Formula One – On your marks, get set – GO!
The 2015 FIA Formula 1 World Championship starts this weekend down-under amidst fervent speculation and enthusiasm within the Australian sporting metropolis of Melbourne.
Ten teams, twenty drivers and a sell-out crowd are expected at the Albert Park venue as it celebrates the 20th running of the modern day Formula 1 Grand Prix in the capital city of Victoria.
It’s been a busy three months since the final race of the 2014 season in Abu Dhabi, culminating in three test sessions at the Spanish tracks of Jerez and Barcelona-Catalunya in the past month or so.
Since the curtain fell on Lewis Hamilton’s second World Championship title in the Emirates last November, we have seen a number of changes to both team and driver line-ups, some interesting technical developments and discussions as well as a host of predictions for the season ahead.
After a period of “will he - won’t he”, Jenson Button rightfully held on to his seat at McLaren, partnering new boy Fernando Alonso who left Ferrari as the Prancing Horse made some wholesale changes at the end of the season. Alonso’s testing accident in Barcelona is the subject of much intrigue and conjecture; suffice to say his concussion has led to him sit-out the Australian race. His place will be filled by reserve driver Kevin Magnussen. Jenson revealed recently that if he didn’t get the McLaren seat he would have focused his efforts on a place in Britain’s Olympic Squad for the Rio Olympics in 2016.
Four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel starts his new career at Ferrari while Toro Rosso start the year with the youngest rookie line-up in the sport – Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jnr making up the team. Caterham didn’t make it past Abu Dhabi and is no more, while Marussia emerges out of administration to take its place on the grid under the name of Manor-Marussia and with young Spanish driver Roberto Merhi joining the team. Some teams are still discussing boycotts if they don’t get what they want from the governing body and the commercial rights holders, but hopefully any talk of targeting the opening race are just that; talk.
Mexico joins the calendar, Korea reappeared briefly and then disappeared once again, while Qatar has been telling anyone who will listen that it will be on the calendar in the next couple of years. Abu Dhabi is the final race on November 29th with Bahrain the fourth on April 19th.
Twenty races make-up the 2015 Championship and after twelve days of testing the firm favourites are Mercedes with an improved Ferrari looking good. Williams will be looking to continue their fine form of 2014 while Red Bull is confident of adding to the three race victories that it registered in 2014. Lotus have swapped engines and now look much stronger with Mercedes power, but it will be the new pairing of McLaren and Honda that will be the focus of media attention. The British team’s relationship with the Japanese engine manufacturer back in the eighties and early nineties is stuff of legend. After a fraught and difficult start expect them to get it right. Look at Red Bull in 2014. Everyone had written them off in March – by the end of the summer they were the only team to have won races apart from Mercedes.
All to play for then as we all look forward to those five red lights going out on Sunday down-under. Race starts at 16.00 local – 08.00 Bahrain time.
Yallabahrain will one again post images from our friends at Sutton-Images. They served us so well throughout 2014 and it is our pleasure this year to be working with them again and bringing some of the latest, tasty images from their track-side lens men!
Rosberg fastest as new F1 season gets under way down-under
Nico Rosberg stole the honours at the end of the first day of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne. The German was 0.1 seconds faster than the reigning World Champion Lewis Hamilton. The Mercedes pair were in dominant form as expected with the third fastest driver being Sebastian Vettel some 0.6 seconds adrift.
Vettel, in his first competitive session for his new team Ferrari, will be pleased with his and the team’s performance. His Prancing Horse team-mate Kimi Raikkonen was fourth quickest. Bottas in the Williams was fifth with Red Bull new boy Daniil Kvyat sixth.
So far the news columns have been filled by the legal wrangles over who should drive for Sauber. Dutchman Giedo van der Garde’s victory in a Melbourne court earlier in the week ensured that confusion surrounds the Swiss team. Despite facing all manner of legal problems such as contempt of court, the team’s registered drivers, Marcus Ericson and Felipe Nasr, joined the second practice session after sitting out the first. News from the Paddock would suggest that the team will try and find an out-of-court solution to what has become an unwanted problem for the struggling team.
Carlos Sainz Jnr impressed in seventh while Jenson Button strung together enough laps in the new McLaren-Honda combination to register a time good enough for 13th. Team-mate, and weekend replacement for Fernando Alonso, Kevin Magnussen crashed.
Hamilton lays down the marker with pole for the first race in Melbourne
Lewis Hamilton took pole position for the opening race of the season in Melbourne. The World Champion’s team-mate Nico Rosberg was second. The Mercedes pair were in a class of their own as drama unfolded further down the field.
It’s a long time since one of the greats of the sport was left in such an ignominious position, but that’s what happened to McLaren as Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen posted the slowest times over five seconds off the pace. The 2009 World Champion and his team-mate will start from 17th and 18th slot for tomorrow’s race. Only nine teams will make the start in Melbourne as the two Manor cars, after travelling all the way to Australia from the UK, never left the garage throughout the weekend. By not turning a wheel or registering a time they are ineligible to start and one has to wonder how much of their limited budget they will have wasted in the trip to Melbourne.
Brazilian Felipe Massa was third quickest for Williams with four times World Champion Sebastian Vettel fourth in his first drive for Ferrari. The German’s team-mate Kimi Raikkonen was fifth ahead of Valtteri Bottas’ Williams and the Red Bull of home grown hero Daniel Ricciardo.
Lotus showed much improved form over last year with Grosjean and Maldonado ninth and tenth but the most impressive performance came from Carlos Sainz Jnr in his first Formula 1 qualifying. The young Spaniard, son of legendary World Rally Champion Carlos Snr, posted the eighth fastest time and will have pleased his Toro Rosso bosses. His even younger team-mate Max Verstappen was twelfth.