The testing’s done, the teams are arriving in Melbourne, and the F1 paddock is gearing up for the first race of the season. Testing gives a bit of insight into who’s going to be leading the pack, and who’s going to be left chasing behind, but it won’t be until Saturday that we see the new cars being driven to their limit during qualifying.
It is fair to say one team dominated last season. By winning 16 of the races, Mercedes set a new record for most wins in a season by a team and many F1 insiders have suggested they’re also going to be front runners this season. What’s more, Mercedes have seemingly had the best winter testing. The car seems to have been improved, potentially more than even their closest rivals of last year Red Bull, is more reliable than last year and it would be a massive surprise for anything other than a silver arrow to cross the line first in Australia.
Having one dominant team though should hopefully not lead to a boring season. Last season Nico Rosberg pushed Lewis Hamilton all the way to the season finale in Abu Dhabi, as the team-mates relationship was pushed to breaking point. However, with 11 wins to 5 last season in Hamilton’s favour, including 6 wins from the last 7 races, the Brit will be confident he can beat his team-mate again. Rosberg was however generally quicker over one lap and if he can transfer that pace to race day, we are set for another season of close racing between the Mercedes pair; probably too close for the Mercedes management team!
One team that have had also had a good pre-season is Ferrari. Their engine is probably the most improved since last season helping both the team from Maranello and their customer Sauber too. Ferrari will look to challenge for race wins after being winless last season for the first time since 1993. They will be led by 4 times world champion Sebastian Vettel, who had his first ever winless season (in a full season) too. After facing questions about whether he could win in a slower car throughout his title-winning dominance of the sport for 4 seasons, Vettel did not answer these last season, and his team mate Daniel Ricciardo even won 3 races in the same car. Vettel will look to out-pace his team-mate, a former World Champion in Kimi Raikkonen, to give his critics some answers in this coming season.
Throughout the off-season, the driver’s merry-go round was left spinning endlessly by Ron Dennis and McLaren. Their indecision left the grid with two empty-seats for most of the winter. In what was probably one of the worst kept secrets of all time, one seat had gone to 2-time World Champion Fernando Alonso whilst the other was going to be given to either Jenson Button or Kevin Magnussen. It went to Button but ironically Magnussen will not miss out. This is due to injury sustained by Alonso in a testing crash. After being knocked unconscious by a heavy impact and suffering memory-loss as a result, the Spaniard spent 3 days in hospital. Whilst his crash remains unexplained, it is certain he will not drive a McLaren at the season opener, but he probably won’t be missing much. After leaving all F1 fans salivating at the prospect of reuniting two F1 greats in McLaren’s new partnership with Honda, the Woking-based team have had a poor winter testing with limited running due to the problematic new Honda power-unit, and are at the bottom of the timing charts from testing. Luckily for them though, they have the most experienced driver’s line up on the grid, and one where the battle between Alonso and Button will undoubtedly be thrilling to watch.
So as the 5 red lights go out and it’s ‘Go, Go, Go!’ in Melbourne, the 2015 season promises to be a season full of thrills and spills that will have everyone on the edge of their seats until the Abu Dhabi grand prix in November.
Photo Credit: Morio