March 31, 2014
Nothing says “motorsport is finally here” like four major categories all going off on the same weekend – especially when you add in the MotoGP which kicked off in Qatar the Sunday before.
Formula 1, IndyCar, NASCAR and V8 Supercars all got their run this weekend past, with all but V8 Supercars experiencing the wrath of mother nature.
In Formula 1, the Malaysian afternoon storm threatened qualifying before Lewis Hamilton claimed pole, and subsequently an untroubled victory in a dry race on Sunday. It was a predictable podium, with Hamilton leading home Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg and Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel – it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Red Bull though, with Daniel Ricciardo again let down by the failings of his team after a stunning drive.
The 2014 IndyCar season launched in St Petersburg (the Florida one, not the Russian one), and qualifying for that series was almost rained out too. In the end, Takuma Sato took pole but Will Power took the race win – though not before causing some trouble. More on that later.
Rain did wash out qualifying for third tier of the NASCAR ladder, the Camping World Truck Series, and washed out Saturday practice for the main game too. Kyle Busch won the pole for the Sprint Cup race but it was his older and more-troubled brother Kurt who claimed the race win from Jimmie Johnson.
Kurt was lucky to be in the race after earlier clashing with Brad Keselowski in pit lane causing major damage to Keselowski’s car. That triggered the latest in NASCAR’s run of WWE-style rivalries.
V8 Supercars saw a ramping up of the “Mom, Dad, Jimmy is doing something naughty” rubbish that’s been going on lately. Red Bull Racing Australia were bent out of shape over a non-standard steering column brace in a Ford Performance Racing car, and FPR in turn whinged about a sticker covering an access hole on the driver’s window of Craig Lowndes’ car.
The FPR complaint stuck though, and Craig Lowndes was removed from second on the grid for the second race of the weekend and sent to the back of the field. He stormed through to finish fifth in that race before winning the third of the weekend in emphatic fashion to cement his championship lead.
The race win was particularly sweet after he was punted out of the lead by teammate Jamie Whincup in the first race of the weekend. Lowndes recovered to finish eighth, and Whincup claimed the win.
So, the weekends winners and losers?
This week’s Green Flag is awarded to Craig Lowndes, who showed impressive tenacity to recover a weekend that was on the slide early. That ability to bounce back from near-disaster is a well-known virtue of his teammate, and reigning champion Jamie Whincup. That Lowndes is displaying it now has many wondering if this is the year the veteran bests his uber-talented stablemate.
An additional tip of the hat to Mercedes, who clearly have this new 2014 F1 car sorted better than anyone. And, if you’ll allow me to go back in time a little, full marks to Marc Marquez, who came from nowhere in practice to clinch a stunning win in the MotoGP season-opener at Qatar.
This could just as easily be labelled a red flag, but Will Power really needs to proceed with caution. It pains me to knock a compatriot, especially after a decisive win on the streets of Florida, but Power’s lap 82 restart was a disgrace. In quotes recorded on MoreFrontWing.com the Aussie fully admitted post-race that he lifted off the throttle to slow the field and prevent Helio Castroneves anticipating the restart. That action led to a concertina-effect crash deep in the pack that took out several cars. Bottom line: The lead driver should never diminish their speed once the pace car pulls off. Doing so is dangerous, and dirty. Will knows better.
Red Bull Racing really haven’t done Daniel Ricciardo justice so far this season. For their petulant decision not to follow FIA orders mid-race in Australia, they copped a disqualification, robbing him of a second-place finish at home. Then, this week the team muffed a pit stop in spectacular fashion. First, a wheel was not fastened correctly before he was sent out, then when the car was brought back to be serviced properly the jack man missed the jack point and damaged the front wing. It gave way at speed on track and led to his retirement from the Malaysian Grand Prix.