Formula 1 2015 - A Preview
Guest blog by Henry Kelsall
At 1:30 am, UK time, Free Practice 1 begins in Melbourne Australia and 20 (hopefully) cars will hit the track to begin the new season. Ahead of Free Practice, and indeed the race, here is a preview of what we can expect this weekend....
Mercedes are clearly leading the way once again, the W06 showing lightning fast pace in the final test in the hands of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. Indeed a lot of people are doubting anyone will get near the Silver Arrows and are placing their bets once again on it being a private battle between Rosberg and Hamilton, as it was in 2014. However, Hamilton will no bout face a much stiffer challenge for Rosberg, who today said 'I am not yet at my peak in Formula 1'. Rosberg pushed Hamilton hard for the title last year, expect him to do so again this year as he seeks to win his first world championship.
The battle behind Mercedes is one of intrigue. Williams, Ferrari and Red Bull all look to be fairly close together, with perhaps Williams just about leading that pack. Williams had a very successful pre-season and have high hopes for this year. The FW37 looked like a very good car out on the track, so expect them to be at the sharp end again, as they were last year. Both Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa are very confident that they have the car that, given the right circumstances, will bring them and the team race wins in 2015
They should be in front of Ferrari, who have made gains of their own over the winter. The SF15-T looks a lot more driveable and responsive and the Ferrari power unit sounds better and is rumored to have a lot more power than last years. Ferrari appear to have improved the whole package, so they should certainly have a better season in 2015 than in 2014. A stronger season for both Kimi Raikkonen and new Ferrari recruit Sebastian Vettel is expected, both drivers currently relishing the new atmosphere at the Scuderia.
Red Bull however, whilst having what appears to be yet another good chassis in the RB11,will be worried at the current lack of performance from the Renault power unit. Whilst it is more reliable, over the three tests it has not shown the performance gains the French manufacturer hoped it would, although their first test was compromised due to 'stupid little things'. Expect though both Kvyat and Ricciardo do be right up their for Red Bull.
Behind the top four, an interesting battle rages for the remaining spots. Lotus are looking a lot stronger than in 2014 and both Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado are confident 2015 will bring them a much better season. The E23 was reliable and fairly speedy, although on track it did look a bit ragged. I would be very surprised however if they didn't have a better season than 2014. Who knows, maybe they can even claim a couple of podiums along the way?
Force India arrived late to the party, with the VJM08 only running for two and a half days at the final pre season test. Nico Hulkenburg and Sergio Perez were very pleased at how reliable the car was though and expect the team to recover well. Its difficult to judge where they will be this weekend, but expect them to find their feet soon.
With Sauber currently involved in a legal battle, its aims to solve whether Giedo Van De Garde should race for them this year instead of either Marcus Ericsson or Felipe Nasr, discussing their possible on track performance has sadly become a sub-story. However the C34 does look to be better than the C33, but all the team can really hope for is a season which ends in a decent handful of points. Its only going to get tougher now though, for the Sauber team...
Toro Rosso are fielding two inexperienced drivers in Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr. However, both are incredibly talented and have hardly put a foot wrong throughout testing. The STR10 also looks to be quite a handy little racer as well, so expect a sold season from Toro Rosso, but not an amazing one .
McLaren had a woeful pre-season, bar one day during the final test where Jenson Button managed 101 laps. The car looked driveable and solid on track but with the constant stream of issues, courtesy of its new partnership with Honda, it is very hard to predict anything but a slow start to the season for the team. Fernando Alonso is missing Australia due to his crash in testing, so Kevin Magnussen (pictured) will partner Button for the season opener. For McLaren, getting both cars to the finish would probably be a major achievement. However with the team remaining confident, look out for them as the season goes on. They could be a real force to be reckoned with soon...
Finally, Manor have pulled of a remarkable recovery, the former Marussia team reaching the first race with a modified 2014 MR03 and have signed Will Stevens for the season and Roberto Merhi for the opening rounds of 2015. With the car still essentially being a 2014 chassis and being powered by the 2014 Ferrari engine, they will no doubt be at the back, at least until the 2015 car is ready (which will have the new Ferrari engine). However, what they have done is remarkable and it is a real credit to the team that they have survived. I think I speak for everyone in the F1 world when I wish them all the luck in the world, lets hope they can have a half decent season! #ForzaJules
Free Practice One coverage at 1 am on Sky Sports F1, with Free Practice Two coverage starting at 5:15 am. Formula 1 is back folks. Here's to a great 2015!
This was a guest post by Henry Kelsall, please follow him on Twitter