F1 Power Rankings: Australian Grand Prix

As is our Thursday tradition on Formula One weekends, it’s time to bring back the Formula One power rankings.

For those who are new to the blog or our F1 coverage, prior to each race weekend, I rank the twenty-two drivers on the grid based on who I expect to be fast at that weekend’s race. Sometimes, it’s based on momentum. Sometimes, it’s based on past results at that circuit. Always, though, it’s based on speed.

#1 Lewis Hamilton
Since I’m not yet sold on Williams until qualifying on Saturday (early Saturday morning for us in Canada), Lewis gets the first pole position in the Power Rankings: “I think we’re as ready as we can be for Melbourne and I’m more fired up than ever. With all the changes within the sport and the hard work that’s been going on within the team, I believe this can be our year to really show what we’re capable of. That’s not to take anything away from our opposition, who will be incredibly tough to beat as always, but I feel like I’m equipped with the tools I need to succeed.”

#2 Felipe Massa
Old Phil leaves Ferrari for Williams and gets a championship calibre car. I believe you can find a picture of that in the dictionary next to irony: “I love Melbourne, it’s a fantastic place and a really good atmosphere. The people there really love racing and Formula 1 and so are always really welcoming towards us. I like the track and it’s quite a challenging circuit.”

f1-nico-rosberg-helmet-2014#3 Nico Rosberg
As good as the W05 was in pre-season testing, Britney is still tempering expectations ahead of the first race: “Overall, I think our winter testing programme went better than expected. Having said that, the first Grand Prix is the first real opportunity to judge how well we have done against our competition. Pre-season doesn’t tell the full story, especially this year with the new regulations.”

#4 Nico Hulkenberg
Let me just say that I absolutely love that The Hulk has the Villeneuve/Senna #27. Definitely a fitting driver for the number: “The cars are different compared to last year: the corner speeds are lower because there is less downforce and the engine behaviour is quite different. So it’s a new challenge and it’s difficult to tell just from testing how it will feel during a race weekend.”

#5 Fernando Alonso

#6 Kimi Raikkonen

#7 Valtteri Bottas
#BO77AS talks about the changing conditions drivers can expect in Albert Park: “I am really looking forward to going to Melbourne… We will finally get to see where every team’s performance is. The track improves a lot throughout the weekend because it’s not a permanent race track which means that we have more grip each time we go out and so you have to make the right set-up changes for each session.”

f1-jenson-button-helmet-2013#8 Jenson Button
JB basically parrots all the talking points that the press will use this weekend. Don’t need to watch the preview shows because he just covered it all off: “I think this year’s Australian Grand Prix is going to be an absolutely fascinating sporting contest. Even with stable regulations, Melbourne is usually unpredictable. This year, I don’t think anybody knows quite what to expect – will we see more than half the field at the end of the race? Will we see good, close racing? Will the pecking order pan out as we expect? Those are all questions that we’ve yet to see answered, and part of what makes for such a fun weekend.”

#9 Sebastian Vettel
In the first draft of the power rankings, the four-time defending World Drivers’ Champion was not in the top ten. That’s not an indictment of him so much as it is of Renault: ” We didn’t do as much running as we would have liked in testing this year, so we have work to do in Melbourne, but it will be good to get to the first race. It’s hard to know where we are; it’s fair to say that we’re not the favourites to win and we have to catch up with others that have completed more mileage, but we’ll do our best with the great people that we have working for the team.”

f1-kevin-magnussen-helmet-2014#10 Kevin Magnussen
Magnussen the Younger talks about his focus for early in the season: “There’s no substitute for being in the car – and there’s so much for me to still learn about driving a Formula 1 as close to the limit as possible while still focusing on tyre management, fuel-saving and the controls and switches we operate from the cockpit.”

#11 Sergio Perez
Interestingly, Checo gives us a look behind the wheel at the changes inside the cockpit this season: “There are more things to do in terms of managing the systems on the car so it’s more complicated than last year. The pre-season testing has given us enough time to get to know the new systems so I don’t foresee any issue come the first race.”

#12 Daniel Ricciardo
The new Australia in the Austrian team explains why he likes street circuits: “Full-time racing circuits tend to be very smooth and have plenty of grip. You don’t get that with a street circuit: at the start of the weekend they’re pretty dirty and gradually they clean up as cars sweep the racing line and put down rubber in the braking zones. It’s nice to feel the track evolve underneath your car and know that it’s going to get quicker throughout each session.”

#13 Adrian Sutil
Yo, Adrian wants to talk about fuel: “Also the 100 kg of fuel will see nervous faces on the pit walls. We were able to gain experience regarding the fuel management during testing, but over a race distance everything has to come together flawlessly. It will be a lottery as to who will finish the race in front, and the excitement will be extremely high.”

#14 Esteban Gutierrez
Steve is just looking to get back into the rhythm of racing: “This is an opportunity for everyone, and it’s my role to extract the most out of the tools I’m given by the team. It has been challenging to adapt to the new cars and rules, but now we come to the first race and everything has to settle down.”

#15 Jules Bianchi
Jules talks about the challenges of being the small fish in a big pond: “It has not been easy for a small team like ours as we do not have the same resources as the bigger teams, but I think we can be proud of the job that we have done in comparison and now I am looking forward to delivering some reward for that hard work. Our first objective for Melbourne is to enjoy a reliable race but I hope we can create some opportunity for ourselves along the way.”

#16 Max Chilton
Max the Axe is just ridiculously excited about this season: “I didn’t think much could come close to the feeling I had making my Grand Prix debut last season, but I’m every bit as excited one year on as we head to Australia for the first round of the championship… Personally, I’m ready to get my teeth into the races.”

#17 Jean-Eric Vergne

f1-kamui-kobayashi-helmet-2014#18 Kamui Kobayashi
Kobayashi Maru is back and is looking forward to taking the wheel again: “Obviously for me this is my first race back, and I’m really pleased it’s with Caterham. I guarantee that they are working as hard as anyone else to have a good year in 2014 and I’ve been very impressed with how determined they are to succeed. They have a very good base to work from in Leafield, so there’s no reason we can’t have a good year.”

#19 Romain Grosjean

#20 Daniil Kvyat

f1-marcus-ericsson-helmet-2014#21 Marcus Ericsson
The Swedish rookie is stoked but he still has much to learn: “By the end of the tests our reliability was best of the Renault teams and we ran through a race sim, including the formation lap procedure, starts and pitstops, so with the mileage we completed in both Bahrain tests, we’re as ready as we can be. I’ve also been back at the factory since leaving Bahrain and been driving the Melbourne track on the sim which means it’ll only take a lap or two for me to get up to speed when we’re there.”

#22 Pastor Maldonado

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