Month-by-Month Recap of the 2014 Formula 1 Season

Neil James@NeilosJamesFeatured ColumnistDecember 29, 2014

Month-by-Month Recap of the 2014 Formula 1 Season

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    Michael Probst/Associated Press

    The 2014 Formula One season was one of the best of the current millennium and went a long way to silencing the critics of the new turbo hybrid era.

    Not all of them, mind. But some.

    Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg's occasionally bitter rivalry turned a two-horse race into an enthralling spectacle. The arrival on the big stage of Daniel Ricciardo and Valtteri Bottas provided a more-than-adequate supporting act and the chaotic "silly season"which saw Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso move onadded some off-track intrigue.

    The season lasted nine months, spanned five continents and took in 19 different countries. There was something for everyoneexcept, perhaps, Ferrari fans.

    Focusing on the title race and major events in and around the sport, here's my month-by-month recap of the 2014 F1 season.


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    Uncredited/Associated Press

    January saw most of the 2014 cars unveiled.

    McLaren were first off the mark with a low-key online launch, with Ferrari revealing the F14 T the following day. The other big teams waited until the first day of winter testingJanuary 28to show off their challengers.

    Mercedes and Red Bull managed to find halfway elegant solutions to the new nose regulations, but most were downright ugly. The Caterham CT05 was especially vile.

    Perhaps we'd get used to them in time and maybe they wouldn't look so bad zooming around a circuit.

    Only, there was precious little zooming going on.

    All the teams experienced difficulties with their new V6 turbo "power units." The Renault-engined teams fared especially badly, with defending champions Red Bull managing just 21 laps across the four-day test.

    Bernie Ecclestone was already moaning about the new engines, and Mercedes already looked like the team to beat.

    Away from the track, F1 said goodbye to Jenson Button's father, John. The former rallycross ace was a regular in the pit lane and was the inspiration for the pink helmet worn by his son in the latter part of the season.

    And the middle of the month saw NASCAR team boss Gene Haas confirm, per NBC Sports, he was planning an F1 entry.


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    With the start of the season rapidly approaching, the second and third tests were the final chance the teams would have to run their cars before the Australian Grand Prix.

    Once again it was the Mercedes-powered cars on top and Renault-powered teams at the bottom. The W05s of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg looked mighty, with engine customers Williams appearing the best of the rest.

    Ferrari looked decent but, as usual, not decent enough, and McLaren looked set for another difficult year. Red Bull didn't yet appear to be down and outthey lacked reliability but seemed to have a quick package.

    Few were writing them off entirely at this stage, but concerns were being raised about the pace of the grid as a whole.

    ESPN reported Jenson Button expected GP2 cars to be much closer to their F1 counterparts at low-speed circuits. Kamui Kobayashi went a step furthertelling press in Bahrain that his Caterham team would be better off taking a GP2 car to the first race.

    Elsewhere, Williams announced Susie Wolff would drive in two free practice sessions in 2014, the silly old London Grand Prix story poked its head above the parapet for a couple of days and the awarding of double points for the final three races of the year was rejected.

    Sadly, no consensus on getting rid of the rule entirely was reached. The last race of the season in Abu Dhabi would still be awarding 50 points to the winner.


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    The final test ended on March 2 and all the teams packed up and headed off to Melbourne.

    After many teams struggled badly with reliability in the pre-season, some observers were expecting carnage in the early races. FIA race director Charlie Whiting was even forced to tell press what would happen if no one finished the race.

    He'd stop it, of course.

    What Whiting called a "doomsday scenario" never came to pass. Reliability at the Australian Grand Prix was not as good as it had been in previous seasons but proved sufficient to assuage any fears of zero-finisher races.

    Nico Rosberg won from third on the grid after pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton retired with engine trouble. Defending world champion Sebastian Vettel managed just three laps, but team-mate Daniel Ricciardowho many expected to be Red Bull's clear No. 2 driverfinished a fine second.

    Or at least, he thought he had. He was later disqualified for exceeding the 100 kilograms per hour fuel flow rate, sparking the first major controversy of the year. Sky Sports reported Red Bull were warned during the race to reduce the flow but chose not to because they thought their own readings were more accurate.

    Their appeal against the decision was pending as the teams arrived for the season's second race, the Malaysian Grand Prix. Hamilton dominated from pole to chalk up his first 25 points of the year, but team-mate Rosberg retained the championship lead after finishing second.

    Vettel came home in third for his first points and podium of the year as 15 of the 22 cars managed the distance. Felipe Massa also finished for the first time in 2014, ignoring team orders and causing a minor debate among fans on his way to seventh.

