The first Grand Prix of the season is just over a week away, and with pre-season testing done and dusted, it’s a good time to take stock and look at each team’s chances for the year ahead. With the welcome news that Marussia will indeed take part in the Australian GP, we will have 20 cars on the grid this season. It’s the first of our four part feature as we run through the pack team-by-team.
To even be on the grid is a massive achievement in itself for Marussia – now officially titled Manor Marussia. Stephen Fitzpatrick, boss of energy firm Ovo has come to the team’s rescue and will be bankrolling the outfit for now.
Will Stevens, who raced for Caterham in the final Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi last season has been confirmed as one of their drivers, but it has not yet been announced who will be partnering him. Max Chilton is participating in the World Endurance Championship this year so he will definitely not return this season. A shortlist of drivers has been drawn up however, and we should be hearing an announcement very soon.
Make no mistake of course, Marussia will begin the season right at the back of the field. They will be using a slightly modified version of their 2014 entry for now, before introducing a brand new car roughly around half way through the season. This will mean Marussia won’t be able to use Ferrari’s much improved 2015 engine yet, and this could see the team struggle to even qualify in the early rounds.
Prediction – 10th
Before pre-season started, Toro Rosso team boss Franz Tost boldly claimed this was the best car the team had built since they entered the sport 10 years ago. However, testing has since shown the STR10 to be quite a handful for young drivers Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen.
Initially the car showed some promise as the pair got through a lot of miles, focusing on the car’s reliability in the first test. Unfortunately, the car has since shown itself to be quite temperamental on the track. Sainz in particular has struggled, and crashed out in the first test in Barcelona. In contrast, Verstappen has quietly gone about his business, impressing many in the paddock.
Toro Rosso have always been in an awkward position. As the little sister team to Red Bull, it’s unlikely they’ll ever challenge for the title and young drivers who show potential will no doubt be cherry-picked by Red Bull to make the step up. The team will be aiming to stay ahead of Sauber and possibly leapfrog Force India, but with a slow Renault engine and an erratic car on their hands, it could be a long season for the team.
Prediction – 9th
It’s been a tough few months for the Silverstone based team. Deputy principal Bob Fernley has spoken openly about the team’s financial problems, and at this stage Force India are just thankful to be on the grid. Missing the test in Jerez as well as the first test in Barcelona has put the team on the back foot before a race has even begun, though the car did manage to squeeze in 365 laps in just two-and-a-half days when it finally emerged in the second Barcelona test.
With an experienced driver line-up of Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg, the team can at least be safe in the knowledge that the car is being driven by two talented drivers – but that won’t be enough. The Australian GP will be viewed by the team as a chance to take a proper look at their new VJM08 chassis.
2014 was Force India’s best season in F1, unfortunately this year the team may be taking a step backwards. A Mercedes engine will at least ensure the car is competitive, but the early rounds will be a major struggle for the team. They will improve as the season goes on, the question is just how much.
Prediction – 8th
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