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Melbourne gone insane

2014 Formula One Season Opener

Who cares about the subdued engine noise? Who cares about the extremely erratic weather?

Eyes from almost all corners of the world were trained to Albert Park in Melbourne, Australia for the opening race of the 2014 Formula One season.

Fans in the stands cheer on as the first lap of the race is underway.

Fans in the stands cheer on as the first lap of the race is underway. (Photo by Aris R. Ilagan)

With more than 100,000 warm bodies in attendance of this grand motorsport event, the high level of excitement was palpable as Aussies cheered for Daniel Ricciardo, the 24-year-old  F1 driver from Perth. Known for his trademark grin, Ricciardo filled in the shoes of fellow Aussie Mark Webber, for the Red Bull Racing (RBR) team.

Despite both drivers coming from the RBR team that has conquered four Grand Prix titles, 57 poles and 47 wins in 169 races with its German driver Sebastian Vettel, Melbourne remained thirsty for an Aussie champion for the past 34 years.

Allegations of “team bias” for Vettel that prompted Webber to retire sparked endless jeering against Vettel by the Aussies. It was in a more furious and irritating manner, which other foreign F1 fans considered worse than the high pitched noise that the previous season’s V8 engines emitted.

The official campaign poster of the 2014 Australian Grand Prix also highlighted a photo of Seb with a worried, sleepless face which was a far cry from his boyish looks that he wore while sweeping the four world championships. This is how Aussies express their support for their fellow Aussie who they believed was deprived of equal opportunity.

In the qualifying sessions, either rain or shine, Ricciardo was astonishingly quick to conquer the grid position on several runs, only to be robbed later by Mercedes AMG driver Lewis Hamilton by 0.317 of a second.

From practice runs until Race Day, March 16, the cheering for Ricciardo reverberated while the heckling against Vettel intensified. During the Formula One Drivers’ Parade, Vettel had to look to the other side when a barrage of verbal assault became deafening from one end while the top down, vintage sports car cruised him along the 5.3-kilometer track.

With so many significant changes in race rules for the 2014 season, the outcome of the race was as unpredictable as the Melbourne weather.

Initially, it was a good day for Hamilton who was on top of the grid while Vettel — complaining about turbo malfunction — had to settle for the “unlucky 13th.”


So came the Race Day

As the starting lights went out, a quick shuffle on the top three grid positions unfolded while the 22 cars attacked the first corner.  Upon take off, Mercedes AMG driver Nico Rossberg snatched the Number One slot from Hamilton, who instantly dropped to third. Showing consistency in driving skills strengthened by the RBR10’s reliability, Ricciardo maintained the Number Two position during the race while the other teams struggled on all sorts of technical problems even without the threat of rain.

After a few laps, Vettel joined former world champions Hamilton and Massa in the DNF (Did Not Finish) roster along with five other drivers in the middle of the nerve-wracking 58 laps.

Rosberg emerged as the 2014 Australian Grand Prix winner, 23 seconds ahead of Ricciardo. The Aussie driver, on the other hand, was tailed by Danish driver Kevin Magnussen by only 2.2 seconds to the chequered flag.

The Ricciardo fans were ecstatic. There were massive celebrations in bars and parties around Melbourne. There was beer shortage on the race track even before the massive crowd could leave the area.

Shortly past 8:00 p.m. on the same day, FIA delegate Jo Bauer announced that Ricciardo’s engine “exceeded consistently the maximum allowed fuel flow of 100 kilograms per hour.”

This automatically dethroned Australia’s supposedly newest sensation of a historic second-place victory.

For the fans who cheered relentlessly for the Daniel, it felt like Melbourne was hit by a major power blackout only an hour after a jubilant home crowd celebration.