So another year of Formula One is upon us, and we’re very excited! What’s in store this season? Well with every season there is usually a thick current of headline stories and fascinating subtext, let’s have a look at what we think will happen.
Predictably, Mercedes have turned up at Melbourne with what appears to be the fastest car by some distance. Although the fuel loads are difficult to assess, the general consensus is that the Mercedes cars are around 1 second per lap quicker (an absolute mile in F1) than their nearest rivals. It also appears that they are now on top of their reliability issues too, covering many more laps than anyone else in preseason testing and only using one engine in the process. Will the season come down to another showdown between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg?
Best of the rest?
It could be another season of predicting who will come second in the constructor’s championship. Here’s what we think based on testing and today’s practice sessions.
Williams: Once again sporting the distinctive Martini colour scheme and utilizing the very strong Mercedes engine, Williams are likely to be on form again. Valteri Bottas was very impressive last season, whilst Felipe Massa was mostly unlucky. It seems like Williams are remembering their winning ways, we wouldn’t be surprised to see a race win from them this year (if Mercedes slip up!).
Red Bull: The local Milton Keynes team have had quite an understated winter (apart from the fascinating camo colour scheme!). They appear to be there or thereabouts, but they may struggle due to Adrian Newey splitting his attention with Red Bull Applied Technologies as well as the race team. All eyes will be on relative rookie Daniil Kvyat to see whether he can continue his impressive start to life in F1. Whatever happens, its likely that Daniel Riccardo won’t stop smiling.
Ferrari: Is the prancing horse back on its feet? New team principle Maurizio Arrivabene was very clearly playing down the chances of the Italian Marque and stating that 2015 was a year for transition. Despite this, Ferrari seem to have found some form in comparison to last year and were setting some of the top times in testing. Sebastian Vettel has moved over from Red Bull and much of the technical team has changed at Ferrari, so it should be interesting. Expect a marked improvement, but not race wins in our opinion.
McHonda: Doomed to failure?
Without even touching on Fernando Alonso’s pre-season accident, the season is already looking like it will be unimaginably long for the British-Japanese fusion. They have been consistently unreliable and are not currently looking too quick either. Although the sound of engine is arguably one of the best, the apparent lack of power is going to hurt them. This, coupled with very restricted engine development for Honda could turn out to be an unpleasant combination. Not something that Jenson Button or Fernando Alonso fans would like to hear.
Lotus: Is “Team Enstone” going to be resurgent?
It wasn’t long ago that the Enstone-based team was the works Renault team, winning world championships with Fernando Alonso and later challenging for wins with Kimi Raikonnen. Looking back to its Benetton years and beyond, the team is one of the most successful in F1 today. However, last season was woeful with the underpowered and underperforming Renault engine. The whole season was summed up by the following tweet at last year’s finale in Abu Dhabi.
However, things are looking up. Rather than propping up the wrong end of the table, it’s likely they will occupy the midfield and poach points where available.
Sauber: Four drivers, two seats?
It seems absolutely barmy that a qualified lawyer, such as Sauber Team Principal Monish Kaltenborn could allow such a situation to occur. I’m certain that there is a significant backstory that we’re not fully aware of, but having four drivers contracted seems a very strange scenario. At the moment, we’re still not sure who will be driving for Sauber for tomorrow’s qualifying session. Filipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson are the team’s two ‘official’ drivers, and took part in today’s practice but Giedo van der Garde is contesting his position in the team through the courts. Separately, Adrian Sutil is launching his own legal challenge but appears to be looking for a settlement rather than a race seat. A final decision is due tomorrow, which could either end up in a settlement, van der Garde replacing a named driver or even Sauber’s assets being seized.
Manor: Back from the dead?
Despite being put into administration and the beginnings of liquidation, Manor/Marussia is hoping to be on the grid this weekend. With new backers and new drivers, you would love for the underdogs to put on a great display. The likelihood however is that it will be an uphill struggle to just be on the grid come Sunday. They still haven’t been able to fire up their new car yet, as all of their data was wiped as part of the preparations for liquidation. It could be a fairytale story, but I wouldn’t bet on it going smoothly.
If you want to be close to the action, but can’t be in Melbourne, pop in to driver an F1 car around Albert Park when you can. Come and experience just how challenging 200+MPH in a Formula One car can be!