Formula 1 – 2014 Season preview
The 2014 Formula One season is just a week away from starting and after the last four seasons we’ve had, you could be forgiven for thinking this is just another rendition of the same old story. This year, however, we have had a whole host of rule changes and penalty rulings have been altered. These are all explained at ESPN. This all adds up to a competitive year and hopefully something a little more exciting! Steve Nielsen (of Torro Rosso) thinks “It will be like something we have never seen before!”
We have to go back to 2009 for a winner that wasn’t named Sebastian Vettel but this will be the first time since then where he is not starting as favourite to regain his crown. Mirroring this, 2014 will be the first time in 5 years that Red Bull are not the favourites for the constructor’s championship. Pre-season testing was a mixed bag for all teams but Red Bull in particular made all the headlines for the wrong reasons. The teams that utilise the Renault engine have struggled in pre-season testing and this has shaken up the Formula One world.
For many, Vettel is on the precipice of being crowned a true great of the sport and if he should win his fifth title this year he strolls into the conversation of greatest of all time without a doubt. Should he fail however, there will be a group who argue he can only win in a car that is some distance better than its competition. It would be far too brash to write him off at this moment in time but it seems like Vettel has it all to do this year.
My personal excitement for this coming season stems from the fact that, in my opinion, we will actually see some proper driving and good driving will be rewarded. Kevin Magnussen (one of 3 rookies this year) and Valtteri Bottas have both recently said something similar. Magnussen stated “It really is a driver’s car – more than the old ones” and Bottas was quick to agree. This sets up a fantastic proposition with the drivers we have at our disposal.
Starting with the favourites, Mercedes have a seriously talented pair of drivers. Lewis Hamilton (2008 champion) is the favourite to claim the crown from Vettel and rightly so. After a below par season last time out, he will be looking to rectify that. Lewis Hamilton is probably the best qualifier in the field. He is a terrific, if a little impulsive, driver and if he can keep it all together on raceday this year, he will tough to stop. His teammate, Nico Rosberg is far more consistent but he is not a whole lot slower than Hamilton. Rosberg will be hoping to feature regularly on the podium throughout the year.
I’ve done pretty well to write nearly 500 words on the coming season without much mention of the new Ferrari dynamic duo. Fernando Alonso plus Kimi Raikkonen is a partnership from the Gods for a large portion of Formula One fans. Alonso is widely thought to be the greatest all-round driver we have in the sport and Raikkonen won Ferrari’s last driver’s championship in 2007. Potentially this is a make-or-break season for Ferrari. This will be a great storyline for fans to follow as Alonso may have to relinquish the outright leadership of “his” team. Raikkonen was fairly successful at Lotus but this is a whole new ball game now he is back driving for the sport’s most popular team. Ferrari has a legitimate chance at the constructor’s championship if these two find a way to work together. In a perfect world for Ferrari, Kimi will bring home points every week and Alonso will be going all out for the driver’s championship. If they do end up in a ding-dong battle, it will be a great spectacle but the team may not be too happy!
What of last year’s winners? Red Bull have had a horrendous pre-season testing. For them, it has not just been the Renault engine but also their own car. They will probably struggle very early in the year but with the money and brains they have, I doubt it will be too long until Red Bull are back up near the top of the leaderboard. Of course, this isn’t great for the early chances of Vettel and his new partner Daniel Ricciardo. The Australian was promoted from Torro Rosso after some decent performances and should be a decent number two to the reigning champ.
The two teams that have impressed me most in pre-season have been Williams and Mclaren. Williams, looking to recover from an awful season (after swapping engine suppliers from Renault to Mercedes) were up there in terms of completed laps and speed throughout testing in Jerez and Bahrain. Felipe Massa offers a cool, calm and experienced head alongside the unproven talent of Valtteri Bottas. In his second year, Bottas will be looking to prove that he belongs at the top level and he has a competitive car with which to do so. Mclaren are still headed by Jenson Button but have a new face in Kevin Magnussen. The rookie was very good in pre-season where he showed great speed and he will be hoping to outperform his more experienced team mate. If Button is given a decent car, which it looks to be, he should rack up some points this year with lots of consistent finishes. He will be hoping to capitalise early season and this seems the best chance to get a jump on the rest of the competition. I don’t think these two teams will be reproducing Villeneuve and Hakkinen style performances but I wouldn’t be surprised by some podiums and maybe a win or two between them.
Of the rest, Lotus look to be in a bit of a mess. They lost Raikkonen, they don’t seem to have much money and they have a very hot and cold driver in Maldonado (alongside the improving Romain Grosjean). Force India are stuck right between the top and the bottom. They have a fantastic driver in Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez has performed admirably in pre-season testing. Maybe, just maybe this is the year for them to break away from the pack! Sauber look to be an average team. They have a pair of drivers who don’t really seem to be going anywhere and I think it’ll be another quiet year for the Swiss. Red Bull’s reserve team, Torro Rosso, will struggle but may be worth keeping an eye on. They have had problems with the Renault engines (shock!) and they have two young drivers in Jean-Eric Vergne and rookie Daniil Kvyat who both drive on the aggressive side trying to prove their worth. Kvyat looked exceptionally fast in Formula Three and Torro Rosso will hope he is the catalyst for bringing Vergne forwards as a driver.
The last two teams (Marussia and Caterham) still haven’t registered a point between them and I see no reason for this to change in 2014. Kobayashi is an exciting addition for Caterham although he claimed a GP2 car would be quicker than his designated ride! His driving style is sure to attract some fans while Chilton and Bianchi will just be doing their best to get noticed by the bigger teams. The latter in particular is one for the future according to many reports.
The new regulations will probably favour the smoother drivers and the more aggressive guys will have to learn when to go for it and when to reign themselves in even more than last year. This could mean a great year for the likes of Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg. Hopefully, I will be previewing each race and I may even throw in a few outlandish predictions every now and then. I look forward to hearing your comments and I welcome discussion below. Feel free to tweet me [ @jk_mcd ]. Not long left now!