A new season always brings excitement, and 2015 should be no exception, with stories up and down the Formula 1 paddock that are talking points of their own.
Australia plays host to round 1 of the 2015 Formula 1 season, with the 5.303KM Albert Park track in Melbourne set to get the season underway this Sunday.
Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS dominated 2014, winning sixteen out of a possible nineteen races, including in Australia, where Nico Rosberg took the spoils last year.
Pre-season testing indicates Mercedes are still the team to beat, with Lewis Hamilton favourite to retain his championship title. Hamilton is also favourite to win this weekend ahead of Rosberg, but the battle behind them is shaping up to be fierce.
Infiniti Red Bull Racing were second in the constructors championship in 2014, with Daniel Ricciardo proving to be a superstar with three race victories and taking third place in the championship. He should be a contender again, and with the first race of the season taking place in his home country, the self-confessed Honey Badger will have the full support of the Albert Park crowd this weekend.
Daniil Kvyat is Ricciardo’s new Red Bull team-mate, having made the quick jump from debuting in F1 in 2014 with Scuderia Toro Rosso to the RBR ride. How he adapts will be something to watch over the season, but do not rule him out of a sneaky podium this weekend.
As well as Red Bull, Williams Martini Racing and Scuderia Ferrari are both looking to take the fight to Mercedes. Williams duo Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa both looked strong at the back end of 2014, and should be strong again. It would not be a surprise to see one or other driver on the podium this weekend in Australia.
Ferrari could spring a surprise in Australia too, with both Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen feeling comfortable and confident with their new SF15-T. After a first winless season since 1993 in 2014, they will be looking for a strong start to 2015.
McLaren resume their partnership with Honda in Australia, but completely on the back foot after problem after problem during testing. Jenson Button was set to be joined by Fernando Alonso this season, but the Spaniard has been forced to sit this race out after his crash during the second test in Spain; last year’s podium finisher Kevin Magnussen takes his seat. Just to finish in Australia will be an achievement for McLaren.
Sahara Force India also had a troubled winter, with car delays and financial worries the forefront of their troubles, and they arrive in Australia with a car that has tested very little in comparison to most other teams. In Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez, they have a strong driver line-up, and if reliable they should be able to score points.
One of the biggest talking points however is at Scuderia Toro Rosso, where Max Verstappen is set to become the youngest Formula 1 driver in history. He will become the first seventeen-year-old to compete at the highest level of motorsport, having only made his single seater debut last season. He will be joined by 2014 Formula Renault 3.5 Series champion Carlos Sainz Jr. Both are very talented individuals and will be strong contenders for points in Australia.
The Lotus F1 Team endured a dreadful 2014 season, with Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado scoring only ten points between them. A switch from Renault to Mercedes-power should help them improve on that total, and it would not be a surprise to see that tally beaten in Australia this weekend.
Another team desperate for an improved 2015 is the Sauber F1 Team, who endured their first point-less season last year. An all-new line-up of Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson promises much, but points in Australia might just be out of reach for them both.
Just getting to Australia is like a victory however for the Manor F1 Team. Rising from the ashes of Marussia, the team have worked overtime just to get themselves on the grid, and should be praised. They might be lucky to even qualify this weekend, but the plucky team will be grateful just to be there.
2014 Australian Grand Prix Podium
2015 Australian Grand Prix Race Victory Odds
|Lewis Hamilton||Evens||Sebastian Vettel||12/1|
|Nico Rosberg||2/1||Kimi Raikkonen||14/1|
|Valtteri Bottas||10/1||Daniel Ricciardo||14/1|
|All odds courtesy of Ladbrokes and are correct as of 9 March 2015. Odds may change before event. Other drivers quotes available.|