F1’s three rookies: Cautious expectations for Melbourne debuts

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Kevin Magnussen, Daniil Kvyat and Marcus Ericsson all can enter this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix knowing that they’re coming in on a hypothetically leveled playing field.

The new regulations changes across the board for 2014 mean that all three start as teams have a blank slate; the past generation of cars from 2009 through to 2013 saw a pattern of Red Bull dominance emerge, with Mercedes, Ferrari, Lotus and McLaren in arrears and the midfield further back.

For Magnussen and Kvyat, Australia isn’t just a new race, but a new country as well.

“It’s crazy to even think about racing in Melbourne – I’ve never been to Australia before, and the Grand Prix has always been something that I’ve watched very early in the morning on TV back in Europe,” said Magnussen, who will drive the No. 20 McLaren MP4-29 Mercedes. “To not only be arriving in a new country, but also taking part in the Grand Prix is incredibly exciting.”

Added Kvyat, in the No. 26 Toro Rosso STR9-Renault, “The track is unusual and looks tricky. It will be my first time in Australia and I’m looking forward to that.”

Expectations? Just finish first, and let the accolades come later.

“Personally, it’ll be important for me to finish these early races in order to get some good mileage under my belt,” said Magnussen. “Even though I’ve had a good winter, I’m under no illusions that I’m a still a rookie, and that I’m giving something away to the guys with more experience.”

Caterham’s Ericsson: “What we do know is that in the race itself fuel and energy management strategies are going to be critical, so I’m glad we were able to work on them with Renault as much as we did in the tests.”

Paul di Resta (10th in 2011 Australian GP with Force India) is the most recent driver to score points on debut, and was only promoted into that position as then-fellow rookie and current Force India driver Sergio Perez was disqualified after his Sauber failed post-race inspection.

Magnussen’s father Jan won’t be in attendance, as he’ll have just been in action at the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring with Corvette Racing.

IndyCar Grand Prix of Alabama final practice report

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Will Power posted the fastest lap in the third practice session for the Grand Prix of Alabama with a speed of 122.953 mph.

Rookie Robert Wickens (122.552 mph) was second fast, foretelling a continuation of his incredible rookie season.

Scott Dixon (122.237), Ryan Hunter-Reay (122.231) and Alexander Rossi (122.106) rounded out the top five.

The practice was interrupted several times for incidents. 

Ed Jones spun off track in turn five after locking up his brakes with 30 minutes remaining in practice three. He was able to drive back to the pits under his own power.

With 20 minutes still on the clock, Jordan King took a trip into the fence after posting a fastest lap of 121.753 mph. He sustained substantial left side damage to his car and came back to the pits on the hook.

“I’m annoyed really,” King said afterward on the live stream at IndyCar.com. “I slightly locked the inside front, then just stayed off onto the grass and that was it. But I wasn’t really even pushing that hard.”

With two minutes remaining, Charlie Kimball lost power and pulled off the track, bringing an end to the practice session.

Dixon also had an off-road excursion.