The season of the debutants



It used to be that ‘the season’ was the time for the debutants, the higher echelons of society, to launch themselves, show off, amaze people with their brilliance and ultimately prove their worth to potential suitors. The Australian Grand Prix weekend was that time for several motor sport debs.

For some it was their debut on the Formula 1 grid. For others, such as Daniel Ricciardo, it was a debut for a top team and time to prove that he was worthy of a marriage to such a prestigious family. Several debs proved they were more than worthy and gave a resounding vote of confidence for the future.

Kevin Magnussen

The rookie with the biggest reputation is Denmark’s Kevin Magnussen. A nice guy and a quick driver with one of the coolest demeanours in the paddock. I’ve known Kevin for a while and to this day his attitude and approach is the same, serious and stealth-like in arrival, ambition and execution. His maturity is much greater, though, as is his confidence and belief.

Before the weekend he said he was “ready” for F1, but I doubt he would have said he deserves to be in F1; big statements and showmanship are definitely not in his nature. Now, though, he is more than entitled to say it. In fact he should shout it above the slightly hushed engine noise. He didn’t put a foot wrong throughout pre-season testing and was faultless all weekend.

His composure in qualifying and the race showed someone who knows that Australia was just one step on a bigger ladder. Too many drivers arrive in F1 and think they have realised their dream. While that was Magnussen’s aim, he will allow himself much greater dreams now and treat his arrival in to F1 as a rite of passage and certainly not the end result.

Daniil Kvyat

Sebastian Vettel losing a record seemed as likely as a dry winter in the UK, but on Sunday it happened. At 19 years and 324 days, Daniil Kvyat became the youngest points scorer in F1 history, beating the previous record belonging to the four-time world champion. He is a sparky character, but with real edge. His only error on a strong weekend was a spin in tricky conditions in qualifying which put him into the wall.

By that stage he was already through to the top 10 shoot out. During the race he showed flair and even braved a different strategy to the rest of the field.  To take a risk shows confidence from Toro Rosso in the young Russian rookie who was given to them from the Red Bull Academy after Daniel Ricciardo was promoted.

In interviews he’s confident and funny and can do it in four languages. So much of a driver’s ability when it comes to showing potential comes from having faith in the car underneath them. If Toro Rosso continues in this vain all season then Kyvat could be in for an impressive rookie year.

With 50 Grands Prix under his belt coming into this season, Daniel Ricciardo is by no means a rookie, but whether the smiling antipodean would be able to replace Mark Webber’s Aussie grit was another matter.

Through the grins we’d yet to see that grit, but throughout the Australian GP weekend, Ricciardo thrived on the atmosphere turning the pressure into a positive. There’s no denying that Vettel had problems from Saturday onwards and if his car and power unit had been running as well as Ricciardo’s then it could have been a different story.

But as things stand, the story was that the Aussie was given the tools and he used them better than expected. Looking at last season, like Webber he was blighted by bad starts; Sunday he had the nerve if not the speed of the Mercedes off the line.

Ultimately he was disqualified for a fuel flow problem, which Red Bull will appeal, but the experience, the way it he handled the pressure, the reaction from the crowd and the ensuing sob story means that he has already won the hearts of his nation and motor sport fans around the world. Most people feel for Ricciardo and their wrath is saved for either Red Bull or the FIA, depending on which side of the fence they’re on!

It wouldn’t be F1 if there wasn’t a twist in the tale. Have you ever seen the end of a soap opera which doesn’t try and lure you in for the next episode with a bit of suspense? Well the next instalment is in hot and humid Malaysia where a very different race will unfold in very different conditions. All the unknowns start again and the stage is set for other people to show their worth for the season.

Click here to read Lee McKenzie’s reports from 2013

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Australian Grand Prix results

1 Nico Rosberg, Mercedes 1hr 32min 58.710sec
2 Kevin Magnussen, McLaren-Mercedes +26.7 sec
3 Jenson Button, McLaren-Mercedes +30.0 sec
4 Fernando Alonso, Ferrari +35.2 sec
5 Valtteri Bottas, Williams-Mercedes +47.6 sec
6 Nico Hülkenberg, Force India-Mercedes +50.7 sec
7 Kimi Räikkönen, Ferrari +57.6 sec
8 Jean-Éric Vergne, Toro Rosso-Renault +60.4 sec
9 Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso-Renault +63.5 sec
10 Sergio Pérez, Force India-Mercedes +85.9 sec
11 Adrian Sutil, Sauber-Ferrari +1 lap
12 Esteban Gutiérrez, Sauber-Ferrari +1 lap
13 Max Chilton, Marussia-Ferrari +2 laps
NC Jules Bianchi, Marussia-Ferrari +8 laps
Ret Romain Grosjean, Lotus-Renault
Ret Pastor Maldonado, Lotus-Renault
Ret Marcus Ericsson, Caterham-Renault
Ret Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull-Renault
Ret Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
Ret Felipe Massa, Williams-Mercedes
Ret Kamui Kobayashi, Caterham-Renault
DSQ Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull-Renault

2014 Drivers’ Championship

1 Nico Rosberg, Mercedes 25pts
2 Kevin Magnussen, McLaren-Mercedes 18pts
3 Jenson Button, McLaren-Mercedes 15pts
4 Fernando Alonso, Ferrari 12pts
5 Valtteri Bottas, Williams-Mercedes 10pts
6 Nico Hülkenberg, Force India-Mercedes 8pts
7 Kimi Räikkönen, Ferrari 6pts
8 Jean-Éric Vergne, Toro Rosso-Renault 4pts
9 Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso-Renault 2pts
10 Sergio Pérez, Force India-Mercedes 1pt
11 Adrian Sutil, Sauber-Ferrari 0pts
12 Esteban Gutiérrez, Sauber-Ferrari 0pts
13 Max Chilton, Marussia-Ferrari 0pts
14 Jules Bianchi, Marussia-Ferrari 0pts
15 Romain Grosjean, Lotus-Renault 0pts
16 Pastor Maldonado, Lotus-Renault 0pts
17 Marcus Ericsson, Caterham-Renault 0pts
18 Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull-Renault 0pts
19 Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes 0pts
20 Felipe Massa, Williams-Mercedes 0pts
21 Kamui Kobayashi, Caterham-Renault 0pts
22 Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull-Renault 0pts

2014 Constructors’ Championship

McLaren-Mercedes 33pts
Mercedes 25pts
Ferrari 18pts
Williams-Mercedes 10pts
Force India-Mercedes 9pts
6 Toro Rosso-Renault 6pts
7 Sauber-Ferrari 0pts
8 Marussia-Ferrari 0pts
9 Lotus-Renault 0pts
10 Caterham-Renault 0pts
11 Red Bull-Renault 0pts

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