    Away from the track, Reuters reported the Indian Grand Prix would not be returning in 2015if everand McLaren boss Ron Dennis was looking forward to an important announcement.

    The MP4-29 had been launched without a title sponsor, but per ESPN, Dennis said one would be revealed very soon.

    We're still waiting.


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    Ker Robertson/Getty Images

    Barely a month after leaving the Gulf state, F1 returned to Bahrainthis time for the country's grand prix.

    And what a storming race it was.

    Lewis Hamilton got the jump on pole-sitting team-mate Nico Rosberg at the start. The German attempted to pass on a number of occasions but never quite got the job done, leaving Hamilton to record his second successive victory.

    Further back, Sebastian Vettel was ordered to move aside for his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo. The Australian was clearly quicker, and we tended to give Vettel the benefit of the doubtsurely it had just been an off day for the four-time world champion?

    The same could not be said for Ferrari. After yet another disappointing start to the season, Stefano Domenicali resigned as team principal of the Scuderia. He was replaced by Marco Mattiacci.

    Red Bull issued team orders again at the next race, the Chinese Grand Prix, and again it was Vettel on the receiving end. Per James Allen, the German initially refused to make way, his response of "tough luck" broadcast for the world to hear. He eventually relented.

    While this was going on, Lewis Hamilton was cruising to his third race victory in a row. Rosberg had a tougher afternoontelemetry issues led to a poor start and a fortunate escape after contact with Valtteri Bottas.

    He fought his way back up to second, retaining the championship lead, while Fernando Alonso rounded off the podium. It was his and Ferrari's first rostrum visit of the year.

    But everyone was a long, long way behind Mercedes, and some very powerful figures were not happy with the direction F1 was taking.

    Bernie Ecclestone told Autosport the racing was "unacceptable," while Ferrari chief Luca di Montezemolo infamously called it "taxi-cab driving."

    Their complaints were laughed out of the room after the brilliant spectacle of Bahrain, but the fire had been lit under a pro-change campaign which continues to this day.

    Elsewhere, Gene Haas' F1 team was formally granted an entry for 2015 with an option to defer until 2016, while Ecclestone's bribery trial got under way in Munich.


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    May saw F1 return to its traditional European heartland for the Spanish Grand Prix.

    Lewis Hamilton took pole and, despite looking second-best all weekend, held off Nico Rosberg for a fourth-straight victory and the championship lead.

    There had been some speculation that the Catalunya circuit, a track at which downforce is king, would allow Red Bull to get a little closer to the all-conquering Mercedes for the first time in 2014.

    That didn't happen, but there was at least one interesting Red Bull-related first. Ahead of free practice, Daniel Ricciardo had shorter victory odds than Sebastian Vettelrecorded in my race preview. This had never happened before but became commonplace as the season wore on.

    Ricciardo delivered on his favoured Bull status to claim his first F1 podium, while Romain Grosjean's excellent drive brought Lotus their first points of the year.

    Hamilton led Rosberg by three points going into the sixth race of the yearMonaco.

    The tight and twisty circuit offers very little opportunity for overtaking, so qualifying was almost certainly going to determine the race winner. Rosberg had provisional pole and was ahead on the track as he and Hamilton started their final flying laps.

    After a scruffy first sector, Rosberg locked up and went down the escape road at Mirabeau. The resulting yellow flags ruined Hamilton's lap, which might have been quick enough for pole.

    The Brit was seething afterwards, believing Rosberg had done it on purpose. Motorsport's Mark Hughes reports almost every driver in the paddock thought the same, but the stewards could find insufficient evidence of wrongdoing.

    Rosberg started from pole and duly won the race, but the biggest news of the day didn't involve a silver car. Marussia's Jules Bianchi drove an exceptional race to claim ninth place and the team's first-ever points.

    Genuine feel-good moments which all fans can share and enjoy are close to non-existent in this sport, but seeing the Marussia cross the line without question fitted the bill.

    Mercedes had won the first six races, taken every pole and led every lap, but the sailing would not be as plain from this point onward.

    The friendship between Hamilton and Rosberg had broken down, their rivalry now tinged with an element of bitterness.

    While this was going on, Azerbaijan announced itself as the newest member of the F1 club. The circuit for the first grand prix in Baku was unveiled later in the year.

    A more significant story surrounded the future of Red Bull's design genius Adrian Newey. Sky Sports reported on rumours he was considering a switch to Ferrari; in the end, he resisted the lure of Maranello to take a less-involved role at Red Bull.

