We continue our build-up to the new F1 season as we turn our attention to the midfield battle. Next up it’s Sauber, McLaren and Lotus. For part one of our preview, click here.
The surprise package of testing, Sauber have shown some good reliability and also a bit of speed with rookie Felipe Nasr. Though there were frustrating technical problems at the first test in Barcelona, they seem to have worked through these. Another plus for the team is that apart from Mercedes, they racked up the most mileage over pre-season, with Nasr alone completing more laps than both McLaren and Force India’s 2015 car.
After an unremarkable campaign with Caterham last season, question marks still remain over Swedish driver Marcus Ericsson. He was usually found battling the slower Marussias as team-mate Kamui Kobayashi consistently out-fought him. On the other hand, Nasr comes into F1 with an impressive record in the GP2 Series and has impressed many in the paddock during testing.
As far as the Swiss team are concerned, anything will be better than their dreadful 2014 season where the failed to pick up any points. The Ferrari engine is much improved for 2015 and with the speedy Nasr at the wheel, this should be a better year.
Prediction – 7th
By all accounts, it’s been a thoroughly dismal few months for McLaren. Constant technical problems saw the team complete only 380 laps over 12 days of testing, just 15 more than Force India managed in two-and-a-half. Another concern is that even when the car has managed to rack up some mileage – it’s simply not very fast. This could simply be down to the team running the engine on lower capacity as it works through reliability issues however. At least that’s what fans will be hoping.
Despite all the negatives surrounding the team, drivers Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso have surprisingly raved about the new car. Both hold a firm belief that McLaren won’t be struggling for long, and that race victories will come for the British team sooner than people may think. With such little track time over pre-season, it’s still hard to judge just what pace the Honda engine is capable of, but 2016 is the realistic target for a return to the front.
With Alonso confirmed to miss the opening race, Kevin Magnussen will take to the grid in Melbourne. Last year, McLaren finished 2nd and 3rd in Australia. They will be a long way back from the podium this time. Team boss Eric Boullier believes the team won’t be competitive until the Spanish Grand Prix at the earliest, so don’t be surprised if McLaren fail to make it past Q1 in any of the first four races. After that we should see a much quicker car.
Prediction – 6th
Things are looking a lot more positive over in the Lotus garage. Some strong performances in testing, coupled with a switch from the slow Renault engines to Mercedes have seen a marked upturn in pace with their new E23. Pastor Maldonado topped the time-sheets in the first Barcelona test too, to the surprise of some. Whilst we may not see a return to the podiums and race wins of the 2012 and 2013 campaigns, it will most certainly be a decidedly better year than 2014.
Maldonado and Romain Grosjean have both stated the car is a substantial leap forward compared to last year, and Lotus will be excited at having two drivers who are hungry to show F1 just how quick they can be. The pair may have had their detractors (and reprimands) since joining the sport, but no one will argue about their raw speed on the track. Hopefully 2015 will be a more disciplined affair for the two.
This season, the team will be looking to score far more than the measly 10 points they picked up in 2014. With Force India and McLaren certain to struggle for the first part of the calender, these early rounds are a real chance for Lotus to get big points on the board. Chances they really should be taking.
Prediction – 5th
We’ll continue the previews of F1 2015 in Parts two and three, coming this week.