F1 2015: Themes to watch for

By on Thursday, January 15, 2015

With the start of the 2015 season just two months away - and testing set to begin in Jerez in just over two weeks' time - we take a look at themes to look out for in the upcoming campaign.

Mercedes supreme up front?

Mercedes AMG Petronas

Mercedes AMG Petronas

Mercedes is highly likely to be the class of the field again this year which will probably lead to another title fight between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. Last season the management did a largely fine job though on occasion issues boiled over into the public eye. If rivals do edge closer – and this is expected due to the limitations of the regulations – then Mercedes cannot afford to slip up. After Hamilton's 11 wins and title in 2014, can Rosberg step up a notch and challenge Hamilton on a consistent basis in the races?

Can Ricciardo be the main challenger?

One surprising aspect of the 2014 campaign was the relentless charge of Red Bull’s new recruit, Daniel Ricciardo. The Australian was a factor from the start of the season until the end, winning three races in spectacular fashion along the way. He’s now the team leader and this change will bring different pressures on Ricciardo – can he now build on last year and take the fight to Mercedes? Expectations are much, much higher.

Or will Kvyat take it to Ricciardo?

Red Bull Content Pool

Red Bull Content Pool

Few expected Daniil Kvyat to even get the 2014 Toro Rosso drive so his elevation to the senior squad has been rapid. He’s still only 20 and unlike Ricciardo he arrives at Red Bull with just a season under his belt. There were flashes of speed and excellent car control last year but also a few moments of impetuosity. It’s big pressure to step up as in a Toro Rosso a driver can show his skill - in a front running team a driver must deliver week in, week out. But Ricciardo took it in his stride; can Kvyat do to Ricciardo what Ricciardo did to Sebastian Vettel?

Williams’ revival – the next step?

Many assumed that Williams’ revival was solely thanks to the power unit bolted to the car. It’s true, their partnership with Mercedes has been a boost, but the team made strides aerodynamically and as the year progressed the squad became far superior in terms of its operation. The sloppy errors which dogged the first half of 2014 were ironed out and towards the year's end it was Mercedes' primary challenger. With a rejuvenated Felipe Massa and the rapid Valtteri Bottas retained, their stability should be a key asset during the early stages of 2015.

Can Ferrari make progress?

Scuderia Ferrari

Scuderia Ferrari

Ferrari slumped to a win-less fourth in 2014, changed presidents, lost two team principals and has undergone a vast restructuring. Anticipating huge success in 2015 would be naïve – Maurizio Arrivabene has targeted two victories – but the team can make tweaks to its comparatively weak power unit (as, though, can Mercedes and Renault). Renowned James Allison will have a larger influence this year and the team cannot afford further embarrassment. But is it realistic to expect it to challenge the three teams ahead, or is slipping behind McLaren-Honda more likely?

An all-champion line up (1)

Ferrari has again opted for an all-champion line-up in Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen though the pair were two prominent figures to struggle with the 2014-spec cars. Vettel has to adapt his driving style while Räikkönen’s problems stemmed from his desire to have a strong front end, which the F14T lacked. Can Vettel thrive outside of the Red Bull environment and will Räikkönen be able to banish the demons of 2014? It may take time.

An all-champion line up (2)

McLaren-Honda

McLaren-Honda

It’s not just Ferrari that has a line-up of champions. Eight years after their relationship soured so spectacularly, Alonso has returned to McLaren in what many have termed a ‘marriage of convenience’ and will partner fellow world champion Jenson Button, with Kevin Magnussen demoted to the sidelines. Can Alonso and McLaren put 2007 to one side and achieve what they originally set out to do?

Honda’s return

Much of the Alonso-McLaren success will depend on another factor: Honda. While McLaren needs to make gains on its chassis after underwhelming 2013 and 2014 efforts, it has rekindled its relationship with the Japanese marque after two decades with Mercedes. Last year’s Abu Dhabi test didn’t go well and Honda is peeved at the FIA’s regulations regarding homologation, but the partnership wants wins. It’ll be an intriguing campaign.

Toro Rosso’s young guns

Red Bull/Getty Images

Red Bull/Getty Images

Toro Rosso is fielding the youngest ever driver line-up with Formula Renault 3.5 champion Carlos Sainz, 20, partnering 17-year-old Max Verstappen. Both drivers are quick and Verstappen proved towards the end of the year that youth was no barrier. However, the pair will encounter difficulties at points in 2015 and their response to issues will say more to the strict Helmut Marko about their attitude than mere speed.

Mexico’s back!

After a 23-year absence the Mexican Grand Prix will return to the Formula 1 calendar and the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in the country’s capital. The circuit will be modified extensively – the famous Peraltada corner will not be used – but it will still be a popular event with fans cheering on local driver, Force India’s Sergio Pérez.

Politics...

Mercedes AMG Petronas

Mercedes AMG Petronas

2014 was a season steeped in politics and it's unlikely that matters will change this year. Doubts over the future of certain teams remain, with the situation exacerbated by the perils encountered by Caterham and Marussia - whether either squad will appear in 2015 is unknown. The issue over power units is also set to rumble on as teams argue over their development, and what is and is not permitted in the regulations.


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