F1 2014 Review: Stories of the Season

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As part of MotorSportsTalk’s review of the 2014 Formula 1 season, we’ve decided to pick out some of the big stories that dominated the headlines – for better or for worse – across the course of what was a memorable year.

Last weekend in Abu Dhabi, Lewis Hamilton clinched his second world championship, winning what looks set to be the only double points round in F1 history as title rival Nico Rosberg was hit with an engine issue.

As the curtain was drawn on their bitter fight for the championship, a number of other scores and stories were also settled in Abu Dhabi, all playing a part in one of the most dramatic, emotional and tenuous F1 seasons since the turn of the century.

Here are some of the big stories in Formula 1 this season.

Mercedes’ domination from the very beginning

Heading into 2014, it was widely reported and assumed that Mercedes had produced the best power unit and would be the team to beat. Said reports and assumptions turned out to be true, but few could have predicted the level of dominance that the Silver Arrows would enjoy this year.

New records were set for the most pole positions and wins by a team in a single season, as well as a record haul in the constructors’ championship. Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg arguably should have enjoyed a perfect season, only for minor blips in Canada, Hungary and Belgium to spoil that record.

However, this will still be remembered for years to come as one of the most dominant performances F1 has ever seen.

Hamilton versus Rosberg – an all-time classic title fight

Sure, it wasn’t a Senna/Prost, but it was still a sensational fight between the two Mercedes teammates for the world title. Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg battled to the last for this championship, with all of the typical emotions and drama that come with a scuffle like this cropping up across the course of the season.

After racing as teammates in go-karts, both drivers dreamed of racing together in F1 and fighting for the title. This year, it became a reality, but it wasn’t all plain sailing. The intra-team relationship was tested on a number of occasions, boiling over at Spa when the two made contact.

Come the end of the year, it was Hamilton who was victorious, but Rosberg acted with great dignity and grace in accepting his title defeat. It was a clean end to the season – thankfully, it did not have the Senna/Prost element in that regard. The best part of it is that they’ll both be back for more in 2015.

The emergence of Ricciardo and Bottas

From the first race of the year in Australia, it was clear that both Daniel Ricciardo and Valtteri Bottas would enjoy a very different season in 2014 to their rather difficult 2013 campaigns. Come the end of the year, they finished third and fourth in the drivers’ championship respectively, with only the Mercedes duo ranking higher.

Ricciardo’s three victories were sensational, picking up the pieces from Mercedes’ problems in Canada and Belgium, with his win in Hungary coming as a result of good strategy and some classy driving. Arguably, Bottas should have also won a race this year, running the Mercedes drivers close on a number of occasions but never quite reaching the top step of the podium.

Keep an eye out for both of these drivers next year. If their teams produce the goods, we could be seeing F1’s two biggest breakout stars standing on the top step of the podium many more times.

Sebastian Vettel’s tame title defence

Few would have predicted that Sebastian Vettel would put up such a tame and lifeless defence after winning four straight world championship. The German failed to get to grips with the RB10 car, scoring just three podium finishes and leading just a single lap across the course of the year – down from 684 in 2013.

As Ricciardo flourished across the season, Vettel continued to struggle, dropping the ball in both Canada and Belgium when there was a chance of winning. He just didn’t seem to be comfortable at any point in 2014.

Next year will see the German move to Ferrari, following in Michael Schumacher’s footsteps and giving him the chance to build a team around him. Although he may have been anonymous for much of 2014, he is a four-time champion for a reason. Don’t go writing Seb off just yet…

Reform and revolution at Ferrari

2014 was supposed to be a year that favored works teams – that is, those who make their own engines – suggesting that if any team could put up a fight to Mercedes, it would be Ferrari.

Instead, the Italian marque recorded its worst season in 22 years, scoring just two podium finishes as its internal change overshadowed its on-track efforts.

The regime that had been set up in the post-Schumacher/Todt/Brawn years was dismantled across the course of the year. Team principal Stefano Domenicali left in April, making way for Marco Mattiacci. On Monday though, it was confirmed that Mattiacci had been fired after just seven months in charge, with Maurizio Arrivabene taking over.

Perhaps the two biggest departures were those of Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo – after over 20 years at the top – and lead driver Fernando Alonso, who is set to move to McLaren after five title-less years at Maranello.

The Ferrari that exits 2014 is a very different team to the one that entered it. With Vettel now leading its charge and the first James Allison-designed car set to run in 2015, a new era is beginning at Maranello.

The shadow of double points

Ever since the FIA confirmed last winter that it would be awarding double points for the final race of the season in a bid to keep the title race alive, the F1 community has been shaking its head in dismay. It was, to quote John Surtees, a “commercial gimmick”. It was purely designed to help boost TV ratings that had only dropped because of the sport’s decision to move away from free-to-air broadcasters in France and China.

