Williams, Force India, Sauber, Lotus, McLaren and Ferrari have unveiled their cars for the 2015 Formula 1 season this week.
Of the many regulation changes being implemented this year, the most obvious effect are the new noses every car on the grid will be sporting. The protuberances of last year, all of which were pretty ugly if we’re honest, have gone, replaced with move conventional, flat-topped nosecones.
Williams’ turnaround in 2014 wasn’t completely unexpected, as it switched to Mercedes power, which proved to be a brilliant move. Even so, the Grove-based squad didn’t expect to be the only team to best the factory Mercedes’ in qualifying and achieve a string of podium finishes that saw it beat Ferrari for third in the Manufacturers’ championship.
With Martini staying on as headline sponsor, the livery of the new FW37 is unchanged, but that the low-nose look caused some headaches. Chief Technical Officer, Pat Symonds, explained: “The new front bulkhead and nose geometry had much more of an impact than we had initially anticipated and the effect on the aero was profound. The team have worked hard on pulling back the deficit these regulations have made for us.”
The aim for this season is climb further up the order, which is perfectly possible, but the front of the field could be a lot more competitive this year. Drivers Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas stay on.
There are no changes to the line-up at Force India either, Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg being retained to handle the new VJM08, which features a new black and silver livery to go with the low-line nose.
Lotus and Sauber will be hoping for better years in 2015. Enstone-based Lotus, which won three Constructors’ and four Drivers’ titles in its previous Benetton and Renault guises, only scored 10 points in 2014 as it struggled with an uncompetitive, Renault-powered car. The team has followed Williams’ example by switching to a Mercedes power unit for new E23, which it hopes will provide the basis for a big step up in performance. Lotus F1 Technical Director, Nick Chester, said: “We don’t know how our car will fare in relative terms until we’re out in action at a Grand Prix, but we certainly expect to be much more competitive than last year.”
For the first time in its history, Sauber didn’t score a single point in 2014. Team Prinipal Monisha Kaltenborn said: “2014 was a very disappointing year. However, this is in the past, and we now focus on what comes next. We have learned our lessons and are confident for the new season. We have to improve, and be able to fight for championship points.”
The team will hope its new drivers, 24 year-old Swede Marcus Ericsson, joining the team from Caterham for his second season in F1, and highly-rated 22 year-old Brazilian rookie Felipe Nasr, will be the men for the job. The pair will be watched closely as Sauber was known to be struggling for money last season, and the Ferrari-powered C34 carries prominent sponsorship from Swedish tech company Oerlikon, and the colours of Banco do Brasil. The debate over ‘pay drivers’ will rumble on.
Ferrari underperformed in 2014, enduring it’s first winless season since 1993. The team has been playing down expectations for the SF15-T, but two seasons without a win would surely be unacceptable. The Scuderia and new signing Sebastian Vettel are desperate to get back to winning ways, so, whatever they say in public, they will throw everything they possibly can at the season.
The biggest question, though, is how well the partnership between McLaren and Honda will work. The two enjoyed their greatest success in F1 together during the Prost/Senna era of the late Eighties, but early testing of the Honda power unit proved problematic. On the other hand, the MP4-30 has been in development ever since the Honda deal was signed a couple of years ago. And, of course, Fernando Alonso, who many believe to be the best driver on the grid, has defected from Ferrari, the animosity of 2007 apparently forgotten.
The 2015 Formula 1 season gets underway with the Australian Grand Prix on 15 March.