cracking under pressure. Former Ferrari driver secured third place, which was welcomed by the Italian supporters.

So, as the European season drew to a close, Lewis still had it all to do in the final six races to overturn a 22 point deficit.

ROUND 14 – SINGAPORE

Nico Rosberg suffered a 'substance contamination' and retired from the Singapore GP.
Nico Rosberg suffered a ‘substance contamination’ and retired from the Singapore GP.

Qualifying in Singapore was more intense than the heat. It saw the smallest margin of the year as Lewis stole pole position from Nico by 0.007 seconds. However, on Sunday, Nico’s race was almost over before it begun. What was later confirmed as a ‘substance contamination’ forced Nico to start from the pit lane after failing to get away for the formation lap.

From there on in, his evening got worse as the team called it a day at the first round of pit stops. His teammate meanwhile had a smooth race as he dominated round the Marina Bay circuit to finish ahead of the Red Bull’s of Vettel and Ricciardo, who made one less pit stop than Hamilton.

The win handed Lewis the championship lead for only the second time this season. Question was, could he hold onto it?

ROUND 15 – JAPAN

A terrifying crash for Jules Bianchi ended the race prematurely and cast a cloud over the sport.
A terrifying crash for Jules Bianchi ended the race prematurely and cast a cloud over the sport.

Nico came back with some grit once more as he beat Lewis to pole position at Suzuka. The threat of a typhoon had been the talking point of the paddock leading up to Sunday’s race, and heavy rain and strong winds forced the race to be started under safety car conditions, and was even briefly red flagged after two laps.

Eventually, racing got underway and Lewis soon made his move on Nico, making a brave pass round the outside of turn 1 – unquestionably one of the best overtakes of the season.

However, the race was stopped seven laps early as it became clear that Marussia’s Jules Bianchi had crashed into the recovery vehicle which was picking up Adrian Sutil’s Sauber. The Frenchman suffered major head injuries and has only recently returned home after coming out of a coma, but his condition remains critical.

The podium and paddock post-race was somber, with drivers visibly shocked and upset to learn the bad news.

Lewis had won with Nico second and Vettel third, extending the Briton’s title lead to ten points.

ROUND 16 – RUSSIA

The Sochi circuit was the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics.
The Sochi circuit was the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics.

The inaugural Russian Grand Prix in Sochi was filled with mixed emotions – excitement about driving a new circuit but sadness over the seriousness of Jules Bianchi’s condition in hospital in Japan. However, there was a race to be won, and Lewis set out his intention by taking pole position ahead of Rosberg.

For the first time though, it was Nico who got a better start and had a run down the inside of Lewis into turn 2. However, Rosberg locked up all four tyres and missed the turn, and so was forced to hand the place back to Hamilton and make an early pit stop.

The new track surface meant teams only needed to make one pit stop, which in my opinion, made the race rather boring. It also allowed Nico to complete 51 of the 52 laps on the same set of tyres to finish second behind winner Lewis Hamilton, who now had a 17 point lead in the title race.

ROUND 17 – UNITED STATES

Lewis Hamilton won his tenth race of the season in Austin.
Lewis Hamilton won his tenth race of the season in Austin.

The climax to the season was taking shape, and Nico again hit back by taking pole position from Lewis.

But once again, Lewis hunted down Nico and made a late lunge down the inside of turn 10 to take the lead and ultimately, his fifth race win in a row to open up a 24 point title lead.

However, financial problems led to more talk off track than on it as Marussia and Caterham were absent from the grid after both went into administration.

ROUND 18 – BRAZIL

Nico Rosberg's victory took the championship down to the wire.
Nico Rosberg’s victory took the championship down to the wire.

Nico Rosberg secured his 10th front row start of the season to ensure he would win the first pole position trophy – a remarkable achievement considering Lewis is regarded as the quickest driver over one lap.

Another close fight between the Silver Arrows made for a close race, but this time it was Nico Rosberg who won the wheel to wheel fight for the first time this season. Hamilton spun at turn 4 when pushing for the lead, giving Nico some breathing space. However, in the closing stint, the two men were separated by less than a second. But Nico fended the Briton off to narrow the title lead to 17 points going into the decider.

Felipe Massa was the man of the moment though, as he drove a faultless race to finish third at his home race, much to the crowd’s delight at Interlagos.

ROUND 19 – ABU DHABI

Lewis Hamilton won his second world championship with victory at the Yas Marina Circuit.
Lewis Hamilton won his second world championship with victory at the Yas Marina Circuit.

As predicted, the world championship would be decided in Abu Dhabi – and with controversial double points on offer, it was either driver’s for the taking. Nico again put his car on pole position after Lewis made a mistake at the final corner in qualifying – pressure taking a hold perhaps?

The answer to that could be yes, but on Sunday it was Nico who seemed under pressure as Lewis got one of his best starts to snatch the lead from Nico into turn one. And, unfortunately, Nico’s slim hopes of winning his first title were crushed when an ERS failure saw him slip down the order and limp home 14th.

For Lewis though, it was ecstasy as he managed the race beautifully to hold of a fast Felipe Massa and Valterri Bottas to take his 11th win of the season and his second Formula One World Championship.

SUMMARY

So, what a year of racing! An incredible inter-team battle that went down to the wire. I thought it was a shame that Nico’s title bid ended because of reliability, but I believe Lewis had it all under control, and I for one, cannot wait for 2015!

Who stood out for you in 2014?

Did the right man win the title?

Predictions for 2015?

Leave your thoughts and comments below!

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