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F1 revolution threatens Vettel

2014-03-07 10:08

RED BULL THRONE TO BE TOPPLED? Mercedes (left) could trump struggling Red Bull at the season-opening Australian GP in March. Image: AP/Hasan Jamali


LONDON, England - If the tough get going when the going gets tough then the 2014 Formula 1 season starting in Australia (Mar 16) should offer Sebastian Vettel ample opportunity to roll up his sleeves and play the paddock hard man.

Based on its performance during pre-season testing earlier in 2014, the Red Bull team is up against it as the sport braces for an unpredictable new hybrid turbo era in Melbourne.

Vettel said: "Right now it is not an easy situation but there is no reason to hang heads. When I listen to some media we are right in the middle of a huge disaster... but we will fight through it. Everybody in the team - including me - is ready to fight."

Vettel is bidding to become the only driver apart from Michael Schumacher to win five titles in a row.

The glamour world of GP racing is in the throes of a revolution, one that will be televised around the world, and Vettel is a young king whose throne is most definitely threatened in what could be a roller-coaster season.

Success-starved rivals sense their time has come, spurred on by rare signs of weakness from the once dominant team.

The technical change is the biggest most of the sport's engineers and mechanics have yet seen thanks to the introduction of a new turbocharged V6 engine with energy recovery systems.

Red Bull's preparations have been little short of shocking with neither Vettel, winner of the previous nine consecutive races, nor his new and ever-smiling team mate Daniel Ricciardo completing a race simulation.

Due to problems with its new power unit, Renault-powered teams have struggled to log as many laps as Mercedes and Ferrari rivals.

Reliability is a key concern for teams and the early races could be full of surprises with fuel economy coming to the fore and drivers playing "tortoise and hare” to get to the finish.

The big questions are how quickly Red Bull can overcome its problems and whether testing is an accurate indication of what will happen after the lights go out in Melbourne.


Lewis Hamilton - his Mercedes team is already the early favourite - expects Red Bull to fire on all cylinders sooner than might be expected. He said: "It looks like a stunning car, usually the more beautiful a car the faster it is. I'm sure they have a pretty quick car.

"Once the engine, or the systems with which the team is struggling, are sorted I think they'll - as always - be very hard to beat."

Mercedes-powered Williams, which has signed Felipe Massa from Ferrari to replace Pastor Maldonado,  has also looked strong in testing after scoring only five points during a dismal 2013.

Ferrari, reunited with Kimi Raikkonen, has kept its cards close to its chest though its engine appears reliable. Expect sparks between Raikkonen and Fernando Alonsos, the first F1 champions Ferrari has paired since 1954, provided the cars are championship contenders.

The same applies to Mercedes, where Hamilton and Nico Rosberg's friendship could be tested.

Nothing, however, can be taken for granted. Mercedes' engine chief Andy Cowell said: "We've seen cars struggle to do a race distance in pre-season testing but then finish the first race on the podium. We've seen it countless times and it can happen again.

"Melbourne is a very exciting step into this new world of hybrid F1. I really don't know how it is going to unfold."

The sport will have three young rookies making their debut in 2014 – McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen, 19-year-old Daniil Kvyat at Toro Rosso and Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson.

Mark Webber has left Red Bull to race Porsches while Paul di Resta has returned to the German Touring Car championship after being dropped by Force India and failing to find a seat. Caterham has shed Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde while delighting Japanese fans by bringing back the crowd-pleasing Kamui Kobayashi.


On the management side, three of the 11 team bosses have changed since the end of 2013 ; even the furture of the sport’s chief executive Bernie Ecclestone is clouded by corruption and bribery charges.

Ross Brawn has left Mercedes, where Toto Wolff and Paddy Lowe now share his responsibilities. Martin Whitmarsh has been ousted by returning predecessor Ron Dennis at McLaren after a 2013 season without a podium place.

Eric Boullier has switched from Lotus to McLaren, where he will effectively run the team at races.

The 19-race calendar has a new look and there will be double points at the finale in Abu Dhabi in a bid to prevent the title being wrapped up too soon.

The Indian and South Korean GP have been dropped but in comes Russia with a race in Winter Olympic host city Sochi and Austria returns after 13 years... the race at the bucolic Spielberg track in June will be a home one for Red Bull. Whether Vettel will be in a position to win it remains to be seen.

Read more on:    red bull  |  mercedes  |  williams  |  mclaren  |  ferrari  |  2014 f1 season  |  racing  |  f1  |  motorsport

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