F1 2015: The Contenders – Another Viewpoint
Preview written by Tamhas Woods at Motorsport24.com
After such a dominant campaign in Formula 1 last year, it is no surprise that team Mercedes is the clear favourite to storm to more title success in 2015. Although team Mercedes is well-placed to break the 900 horsepower ceiling, the improved understanding of development rules amongst the other construction teams may just even the field.
We currently live in a time that sees Formula One grow and develop, seemingly by the day, where ability lasts but dominance seldom does. Red Bull, arguably the closest thing to a contender that Mercedes presently has,
It was, ultimately, that finer understanding of the turbo V6 engine regulations which saw Mercedes score a famous 1-2. Mercedes’ domination notwithstanding, 2015 is set to be a season of revelations, a celebration of old and new F1 values.
Despite their apparent monopoly over F1, team Mercedes will know that any decision to rush the process of evolution in engines and design is always risky. Their accelerated development may have paid dividends with 16 race wins but there were always signs, particularly in Australia and Abu Dhabi, that the power unit, like any other, had a degree of fallibility.
The sheer speed of the engines largely concealed the power unit issues, but speed is nothing without skill. Mercedes boasts a healthy measure of each, making them a shoe-in for another constructor’s championship. Another 1-2 however, may not be so easily obtained given that other teams have much wider room for improvement. In 2015, driver quality will be a much more decisive factor.
Another potential problem for Mercedes is the high chance that the battle of Hamilton v Rosberg will continue into the new season. In the closing stages of 2014, the inter-team rivalry provided much entertainment and did not prove to be a detrimental factor. With a more even playing field in 2015, at least in terms of engine development prospects, this rivalry may be subdued in the interests of a successful constructor’s title defence.
Ultimately, the only enemy of Mercedes is complacency.
Motorsport24 verdict: A much closer call this time around, but Hamilton looks like a man full of confidence, and is quite rightly the hot tip to claim a third career title. We do however, fear for Rosberg’s podium prospects.
Big Red Machine
Sebastian Vettel’s move to Ferrari from Red Bull has much sentimental quality, but before the deposed former champion can once more be uttered in the same sentence as his boyhood hero Michael Schumacher, a certain degree of pride must be restored.
Vettel is renowned for having a similar Machiavellian streak on the circuit but he seldom needs to demonstrate it – pound for pound he is still arguably the most composed and skilled driver of the entire 2015 roster.
Team Ferrari undoubtedly has a vision for 2015 – only this month Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne stated his confidence that the construction team could compete effectively despite the latest car being at an earlier stage in development compared to other constructors.
Whether or not this is a simple ploy to force rival teams to underestimate Ferrari is a matter of opinion, but the partnership of Kimi Raikonnen with Sebastian Vettel is one which is showing promise ahead of the season opener in Melbourne two months from now.
Motorsport24 verdict: A surprise could well be in store, especially if Hamilton and Rosberg are prioritised equally once again. We are boldly tipping Vettel to prevent another Mercedes 1-2 and relegate Rosberg into third place come this November. It may well, however, be later on in the season when the results start coming in for Ferrari.
Form is temporary, class is permanent. Of all the construction teams, Red Bull were hit the hardest by this fact in 2014. While this proved the catalyst for Vettel’s departure, teammate Daniel Ricciardo enjoyed a superb season and finished third.
If nothing else, Red Bull will certainly not be short of confidence as they have retained the best non-Mercedes driver of 2014. Ricciardo’s performance at the 2014 U.S Grand Prix is testament to his natural ability in times of adversity, as he held off Felipe Massa and Valteri Bottas despite having an unsuitable power unit for the course.
With minimal changes to regulations, and the constructors aiming to reduce the horsepower deficit to Mercedes, Ricciardo is at an advantage. He is always eager to make the most of whatever ‘room for improvement’ exists and he will be a formidable foe.
Motorsport24 verdict: A narrow fourth placed finish for the Australian, he will run Rosberg extremely close in the battle for bronze.
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