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”

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