At the fag end of the 2014 F1 season, two Mercedes drivers had ushered in a new era of team dominance after reducing reigning 4-time Champion Vettel to a mere spectator. Hamilton and Rosberg, young teammates and now ex-friends, fired up the season with a two-pronged battle that involved controversies, mud-slinging, questionable team ethics and a lot of hard fast ruthless racing.
It’s easy to dismiss 2014 as yet another non-competitive one-horse race, but Mercedes demonstrated that pre-season testing, a bit of luck and slight changes in rules go a long way in changing the landscape of motor racing.
Lewis Hamilton went on to win his second World title, while Rosberg was left ruing his Belgium stunt that somehow turned his season into a fate-impacted second-half disaster.
However, there are certain driver and team changes that have made more news in the off-season:
Sebastian Vettel will fulfill his childhood dream of racing for Ferrari, joining Kimi Raikkonen—after both had lackluster 2014 seasons failing to make any sort of impact. Vettel replaces Alonso, the two-time Champion, who has returned to McLaren, which he had left unceremoniously after having run-ins with golden boy Hamilton back in 2010.
McLaren has also ended its 20-year stint with engine suppliers Mercedes, and have joined forces with Honda.
Alonso completes his 4-year Ferrari stint coming second in the Championship thrice to Vettel, without having won a title.
But Alonso’s pre-season testing crash has left F1 jittery, after he failed to recollect details of his career after 1995 in the hospital. He is recovering slowly, and has vowed to return in the second race in Malyasia, but is still concussed—leaving the door open for reserve driver Kevin Magnussen to join Jenson Button at Melbourne.
The news of the season is Max Verstappen, son of Jos the ‘boss’, teenager and racing boy wonder, becoming the youngest ever driver (18) for Toro Rosso. He will be observed carefully by chiefs and engineers of many major teams, as he begins a career that could definitely see him become a future F1 World Champion. He has time on his side, and plenty of it.
The Caterham team has been auctioned off, while Marussa, which was in administration, has now returned as Manor Marussa.
Aussie Daniel Ricciardo, who outperformed Vettel at Red Bull last season, is now their no. 1, with newcomer Danii Kvyat joining him.
20 races, 10 teams: Could their be a new World Champion, or will F1’s era of one-sided mismatched domination continue, albeit with a new team?
Prediction: It could once again be an exclusive race between major players like McLaren Honda, Mercedes and perhaps Ferrari if they get their act together soon enough. Could Red Bull return to the top, and will Force India finally convert initial promise?
The first F1 race of the calendar takes place at Melbourne, Australia.