This Sunday is the inaugural race of the 2015 Formula One World Championship, so what better way to kick things off than making a few ill-advised predictions.
During pre-season testing it was initially Ferrari grabbing the headlines, and to the surprise of most, for all the right reasons. But the sudden re-emergence of the Scuderia should still be taken in context: yes, they have improved, but they still look to be a long way off Mercedes, and are also still chasing the ever-improving Williams. It does seem however, that Ferrari may have overtaken Red Bull, but I would always be weary of betting against the Quadruple World Champions.
As for McLaren, we’re being told not to expect anything until the European leg of the season, but considering Honda’s history in motorsport and a reportedly sound chassis, don’t be surprised if the Woking outfit do eventually come good. While things are also looking up for Lotus, having changed their power-unit supplier from Renault to Mercedes. What then does this all this mean? Time for some predictions.
1st Mercedes. No surprises here, Mercedes will win. Daunting reliability in testing, one of the strongest driver line-ups, and still the fastest car on the grid: only a major catastrophe can upset this one.
2nd Ferrari. I’m going to go out on a limb here. Ferrari seem to finally be on the right track, and once the financial power of in-season upgrades come into play, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Scuderia overtake Williams.
3rd Williams. Despite Red Bull also having the financial factor, I’m not sure if Daniel Kvyat will score enough regular points to help out Daniel Ricciardo. Williams have the experience of Massa, along with the level-headed and talented Bottas, and I think they just hold the edge.
4th Red Bull. I still think Ricciardo will finish high up in the Driver’s standings, but once again the Renault power unit seems to be lacking: I think this, along with improved competition and a rookie teammate, might be too much for Red Bull.
5th Lotus. I’m not sure about this one, mainly because I do not rate Maldonado at all. But if Grosjean can recover the form he showed at the end of 2013, in a solid car, he could scalp a few big results.
6th McLaren. I opt for Lotus over McLaren because of reliability and questions over their initial competitiveness. If Lotus can open up a significant advantage early in the season, they have a chance. But if McLaren develop sufficient speed and reliability in time, Alonso and Button will harvest in the points no problem.
7th Force India. Simply for having a Mercedes power-unit and a strong and experienced driver line up. Once again this one will depend on the teething problems of McLaren, so don’t be surprised if Force India finish higher up the field.
8th Toro Rosso. It will be interesting to see how two rookie drivers get on in their first season and this could lead to development issues, but I would expect the overall experience of the team to help them through.
9th Sauber. Who knows who will line-up for Sauber: but I don’t rate Erikkson and haven’t seen enough of Nasr to have any real opinion of him. If van der Garde does win his seat back (which he should) then the Sauber garage could be more awkward than an episode of The Office…
10th Manor/Marussia. They’re only just scrapping their way onto the grid, so we can’t expect anything really.
Drivers Championship: This is where it gets even more interesting! 1st and 2nd will (hopefully) be a tight nit contest, while 3rd down to 7th really is anyone’s guessing game; but here is how I think the season will unfold for the top ten drivers.
1st Lewis Hamilton. Whilst taking nothing away from Rosberg, or Hamilton’s mental perseverance, last year Hamilton’s problems were mostly due to reliability. Rosberg never passed Lewis on track, and Hamilton had a calmness about him that we had never really seen before. I hope Rosberg can improve in his duels against Hamilton: Lewis loves a scrap and so do we, but as it’s only between these two, I think there can ever be only one winner
2nd Nico Rosberg. Despite what you think of him, Rosberg did out-qualify Hamilton and took him to the last race of the season. And maybe his relentless attention to detail over pre-season will help him find that edge, but I would be surprised. 3rd Valterri Bottas. The young Fin is only going to get better and I think his conservative style in an improved Williams will be enough to see him take third.
4th Kimi Raikonnen. Both Ferrari drivers have something to prove after last seasons woes, (and there may be a touch of personal bias in this one) but one season doesn’t make you a bad driver: Kimi is a points vacuum and I think he will beat Vettel – come on Kimi old buddy don’t let me down.
5th Daniel Ricciardo. I expect Ricciardo to continue where he left off last season and really take the bull by the horns this year. He’s in by no means a bad car, and if he scores the majority of Red Bull’s points, there’s every possibility he could finish 3rd again. As it is, I think the improvement of others will see him just slide down the rankings.
6th Sebastian Vettel. The words of Fernando Alonso will be ringing even louder in Vettel’s ears now that he has been thumped by Ricciardo. But I expect Vettel to encounter one or two problems over the course of the season.
7th Felipe Massa. I like Massa, but he is prone to an accident and he has struggled to hit truly consistent form since his injury. We all know that on his day Massa has the pace to win Grand Prix’s, but it’s this consistency that I think will be his hindrance.
8th Romain Grosjean. A very good driver when he hits his stride and now with a Mercedes engine, I expect reliability to be a key factor in his season.
9th Fernando Alonso. So long as his injury doesn’t keep him out too long, I would never bet against Alonso, and I still consider him to be the best driver out there. But this year’s car will cause too much problems, and 2015 will not be another 2012.
10th Jenson Button. Button will encounter the same problems as Alonso, but I think he will just finish behind the Spaniard in the end.
So they are my predictions for the 2015 season, and as for Australia this weekend: I’m going for Rosberg, Hamilton, and Bottas. Just watch as I get them all wrong.