The turn of the year always signals a change in perspective for Formula 1 fans. The events of the previous season have been fully digested and consigned to history as attention turns to the forthcoming campaign. The motorsport season may have already started with the Dakar Rally but for Formula 1 fans in particular the uncomfortable period of limbo between the New Year and pre-season testing has just begun. During this time we all seem to turn into oracles – speculating about who will succeed, flounder and impress in the coming months. Of course nobody knows exactly what will happen, but here we take a look at some of things that we can expect to see (or would like to see) in the 2015 Formula 1 season.
Williams to win a race
The 40 hp boost that Mercedes have reportedly gained during the winter reinforces the expectation that the German manufacturer will back up its maiden Constructors’ Championship in 2015. However, it might not be as plain sailing as last year. Williams is entering 2015 on the front foot having recorded eight podiums last year, suggesting that they are ready and capable to win a race this season. As the other teams contend with transition periods and lineup changes, Williams is heading into the year with plenty of momentum. Despite being a reserved character Valtteri Bottas was ruthlessly quick in the middle part of the season and is arguably the key to the operation. On several occasions he was the only driver capable of getting close to matching the pace of Messrs Hamilton and Rosberg, most notably in Russia. He has already been hallmarked for a maiden Grand Prix win – perhaps that time will come in 2015.
It is highly unlikely that Williams will win a grand prix by defeating Mercedes on outright pace, but if they put themselves within touching distance then they will be first to react when the Mercedes duo suffer from problems (as exhibited by Daniel Ricciardo on three occasions last year). Despite being quick the Mercedes hybrids aren’t invincible, so anything is possible with a dash of luck and two drivers that are ready to poach. It really has been a remarkable turnaround for Williams, so few would be disappointed to see one of Formula 1’s most respected constructors re-enter the winner’s circle.
An end to fast-tracking
This one is more of a dead cert than a prediction. Toro Rosso’s signing of Dutch karting/Formula 3 sensation Max Verstappen divided opinion across the board when it was announced to the world. Without even having to finish his first year of car racing, the son of former Benetton driver Jos was snapped up by the Red Bull junior team as a full time driver in single seater racing’s toughest category. He’ll be last of his kind, though. This week the FIA announced the new criteria for the application of the Formula 1-standard superlicence, which includes a three year points system that each driver must pass. The reform also means that drivers have to spend at least two years in car racing, so the fast-tracking of teenage hotshots into the big time will be a thing of the past.
Ferrari to struggle again
Perhaps the saddest thing about Ferrari’s hopes for the 2015 Formula 1 season is that even the team don’t seem to believe that they can win races. In the wake of a series of managerial changes swept through the team at the end of the 2014 campaign, chairman Sergio Marchionne admitted that the next year would be a tough one, and that development of the new car had already started later than expected (presumably because of the shake-up). Even their fans have resigned to the general belief that perhaps Ferrari just aren’t good enough at the moment. Their dismal 2014 season was only lifted by the stellar performances of Fernando Alonso – otherwise it was a stagnated, hit-and-miss year in which the regulation changes left Ferrari in an almost perplexed state. Their lack of power, especially on the low-downforce circuits, was telling.
With the talismanic Alonso departed to McLaren and the management still getting to grips with their new roles, it seems as though Ferrari will break into the new season more sheepishly than others. However, with a galvanised Sebastian Vettel looking to make a new start and benefit from the hardships of his final year at Red Bull, Ferrari could manage to yield a peppering of top five results or even podiums towards the end of the season, but it still won’t be to the standard that the loyal Tifosi expect.
Lotus to improve
The sheer power advantage that Mercedes’ hybrid unit had over the opposition in 2014 left the Renault-powered teams looking decidedly average, and none more so than erstwhile race winners-turned backmarkers Lotus. This year the British team has vowed to return to its 2013 form, having sealed a long-term engine deal with Mercedes that will deliver a faster, more reliable package. Even with the ‘engine unfreeze’ loophole that would bring the other engine suppliers closer to Mercedes, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Lotus fight for points with their fellow Merc customers Force India.
The driver line-up is unchanged for 2015, and while Pastor Maldonado’s reputation saw him take the butt-end of abuse from sections of the sport’s fanbase there were some flashes of excellence towards the end of the season. If he can continue to build his confidence there’s no doubt that he will be able to significantly improve on his two championship points from 2014.
There has been recent scepticism as to whether or not Lotus will even make the grid this year, after their official entry was listed as ‘subject to confirmation’ in September. The team, however, seem to be upbeat about the forthcoming season, and all the clues suggest that their results will improve to at least see them fighting in the midfield on a more regular basis.
And what we’d like to see…
Positive news on Jules Bianchi and Michael Schumacher
2014 was a difficult year for the entire Formula 1 community. As we begin the new year, both Jules Bianchi and Michael Schumacher continue to fight their toughest battles yet. With the full support of the sport’s fanbase behind them, we can only hope that 2015 brings some positive news for two of Formula 1’s best loved drivers.
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