What to expect in the 2015 Formula One season

The Sport Space’s F1 man, Kyle Archer, gives a preview on what to expect in the upcoming Formula One season.

With 2015 car launches, pre-season testing and the Australian Grand Prix on the horizon, the new season is edging closer everyday. But will this year be more of the same or is it the time for change? Well, today we look ahead at what to expect in the 66th season of the Formula One Championship.

The season begins in just two weeks in Jerez, Spain for the first of three pre-season tests. Here teams will get their first chance of the year to run their cars on track in 2015 and begin the to find out the key areas they need to improve. Pre-season testing is a vital part of the season, especially looking back at this time last year when it appeared Red Bull would be facing an extremely difficult year after their pre-season looked far from perfect. Nevertheless, they managed to get to work and provide a challenging car come the Australian Grand Prix.

At the Jerez test, the general public will also be able to spot the driver changes for the first time with Sebastian Vettel lining up for Ferrari. This year will be one of the most important in the German’s Formula One career as it has always been one of the challenges people have wanted to see, Sebastian Vettel not in a Red Bull. If he can go to the struggling Italian outfit and turn the Ferrari team back into World beaters he will secure his place firmly in the fight for the best driver of all time. Especially as Ferrari have failed to win a World title since Kimi Raikkonen in 2007, who is also the man partnering Vettel in 2015.

Alonso HD pic (credit: f1fanatic.co.uk)

Fernando Alonso’s McLaren return is another driver change to keep an eye on, with the two-time World Champion returning to the Woking based outfit he briefly drove for in 2007. When he joined the team back in 2007 McLaren had failed to win a race since 2005, a situation they find themselves in again with their last victory coming at the Brazilian Grand Prix in 2012. But back in 2007, Fernando secured his first McLaren victory in just his second race, something the team will be hoping for again if not better.

Unfortunately things for McLaren may be more of a challenge this year than expected, as the new Honda engine they will be powered by will have to be homologated by February 28th unlike the other engine providers, who have found a loophole in the sporting regulations. The loophole will allow Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault to continue the development of their 2015 engines throughout the season unlike Honda who will have to set their engines during the second pre-season test just like the other three engine providers were regulated to do last year.

Elsewhere, Lotus will also see a change in their power unit as they move from Renault to Mercedes in a bid to return to the front of the grid. Throughout the 2014 season Lotus struggled with the new generation of Formula One despite challenging the front end since their return to the sport. Now they have agreed a deal to be powered by the World Champions who provided the best engine last year. But will the engine alone push them back up the grid?

In short, no. Despite having the Mercedes engine in 2014, McLaren failed to provide a challenge across the season as the rest of the car let them down. If Lotus are to bounce back to the front after just one year they will need to have significantly improved the car all over in order to provide their drivers, Pastor Maldonado and Romain Grosjean, with a competitive car. If they have improved the car you should be seeing the Enstone based team fighting it out in the midfield more regularly.

Williams are another team who will be looking to improve in 2015 despite having a great 2014 by their recent standards. Unlike the previous years, Williams go into the new season with a lot of momentum after picking up nine podiums and looking like Mercedes’ closest challengers come the second half of the season. If Williams were able to continue the development of their car to a high enough standard for the upcoming season, they could easily capitalize on any mistake by Mercedes to claim a win.

I say capitalize on any mistake by Mercedes as it would be a huge shock if anyone has been able to develop a car capable of beating the Mercedes across the season in 2015 given their dominance in 2014. In terms of Mercedes in 2015 you can simply expect more of the same with Hamilton and Rosberg battling it out for the top step of the podium.

Hamilton + Rosberg HD pic (credit: monchitime.com)

The only thing to consider is how much loosing the title to Hamilton will have affected Rosberg’s mental state. After the Hungarian Grand Prix last year it was clear Lewis had got to Nico after refusing to move aside to let him through, so how much did loosing the championship really affect Nico? If he let it get to him too much, this year could be a lot easier for Lewis to dominate and become a three-time World Champion or we could see a new Rosberg who is ready to battle hard but legally and actually get the better of Hamilton on the Sunday’s.

Down at Toro Rosso, 2015 will be a completely different story than at Mercedes as Red Bull’s sister team will be handing Formula One racing debuts to Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr. The two will form the youngest partnership on the grid with Verstappen aged 17 and Sainz Jr. aged 20 come the first race meaning the team have an average age of under 19.

The signing of Verstappen at the age of just 17 has also paved the way for the FIA to introduce stricter regulations for 2016 governing the application of super licences. Now drivers must have accumulated 40 points over a three-year period, spent at least two years in junior single-seater category, hold a valid road driver’s licence and be aged over 18 along with a few other stipulations. So across 2015 expect to see more young drivers given Friday drives if the team have any realistic plans for them to move into a race role.

For 2015 the FIA have also brought in new sporting regulations governing the races with virtual safety cars being one of the biggest changes. Here the whole track will fall under a safety car situation but without the need for an actual safety car. The idea should prove an excellent addition as it will slow the entire field down without the need to bunch the drivers up.

Other additions to the sporting regulations sees double points at the final race scrapped after just one season and the penalty system altered. Now engine-related penalties will be based on the individual components and there will be no stand-alone penalty for a full power unit change. A new ten-second penalty is also brought in alongside the five-second penalty established last year. And finally, any grid penalties that were unfulfilled will no longer be rolled over into the following race, instead the penalty will be applied as a time added onto the relevant race.

The implication of these new regulations and the driver changes will surely start to be seen from the off in Melbourne come March but who will leave Spain feeling the strongest in a few weeks time? Will Honda be able to overcome the challenges facing their engine? And will anyone leave Spain for Australia thinking their heading for a poor year?

The Sport Space

The Sport Space’s F1 man, Kyle Archer, gives a preview on what to expect in the upcoming Formula One season.

With 2015 car launches, pre-season testing and the Australian Grand Prix on the horizon, the new season is edging closer everyday. But will this year be more of the same or is it the time for change? Well, today we look ahead at what to expect in the 66th season of the Formula One Championship.

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