Formula 1

Formula One 2014 season review

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The big question heading into the 2014 Formula 1 season was if anyone could break Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull's four-year grip on the world championship trophies.

As the sport embarked on a new era of propulsion with V6 turbo hybrids replacing the V8's of the past eight years it seemed, certainly after testing, that indeed the German's chances of matching Michael Schumacher's record of five consecutive world titles would be much reduced and so it would prove as another team made their mark and inserted themselves as the dominant force in F1.

In this season review let's looks back at some of the big stories and the key moments that occurred on the road to Lewis Hamilton being crowned world champion for a second time.

A new era

As I mentioned the biggest change heading into this year was 'under the bonnet', out went the howling V8's and in their place much quieter and much more complex V6 turbo hybrids.

Indeed such were the concerns over the reliability of the new power units after pre-season testing, some were even questioning if anyone would complete the full race distance at the season opener in Australia.

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Rosberg draws first blood

However, in the fast-paced world of F1, there was a remarkable turnaround as 14 of the 22 cars made the chequered flag in Melbourne.

Nico Rosberg claimed victory as Mercedes showed just how much further ahead they were in development while a wiring problem for Lewis Hamilton proved that despite their speed unreliability would still feature.

Ricciardo's Oz disappointment

Sebastian Vettel's title defence got off to the worst possible start with a retirement of his own, but Red Bull were still one of the surprises of the first race as his new team-mate Daniel Ricciardo gave his home fans plenty to cheer almost claiming pole in the rain in qualifying and held his own to claim second in the race.

The result at the time seemed like a dream, given where the Renault-powered RB10 had been pre-season but after the joy of standing on the podium came heartbreak as he was stripped of second place as his car was deemed to have breached new fuel flow rules in the race.

V6 debate rumbles

After that first weekend the debate over the new power units rumbled as some blasted as they were deemed too quiet and the sound likened to a lawnmower.

A 'trumpet' exhaust was tested to try and boost the noise but wasn't adopted and complaints, particularly from Ferrari and Red Bull, continued and indeed are still ongoing as a current call to open up development of the V6 hybrids is blocked by the pacesetting Mercedes.

Concerns over the noise, however, have largely gone as memories of the V8 scream disappear and even the staunchest of critics adjust to the whistles of the turbo and the meaty grunt from the V6.

Hamilton hits back

Hamilton would hit back from the disappointment of Australia with victory in Malaysia as he dominated Rosberg at Sepang, their relationship remained on firm ground and when the pair went head-to-head in Bahrain we were treated to one of the best battles for victory in recent history.

The Briton would again come out on top, holding Rosberg at bay in the final stint, and two more victories in China and Spain would see Lewis take the lead for the first time in the championship standings heading to the streets of Monte Carlo.

It was here that the first signs of unease began after an off-track excursion at Mirabeau for Rosberg prevented Hamilton from beating him to pole, to this day we don't know if that move was intentional and opinion among fans and pundits remains split, but it would prove crucial as the German led from start-to-finish on Sunday as late vision problems meant Hamilton had to hold off the ever impressive Ricciardo for second.

Ricciardo makes his name

Indeed for all the critics after he was announced as Mark Webber's replacement for 2014, Ricciardo could not have proven them more wrong in his first year with Red Bull.

He was faster than Vettel pretty much throughout and would be in the right place at the right time when Mercedes finally hit trouble in Canada.

With ERS problems hitting both Silver Arrows, and taking Hamilton out of the race, the Australian produced some excellent overtakes, something he would become renowned for, late in the race and then eased clear of the ailing Rosberg to take his first victory and end Mercedes' stranglehold at the top.

Two more victories, in Hungary and Spa, would see Ricciardo be the only non-Mercedes driver to win a race in 2014 as he claimed third in the Drivers' championship beating Vettel by 71 points at season's end.

Hamilton, Rosberg relations falter

The mid-season would see the pendulum very much in Rosberg's favour as Hamilton hit problems in qualifying, spinning out in Austria and Germany, misjudging the weather at Silverstone and enduring an engine fire in Hungary

Yet at all four races Hamilton would still finish on the podium beating Rosberg at two of them, including an emphatic home victory at Silverstone as Rosberg had his first retirement, but it would be at Spa, where the war between the two would really heat up.

