Sahara Force India
11 – Sergio Perez – Mexico
27 – Nico Hulkenberg – Germany
It has been a winter of problems for the Force India team, with talk about problems with their finances prominent, not helped by their VJM08 only making its first track appearance three days before the conclusion of pre-season testing.
The team missed the first test of the season in Jerez completely, and only brought their VJM07 to the second test in Barcelona, assisted by the financial incentive from Mercedes to run Pascal Wehrlein for two of the days.
The positives are that the team have retained last year’s drivers Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez, and that the car was reliable in the two and a half day’s worth of running in Barcelona. In fact, the team completed 365 laps in that time, putting a lot of mileage on their new machine.
Both Hulkenberg and Perez have showed prestigious speed for a number of years, and once the team get on top of their new car, they should once again be regular points scorers, but to match last year’s points haul of 155 points will be difficult but not impossible.
Scuderia Toro Rosso
33 – Max Verstappen – Netherlands
55 – Carlos Sainz Jr – Spain
Having finished seventh in the championship, but a long way behind the top six, Scuderia Toro Rosso have lofty ambitions for the new season, with a target of finishing in the top five in the championship their ultimate goal.
In their tenth year since taking over the Minardi outfit, the team will have to do it with an all-new rookie line-up; 2014 Formula Renault 3.5 Series champion Carlos Sainz Jr teaming up with multiple European Formula 3 race winner Max Verstappen.
Sainz was left initially disappointed after apparently being overlooked for the drive in favour of Verstappen, but when Sebastian Vettel made the surprise move from Red Bull Racing to Scuderia Ferrari, Daniil Kvyat swapped STR for RBR and gave Spaniard Sainz a second opportunity to make his Formula 1 debut.
Unbelievably, Verstappen will make his F1 debut in only his second year of single seater racing, and in the process will become the youngest Formula 1 driver in history. At only seventeen years of age, the Dutchman, son of former F1 racer Jos Verstappen, will be looking to make his mark after being fast tracked to the pinnacle of motor sport.
Toro Rosso’s goal in 2015 must surely to make its presence felt higher up the grid than they have in recent years, and not just settle for the odd points score when other teams and drivers falter. In Sainz and Verstappen they have the talent behind the wheel, let’s hope the STR10 can enable them to challenge for points and indeed podiums.
Lotus F1 Team
8 – Romain Grosjean – France
13 – Pastor Maldonado – Venezuela
After a disappointing 2014, when their E22 was a handful and could only score points on three occasions, the Lotus F1 Team have switched from Renault to Mercedes-power for 2015, and have designed an improved handling E23 Hybrid.
Both drivers have been retained for 2015, with Romain Grosjean continuing with the team for a fourth consecutive season. The Frenchman, a multiple podium finisher back in 2013, is highly regarded in the F1 paddock, and after the very testing season last year, will be hoping to regain some of that momentum he had gained by being Red Bull’s main competitor at the end of that 2013 season.
Pastor Maldonado continues for a second season, and will be looking to become a regular points scorer in 2015 after finishing inside the top ten just once last year. The former race winner with Williams back in 2012 will want to add consistency to his driving to take away the negative reputation many fans have of the Venezuelan.
With finances being tight, the team need a strong 2015. They cannot afford, literally, to have another mediocre season like last year. The E23 Hybrid looked quick in testing, with both Maldonado and Grosjean ending days with the quickest time. The team can probably expect regular points finishes and the odd podium.
Sauber F1 Team
9 – Marcus Ericsson – Sweden
12 – Felipe Nasr – Brazil
After lasts years’ debacle, when for the first time in the team’s history they failed to score a point all year, Sauber head into 2015 with a new driver line-up and a seemingly improved C34.
Marcus Ericsson moves across from the now-defunct Caterham F1 Team for his sophomore season in Formula 1. Having made a slow start to his F1 career, he was beginning to show promise, with impressive performances in Japan and Russia, albeit in a dreadful Caterham.
His team-mate will be GP2 Series race winner and championship contender Felipe Nasr, who spent last year also as reserve driver for Williams Martini Racing. The Brazilian has been highly regarded by those in the junior categories for many years, and moves into Formula 1, backed by the Banco do Brasil.
The car has showed signs of improvement throughout winter testing, with both Ericsson and Nasr regularly finishing inside the top five. However, with other teams not showing their hands, they could struggle once more for top ten finishes.
Manor F1 Team
? – Will Stevens – Great Britain
? – Roberto Merhi – Spain
Rising from the ashes of the Marussia F1 Team, Manor have had many obstacles to hurdle just to make it to Melbourne for the opening race of the season, and in a very short time frame as well.
Initially hoping to run the 2014 car until a 2015 car was readied, this idea was denied to them, so they have had to rush to prepare 2015-spec machines for the season start, and will arrive in Australia without any testing mileage.
Having raced in the season finale for the Caterham F1 Team in 2014, Will Stevens will make his full-time Formula 1 debut in 2015 with Manor, with the Formula Renault 3.5 Series race winner with Strakka Racing eager to stake a claim for a long-term future in the sport.
He will be joined, for Australia at least by fellow Formula Renault graduate Roberto Merhi, who fought for the championship in 2014 racing for Zeta Corse, ultimately losing out to new Scuderia Toro Rosso driver Carlos Sainz Jr.
Fresh investment will hopefully see the team improve, but do not expect any miracles in 2015. Both Merhi and Stevens have nothing to lose but they know they will do well just to qualify in Australia with everything they’ve been through.