They’re back. The 2015 Formula 1 Grand Prix season kicks off this weekend in Australia, with plenty of news and controversy to keep tongues wagging and eyes and ears popping.
Here, we describe the new team line-ups, add a little of analysis and opinion as to their chances this year, and provide the official F1 team web sites, twitter accounts and driver accounts to allow you to follow developments for what promises to be an exciting and (aside probably from Mercedes’ performance) unpredictable year of racing…
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The Full 2015 Formula One Team Line-Up (A-Z Team Order)
Analysis for 2015, Official Web Sites, and official Team and Driver Twitter Accounts
The prancing horse has the longest F1 history, and its win-free season of 2014 is something that Scuderia Ferrari, and their fanatical following, the Tifosi, will be desperate to forget, and get back to a winning streak. In typical Italian fashion, to help do this, there have been drastic clear-outs of staff, and a new team principal is at the helm.
It seems to have worked, at least from early indications. Ferrari appear from testing to have a much better powertrain, and a car that handles in a way that certainly Kimi Raikkonen likes. It seems competitive, and reliable, and importantly for Kimi, it has bite, and has a pointy front end when going into corners. The same Italian engine also seems to be doing a good job for the Sauber team in winter testing.
Although he struggled to perform as well as the inimitable Alonso last year, Kimi Raikonnen has been retained by Ferrari, who of course gave him his world championship drive in 2007 in the car pictured here. But he’ll need to perform better this year to keep his seat – and he may need to become a little more press-friendly if his performance slips.
This year though, he has a four-time world champion as a team-mate: Sebstian Vettel. Vettel will be keen to perform better than he did in 2014, being regularly outperformed by the impressive Daniel Ricciardo, and the German will be keen to be ‘top dog’ in the team if he possibly can.
- Sebastian Vettel doesn’t tweet!
- Kimi Raikkonen doesn’t tweet much | Follow @Kimi_Raikkonen
FORCE INDIA | @clubforce
A disappointing 2014 and fiscal worries meant Force India were late to join winter testing, but when they did, everything seemed to work well.
Their driver line-up remains the same: Nico Hulkenberg is alongside Mexican ‘Checko’ Sergio Perez.
So nothing really new to report here, but the team will be hoping for better results, and might hope to pinch the odd podium finish now and again when the circuit suits the car.
The reliability and extra grunt of Mercedes power may help to keep them ahead of competitors over the length of the season, and both drivers can perform well with a strong car on the right circuit.
Looking better over the winter. And with a Mercedes engine doing the work.
Remember Lotus shocked everyone with their win at the opening race of 2013 in Australia, and the 2015 car has shown promise in winter testing with good speed and fair reliability. 2014 is a season for them to forget in general.
Like Force India, the driver line-up remains the same, but both drivers are very rapid given a good car underneath them. Grosjean looks to be maturing more after his wayward early driving days, but Maldonado’s ability is still questionable with occasional lapses into red mist and he’s made a few too many basic errors that ended up with him walking back to the pitlane.
It’s worth remembering for Twitter followers that the Lotus team’s tweets are well executed, and often very funny.
Risen from the ashes of the Marussia team, Manor are not going to be challenging for points anytime soon, especially as the 2015 car is a barely developed adaptation of the 2014 car. This comes after a late financial rescue and safety testing only officially confirmed they would be back on the grid a matter of weeks ago.
However, it’s great to see independent and feisty teams on the grid, and with the new team comes a new driver line-up. Jules Bianchi will still be in may fans’ thoughts as he recovers from his horrific crash in Japan, and Max Chilton has gone to the Le Mans 24-hour race.
So the new boys at Manor are relative unknowns: Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi.
Stevens is British, 23 , and drove for Caterham in their final F1 race at Abu Dhabi last season following its successful crowdfunding efforts, and managed to bring it home in 17th place.
Spaniard Merhi is the same age, and has won at Formula Renault 3.5 level, and has driven at F1 level in three practice sessions.
What they can manage with a slow, old-spec car and what’s likely to be the 2014 Ferrari engine is probably limited. But they are going racing.
MCLAREN HONDA | @McLarenF1
Honda are back at McLaren. The iconic partnership that dominated F1 in the late 80s and early 90s in the days of Senna and Prost returns.
But the testing results were reminiscent of how the Renault-powered cars performed in 2014 over the winter: unreliable, putting in low mileage and with persistent problems with component failure.
However this team has history, strength in depth, and is hungry to win. The Honda powertrain, although new, is not thought to have run at full power throughout testing, so we may yet be surprised by what this team has to give.
The veteran and still consistent Jenson Button remains behind the wheel. The big news is that Fernando Alonso has returned to the team after five years at Ferrari – but will miss the first race due to a concussion suffered in testing in Barcelona. There has been a lot of speculation about the cause and nature accident and the extent of his injuries, but the simple medical fact is that you don’t do things that risk a second concussion soon after a first, unless you have a death wish. So Kevin Magnussen steps in as reserve driver, and will be hoping for a repeat of his performance last year in Australia when he brilliantly made the podium.
Things may be tricky for McLaren as they bed in the new power plant, but I don’t think Honda would have moved back into such a high-profile sport unless they thought they could win against the might of Mercedes. It may take a lot of pain and failure over a few years, or we may be rocked out of our seats in the middle or late season, but both Honda and McLaren have too much at stake to let this partnership fail.