As Red Bull proved a threat along the Kemmel straight after Eau Rouge, Rosberg would try an ambitious move on Hamilton into Les Combes on the second lap.

With neither man backing down, Rosberg punctured Hamilton's left-rear tyre with the endplate of his front wing causing both to pit and Lewis to eventually retire. Nico would finish second to Ricciardo opening up a 29-point gap to in the process, but after the race claimed he kept his car on the outside to "prove a point".

Hamilton powers to the title

This would light the touchpaper for Hamilton who responded with five straight wins from Italy-to-Austin and a retirement for Rosberg in Singapore had Hamilton 24 points clear with two races to go.

After Rosberg dominated in Brazil to cut the gap to 17, he couldn't do anything after an incredible start, to stop Lewis Hamilton claiming the championship in Abu Dhabi with victory at Yas Marina, and ERS issues for Rosberg in the second half of the race put any lingering doubts to bed as Hamilton went on to be crowned Briton's first double world champion in over 40 years.

Bottas leads Williams revival

As Mercedes asserted their dominance, another team using the superior power unit was in the midst of being reborn in 2014.

Williams were back at the front after several years in the doldrums and Valtteri Bottas was very much doing what Ricciardo did and put his name firmly on the F1 map.

The Finn had a number of stand-out performances recovering from hitting the wall in Australia to finish fifth and claiming his first three podiums in F1 in Austria, Britain and Germany.

The former GP3 champion would end the season fourth in the Drivers' standings beating Vettel and Fernando Alonso and is a man very much in demand from the top teams.

He also beat his more established team-mate Felipe Massa who had the pleasure of beating Ferrari in his first year away from Maranello. The Brazilian was the only non-Mercedes to claim a pole position, doing so in Austria, and ended the season with two straight podiums, showing some of his old 2008-style form in Sao Paulo and Abu Dhabi.

Money matters

The biggest story in the sport towards the end of the season, however, was not on the track but rather off it.

The issue of costs has been one the sport has debated for years without taking any serious action, plans for a cap were made by FIA President Jean Todt but quickly withdrawn after pressure from big teams and Bernie Ecclestone.

We got the most visual realisation of the impact spiralling costs are having on those at the back as Caterham and Marussia were forced off the grid.

While Caterham used crowdfunding to return in Abu Dhabi, Marussia did not in a final few weeks to a season full of sadness.

Marussia endure emotional roller-coaster

The team had the high of scoring its first ever points, as Jules Bianchi finished ninth in Monaco, but then the whole sporting world was shocked by the Frenchman's horrific crash at Suzuka last month where he suffered severe head injuries and remains unconscious albeit back in a hospital in his hometown of Nice.

Not a few weeks later, the Banbury team would shut down and is now in administration with hopes of a revival looking bleak.

'Silly season' lives up to hype

As always 'silly season' would see constant speculation over driver moves and who would be racing where in 2015.

This year the man at the centre of attention was Fernando Alonso as another disappointing year at Ferrari seemed to be the final straw.

The Spaniard has been openly courted by McLaren's new engine supplier Honda all year and then came the shock announcement in Japan that Sebastian Vettel would be leaving Red Bull at the end of the season.

While it was only confirmed last week, it was commonly thought that indeed Ferrari would be the four-time champion's destination and he would be replacing Alonso.

A shock return to McLaren is all but official for the 33-year-old with most of the speculation now over who will be his team-mate rather than will he be there at all.

Hamilton leads as Mercedes rule

But there is only one place to end a review of the 2014 Formula 1 season. With 11 wins, Lewis Hamilton tied Vettel and Schumacher in second place for the highest number of wins in a single season, Mercedes' 16 wins broke the record for the most wins for one team in a season as did the 11 one-two finishes Hamilton and Rosberg managed during the season.

It was a back and forth battle throughout between two men who have battled each other since their karting days and while tempers flared, the pair seemingly ended the season on the same firm ground on which they started if Rosberg's embrace with Hamilton just before the podium in Abu Dhabi is anything to go by.

On the balance of factors, Hamilton deserved to be crowned champion, he was the quicker of the two men pretty much throughout the season and while Rosberg was the more consistent, was second best when the two went head-to-head on the racetrack.

Another year of dominance may be on the cards in 2015, given their gap at the end of the season, but with Williams close behind and Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren keen to get back to the top, we can look forward to when it all begins again at Albert Park in just over 100 days time.

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