    May also saw the sport mark the 20th anniversary of the deaths of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger. Thousands of fans attended a memorial event at the Imola circuit for the two men, who both lost their lives during the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix weekend.


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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    F1 crossed the Atlantic for the first time in 2014 for the Canadian Grand Prix at the start of June. The simple, stop-start Circuit Gilles Villeneuve seemed tailor-made for the Mercedes W05s and a seventh straight win looked on the cards.

    Nico Rosberg took pole ahead of team-mate Lewis Hamilton, and the pair disappeared into the distance. But close to the halfway mark, both experienced control electronics failures.

    Hamilton was forced to retire when his brakes gave up. Rosberg was able to continue but at a vastly reduced pace. The pack began to close in.

    Out of it emerged Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull's new rising star. He passed Rosberg with three laps to go to take his first-ever F1 win. The Mercedes man was second and Sebastian Vettel third.

    The race ended behind the safety car after a spectacular last-lap crash involving Felipe Massa and Sergio Perez. The Brazilian veteran was furiousperhaps this gave him an extra 10th or two in qualifying for the next race.

    Confounding all expectation, Williams locked out the front row at the Austrian Grand Prix. Massa took his first pole position since 2008 when Hamilton's qualifying spin also ruined Rosberg's effort. But as quick as they were, neither Massa nor team-mate Valtteri Bottas could hold back the Mercedes tide in the race.

    Rosberg won from third on the grid, while Hamilton recovered from ninth to finish second. The German left Styria with a 29-point lead in the drivers' championship.

    Elsewhere, Bernie Ecclestone took time out from his trial to rubbish social media, telling Autosport he saw no reason for F1 to have a greater online presence.

    If that wasn't silly enough, the news arrived at the end of the month that F1 would have standing restarts after safety car periods in 2015. Happily, this particular piece of insanity was dropped at a later date.


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    Darko Bandic/Associated Press

    Nico Rosberg went into the British Grand Prix with a 29-point lead in the drivers' championship. After qualifying, he'll have felt even better. Title rival Lewis Hamilton misjudged the conditions in qualifying and started sixth while the German took pole.

    Further back, Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen could only manage a 10th-row lockout in their Ferraris, while the two Williams' claimed 17th and 18th.

    The race was stopped after Raikkonen's huge first-lap crash, Massa also being forced out. When it resumed, Rosberg built a small leadthen disaster struck. As Hamilton closed in, the German's gearbox failed and he was out.

    Rosberg's 29-point lead was cut to four as Hamilton won his home grand prix. Bottas capped a brilliant recovery drive with his second consecutive podium while Daniel Ricciardo again out-performed his illustrious team-mate to finish third.

    Hamilton might have felt he had the momentum heading into Rosberg and Mercedes' home race, but a brake failure in qualifying and subsequent gearbox change left him 20th.

    Rosberg took an easy pole and converted it to an easy win. Behind him, Hamilton and Ricciardo15th after a difficult first lapcharged through the field to finish third and fourth, respectively. Bottas was again second.

    The Hungarian Grand Prix started on a curiously similar note.

    Hamilton was again taken out of qualifying, this time by a fire, and was forced to start from the pit lane in a newly built car. Rosberg had secured an easy pole and, despite a sprinkling of rain, looked set for another easy win as he built a strong early lead.

    Then Marcus Ericsson crashed.

    The safety car came out, shaking up the order and bringing Hamilton back into play. Rosberg struggled at the restart, and as the race progressed, Mercedes elected to split their drivers' strategies.

    Hamilton was to do a single stint to the end on the slower tyres; Rosberg went on to the quicker tyre but would have to stop one more time. The German caught his team-mate, who refused to slow down to let him by. It probably cost Rosberg the race win.

    Daniel Ricciardo took the chequered flag for his second win of the yearonce again, Mercedes had failed and the Australian had picked up the pieces. Fernando Alonso was a brilliant second, with Hamilton third after a robust last-lap block on Rosberg.

    The German left Hungary with an 11-point drivers' championship lead, furious with Hamilton. The repercussions would not be felt until after the summer break.

    With so much happening on the track, the non-racing news took a back seat, but a few occurrences are worth a mention.

    Caterham were (sort of) sold to a mysterious group of investors who later put the team into administration.

    On the technical side, complex front-rear interconnected suspension (FRIC) systems were banned between the British and German rounds. Autosport reports the decision was made because teams were using FRIC as a movable aerodynamic device.

    The running order was unaffected.


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    Luca Bruno/Associated Press

    August got off to a quiet start. A four-week break between races, including the mandatory two-week shutdown, gave everyone a chance to reflect on how their season had gone.

