This week marks the start of the 2015 Formula 1 season, with Melbourne’s Albert Park once more playing host to the campaign’s opening round.
In contrast to this time last year, very little looks to have changed within the F1 circus, with the cars relatively identical to last season’s and continue to be powered by their turbocharged 1.6-litre hybrid powertrains.
The talking points ahead of the 2015 F1 season, then, look to be the drivers themselves, as well as winter testing and the re-emergence of a team thought lost.
Whilst for most teams it was straight into the first test in Jerez, Spain in early February, it was a rather stalled start from both Force India and Lotus, with the former missing the first chance to benchmark completely and the Enstone-based team not appearing until day three.
Meanwhile, new Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel got to grips with his new car immediately and topped the times on day one in Jerez, with Sauber also enjoying early success in Spain, even topping the time sheets on the second day. However, it was the car from Maranello that looked to be strongest in the initial outing.
Rather worryingly and despite much excitement around the renewed partnership, McLaren-Honda through consistent engine trouble failed to deliver a fully representative time in either Jerez or Barcelona. It took several days of testing before veteran Jenson Button surpassed 100 laps in a single session and the team admits it will be hard to compete at the top until the European leg of the season starts in May.
After things had finished up in Barcelona, there’s probably no surprise that Mercedes-AMG look to once more be the team to beat, if that’s even possible. Williams are also looking strong, as are Red Bull and Ferrari could very well stir matters up in 2015, but it is the Stuttgart outfit that will be the dominant force from the off if testing has said anything.
Fernando Alonso’s absence from Melbourne
A story that perhaps attained the most attention in winter testing was Fernando Alonso’s accident in Barcelona which left the Spaniard shook up with a hefty concussion and will miss the opener in Australia.
Varying reports made for sketchy reading over the condition the two-time champion, with some outlets even spreading outlandish rumours that the new McLaren man had lost 20 years of his memory and believed that he was still racing karts. But with McLaren giving mixed messages over the extent of Alonso’s injuries, there’s still no clear idea of how bad the crash was for the former Renault driver.
Alonso will miss the season opener in Melbourne and is currently getting his fitness ready for the demanding second race in Malaysia, with doctors advising his absence in Australia due to scares of second concussion syndrome, which can be fatal.
The return of Manor Marussia
It looked all over for the team that became the first of the ‘new’ outfits, with the team formally known as Marussia missing the final three races of the 2014 season and going through many strains that led to a mass auction of parts and instruments from their factory. But, boss of energy firm Ovo, Stephen Fitzpatrick, has stepped in, a man with both the money to fund the team and the passion to run one.
One-time driver for the now demised Caterham team, Will Stevens, will be at the helm of one Manor Marussia car, with the exciting young Brit to be joined by Spaniard Roberto Merhi, who raced last season in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series and also has F1 experience with three free practice sessions with Caterham.
F1 musical chairs 2015
Every pre-season is the same in Formula 1; a handful of drivers shift about, with new racers also entering the fray, and the driver line-up for 2015 has given us a rather fresh start to the campaign.
Two big changes were confirmed before the 2014 season had even finished, as Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso both shifting into new seats; the German taking the Spaniard’s vacated Ferrari and Alonso returning to McLaren. Both moves were deemed risky, and whilst Vettel’s move seems to be paying off after testing, Alonso’s decision to go back to Woking may not have been too bright.
As Vettel moves onto Maranello, Red Bull have acquired Daniel Kvyat after the Russian spent just a single season with junior team Torro Rosso. Red Bull team principle Christian Horner believes Kvyat is the “real deal”, but still has a lot to prove after his promotion to the big leagues of Formula 1.
Another surprising announcement was 17-year-old Max Verstappen, son of former driver Jos, being named as Kvyat’s replacement at Torro Rosso, becoming the youngest ever Formula 1 driver in the process. The Dutchman is joined by son of WRC legend Carlos Sainz, Carlos Jr, who is another alumni of the Formula Renault 3.5 Series.
It’s all change at Sauber, meanwhile, with Brazilian Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson joining the team that failed to score a single point in 2014. Both have paid for their drives through sponsorship, however, and could be hard-pressed to offer any top-10 finishes in 2015.
Special mention: Schumacher and Bianchi
It’s been over a year now since legend of Formula 1 Michael Schumacher had his skiing incident, with the German slowly recovering at his home with his family. We have not been issued any information on the current condition of the seven-time World Champion, but our thoughts are with him in his recovery.
Our thoughts are also with French racer Jules Bianchi who is currently in a coma following his crash at the Japanese Grand Prix last October. The driver who raced for Marussia last season is currently described as stable but critical as he remains in his coma in France after being moved from Japan in November.