Two-time Melbourne winner David Coulthard gives his slant on F1’s hottest talking-point
David Coulthard liked what he saw at Albert Park when the 2014 Formula 1® Rolex Australian Grand Prix got under way – but the 13-time Grand Prix winner wasn’t too sure about what he had heard.
“When you go into a nightclub you’re not expecting to hear Chris de Burgh singing ‘Lady in Red’, are you?” asked DC, who took out the Melbourne race in 1997 and again in 2003 – the last one of those 13 victories.
The eerie quiet round the 5.3km Melbourne circuit had fans and F1 insiders alike comparing the current, techno-conscious crop of F1 machinery with the sound of V8 or, even better, V10 engines on full noise, as race fans like to put it.
But as ‘DC’ also pointed out, this is the way of the future – and the drivers will adapt quickly so why shouldn’t we?
Mercedes seem to have adapted more quickly than anyone else, with six German-powered cars in the top 10 over Friday’s two sessions and the Silver Arrows of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg installed as hot favourites to win the opening round.
A second a lap quicker in the race, says Jenson Button, whose McLaren also has Mercedes engines but isn’t in the hunt for the race win according to the three-time Melbourne winner.
Button has labelled what he is doing now – occasional ‘lift-and-coast’ moments as he tries to save fuel – “such a different way of driving”, and the sheer number of off-track moments we saw yesterday suggests the drivers are working hard to cope with the power kicking in as the rear wheels scrabble to put it down on the road.
Watch out for Red Bull in the final free practice ahead of this evening’s qualifying session: Sebastian Vettel said it was “a relief’ to get as much running done on Friday as they did, with 51 laps for himself and 64 for new colleague Dan Ricciardo. Will the heat dissipation issues mean they can’t last the race, though?
Ferrari have Fernando Alonso running quickly and well – he topped the first time session – while Kimi Raikkonen, back in the colours in which he won first time out for Ferrari here in 2007, seems to be having to work harder to get the best out of his F14T.
Down at the back, Lotus need a minor miracle to recover from a disastrous opening day, while Caterham could give neither of their drivers a car to play with yesterday at all and the final free practice session is all that stands between them and the sudden death scenario of qualifying.
Speaking of which, watch for new ways of using the Pirellis in that hour as well: an extra set of the softer compound tyres has been made available to all teams. Those who make it to Q3 must return those tyres after that segment; those who do not are free to use the extra set in the race.
In the MSS Security V8 Supercars Challenge it’s Shane van Gisbergen who is the Holden hare ahead of the pursuing hounds – two wins from two starts this weekend – while Warren Luff and race one winner Steven Richards are the front-runners in the Porsche Carrera Cup.