In the end, double points had no say whatsoever in the title race, nor did it keep it alive for longer. It didn’t do what it set out to do, aiding just two drivers – Felipe Massa and Sergio Perez – in the final standings.

Thankfully, this rule is set to be canned for 2015 along with the standing restarts proposal, but it was still a big story and concern for the season that has been.

F1’s governance and the financial crisis

According to Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn, double points was an idea that came from the F1 Strategy Group, a ‘big boys’ club consisting of the major players in the sport: Ferrari, Red Bull, Mercedes, McLaren, Williams and Lotus.

And after its first full season, the Strategy Group appears to have caused many problems, with the refusal to cut costs putting F1 into a major crisis that saw the loss of both Caterham and Marussia towards the end of the year.

Although Caterham did manage to get back on the grid for Abu Dhabi, the damage had been done. Jobs had been lost and the very future of F1 as we know it – that is, a grid with 11 teams of two cars – appeared to be at serious risk, with three-car teams being proposed by many.

Entering the winter, this story is one that is ‘to be continued’ – we still don’t know what the future holds for Force India, Lotus and Sauber, nor do we know if Caterham can, in a new guise, get back on the grid for 2015. However, it is a very grave issue, and one that the sport does need to sit up and take note of.

Forza Jules

This is a story none of us could ever have envisaged nor wished for. Jules Bianchi’s horrific accident towards the end of the Japanese Grand Prix in October put a cloud over the 2014 season, with the Frenchman suffering severe head injuries that left him fighting for his life in hospital.

As per the latest update, Bianchi has been moved to a hospital in his native France and is no longer in an artificial coma. However, we continue to send all of our thoughts, prayers, love and support to Jules and his family.

Tous avec toi, Jules.

***

Of course, these are just some of the biggest stories we’ve seen this year. Honorable mentions must go to:

  • Michael Schumacher’s continued recovery from his skiing accident.
  • Gene Haas’ successful bid to join the sport with his own team in 2016.
  • Max Verstappen’s arrival on the F1 scene ahead of his debut next year.
  • Difficult years for Sauber and Lotus both on and off track.
  • The successful return of the Austrian Grand Prix.
  • Caterham’s supposed sale by Tony Fernandes
  • Susie Wolff’s successful F1 weekend debut in the summer.
  • A solid first running of the Russian Grand Prix under difficult circumstances.
  • Bahrain’s reinvention as a night race.

It’s been a big year for F1. Let’s hope that 2015 is just as memorable, only this time, for all of the right reasons.

Eli Tomac wins Tampa Supercross, takes red plate home

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With his third win of the season, Eli Tomac took the red plate from Ken Roczen at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. Entering with a one-point deficit, Tomac left with a four-point advantage in the 2020 Monster Energy Supercross championship hunt.

Tomac has struggled with starts so far this season. Saturday, he was part of a four-rider separation on the opening lap. He slotted in behind Adam Cianciarulo and went to school on his teammate.

“Our starts were better,” Tomac told NBCSN after the race. “That was the key. We put ourselves in a position early so that we could go to battle and ride the way we’re supposed to ride.”

Tomac claimed his 30th career win as the riders behind swapped positions. Cianciarulo and Malcolm Stewart started out with top-five runs. Both had the podium in site before they faded and gave last year’s Big Three free reign at the front of the pack.

“Early on I was just following Adam,” Tomac said. “With these short lap times I knew we had a lot of laps under our belt tonight. So I kind of just settled tonight and then made the push just before halfway.

“And I thought I’ve go to go if I’m going to go. So I was able to switch up the sand there. That was really cool with the option. A good passing spot.”

Cooper Webb finished second. It is his fifth podium of the year, but he felt he could have challenged Tomac if he had gotten through traffic a little faster. Roosters from the sand section blinded him and forced a more cautious approach from on top of his KTM.

Roczen minimized his points loss with a third-place finish. It could have been much worse. At about the halfway point, Roczen fell. Luckily for him, Cianciarulo went down on the same lap and took much longer to right his bike, which allowed Roczen to hold onto a top-three spot. Roczen ended the race nearly 11 seconds behind Webb and 18 behind Tomac.

Last year’s Big Three all stood on the podium.

Speed has not been a problem for Cianciarulo. He has been fastest in qualification every week including Tampa, but he is still learning how to get to the finish without making mistakes.

Last week Cianciarulo lost the lead late at San Diego when Webb was able to study his line. This week Cianciarulo had the opportunity to study Tomac, but he refused to simply ride and gain experience.

