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Posted March 19, 2014 | comments Leave a comment

Murto: Mercedes wins F-1 opener

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Craig Murto

Mercedes came out on top in the Formula One season-opener as Nico Rosberg dominated the Australian Grand Prix.

The race was the first for the reinvented F1 series, which places more emphasis on technical advancement as a "green" racing series than it does on racing entertainment. The new 1.6-litre V-6 turbocharged engines no longer have the familiar whine of nearly 20,000 rpm. Not only is the amount of fuel cars are allowed to carry decreased from last season, but the rate at which fuel is allowed to flow is regulated.

And the cars are heavier due to increased electronics and batteries onboard. The Energy Recover System not only captures energy from braking, it also captures the heat from the turbocharger and turns that into electrical energy. The turbo is connected to a device that keeps it charged and ready to go. There are so many electronic components and battery operated systems on the car that crew members wear heavy rubber gloves while pushing or handling the cars on pit lane. The cars are so complicated that some observers predicted that the sanctioning FIA would be lucky if a single car finished the first race.

There were plenty of mechanical issues that sidelined a number of cars, most notably those of Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton. And the apparent second-place finishing Red Bull Racing (RBR) machine of Australian Daniel Ricciardo was disqualified when FIA officials revealed that data received from a meter installed in the car indicated the fuel flow rate was too high throughout the race. RBR plans to appeal, citing evidence that the meters were inconsistent all weekend and their team was not alone as far as trouble. However, since race officials notified RBR during the race and gave the team a chance to lower the fuel flow rate, chances are the appeal will be denied; it's never wise to ignore race officials.

Rookie Kevin Magnussen was second in a McLaren Mercedes, followed by his teammate Jenson Button. Obviously Mercedes has the new F1 rules figured out better than Renault, whose teams (including RBR) did not fare well.

Are the new regulations good for the sport? Will every race become a fuel mileage affair? And with the regulations so specific, is F1 really a "formula" or is it just a high-tech hybrid spec racer?

There was plenty other racing over the weekend, including the season-opening Late Model race at Hagerstown Speedway, won by Rick Eckert. Jonathan DeHaven took the Late Model Sportsman feature. If the weather permits, Winchester Speedway will open Saturday. Check www.winchestervaspeedway.com for more information.

South Boston Speedway opened last Saturday with twin 100-lap features for NASCAR Late Models. Former national champion Peyton Sellers won both races, but he didn't start up front in either and put on a good show for the fans as he marched his way forward. Jeb Burton was in the field and finished in the top five in both races. Also at the track was Timothy Peters, who was there to promote the Denny Hamlin Shootout at the end of April, which will see NASCAR stars battle local Late Model racers for charity. Visit www.southbostonspeedway.com for information. A lot of top racers got their start at South Boston, and it still produces national champions and top racers. It's only a three- to four-hour drive, and worth visiting.

The Sebring 12-hour endurance race for the Tudor United Sports Car Series was won by the Ganassi Ford driven by Marino Franchitti, Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas.

Veteran Eddie MacDonald won the K&N Pro Series East race at Bristol, while Kyle Busch won the Nationwide race and Carl Edwards won the rain-delayed Sprint Cup event.

Motorcycles were in action as part of Daytona Bike Week. Danny Eslick won the Daytona 200, and Briar Bauman and Kenny Coolbeth won the flat track races. All of those events -- as well as the Bristol K&N race and the Sebring race -- were seen live at www.fanschoice.tv. The website is owned by NASCAR (which owns the rights to AMA pro motorcycle racing as well as the Tudor sports car series) and will show many live events all season. Be sure to log on and check their broadcast schedule.

The AMA Supercross series competed in Detroit, and the feature was dominated by James Stewart. There were no technical issues such as fuel flow rate on his Suzuki, and judging from the size of the crowd in the Motor City, Supercross still puts most of its emphasis on entertainment.

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.


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