MURRAY WALKER WHAT WILL THIS SEASON BRING?
The main one, of course, is whether any of Mercedes’ rivals can get anywhere near the Silver Arrows. All the main contenders except Williams seem to me to be weaker than they were in 2014, so I’ll be amazed if Mercedes aren’t on top again. They’ve got management continuity in Niki Lauda, Toto Wolff and Paddy Lowe, a superb driver pairing in Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, what should still be the best engine by a country mile, a brilliant car and the mighty clout of the parent company in Stuttgart solidly behind them. They are mighty formidable competitors.
Red Bull, helped by an impressive contribution from Daniel Ricciardo, got closest to Mercedes last year and may well do so again, but team principal Christian Horner has major, potentially weakening, changes to cope with. Less of Adrian Newey’s time (although I’ve no doubt that he’ll still be very much a force about the place), the loss to McLaren of star aerodynamicist Peter Prodromou, and the inexperienced Daniil Kvyat taking the place of Sebastian Vettel, to mention but three. Plus the fact that the Renault power unit seems unlikely to be any closer to the Merc.
Will Ferrari and McLaren be able to pull their socks up and challenge for wins? I always say that anything can happen in Formula 1 and usually does, but both these great teams have huge mountains to climb. Ferrari’s clear-out of key people, from team boss Luca Di Montezemolo downwards, means their new management has got to produce a much better car in both the power unit and the aero departments with little time to do so. One, moreover, that both newcomer Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen can get the best out of.
McLaren seem to me to be in a much stronger position. With “I feel pain whenever we don’t win” Ron Dennis back in the driving seat, ably assisted by Eric Boullier, unrivalled premises, rejuvenated staff including Peter Prodromou and two of the best drivers in the business, their main challenge is to get up to speed with Honda power. Honda know which way is up, they know how to work with McLaren and they are devoting massive resources to the partnership. Together they will win… but how long will it take?
Of the main contenders, that just leaves Williams, and it does my heart good to see them back at the sharp end. With a great 2014 behind them, their successful new management face the new season stronger and more confident with Mercedes power, a bigger budget, two highly talented drivers and a hunger to go a rung higher in the constructors’ championship – which I believe they could well do.
The rest? I hate to say it but it seems to me that the best that Toro Rosso, Force India, Lotus and Sauber, strapped for cash by the unfair distribution of Formula 1’s income, can hope for is to do no worse than they did in 2014.
A gloomy forecast then? Not at all! 2015 is full of interest. After a winter to think about it can Rosberg beat Hamilton? Will Vettel be able to win at Ferrari? Will Räikkönen get the car to exploit his talent? Will Alonso and Ron Dennis really be able to keep the hatchet buried? Can Bottas and Massa win races for Williams? Will Kvyat and Max Verstappen meet their massive challenges at Red Bull and Toro Rosso without cracking? Can Grosjean and Lotus thrive with Mercedes power? And last but by no means least, can Formula 1 weather its financial storm?
We’ll soon find out!
“I’ll be amazed if Mercedes aren’t on top again… they’ve got a
brilliant car and they are mighty formidable competitors”