Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton’s 2014 campaigns started in the worst possible fashion today as both drivers were forced to retire within the first five laps of the Australian Grand Prix.
Having scored his 32nd career pole position on Saturday, Hamilton was the early favorite to win the race from the front row of the grid, but the Briton made a poor start and dropped down to third place. However, when driving onto the grid following the second of two parade laps after an aborted start, his Mercedes power unit began to splutter and sound ‘off-key’. Although he did manage to complete a few laps, the team eventually ordered him to return to the pits and park up due to a cylinder failure.
For Vettel though, the race was even worse. En route to the grid, the defending world champion – chasing his tenth straight GP win – reported that his engine was low on power. From 12th place, he failed to get a good getaway, dropping down to 14th and even losing a position to the Marussia of Max Chilton, such were his problems. After struggling around the track for five laps, the team eventually called Vettel in and ended his race. His title defence has started with a whimper.
Their teammates’ races were a stark contrast, though. Whilst Hamilton retired on lap four, Rosberg – who had jumped into the lead at the first corner – led from start to finish, proving Mercedes’ pace by winning with a 24 second advantage.
In the other Red Bull, Daniel Ricciardo scored his first Formula 1 podium on debut for the team, managing to fend off the McLarens of Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button in the final stages of the race. This sent the partisan crowd into delirium as their favorite son finished in second place at his home grand prix.
However, with both teams running well in Australia, Vettel and Hamilton will undoubtedly feel that they are still capable of winning the drivers’ title in 2014.