44 – Lewis Hamilton – Great Britain
6 – Nico Rosberg – Germany
The dominant team of 2014 look to be the ones to beat again in 2015 after barely showing their hand during pre-season testing and being amongst the fastest out there. With other teams running the Soft and Supersoft Pirelli tyres, Mercedes were generally as quick using the Medium tyre.
Having won sixteen out of a possible nineteen races in 2014, Mercedes have continued with the same line-up of last year’s World Champion Lewis Hamilton and runner-up Nico Rosberg for a third consecutive season, with both drivers eager to beat the other.
Hamilton had the upper hand over Rosberg for much of last season, and although the German took the championship battle to the final round in Abu Dhabi, it was the Briton who took his second World Championship. Rosberg will be looking for revenge in 2015, and knows that he is able to compete and beat Hamilton in a straight fight.
If pre-season testing in Spain is anything to go by, the team will be odds-on favourites to retain both championships in 2015, although they will have to be wary of resurgence from the chasing pack.
Infiniti Red Bull Racing
3 – Daniel Ricciardo – Australia
26 – Daniil Kvyat – Russia
After seeing their run of four consecutive driver and constructor’s championships end in 2014, and after seeing their lead driver Sebastian Vettel depart for Scuderia Ferrari, 2015 will be an interesting year for the Infiniti Red Bull Racing team.
Daniel Ricciardo had a breakthrough year in 2014, gaining fans by the millions with his bubbly personality and broad smile, but he also let his driving do the talking, taking it to Vettel and winning three races in Canada, Hungary and Belgium. The Australian will have assumed the unofficial team leader role for this season, though it will be hard to see how this will phase him, as the self-confessed Honey Badger strives for an even better 2015.
His team-mate for this year is Russian Daniil Kvyat, who moves across from sister team Toro Rosso. The twenty-year-old will have big boots to fill as he replaces Vettel, but showed maturity and strong performances during his rookie Formula 1 season in 2014. Although outscored by Jean-Eric Vergne, he was promoted instead of the Frenchman into the Red Bull squad.
Kvyat blotted his copybook by crashing on his opening lap as a Red Bull driver in pre-season testing, but will go into the year with the aim of becoming the second Russian (after Vitaly Petrov) to finish on an F1 podium, and the first to win a Grand Prix.
Red Bull Racing will not want to settle for second-best to Mercedes again in 2015, but will require power unit suppliers Renault to better their package to be truly able to compete with Monsieur’s Hamilton and Rosberg. In Ricciardo they have potentially a future World Champion on their books, while Kvyat will be out to prove himself on the bigger stage. Mercedes, you have been warned.
Williams Martini Racing
19 – Felipe Massa – Brazil
77 – Valtteri Bottas – Finland
Quite possibly the surprise package of 2014, Williams Martini Racing beat the Scuderia Ferrari team to third place in the constructors championship, and were at the end of the season the closest challengers to Mercedes up front.
They retain the same driver line-up for a second season, with Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa looking to improve on their nine podium finishes achieved in 2014. Bottas proved in 2014 what Williams had said all along after a tough 2013 had threatened to derail his career. His performances were strong, and he will want to prove this season that finishing fourth in the Drivers’ Championship was by no means a fluke, and has a first race victory firmly in his targets.
Team-mate Massa had a bit of a renaissance of his own last year after moving across from Ferrari, and took three podium finishes and a pole position. He will be aiming to take his first victory since the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix in 2015, and if pre-season testing is anything to go by, then it will surely be possible to achieve.
Williams need to consolidate what they achieved in 2014 this year, and continue to develop their car to improve even more. The FW37 has proved reliable in testing, although the team have not really truly showed their hand. With the Mercedes power unit, they could and should be contenders for regular podium finishes and race wins, and could be in with a shout to leapfrog Red Bull into second place in the Constructors’ Championship, although ultimately Mercedes may just be out of reach.
5 – Sebastian Vettel – Germany
7 – Kimi Raikkonen – Finland
In 2014, and for the first time since 1993, Scuderia Ferrari ended the year without a victory, with management enforcing widespread personnel changes as a result, while their supposed lead-driver Fernando Alonso left the team to move to McLaren.
In his place however came Sebastian Vettel, with the four-time World Drivers’ Champion switching from Red Bull Racing. Having stated early in his career that he would love to drive for the Scuderia, his time is now, and it appears that he has gelled quickly with the team as they aim to make up for their lacklustre 2014 performances.
Another looking to make up for last year will be Kimi Raikkonen, who ended the year without a podium finish and over 100 points behind Alonso. The Finn struggled with last year’s F14-T, but has admitted that he is already happier with the 2015 SF15-T, and is eager to put right the wrongs of last year.
The bar is always set high within Ferrari, and with a budget amongst the biggest in the field, it is easy to see why. Failure is generally is unacceptable, and another winless season will not sit well with their beloved Tifosi. Pre-season testing has shown promising glimpses of a potentially better season, but come race day, we will see for sure just where Ferrari are in 2015.
14 – Fernando Alonso – Spain
20 – Kevin Magnussen – Denmark
22 – Jenson Button – Great Britain
The renewing of the legendary partnership between McLaren and Honda was meant to be one of the fairytale stories of the Formula 1 season, but from what has gone down during pre-season testing, it has become more a nightmare than first thought.
The team have struggled with numerous mechanical issues throughout testing, with neither Jenson Button nor the re-signed Fernando Alonso being able to get the amount of laps under their belt they both need.
Alonso’s crash in the second test will rule him out of at least the opening round in Australia, with the cause and circumstance of the incident still unknown. Kevin Magnussen, all set to spend the year as reserve driver, will step in to the seat he vacated at the end of 2014 in favour of Alonso.
Just finishing in Australia might be a struggle, as will the four-engine limit for the 2015 season. But with Button and Alonso, as and when he returns, they have the driving talent to get strong results once the power unit and mechanical issues are solved by McLaren and Honda. A race win in 2015 is not out of the question.