F1 2014: Mercedes on the attack

Even before heading into the off-season, there were rumors swirling about Mercedes already showing a spectacular affinity for the new engine formula. Many dismissed the claims as sheer nonsense, others (mainly Red Bull’s detractors) held onto a quiet modicum of hope that it would be true. How the hopeful would be rewarded.

Straight from the start of pre-season testing, the silver arrows looked to be in an entirely different league from the rest of the field. Their dominating speed was matched only by their unrivaled reliability. Though Bahrain and the Australian Grand Prix would reveal glitches in the machine of last year’s runner-up, there can be no mistaking the likelihood that Mercedes AMG Petronas are already looking likely to cart off with the championship. Continue reading

F1 2014 Preview: Lotus’ struggles continue

Pound for pound, no team was better than the small Enstone squad last season. Having pulled Kimi Raikkonen out of retirement, put in the effort to transform Romain Grosjean into a driver who could drive with the best and built a superb team on a relatively small budget, the team was looking like a championship contender..

Amid the podiums and win last year, troublesome news did surface about the team: funds were so low that they were unable to pay Raikkonen. Proposed deals with the Quantum Motorsport consortium seemed to provide hope that the team would be able to pull itself together. Nothing came of it, and as a result the team lost many key personnel such as aerodynamicist James Allison, team principle Eric Boullier. Lotus is in for some chop. Continue reading

F1 2014 Preview: McLaren’s year of transition

On the back of building a lackluster car last year, McLaren had one big announcement that managed to keep the enthusiasm of their fans high: Honda will be returning as their engine supplier next year. Exciting as the thought of F1’s most dynamic team-engine combination returning is, it is still a year away. With one year left of Mercedes power, no title sponsor (yet) and Ron Dennis back at the reigns, the Woking team has finally started a new chapter.

Dennis’ return as team principle might be the biggest news so far this year. Naturally, that brings an end to the Martin Whitmarsh era and the general lack of order that the well-meaning technocrat brought to the team. In tow, former Lotus team principle Eric Boullier has been snapped up. A great addition for the team, as the unimposing Frenchman has demonstrated the ability to run a team more effectively than anyone else on the grid.

Getting the team back to the way it was when Dennis was running the show will take some time. Already change can be seen trickling into the team. Continue reading

F1 2014 Preview: Force India – Dark horses of 2014

Last year saw Force India build a car that occasionally looked strong enough to challenge for podiums for the first half of the season and then vanish in the second half. Their performance was robbed by the emergency tyre changes that took place following multiple tyre failures at Silverstone. With the car slow to get back on form and then-drivers Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta failing to put in much effort, the team missed their best chance to date to claim a top five position in the constructors’ championship.

After making negative comments about the car and team, both underperforming drivers were released, marking the first time since the team’s inception that it would have an all-new lineup. Whereas frequent midfield rivals Sauber look down compared to previous years, Force India is looking strong. Continue reading

F1 2014 Preview: Sauber – Simply uninspiring

There’s no getting around it, so let’s just put things as simply as possible, shall we? Sauber doesn’t even look average this year: the Swiss outfit looks very “meh” with a driver lineup as exciting as a beige Volvo from the 1980s, and a car that doesn’t seem to be in a fighting way.

While Sauber might have lost a lot between 2012 and 2013, they at least had the incredible Nico Hulkenberg driving the car like a man possessed to keep their fans’ enthusiasm high and bring home unlikely points. Heading into this season, they seem set for a repeat of last year’s situation—without the incredible Hulk, of course. Continue reading

F1 2014 Preview: Torro Rosso – New talent and a benchmark

As the junior team for Red Bull, Torro Rosso has largely functioned as a revolving door since its inception. In fact, there have been only two drivers (Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo) who have been promoted to the works team since 2006. A brilliant 2008 saw Sebastian Vettel lead Torro Rosso to a higher constructors’ place than Red Bull, and since then it hasn’t been much more than a rival for the crest-fallen Williams—minus the interesting names and odd personalities.

In 2012 Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo looked like they would be a breath of fresh air for a team that had become synonymous with below-average rich boys. Neither was able to establish clear dominance over the other in racing, but Ricciardo distinguished himself with strong qualifying speed and a better attitude. Ricciardo’s promotion to Red Bull this year opened the door to a fresh crop of drivers with links to the team. Surprisingly, Antonio Felix da Costa was passed over in favor of a young Russian no one knew much about. With a new young-charger and known quantity, this appears to be a season of measures for Italy’s Red Bull. Continue reading

F1 2014 Preview: Caterham – All new lineup, last chance to perform

Caterham F1 CEO Tony Fernandes was openly bitter about losing 10th in the Constructors’ Championship last year and has declared that this would be the team’s “final chance” to deliver. Should the team fail to score its first points after 5 years of competing, Fernandes vows to fold the operation.

In an effort to boost their odds, both of last year’s drivers, Charles Pic and rookie Giedo Van Der Garde, were shown the door. In their place Caterham has signed former Sauber F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi and Swedish rookie Marcus Ericsson to pilot the CT05.
Continue reading