It’s almost that time of year again, when motor sport fans across the UK set their alarms for ridiculously early times just to watch some blokes drive around a track for a couple of hours. It sounds pointless if you’re not interested in that sort of thing, but here is why 2015 is the year that might change your mind.
This season already has the potential to produce some interesting races. At the time this article is being written, the second pre-season test is almost at an end and the first race in Melbourne draws ever closer (Sunday 15th March). But what have we learned so far?
Most of this article amounts to educated speculation, as it is difficult to discern relative speeds when teams do not publish their fuel loads in testing. That said, it is reasonably safe to assume that Mercedes remain the team to beat. After their stellar performance in 2014, the Brackley-based unit look likely to continue this form into the next season. They may not be setting headline times, but Mercedes were posting second-fastest lap times on harder compound tyres than the rest of the field. This can only mean that the team have successfully avoided complacency. The most obvious thing we can look forward to therefore, is the continuation of the Hamilton/Rosberg rivalry.
Hopefully the battle will intensify between the rest of the teams competing for first place. Last year Red Bull were the only team to reach the top step of the podium besides the Mercedes duo.
One team that oozes potential is Ferrari. Unfortunately, last season was one to forget for the Italian outfit as it was their first year without a race win since 1993. However, this time around, they seem to have got to grips with the new regulations and are repeatedly posting fastest laps in testing. Although they may not be quicker than Mercedes in the bigger picture, things look promising for the sport’s wealthiest team who have predicted that they will win at least two races this season. An added bonus is the arrival of Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari; he will undoubtedly hope to emulate the success of fellow German, Michael Schumacher.
2015 will be a big year for McLaren fans too. McLaren and Honda are back together and so too are McLaren and Alonso. With Honda as their engine supplier during the 1988 season, McLaren won 15 out of 16 races and Ron Dennis will be desperate to achieve those figures once again. The latter relationship was not quite as harmonious. Alonso and McLaren had a rocky affair when Lewis Hamilton was in the team, but now both parties are looking to put the past behind them. F1 2015 has certainly received a gift: the reemergence of the greatest partnership the sport has ever seen, joined by arguably the greatest driver of the current generation. Unfortunately McLaren has faced endless issues during pre-season testing. This was predictable as Honda entered the sport one year after 2014’s significant regulation chances and the other engine suppliers therefore have a head start. This season will probably not be ‘the one’ for McLaren, but that goal may be achievable in the near future and victory will taste particularly sweet with Honda on board.
The rest of the field appear to have taken steps forward. Sauber and Lotus have progressed from last year, although it would have been difficult for them to be any worse than they were in 2014. Red Bull and Williams have not made a great deal of noise during testing, but they will both be trying mightily hard to close the gap to Mercedes. Force India may face problems as they opted to run their 2014 car during the first two tests while further developing the new car.
The emergence of young driver talent will be particularly interesting. Daniil Kvyat (20) has joined Red Bull while their sister team, Torro Rosso, has taken on Carlos Sainz Jr (20) and Max Verstappen (17), son of former driver Jos Verstappen. The stern-faced 17 year old has already been hailed as a special talent and a possible champion of the future.
We can also look forward to the exciting addition of the Mexican Grand Prix, held at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. This race has been absent from the calendar for 23 years and F1 will certainly benefit from a return to such a historic track.
If 2014 wasn’t enough, 2015 looks set to provide an even greater spectacle with exciting driver lineups, the potential for even closer racing than last year, and an extra race. If you’re still reading this article and haven’t already cleared your schedule for 5:00am on 15th March, what are you waiting for?