What we know about F1 2015 so far

By on Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The first four races of the 2015 season have taken place and the sport is preparing for a return to its traditional European heartland. Here's what we now know about Formula 1 this year.

Mercedes – and Lewis Hamilton – remains up front…

Mercedes AMG Petronas

Mercedes AMG Petronas

Lewis Hamilton has only been beaten twice since last year’s Belgian Grand Prix and on the two occasions he didn’t win, he collected the runner-up trophy instead. The Briton is in fine form and has so far gelled well with the Mercedes W06 Hybrid to take four pole positions, three victories and 93 of the 100 points to enjoy a comfortable title advantage. His success so far this year has applied the pressure on team-mate Nico Rosberg, but despite a couple of sub-par performances and questionable comments, he’s far from out of contention just yet.

…but Ferrari is closing in

It was clear during pre-season testing that Ferrari had made progress but few expected the Italian squad to take such a leap forward. Not only did it outfox Mercedes to claim a brilliant victory in Malaysia, but it remains within touching distance to keep up the pressure on the reigning champions, as they did in China – causing intra-team tension at Mercedes – and in Bahrain, where late brake problems cost Rosberg. Ferrari’s rate of development will undoubtedly be crucial but the squad has proven that it is not just capable of picking up the pieces, but in with a shout of victory at most venues.

Williams is in a lonely third place

Williams Martini Racing

Williams Martini Racing

Williams made supreme progress as the 2014 season wore on to emerge as the second fastest team but so far in 2015 they appear to be slightly stuck. Mercedes and Ferrari have been comfortable quicker, while Williams has had a significant advantage over its nearest rivals to be easily the third best team. This is nonetheless a huge step up from its 2013 malaise but this proud racing team will be determined to close the gap. There have been mitigating circumstances – such as Valtteri Bottas’ back injury – but so far 2015 has been a bit too ordinary for the Grove-based outfit.

Renault has problems – as does Red Bull

Renault has endured a shocking start to the 2015 campaign with a lack of performance compounded by lacklustre reliability. Red Bull’s weekend in Australia was compounded by driveability issues and while matters have improved slightly, Daniel Ricciardo is already onto his fourth engine, meaning that grid penalties will undoubtedly follow. However, while Renault must bear the brunt of the blame, Red Bull has had problems of its own, such as brake issues in Malaysia which led it to revert to a 2014 specification. A perfect storm has formed to nullify the Red Bull threat so far this season.

There’s a tight midfield scrap

Sahara Force India

Sahara Force India

So far in 2015 a midfield scrap has emerged with different teams leading the charge at various venues. Sauber has clearly benefited from Ferrari’s gains to collect a healthy pile of points while Toro Rosso has been rapid – aided by its outstanding rookies – but held back by reliability problems. Lotus’ charge was hindered by early problems and Pastor Maldonado (ongoing) but Romain Grosjean’s maturity has shown through, while Force India has taken a good haul in spite of its undeveloped VJM08 holding them back. At the moment, no-one has got a stranglehold on this battle.

McLaren has had a horror show – but progress is coming

Four races without a point, a litany of reliability problems and just a single Q2 appearance – this has undoubtedly been an ignominious start to the McLaren-Honda reunion. However, the squad was always wary that the opening races would be difficult, while matters were not helped by Fernando Alonso’s testing accident. Nonetheless, the squad is making progress and having been miles off the pace in Australia, it edged closer to the top 10 in Bahrain. McLaren believes that the current package has huge potential and another step should be made as the sport returns to Europe.

Manor is battling on

Manor Marussia

Manor Marussia

Manor Marussia’s last-minute effort to make the grid ultimately failed in Australia but rookie Roberto Merhi raced in Malaysia and he was joined by Will Stevens, who finally started his season for good in China. With a 2014 chassis and engine the team has been substantially off the pace but both drivers have been within 107% regularly and its woes have been accentuated by not having Caterham to play with. Two more cars on the grid remains a positive aspect for the sport and there will be hope that progress can be made when the 2015 car – and engine – arrives, hopefully after the summer break.

It could be better, but it's not the end of the world

When the first round of the season was overshadowed by an absent driver and a bitter court case over a contract dispute, Formula 1 needed to bounce back. Then one team couldn’t run and three drivers failed to start the race, leaving a paltry 15 drivers to put on a sub-par race. Fast forward two weeks and Formula 1 had hosted a superb race in Malaysia, followed up by an average show in China and an intriguing strategic dice in Bahrain. Sometimes the sport gets swallowed up unnecessarily by its own crises and while the current situation is far from perfect, it’s not quite as bad as the detractors think.

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