Article by Jacob Black, Photo courtesy Infiniti

The kickoff of the 2014 Formula 1 season is as good a point as any to kick off our new Monday motorsport wrap up. That it happened on the same weekend as the second race of the newly formed Tudor United SportsCar Championship, the 12 Hours of Sebring was a bonus.

Both categories have undergone a recent rules overhaul. Both races also had plenty of talking points, controversy and outright furor as officials inserted themselves into the results.

So what did we learn this weekend? And who gets this week’s green, yellow and black flags?

Formula 1:

1. Nobody is immune from reliability concerns: Lewis Hamilton was expected to walk away with the race after showing impressive speed all weekend. His was one of the few cars people expected to finish the race – instead, the Mercedes power unit gave up the ghost just a few laps in and left his teammate Nico Rosberg to claim the race win ahead of rookies Daniel Ricciardo and Kevin Magnussen. Ricciardo’s subsequent disqualification put Jenson Button into third and gave Mercedes-McLaren a double-podium after recording zero podiums in 2013 – subject to appeal of course.

2. The new cars are hard to drive, which is awesome: They really are hard to drive. The result of the two electric motors and the turbocharged V6 is a huge amount of instantaneous torque, enough to catch more than a few drivers out and deliver some actual white-knuckle sideways action back into Formula 1. Kevin Magnussen’s lurid slide off the line was something to behold.

3. The engines are quiet and people are grumpy: The engines sound very, very different this year. The high-pitched wail of the V8s of old are replaced by a cacophony of electric motors, turbo induction noise and V6 grumble. The biggest complaint is that they are so much quieter, but that’s what happens when you take waste energy previously expelled as sound and convert it to electric energy.

4. Red Bull are just fine thanks: Most people expected Red Bull to not finish the race, and even if they did, to be well off the pace. Sure, Sebastian Vettel had a problem, but Daniel Ricciardo proved that Red Bull has pace. My prediction? Red Bull will be the quickest car once again come the European leg of the season.

Tudor United SportsCar Championship:
1. The agricultural, tube-frame–chassis Daytona Prototype cars still have a speed edge over the high-tech monocoque-chassis LMP2 (Le Mans Prototype 2) cars under this rule set. For the record, the Chip Ganassi-run DP driven by Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas and Marino Franchitti won the race.

2. Big fields equal wide variations in driver talent: There were some real “what the heck?” moments during the race, with a lot of incidents caused by poor driving, unsafe re-entry to the track and other brain fade moments. The next driver’s briefing will be interesting.

3. The officials haven’t settled into their role yet: Seriously, it was woeful, more on that in a bit.

V8 Supercars:
1. V8 Supercars are awesome: Okay, I’m biased, but the racing is spectacular, close and brutal, the V8s sound epic and the cars look great. They supported the Formula 1 race at Albert Park and got rave reviews once again.

2. Volvo is serious business: Young-gun Scott McLaughlin claimed a race win in a Volvo S60*, just four races into the Volvo squad’s first season back in top-level racing in Australia.  A very good effort.
*Note: V8 Supercars are not based on road cars, but use road car panels over a common chassis. The engine is a 5.0L V8 developed by Volvo and Yamaha for use in the category.

1. Sometimes NASCAR officials make mistakes too: Okay, I’m being facetious there, but the caution lights were triggered by mistake with two laps left in the Bristol 500. Usually a caution that close to the end would result in a green-white-chequered finish but rain began to fall again on the already-delayed race, and NASCAR called the race. Carl Edwards had a two-second lead when the dodgy yellow appeared, so a restart would have put him at risk of losing the lead. The decision to end the race under yellow meant he claimed a deserving victory – one that puts him in NASCAR’s version of the playoffs, the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Green Flag:
This week’s Green Flag goes to Formula 1’s new rules package. The engines are quieter, the cars look like a dog’s breakfast, but my goodness is the racing excellent. Unpredictable, exciting and with cars that are not only technical masterpieces, but difficult to drive. That’s nothing but good in my book.

Yellow Flag:
Red Bull Racing/the FIA get this week’s yellow flag. Daniel Ricciardo’s disqualification from second place was a bit rubbish, especially given the FIA had replaced their fuel flow sensors in the car twice during the weekend. The guts of the situation is that the FIA say Red Bull had more than the allowed 100 kg/hr flow rate of fuel. Red Bull say they didn’t, and that the FIA’s sensors were dodgy and can’t be trusted. The FIA says they gave Red Bull a warning during the race and it wasn’t complied with.

More on Daniel Ricciardo’s disqualification can be found here on the FIA website. An appeal will follow. This could get messy if it’s not handled properly. Proceed with caution everybody.

Black Flag:
The officials of the Tudor series, which is overseen by the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA). The mistakes were plentiful, but the worst of them cost an innocent team a race win, while allowing the guilty party to win their class. The No.22 Porsche competing in the GTD class was given a penalty for punting the No.49 Ferrari in the same class – the only problem; they didn’t do it.

Not like, “Oi, that wasn’t what it looked like,” but truly, they did not do it. In fact, it was a totally different Porsche, running in a totally different class – the No. 912 Porsche in the GTLM class – that punted the Ferrari.

Not only did the No. 22 team finish fourth, a scant 6.7 seconds back from the class winner (the penalty was a pit drive through and 80-second hold), but the No. 912 went on to claim a class victory!

Add in the farcical 35-minute yellow flag in the final hour – all to retrieve one stalled car from the track, and the fact IMSA made a similar mistake in the season-opening Daytona 24 hour, and IMSA deserve this week’s Black Flag. Poor form.

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