Normally, early season testing does not reveal too much about the potential of the teams as we have no idea what test schedules the teams are running at any given time. Indeed as we have seen in the past, there is no guarantee that all teams will be present for the first test. However, this year may prove to be somewhat different.
Of the current nine confirmed teams for 2015, four will use the Mercedes power unit, two will run the Ferrari offering, two more on Renault and a single team powered by Honda.
After the Mercedes domination last year it is unlikely that the new world champions have been sitting on their laurels and chances are; they will start the new season with another almost perfect package. Rumours abound that the ultra-successful power unit will have another 50 horsepower, not good news for the competition.
But that extra power could assist the Mercedes customer engine competitors.
William’s performance last season impressed and it appeared that the Grove- based team had an excellent chassis to handle the Mercedes power unit and kept them snapping at the heels of the Mercedes works team. The team is hungry for their first victory since Pastor Maldonado’s rather unexpected win in the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix.
Force India with Mercedes power took 6th position in the constructors’ championship last year and gave McLaren a run for their money until the latter half of the season. Let’s just hope rumoured financial problems do not restrict the team.
The last Mercedes powered team is Lotus, having made the move from Renault for 2015. The loss of key personnel was a prime reason for the disappointing season but I don’t expect any fireworks during testing as the Enstone outfit faces a long uphill struggle.
Ferrari is certainly going to be an interesting team to watch. Whether we will witness a dramatic upswing in performance of the new car, is the real question. Following the drastic changes made towards the end of last year, it would be surprising if the latest offering from Maranello proves to be on the pace straight out of the blocks.
With a new driver and a plethora of new personnel, the team has a lot of work to do and it is sensibly aiming for 2016 on their road to recovery. Despite comments from the team’s boss and the company president regarding expected results for this year, the later date seems far more realistic.
Following the closure of Marussia, Ferrari’s sole client is Sauber, and this is another team with a lot of work to do. Apart from the lack of power suffered by the Maranello sourced engine, the team struggled to make the package work and suffered the worst result in their history. Finances have also been a problem for this team; let’s hope that the test runs show a marked improvement in performance and greater interest from possible investors.
Red Bull and its junior team Torro Rosso have stayed with the Renault power unit despite the French manufacturer’s initial teething problems. The performance of Daniel Ricciardo last season was remarkable, giving Red Bull three victories, the only wins that did not go to Mercedes. With Sebastian Vettel having moved to Ferrari, Daniil Kvyat moves up from Torro Rosso to give the Milton Keynes team a strong driver line up. Expect a significant improvement in performance as
Renault will certainly be pushing hard to regain their reputation.
Torro Rosso is an unknown quantity with two young drivers in 17-year- old Max Verstappen and 20- year- old Carlos Sainz Jnr, the best I can say is, watch this space.
Of course the team with the most to prove has to be McLaren, now reunited with Honda. As I have previously written, the Japanese manufacturer has a disadvantage due to the regulations and at present will have to homologate their new power unit by the end of February; thereafter no further developments will be permitted in 2015. Unfortunately the opposition does not have such restrictions due to a loophole in the rules.
With arguably the best driver line up consisting of Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button plus Kevin Magnussen in the test driver’s seat, this is the team I shall be watching most keenly in the forthcoming test sessions.