    It also gave the Mercedes feud a bit of time to simmer.

    When F1 returned at the end of the month, Nico Rosberg took pole for the Belgian Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton got the jump on his team-mate and led after one lap, but Rosberg was close behind and tried to pass going down the back straight.

    Clumsy, malicious, stupid, careless, calculated, accidental, deliberate?

    It's unclear exactly what was going through Rosberg's mind as he realised Hamilton had fended off his overtaking attempt. In no-man's land on the outside of Les Combes, he turned in and his front wing made contact withand puncturedHamilton's rear tyre.

    The wing was shattered, but Hamilton came off worse, forced to do almost a whole lap with a punctured tyre. The damage caused by the flailing rubber left him off the pace, and he retired a few laps from the end.

    Rosberg lost time with the damaged wing but would still have won had he not locked up trying to pass Sebastian Vettel. This error necessitated a strategic change and handed victory towho else?Daniel Ricciardo.

    The Mercedes management were angry with Rosberg and he was loudly booed on the podium. But the 18 points he scored put him 29 points clear of Hamilton with just seven races to go.

    As Ricciardo was solidifying his status as the top dog at the Red Bull of today, the team were busy laying some foundations for the future. In August they announced Max Verstappen as a Toro Rosso driver for 2015.

    The Dutchman will be 17 when he makes his debut at next season's Australian Grand Prix.

    Elsewhere, BBC reported Bernie Ecclestone's bribery trial came to an end when he paid $100 million for the charges to be dismissed. Found neither guilty nor innocent, the F1 chief was free to resume his duties.


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    Antonio Calanni/Associated Press

    The start of September saw Lewis Hamilton take his first pole position since May. Nico Rosberg took second and led into the first corner after Hamilton suffered a software failure and had to make a fully manual start.

    But the German appeared uncomfortable, and he twice went straight on at the first chicane to avoid potentially problematic lock-ups. The first time he did it it cost him a few seconds, but on the second occasion, Hamilton was close behind and took the lead.

    The Mercedes duo finished one and two, Rosberg's lead now down to 22 points.

    Further back, Fernando Alonso experienced a race-ending mechanical failure for the first time since the start of the 2010 season and Daniel Ricciardo produced one of the passes of the season to take fifth from Sebastian Vettel.

    The circus moved on to Singapore, where Hamilton and Rosberg had a brilliant qualifying duel. It was decided in the Englishman's favour, the gap just 0.007 seconds.

    Sadly, we were robbed of what looked set to be a titanic battle. Rosberg suffered an electronics failure and couldn't get off the line. Hamilton took a fairly comfortable victory as his team-mate struggled, the German forced to retire after 13 slow, painful laps.

    A 29-point lead at the end of August had become a three-point deficit as September drew to a close. Rosberg was suddenly the man under pressure.

    September's off-track news was dominated by the announcement that long-serving Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo would be leaving his post. He was replaced by Sergio Marchionne and the pair's feud is, per Autosport, still rumbling on.

    The spectre of three-car teams in 2015 was also making the headlines following former Williams CEO Adam Parr's tweet.

    Fortunately, it didn't come to passand hopefully never will.


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    Ivan Sekretarev/Associated Press

    Nico Rosberg took pole for the Japanese Grand Prix, but there was no guarantee he would ever start the race from that position. Typhoon Phanfone was bearing down on the circuit, and the resulting wind and rain might have made racing impossible.

    The worst of the wind did not hit Suzuka, but the circuit was struck by heavy rain. The race was started behind the safety car, stopped after two laps and started again, Rosberg leading with Hamilton close behind.

    The German seemed not quite at ease in the conditions, and after several attempts, Hamilton overtook around the outside of Turn 1 to take the lead. He pulled away to record his third consecutive victory, followed home by Rosberg and the two impressively quick Red Bulls.

    Jenson Button was fifth, but his excellent drive in a McLaren which lacked the downforce of his rivals' cars surely deserved more.

    But the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix will be remembered not for who won but for the dreadful accident which left Jules Bianchi in a critical condition.

    The most recent official statement from Bianchi's family said he remains in a stable but critical condition, having been moved to a hospital in his native France.

    As the teams and drivers arrived in Sochi a few days later for the inaugural Russian Grand Prix, it was clear Bianchi's accident was still raw and fresh in their minds.

    Rosberg got the jump on pole-sitter Hamilton and was ahead as the field approached the first braking zone. He had the corner and all the time in the world to pick his braking point but left it a little too late.