The runaway champions in 2014, and showing ominous reliability and speed in winter testing.
These are the guys to beat. The car in testing looks even stronger and faster than in 2014, where it dominated the season, winning all but three races.
And you have two of the strongest drivers in F1, who likely will be battling between themselves for pole positions and race wins. Nico will be hungry for his first championship after coming so close last year, but Lewis has the confidence of having won the championship in 2014. In any event, the rivalry is unlikely to be lessened between these two, and we may see a repeat of the last race result deciding the championship all over again.
The bad news for the rest of the field is that it’s probably going to take driving or tactical mistakes, unreliability or a big technical leap forward from another team to beat the Silver Arrows this year.
The only team to win apart from Mercedes in 2014, and back with what’s thought to be more power coming out of their Renault engines. Testing went well, and they intrigued onlookers with their camouflage paint livery designed to obscure the shape and size of the car’s features.
The drivers are young and exciting. Ricciardo won those three races last year in superb style, and he consistently outperformed 4-times world champion Vettel in an identical car. He’s joined by Russian Danill Kvyat, who impressed everyone with his cool head and skilled driving in his rookie year at Toro Rosso. Will Kvyat upstage the more experienced Ricciardo in the 2015 car? It looks like it will be an interesting pairing – remember that Ricciardo surprised everyone by outperforming the 4-time champion last year – could Kvyat manage the same trick? Time will tell.
The dynamics of the car seem good, but there is still thought to be something close to 50HP differential behind the dominant Mercedes power unit, so winning races might only be possible with the right tracks and a bit of luck from others’ misfortunes.
Things can only get better for Sauber, after the first year in their history in which they did not score a single championship point.
But winter testing showed that they have a reliable and solid car, and the Ferrari power units seem to be far superior to last year’s in terms of power output and the ability to get that power turned into speed.
Their driver line-up is, even as I write, slightly confusing, as Geido van der Garde won a court battle this week with the Sauber team whose contract promised him a race seat this year. But Sauber had been working on the assumption that their drivers would be Brazilian rookie Felipe Nasr, who had a little misjudgement in testing when he collided with Susie Wolff in her Williams, and the more experienced ex-Caterham driver Marcus Ericsson.
Both Nasr and Ericcson bring a good deal of sponsorship money to the table (certainly more than Van der Garde), and Sauber needs the cash having failed to score championship points last year, and thus does not share in the cash pot for this year. But it seems they’ve forgotten that they have two cars and three contracted drivers…
We might have a situation where only one Sauber goes racing to avoid contempt of court and also keep the FIA happy as a racing super-licence is needed for Van der Garde to compete. Temporary licences can be processed in 24 hours. Or if he does drive, then one of the other drivers will probably be in a position to sue Sauber for breach of their contract. A further court hearing today in Australia upheld the decision and stated that Sauber should let Geido drive, and also do nothing to impede that process.
So we’ll have to wait and see who’s driving here (and who might have to sit out races), and hope the legal battles don’t distract the team too much from putting in a far stronger performance this year. Bit of a mess, really.
- Felipe Nasr | Follow @FelipeNasr
- Marcus Ericsson | Follow @Ericsson_Marcus
- Geido van der Garde | Follow @GvanderGarde
TORO ROSSO | @ToroRossoSpy
The ‘feeder’ team for Red Bull, although very much Italian in outlook and attitude, this year have one of the most exciting set of new drivers in their stable.
The first is in the form of 17-year old Max Verstappen. He’s shown remarkable maturity on the test track, and in interviews. His father Jos is an ex-F1 driver, so he’s obviously getting good advice.
Max is joined by another youngster with racing in the family, Carlos Sainz, whose father is something of a God to rally driving fans. Sainz is also an F1 rookie, but like Verstappen, has a record of being fast and doing well in other racing series, with victory in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series last year.
In terms of winter performance, the Toro Rosso was reliable if unspectacular – but on their day, at the right circuit, they can mix it towards to front of the midfield – and these young drivers, fresh to the way the 2015 cars perform, may be able to show their more experienced competitors a few new tricks.
It was great to see the once glorious, flamboyant race-winning machine that was feared and respected by the likes of Ferrari, McLaren, Benetton and Renault/Lotus came back with a bang in 2014 after a terrible few years in the wilderness.
In winter testing, Williams just quietly got on with things. No big issues, no real drama, no great speed, but many observers detected a bit of sandbagging here. The acid test, as for all the teams, will come in Australia in the first few practice sessions, when we’ll finally see the real performance against the rest of the field.
They stick with their combination of experience and youth with drivers Felipe Massa, and the young Valterri Bottas, who gained six podiums to Massa’s three appearances last year.
Williams have been keeping their heads down, and sticking to their knitting. I have a feeling we’ll see the wisdom of that approach in Australia and beyond.
Gentlemen, start your engines…
So, that’s the state of affairs in Formula 1 as we look forward to the first race of 2015. A lot in the mix, but on Sunday we’ll finally see how all the talk, testing and development shakes down.
The FVL blog will preview every race of the season prior to Sunday running, and holding competitions to guess the 1-2-3 on the podium. The full official F1 Race Calendar is available here.
- Follow all the F1 Teams with our handy Twitter List
- or follow all the F1 Drivers with our handy Twitter List
What are your predictions for 2015? Who will be hot, who will not? Leave a comment below with your views…