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.

Hamilton: Abu Dhabi ‘the last race with good-looking cars’ in F1

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Lewis Hamilton believes that this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be remembered as the last race with good-looking Formula 1 cars ahead of the introduction of the ‘Halo’ cockpit protection for next year.

Officials from the FIA and F1 Strategy Group confirmed earlier this year that the Halo would be fitted to all cars from the 2018 season in a bid to improve safety standards, with the deaths of Justin Wilson and Jules Bianchi putting head protection high on the agenda for the series’ chiefs.

Hamilton has long made his opposition to the Halo clear, believing it will ruin the look of F1 cars, and echoed his thoughts ahead of the final Halo-less race in Abu Dhabi this weekend.

“It’s the last year of looking good I think in the cars. It’s the last race where the cars will look good,” Hamilton said.

“I think next year, it’s all downhill from there in terms of how they look.

“But safety will go up at least, and maybe it could be successful in some way.”

Hamilton’s F1 title rival Sebastian Vettel was less bothered about the change, believing the field will adjust and move on.

“The cars will look different next year. Everything I’ve seen so far looks different, but on the other hand it is something we all get used to,” Vettel said.

“But no doubt the cars look better now, but we’ll get used to it, and we’ll work on the aesthetics so it can be better. It is less of a big deal.”

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo shared Vettel’s view, saying: “I don’t think it’s gonna be as dramatic as most people make it out to be.”