But will we see another 2014 season this year? It is a very strong likelihood. We won’t know the actual pecking order until this Saturday after the first Qualifying session for the Australian Grand Prix. In testing through February and March, it looks like the Mercedes cars could be as much as one-second per lap faster than the closest competition – which seems to be the Williams-Mercedes. To put that into perspective, at the end of the race in Melbourne if Mercedes win, they could finish over a minute ahead of the closest competition. However, Formula One has a habit of springing many a surprise, so here we go with what is new in 2015.
Mercedes: Lewis Hamilton (GBR) / Nico Rosberg (GER)
Red Bull Racing-Renault: Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) / Daniil Kvyat (RUS)
Williams-Mercedes: Felipe Massa (BRZ) / Valteri Bottas (FIN)
Ferrari: Sebastian Vettel (GER) / Kimi Raikkonen (FIN)
McLaren-Honda: Fernando Alonso (ESP) / Jenson Button (GBR)
Force India-Mercedes: Nico Hulkenberg (GER) / Sergio Perez (MEX)
Scuderia Toro Rosso-Renault: Max Verstappen (DUT) / Carlos Sainz Jr. (ESP)
Lotus-Mercedes: Romain Grosjean (FRE) / Pastor Maldonado (VEN)
Manor Marussia – Ferrari: Will Stevens (GBR) / Roberto Mehri (ESP)
Sauber-Ferrari: Felipe Nasr (BRZ) / Marcus Ericsson (SWE)
Mercedes: The team who took 16 of 19 race wins in 2014, will be the team to beat in 2015. Fully expect the team to dominate the podium and further race wins throughout the season. The driver title will likely be an exclusive affair between the Silver Arrows pair.
Red Bull Racing: The only team apart from Mercedes to win last year, enter the first season without their star Chief Designer Adrian Newey working exclusively on F1. The car is again however good aerodynamically, but is lacking in horsepower from the Renault engine. Ricciardo is expected to lead with eyes on Kvyat promoted to the main Red Bull team after just one season in F1.
Williams: Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, 2014 was the rebirth of the Grove team. The only thing missing was a race win and is the must-have goal for 2015. Whether they can compete close to the Mercedes team, we have to wait and see, but expect drivers Bottas and Massa to keep them in check.
Ferrari: Under new management in Maurizio Arrivabene who has already instilled a new vision and sense of optimism in the team. Testing pace looks good and they are targeting two race wins in 2015 after a winless 2014. The duo of Vettel and Raikkonen should encourage a more collaborative environment too.
McLaren: No, it isn’t 1992 again. McLaren and Honda are back together and so begins a brand new partnership and era for McLaren. Ever since Mercedes went their own way McLaren have not been successful. So to have a works-engine deal again is crucially important. 2015 will be a development year, but with Alonso and Button signed on for multiple years, I suspect they will come good by the season’s end.
Force India: Whilst they were late debuting their new car and ony making it to the final winter test, it was immediately quick and reliable out of the box. They are limited on budget however, and likely to be at the mid-field for much of the season.
Toro Rosso: The youngest driver paring on the grid will be what most will focus on, but they are there doing what they are supposed to do – be the development team for the main Red Bull squad. Destined for mid-field mediocrity however.
Lotus: A new engine in Mercedes will likely result in a better year even if they kept with the same design in 2014. Testing however showed they have much better pace and reliability, so should be a return to form for the team who did win races in 2013. Fully expect them to return to regular points scoring finishes.
Manor Marussia: The team destined for the F1 scrapheap comes back with investment from OVO Energy founder Stephen Fitzpatrick and former Sainsbury’s CEO Justin King. They will start the season with a 2014 car adapted to suit the 2015 regulations, and introduce a new car during the season. It will be a tough year, but it is great to see them make the grid.
Sauber: If they score one point in 2015, it will be a better year than last year. The car might have the most boring livery ever to grace an F1 car, but it does look good in testing. Another to join the battle in the mid-field.
The much disliked double points ruling from last years final race has been scrapped along with the propsed standing starts following a safety car situtaion. In light of Jules Bianchi’s crash a virtual safety car system has been implemented that will force drivers to drastically reduce speeds through danger zones on the track – normally instigated should there be marshals on or near the race curcuit.
The engine manufacturers will be able to develop their power units during the season, but with each driver limited to just four units for use throyugh the enture year, reliability will remain the focus. Should further replacements be required, grid penalties and time penalties will be added according to a pre-determined list of criteria.
The weight of the car with driver has increased by 11kg, meaning the taller drivers won’t be disadvantaged and the shorter drivers won’t be resembling a rake this year.
So that is it. Lights are out this weekend in Melbourne and Sunday afternoons will ring loudly with the grunt of a hybrid V6. Okay, that will never get the excitement going…but for the petrolhead fans out there our off season is complete and it is time for the greatest race on Earth to begin once again.