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F1 Racing - - 2014 SEASON REVIEW -

an F1 great. And then, after just seven months in the job, Mat­ti­acci was re­placed by Mau­r­izio Ar­riv­abene. A frus­trated Seb Vet­tel gazumped ev­ery­one by an­nounc­ing his de­par­ture from Red Bull, leav­ing Alonso to scrape to­gether a deal with McLaren. It is very much to the detri­ment of F1 fans that Fer­rari – or Red Bull for that mat­ter – did not want to race with Alonso into 2015.

Fer­rari were largely un­com­pet­i­tive in 2014, thanks mainly to a weird front sus­pen­sion ge­om­e­try that re­quired the car to be run ex­ces­sively stiff. Alonso alone could man­han­dle the car in all con­di­tions; Kimi Räikkö­nen, a front-end driver of enor­mous sen­si­tiv­ity, had no chance of show­ing his wares, other than on high­grip, bil­liard-smooth sur­faces with in­nocu­ous kerbs (as per In­ter­la­gos). Fer­rari’s en­gine was no match for Mercedes, but, as Daniel Ric­cia­rdo proved with the Re­nault V6, chas­sis bal­ance, wheel com­pli­ance and aero­dy­nam­ics still count for much in F1. McLaren were on av­er­age even slower than Fer­rari, although one sus­pects that an Alonso or even a Ric­cia­rdo would have ex­tracted more from a car that in the garage, and on blem­ish-free sur­faces with de­cent tyres, looked very good in­deed. Jen­son But­ton was never go­ing to be a fan of the 2014 rear aero bal­ance and rookie Kevin Mag­nussen there­fore raced for much of the year with­out real di­rec­tion. McLaren fur­ther un­der­lined F1’s woes by fail­ing to at­tract a ti­tle spon­sor, de­spite the ex­trav­a­gance of Ron Den­nis’s pre-sea­son ex­hor­ta­tions. (McLaren, in ad­di­tion, set some sort of record by ef­fec­tively run­ning four team man­agers in 2014 – Den­nis, Jonathan Neale, Sam Michael and Eric Boul­lier.)

They lacked a chas­sis any­thing like as quick as the Wil­liams due to their smaller bud­get, but Force In­dia per­formed strongly for most of 2014. Their team man­age­ment, re­source al­lo­ca­tion and driver choice were all ex­am­ples of how to do it right – and ex­posed Sauber, where con­stant com­plaints about F1’s nan­cial struc­ture seemed to dom­i­nate the rac­ing. From the high mideld mov­ing down­wards, Valt­teri Bot­tas shone brightly as a driver with cham­pi­onship-win­ning po­ten­tial and de­meanour; Ser­gio Pérez com­bined a ery tem­per­a­ment with ex­quis­ite rac­ing abil­ity (his drives in Canada and Rus­sia were ex­em­plary); Nico Hülken­berg had a very good rst half­sea­son and stood out once again at In­ter­la­gos, where he out­raced Mag­nussen; Daniil Kvyat justied his pro­mo­tion to Red Bull for 2015; Jean-Eric Vergne gave us plenty of daz­zling car con­trol; Felipe Massa again made you won­der why Fer­rari ever red him; and Este­ban Gu­tiér­rez dis­played ashes of bril­liance in the difcult Sauber (par­tic­u­larly at Monaco and Suzuka) – to no avail.

So Mercedes dom­i­nated, and, from within that dom­i­na­tion, came much tech­nol­ogy and much back-slap­ping. Lewis Hamil­ton was in my view the driver of the year – by a signicant mar­gin – with Fer­nando Alonso, wrestling his clumsy Fer­rari, next in line. Then came Daniel Ric­cia­rdo, Nico Ros­berg and Valt­teri Bot­tas.

2014, then, was a year of great change, of great in­tra-team ri­valry and of great sad­ness. Of highs and lows. Of cham­pagne and tears.

Of mem­o­ries that will re­main bit­ter­sweet.

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