Earlier this week, Cianciarulo told NBC Sports: “The adversity I’ve faced – the mistakes I’ve made – have all been basically caused because of not settling. Just trying to get the absolute most I can out of every race. I guess in a way you can look at that and say it was inexperience or a rookie being a rookie.”

Cianciarulo went from second at the midway point to ninth at the checkers.

Justin Barcia and Justin Hill rounded out the top five.

Stewart had one of his best runs of the season, but he faded in the closing laps. On the final trip around the track, he nipped Jason Anderson at the line.

Shane McElrath won the opening round of the 250 East division, just as he has done in his last two 250 West openers. Feld Entertainment Inc.

250 EAST: Shane McElrath won the opening rounds of his 2017 and 2018 seasons. Both of those came at Anaheim in the 250 West division. Switching coasts did not make any difference. McElrath drew first blood in the series with a 3-second advantage over last year’s 250 East champion, Chase Sexton.

“Nobody outside of my wife and I really know what went into this year and what a hit we took last year mentally,” McElrath told NBCSN. “It was a struggle. Everybody goes through their down times, and I really had a lot of growing to do last year.”

Sexton got off to a bad start on the first lap. All the news wasn’t bad. After getting mired in the pack at the start, he picked his way through the field and settled into second about halfway through the main event. Sexton made up 8 seconds as the clock ticked but simply ran out of time.

“I didn’t execute my start like I needed to,” Sexton said. “You can’t come from fifth and expect to catch them by the end of the race.”

In his first race back after a year and a half with a broken back, Jeremy Martin stood tall on the last rung of the podium

Garrett Marchbanks and Jordan Smith rounded out the top five.

450s

Heat 1: Eli Tomac is not known for his starts. It’s time to rethink that after Heat 1. Tomac bolted to a big lead on Lap 1. … Malcolm Stewart led the field to the first corner. He slid wide exiting the corner and slipped back several spots before charging back to second. … Cooper Webb backed up his win last week with a third-place finish. … Vince Friese finished ninth to grab the final transfer. | Heat 1 Results

Heat 2: Ken Roczen stalked Adam Cianciarulo until the rookie buried his front wheel in the sand section. That stalled his momentum and allowed Roczen to take the lead. It set up a huge battle for the final battle for the top spot as the two crossed under the checkers nose to tail … Roczen won over Cianciarulo. … Zach Osborne took the final rung of the podium. … Back after a two-year hiatus, Broc Tickle finished fourth. It was like he had never been off the bike. … On Lap 1 Blake Baggett jumped into the back of Jared Lesher. They collected Joshua Cartwright, who got pinned under his bike and limped off the track. Baggett recovered to finfish eighth. … Kyle Chisholm took the final transfer position in ninth. | Heat 2 Results

LCQ: Chad Reed had to go through the LCQ, but he qualified for his 255th 450 Main where he would finish 19th. … Kyle Cunningham provided a lot of drama as time was running off the clock, but missed a corner and settled for second. Ryan Breece finished third. … Making his first Main of the season, Adam Enticknap swapped positions with Daniel Herrlien throughout the race and nipped him at the end.  | LCQ Results

250s

Heat 1: Shane Mcelrath grabbed the lead early and held it throughout the heat. He won by 14 seconds, but much of that was because of mistakes by the second- and third-place riders. … Garrett Marchbanks had a quick off early in the race. He recovered to finish second. … Jordon Smith struggled in the sand. He went down early in the sand section, but he held position for a while. A second mistake in the sand allowed his teammate Marchbanks to pass him. … The final transfer position was a barnburner as Nick Gaines held off a determined charge by Hunter Sayles on the final lap. | Heat 1 Results

Heat 2: Chase Sexton told reporters before the race that he is determined to dominate. So far so good as he let the entire heat in route to the top spot on the podium. … Jeremy Martin settled into a comfortable spot four seconds back as the battle for third heated up. … Jo Shimoda held it for a while, but was eventually overrun by RJ Hampshire, who took the final rung of the podium … Shimoda faded to fifth. … The final transfer spot went to Cedric Soubeyras. … Joey Crown finished a respectable eighth and also transferred. | Heat 2 Results

LCQ: Jimmy Decotis made his move at the right time. With less than a minute on the clock, he caught and passed Curran Thurman. … Jimmy Decotis finished third. … The battle of the night was for the final transfer spot. Jalek Swoll made a dramatic pass in the final turn, but bogged down in the whoops and allowed Isaac Teasdale to catch him at the line in a photo finish. Teasdale took the final spot | LCQ Results

Click here for 450 Main Results | Season Points
Click here for 250 Main Results | Season Points

Next race: February 22, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas

Season passes can be purchased at NBC Sports Gold.

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