    A massive lock-up sent Rosberg wide at Turn 2, destroying his tyres in the process. Hamilton retook the lead and never looked back, while his team-mate battled back from a first-lap stop for fresh rubber to claim an admirable second place.

    The race itself was nothing special, but it created headlines due to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine and the presence of divisive Russian president Vladimir Putin. The director did seem a little keen to catch him on camera, but at least he found something interesting that got fans talking.

    Off the track, the long-running saga of Fernando Alonso's future continued to float along in the background. The highlight was perhaps a quote he provided to reporters at the end of the month (h/t Autosport): "Let's wait and you will know much more. You want to know the taste before cooking the plate."

    Sebastian Vettel decided to risk it without "cooking the plate," leaving Red Bull during the Suzuka weekend. He would later be announced as Alonso's Ferrari replacement.

    But as huge as the driver moves were, a more serious issue was also coming to the fore. BBC News reported Caterham entered administration on October 21. They were followed less than a week later by Marussia. The two minnows were victims of F1's inequitable revenue distribution model, and their departure reduced the grid to just 18 cars.

    It's still unclear whether either will return.


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    Clive Rose/Getty Images

    Not so long ago, F1 seasons were over before the start of November and all the teams were back at their factories, beavering away on next year's car.

    This has not been the case in recent years, and in 2014 we were treated to three grands prix in this month.

    Nico Rosberg grabbed a dominant pole for the United States Grand Prix. Title rival Hamilton laboured to second place and looked unlikely to challenge on Sunday.

    But once again, his race craft was superior. Rosberg struggled to get his tyres working at the start of the second stint and Hamilton rapidly homed in. After a couple of half-hearted looks, he went down the inside into Turn 12 to seize the lead.

    The two W05s demonstrated frightening pace as they raced to the line; Fernando Alonso finished sixth, over a minute and a half behind.

    Hamilton took a 24-point lead into the penultimate race, the Brazilian Grand Prix, but again it was Rosberg doing the business on Saturday. The German secured his 10th pole of 2014and this time he made it count.

    Rosberg held off the quicker Hamilton all race long, never cracking under pressure or allowing his team-mate a sniff at overtaking. When the Brit did get a chanceattempting to pass during the pit stop phasehe spun off, losing any chance he had of victory.

    The gap between the pair was 17 points heading into the final race of the season. In any ordinary year that would be a substantial lead; with double points on offer in Abu Dhabi, it was anything but.

    The 18-car grid was boosted to 20 for the season finale thanks to a crowdfunding campaign and fire sale by Caterham. Will Stevens made his F1 debut, partnering regular driver Kamui Kobayashi.

    But the presence of the green cars was merely a sideshow to what had long been the main event of 2014the duel between the two silver arrows.

    Rosberg again put his Mercedes on pole, but Hamilton got the better start and pulled out a small but comfortable gap.

    How each man was affected by reliability was a hot topic all season long, so it was perhaps inevitable something would go wrong. Go wrong it did, and it was Rosberg's car which developed a problem.

    A loss of hybrid power left Rosberg unable to set competitive lap times, and he slowly dropped through the field and out of title contention. Hamilton held off the late attentions of Felipe Massa to win his 11th race of the year and his second world title.

    It wasn't the exciting, nail-biting climax we might have hoped for, but the right man won in the end.

    Amid all this drama and celebration, two men could have been forgiven had they failed to crack a smile. McLaren continued to dither over their choice of partner for the still-unannounced Fernando Alonso in 2015, leaving Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen sweating over their futures.

    Also working up a sweat was Red Bull team principal Christian Horner. Having spent half the season being sad about not winning and the other half complaining about it, November saw him threaten to force through a total de-restriction of engine development if Mercedes didn't agree to Renault and Ferrari's demands.

    Neither side gave in, and the row rumbles on.


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    Image Source/C. Ditty/Associated Press

    After 19 races on five continents in nine months, the season was finally over.

    McLaren's careful deliberations came to an end on December 11 with the announcement that Jenson Button would partner Fernando Alonso in 2015.

    Kevin Magnussen was demoted to test and reserve driver. It's likely the team will aim to find him a seat with a future Honda engine customer as soon as one becomes available.

    Lewis Hamilton added the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award to his F1 world title, Bernie Ecclestone's attempt to reintroduce V8 engines failed and Ferrari acquired a couple of highly experienced test driversEsteban Gutierrez and Jean-Eric Vergne.

    And the best news of all? No double points for 2015.

    Everyone is now full steam ahead for 2015except Marussia and Caterham.

    Let's hope all the staff affected by their departures find new, more secure jobs in or outside the sport before the new season kicks off.


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