As one of the most reliable and best signs of the coming spring, the F1 season 2015 kicks off on 15 March in Melbourne, Australia. So what’s new and what’s to expect in F1 2015?
Starting on the mechanical side, none of the rather small changes for the 2015 season come even close to the radical change that took place in 2014. Unfortunately that probably means that the engine sound will tend to be the same as in 2014 as well. Chassis have also largely remained similar except for some added protection around the driver’s head following Jules Bianchi’s dreadful accident at the end of the 2014 season.
On the regulatory side, many will be pleased to note that the double points rule for the last race of the season will no longer be applied. We will also see the introduction in some yellow flag phases of something called the virtual safety car, and this year in qualifying, 5 cars will be eliminated in Q1 and Q2 respectively, leaving 10 of the total 20 cars allowed for qualifying to Q 3.
Button on McLaren and Hamilton on a very similar looking 2015 Mercedes – why change a good thing?
So what’s with the teams? That remains to be seen although pre-season testing gives reason to think that at least the start of the season will be as dominated by Mercedes as last season was. The MB driver line-up is unchanged with Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, and both have done very well in testing. Behind Mercedes we will of course find the usual suspects, including Ferrari that by hiring Sebastian Vettel were behind the biggest transfer of the season (Kimi Räikkönen has kept the second seat), Red Bull with last season’s big surprise Daniel Ricciardo who will be joined by the upgraded ex-Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kwjat, and McLaren that has welcomed Fernando Alonso and kept Jenson Button. Looking at budgets it is also these teams that lead the pack, from the largest (Red Bull / EUR 425m) to the smallest (McLaren / EUR 230m).
Vettel trying out his new car, and Ricciardo doing the same in a heavily masked Red Bull
Other teams this season include the middle pack with Lotus (Grosjean/Maldonado, EUR 160m) and Williams (Massa/Bottas, EUR 150m) and the ones that at least on paper will struggle to keep up: Sauber that have hired Swedish Marcus Ericsson alongside Brazilian Felipe Nasr (EUR 85m), Toro Rosso (Verstappen/Sainz jr., EUR 80m) and Force India (Perez/Hulkenberg, EUR 75m). Oh yes, and Marussia, who against all expectations are somehow still there but have yet to present a car but say they will run with an adapted -14 car in Melbourne and present the -15 car later this season. Pozjivem uvidim, as the Russians would say (those who live will see).
From top left: Hulkenberg (Force India), Verstappen (Toro Rosso) and Marcus Ericsson on Sauber, that kindly even adapted the color of the car to him!
Will the Mercedes dominance continue in 2015? Will Sebastian Vettel adapt as well to life with Ferrari as Schumi did (albeit after a few years)? Which of the smaller teams will surprise on the upside? All those questions and many more will seek to be answered in the 2015 season starting next weekend!