Lewis Hamilton’s Formula One Championship defense begins this weekend in Melbourne at the Australian Grand Prix. After a winter of uncertainty for all the teams finally this weekend we will know just who is in good shape and which teams face an uphill battle throughout 2015.
If the winter is anything to go by then it seems as if Mercedes are in the best shape. After dominating for the duration of 2014 many felt as if the Mercedes prowess would continue into 2015 and, much to the horror of the other teams, Mercedes look to be in an even stronger position than the defending champions did this time last year. Hamilton has been on pole position for the opening race of the season on three occasions but has only converted the pole into a win on just one occasion.
The man Hamilton beat to the championship crown last season, Nico Rosberg, will not go down with a fight. Rosberg won the opening race last year after team-mate Hamilton hit reliability problems. He has vowed to come back stronger this season, with the fight for the Driver’s Championship likely just between the two Silver Arrow’s. Going into his tenth season in F1, this looks to be Rosberg’s best chance yet of winning a championship.
— Nico Rosberg (@nico_rosberg) March 12, 2015
Behind Mercedes the fight for best of the rest looks like it will go down to the wire. Williams have taken a big step forward from their 2014 car and Valtteri Bottas looked to be on for a podium at last season’s race until he collided with the wall. With a year more experience and a positive winter the chances of seeing a Williams on the podium looks highly likely, but with that said Ferrari are also a team that have made a clear step forward.
Ferrari are a rejuvenated team and are much stronger this time around. Sebastian Vettel has joined the team following Fernando Alonso’s move to McLaren. The team seem to be much more harmonious heading into this campaign. The Ferrari power-unit has come on leaps and bounds over the winter, but will it be enough? Also Red Bull are in the mix and, although the four-time champions had a better winter this year than last, the team did have issues with reliability in Jerez and Barcelona despite racking up plenty of miles. The Renault powered teams are still a little short on power in comparison to the rest of the field. On home soil Daniel Ricciardo will be desperate to be on the podium again after his third place finish last season was taken away from him.
— Red Bull Racing (@redbullracing) March 12, 2015
Just how bad are things at McLaren? The car in terms of reliability is miles off; when the car was running it was also miles off the pace and to add insult to injury they are without their new star driver Alonso who is to miss the opening race following his testing crash in Barcelona. Force India and Lotus are other teams that have had a topsy turvy winter. Both teams faced struggles during their preparations for the new season and both failed to have their 2015 challengers ready for the new season, Force India only having two days of testing with the VJM 08. Just how ready either team are will be seen this weekend.
In other news, who is driving for Sauber this weekend? No one really knows. An Australian court has ordered that Giedo van der Garde has a valid contract to be driving this weekend. Sauber decided to go with Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson, thus leaving van der Garde out in the cold. Obviously with just two seats and three drivers somebody in Australia will be unhappy with the decision made. I have a feeling that this could rumble on for months to come with all three drivers believing that they should be in the car.
Toro Rosso have two new rookies in the car this weekend in the shape of Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr. Just how either driver will fare this weekend will make fascinating viewing. Despite their age, both drivers have impressed in their careers. Franz Tost believes that age is not an issue, and this weekend with Verstappen just 17 years old we will get a true measure of just how ready he is.
— Toro Rosso (@ToroRossoSpy) March 12, 2015
Resurrected team Manor Marussia will be racing this weekend, Will Stevens partnering Roberto Merhi for at least the first few races. The team looked dead and buried at the end of the 2014 season when Marussia entered administration.
Still working those drivers to the bone. A day of wall to wall filming, photography & media interviews. pic.twitter.com/0kGfsOKm3Y
— Manor F1 Team (@ManorF1Team) March 12, 2015
The track has not gone under any changes over the last twelve months, the DRS zones remaining in the same places with the first DRS zone on the start finish straight, the second on the exit of Turn Two. In terms of the weather this weekend it looks to be cool start with brighter weather on Sunday afternoon.
The circuit itself is a semi-permanent track and is made up of mainly medium to high corners. Turn One is harder than it looks, many drivers races have ended as a result of a first corner incident, just ask Felipe Massa about his start last season. The right hander of Turn Three offers a great chance to overtake the driver ahead, especially with DRS being enabled on the run down to the corner. The track then opens up and the drivers can afford to let the car go. The chicane at Turn Eleven and Twelve is taken at roughly 150mph. The rest of the circuit is fairly straight forward with a mixture of 90 degree corners and straights. The Albert Park Circuit seems like the perfect place to get racing again.
Who do you think will come out victorious around the 3.2 mile circuit? Leave your comments below.