The pre-season testing sessions are complete and the Australian grand prix waits to either shatter the delusions or fulfil the promises made in Jerez and Barcelona.
The Albert Park circuit in Melbourne, Australia is the first step in what can potentially be an enthralling season of Formula 1 racing.
In a show of dogged determination and resolve the nearly defunct Marussia Formula 1 team has fought its way out of the abyss. After months of hard work behind the scenes energy boss Stephen Fitzpatrick has been revealed as the investor behind the team which will now be known as Manor F1. While the team was unable to attend any of the pre-season testing sessions the car has passed the mandatory FIA crash tests. The governing body signed off on a revised 2014 chassis which will race in Australia.
There is no doubt that McLaren will show up in Australia seriously underdone. The MP4-30 had a nightmarish amount of issues which ranged from oil pressure leaks to sensor problems to significant struggles with the MGU-K component. The Honda engine, in its first year of development, is rough around the edges and unable of being run at full-tilt by the team. At this stage it appears that Ron Dennis’ expectation of winning races will remain as nothing more than a wishful reverie.
To add to McLaren’s gloom Fernando Alonso has been advised by doctor’s not to race in Australia. The lack of details surrounding the Spaniard’s crash and subsequent “concussion” in Barcelona, while testing, has been the source for much confusion. Nevertheless, the team and driver have rightly opted to put safety above all. Reserve driver Kevin Magnussen will partner Jenson Button for the opening round of the season.
By contract things could hardly have gone much better for Mercedes. The reigning world champs maintained quite a low profile during the first few days of testing. However, there is not an inkling of doubt that team has, at least, maintained its advantage at the head of the pack. The more than 6000 km in testing is the most of any team and the pace so nonchalantly put on display in the final two days in Barcelona sent an ominous message to the chasing pack.
Ferrari’s 2014 driver pairing of Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso was a highly anticipated partnership which never reached the forecasted levels of grandstand finishes and epic duels. This time around the Finn is partnered by quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel and team has committed to major changes in all departments.
The 2015 Ferrari surprised more than a few onlookers at the first test in Jerez with its inherent pace. In Barcelona the bigger picture revealed that although definitive strides were made the scarlet Ferrari still remains some way off the Mercedes pace. Along with a dramatically improved power unit both Raikkonen and Vettel are satisfied with the predictable front-end of the car.
Ferrari is touted as having taken the biggest step forward of all the teams on the grid. Which isn’t too shabby a start for a team in turmoil just a couple of months ago. While Mercedes is still out of reach the Italian team could very well be sitting with the second fastest package on the grid.
Of the new drivers on the grid Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen will be scrutinized the most. The Dutchman has been talked up by his team for months. Since the team think it worthy to compare the 17-year-old to Ayrton Senna it will make watching his progress all the more fascinating.
An average Formula 1 team employs an average of 300 people who are tasked with the job of ensuring that two grand prix cars are able to race. However, there is nothing average about the level of anticipation and expectation that millions of fanatics have ahead of the first race of a new F1 season.