MAR 16th 2015

Henry Hope‑Frost ‑ F1 is back, and so is the bickering

As predictable as one of the two silver, three-pointed-star-badged, Northamptonshire-built missiles launching itself off into the distance to win the season-opening Grand Prix in Australia yesterday – ably backed-up for a maximum, 43-point haul by the other one – was the post-race politicking that ensued shortly afterwards.

Cries of ‘it’s not fair’ and ‘they’re too fast’ could be heard ringing out around Albert Park following Lewis Hamilton’s victory ahead of Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg. Most vocal among those vanquished by the world champion constructor’s cars was the team that preceded the Silver Arrows at the top of the tree: Red Bull Racing.

Australian F1 Grand Prix

Mired in an engine-deal relationship with Renault that went sour some time ago and without its four-time champ superstar Sebastian Vettel (who finished third on his first outing for new team Ferrari), the Milton Keynes squad was nowhere in Melbourne. Local hero Daniel Ricciardo, who finished second on the road 12 months ago on his debut for the team, was a lapped sixth, while Vettel’s replacement, Daniil Kvyat, ground to a halt on the parade lap and took no further part in the event.

After the race, fascinating foot-stomping percolated around the paddock from Red Bull’s top brass. Team boss Christian Horner wants Formula 1’s governing body, the FIA, to peg back Mercedes so everyone else can compete fairly, claiming there were numerous attempts to slow his team during its 2010-2013 rout, while the energy-drink giant’s owner, Dietrich Mateschitz, got his right-hand man and talent scout Helmut Marko, a former F1 driver and Le Mans winner, to say that there’s every possibility the team will throw its toys out of F1’s pram if it doesn’t get its way.

F1_Australia_Hamilton_Rosberg_Podium_16032015

The reality, of course, is that Red Bull’s groans are directed not at Mercedes, which has used its almost-perfect blend of resources, engineering nous and driver skill to devastating effect by interpreting the new-for-2014 rules better than anyone else, but at the rules themselves. The team cites the expense and technical complication of the 1.6-litre turbo power units and their ancillary energy-recovery systems as the reason for the ill-feeling pervading F1 at present.

The trouble is, the clever folk who design and build F1 cars can’t unlearn this stuff. The hybrid technology hiding under the skin of a current racer is fantastically complicated and not particularly sexy, but for Mercedes it helps make its road cars quieter, smoother, cheaper and more efficient. Which is the primary reason it goes motor racing in the first place.

mercedes-f1-73mm

On current form it seems unlikely that anyone will topple Messrs Hamilton and Rosberg anytime soon. I just hope the others will expend a bit more energy on their cars than into journalists’ mics.

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