This sea­son is sure to sur­prise us all

The dou­ble world cham­pion writes ex­clu­sively for F1 Rac­ing


“Here we are again, with new faces, new sto­ries and new chal­lenges ahead”

One of the many joys of For­mula 1 is its abil­ity to take you by sur­prise, and this is bound to hold true in 2015 even though we have an el­e­ment of tech­ni­cal con­ti­nu­ity. In F1 there’s al­ways some­thing new to grab your at­ten­tion; this is a sport that never stands still.

At this time of year, every­body in F1 is ea­gerly look­ing for­ward to their rst glimpse of the new cars. That’s why I was very ex­cited to learn about the be­hind-the-scenes story at Wil­liams in this month’s F1 Rac­ing (p32). Dur­ing my F1 ca­reer I al­ways looked for­ward to vis­it­ing the fac­tory, or ar­riv­ing at the cir­cuit, and see­ing for the rst time what my en­gi­neers had been work­ing on. I’m sure the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion of driv­ers are just as ex­cited.

With Wil­liams it is even more in­ter­est­ing to see what they’ve been work­ing on, be­cause they ended last sea­son in the top three, be­hind Mercedes and Red Bull. They might not have won any races, but in terms of speed over the nal races they were denitely in that po­si­tion – even though they were 0.4secs off the Mercedes. That’s a lot of lap time to nd, but if they can cre­ate more down­force with­out adding drag, they will make a big step. Will it be enough? That de­pends on what Mercedes and all their other ri­vals have been do­ing…

I like to see Sir Frank Wil­liams and his team suc­ceed be­cause he is one of the ma­jor gures of the Bernie Ec­cle­stone era of F1. I re­mem­ber well when he en­tered his own car, un­der his own name for the rst time in 1977. He had been ght­ing for years just to get there and you see the same com­bat­ive spirit run­ning through the team’s his­tory, whether they’ve been at the front of the grid or not. The com­bi­na­tion of Felipe Massa and Valt­teri Bot­tas has re­ally helped to push the team on. Felipe is still quick and com­pet­i­tive, and was ready for a change after many years with Fer­rari – and he brought a great deal of ex­pe­ri­ence with him that has helped im­prove the car. Bot­tas is a young and ex­cit­ing tal­ent, very fast, and a po­ten­tial win­ner. This is one of the best driver com­bi­na­tions in F1. McLaren are another team with a lot of tal­ent on their hands. You could almost say they have too much. The part­ner­ship of Fer­nando Alonso with Jen­son But­ton will be fas­ci­nat­ing, be­cause Fer­nando is very de­mand­ing and comes with an in­cred­i­ble abil­ity to out­per­form the car. Jen­son is fast and mo­ti­vated, a sta­bil­is­ing gure within the team, good with spon­sors and popular with the fans. I wasn’t sur­prised by the sup­port­ive re­ac­tion on so­cial me­dia to the De­cem­ber cover of F1 Rac­ing that stated: ‘Jen­son, don’t go!’

It’s dis­ap­point­ing to see a young driver of Kevin Mag­nussen’s abil­ity side­lined, but he has proved him­self and will be ready for any vacancy that arises. McLaren also have Stof­fel Van­doorne on their young driver pro­gramme, and after another year learn­ing the Pirelli tyre char­ac­ter­is­tics in GP2, he will be ready for F1. Ron Den­nis will have some tough choices to make at the end of the year, more so if Nyck de Vries goes well in For­mula Re­nault 3.5.

He shouldn’t worry about the per­for­mance of Honda. Sure, they had a few prob­lems in their rst test run, but Honda have vast en­gi­neer­ing re­sources and are driven to suc­ceed. Their main chal­lenge is to learn fast, be­cause their ri­vals have had a year to de­velop their soft­ware and gain ex­pe­ri­ence of run­ning the hy­brid power units in race con­di­tions.

All great F1 en­gi­neers thrive on a chal­lenge, though. For­tunes can change, as Wil­liams proved in 2014 when they stepped up after sev­eral years in the dol­drums. I hope Sauber can achieve some­thing sim­i­lar be­cause Felipe Nasr is set to make his F1 de­but with them, backed by spon­sor­ship from Banco do Brasil. This ven­er­a­ble in­sti­tu­tion has spon­sored other sports, such as volleyball, in the past, and has re­cently taken an in­ter­est in F1.

It’s good to see a big company with a long his­tory put its weight be­hind young tal­ent – and it’s another pos­i­tive story that got a bit lost in all the neg­a­tive head­lines of late. Some teams might be strug­gling, but F1 is a business as well as a sport, and if we put on a good show and give spon­sors value for their in­vest­ment, they will stay on board. Every­body wins.

So, yes, while Mercedes dom­i­nated in 2014, we saw great rac­ing be­tween Lewis and Nico and all through the eld. And now here we are again, with new faces, new sto­ries and new chal­lenges ahead. This is go­ing to be a sea­son to re­mem­ber.

With Felipe Massa’s ex­pe­ri­ence and Valt­teri Bot­tas’s speed, Wil­liams have one of the best driver pair­ings in For­mula 1

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