Less then a week are we now removed before the unofficial start of the 2015 season, when the teams will be heading to the Jerez circuit in Spain for a four day training session.
Though at this time it is still nog official, though unlikely, back markers Marussia (currently living under it`s very first name Manor) and Caterham are going to make the grid, even though the latter has already managed to reach an agreement to start the season with last years tractor... I mean car.
The first sessions are also a great way of finding out how the new cars look like, and with the new aero regulations, everyone now is going the `broken nose` look of Ferrari last year. You see, my beloved Scuderia where revolutionary. Now only to get forward.
Another thing the first tests are usually about is to get an idea of the liveries and how they are going to look, though this is not always certain. Williams last year tested in a dull dark blue scheme, only to appear in Australia in the gorgeous Martini colours.
On the driver`s front, some big changes have occured, with Alonso going to McLaren demoting Magnussen, Vettel taking his place at Ferrari. At Red Bull, he is replaced by youngster Kvyat who had a good rookie year at Toro Rosso.
That same team is now lining up the youngest driver duo ever with 20 year old Sainz Jr (son of the rally legend) and 17 year old Verstappen (son of the F1 driver), though the latter has caused some controversy having only one season of F3 under the belt, and caused the whole Super License awarding system to be overhauled.
Sauber, coming out of it`s worst year ever has changed it`s entire line-up, forced in part for going the `money way` and signing Felipe Nasr and Magnus Ericsson, both bringing big bags of bucks.
Another new player this year is Honda, returning to F1 as an engine provider since 2008, and going back in sea with McLaren. Though the initial test after last year`s season was pretty abysmal, that doesn`t mean anything really. Last year Red Bull spend more time next to instead of on the track during the Jerez test, yet they where the only team bar the ubermighty Mercedes able to win races and steaming to second place in the rankings.
Looking forward, here is a bit of my `gut feeling` for the coming year. Of course, much can still change, and the tests will give a first, but not definite idea (someone might have screwed up their design, an unexpected `rocket` etc etc).
Mercedes: Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg
I expect them to be ubermighty yet again this season, as they had a huge lead still at the end of last year. Hamilton is my number one title contender once again, I rate him the better driver due to his natural fighting spirit over gentleman Rosberg.
Red Bull Renault: Daniel Ricciardo and Daniel Kvyat
Renault wants 5 wins this season, but I doubt the Daniels will be able to do just that. Even though Newey probably has drawn another superb car, now that he knows the requirements for the turbo era with a year worth of experience, there is the fact the Renault engine was less powerfull then the Mercedes last year
McLaren Honda: Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button
A legendary combination and by far the strongest driver line-up in sheer skill and experience, I do fear this might become the `Lotus of 2015`, in a way they remain to far below expectations. The talent of Alonso and the consistency of Button are going to cover up a lot of weaknesses, but I fear they will be fighting around 7th place though, behind the Mercedes, Red Bull and Williams.
Williams Mercedes: Valteri Bottas and Felipe Massa
The unexpected second best team of last year, this year will all be about consolidating their position as main challengers. Will the car be as fast on the straight line as last year? Can they take that win that kept eluding them in 2014? At least, they where the first to show their new car totally unexpected, and it was another beauty in those Martini colours
Force India Mercedes: Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg
Building onwards on the strong combination that rocked especially the first half of the season, they are also overhauling their livery and stepping away from the traditional Indian flag livery. I expect them to be there to pick up the remaining points, being a solid midfielder.
Lotus Mercedes: Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado
It can`t get much worse then last year, and they now have a better engine, so in principle, they should be again on the way up.
Sauber Ferrari: Felipe Nasr and Magnus Ericsson
Having the weakest engine of last year and two drivers many consider to be `pay drivers`, it might be another tough year for the Sauber team. Last season was their first ever in Formula One without scoring a single point, and the question remains if this year will be better. And if they don`t improve, if they will survive into 2016. As it currently stands, I see them a bit as the problem child for the coming season, but I hope they suprise positively.
Toro Rosso Renault: Carlos Sainz Jr and Max Verstappen
The training team of Red Bull, it actually doesn`t matter if they score a lot of points. This team is all about preparing and discovering new potential GP winners for Red Bull, and for the second year in a row a driver of them promotes to the mother team. While some are against this policy, I actually think it a good thing to have a junior team that forces talents to best each other, while showing real driving skills in the middle of the pack instead of shooting away in a top car from day 1.
Ferrari: Kimi Raikonnen and Sebastian Vettel
Saving the best for last. After the abyssmal 2014, Kimi is about the only person not replaced within the mighty Scuderia. Which, in typical italian chaotic ways isn`t always a good thing... Alonso was replaced by Vettel, and it will be the question if Seb can step in the footsteps of that other illustrious german who build a real powerhouse around him in the red cars. Of course, having two drivers now who couldn`t really get their hands on the new driving style the changes last year incurred might be a slight issue...
And there we are, my gut feelings for 2015. Of course, after the tests end next wednesday, the whole shabangle might be turned upside down completely, but we`ll see that in a week`s time.