In the penultimate part of MotorSportsTalk’s F1 2014 season preview, we take a look at the teams that will be vying for this year’s world championship. Although there are no new additions, we do have a number of driver changes, plus some interesting changes in suppliers and staff that could make a big difference in 2014.
RED BULL RACING
Having dominated F1 since the middle of 2009, it might come as a shock that Red Bull is no longer the team to beat. If testing is anything to go by, the RB10 car is proving to be troublesome. The only major change at the team is the arrival of Daniel Ricciardo as Mark Webber’s replacement, and he may be better poised to challenge Sebastian Vettel with the new regulations. Don’t write Red Bull off though: the team has a knack for rapid improvement.
Mercedes was undoubtedly the team to beat during pre-season testing, and has a strong driver pairing in Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. Upon re-entering the sport in 2010, the German marque always earmarked 2014 as being its first year of wanting to fight for the title; such a long lead-up and preparation period can only aid the team’s efforts. Ross Brawn’s departure may be felt, but with Toto Wolff and Paddy Lowe at the helm, Mercedes appears to be in good shape.
The Italian prancing horse hopes to bounce back in 2014 after a period of regular disappointment. Although there have been race wins and fine efforts from Fernando Alonso, it is still seven years since the team last won the drivers’ championship with Kimi Raikkonen. For 2014 though, the Finn returns after leaving Lotus, creating a mouthwatering driver line-up. In terms of one-lap pace, the team may even challenge Mercedes, and could yet be a force to be reckoned with in F1 this season.
No team has undergone more change than Lotus over the winter. The departures of James Allison, Dirk de Beer, Ciaron Pilbeam, Eric Boullier and Kimi Raikkonen mean that the team enters 2014 far, far weaker than it was twelve months ago. Pastor Maldonado arrives and may provide some financial stability, but after missing one of the three tests, the team is certainly on the back foot, especially with the Renault engine being problematic. Romain Grosjean will hope to lead the team in the post-Raikkonen era.
Coming off of the back of its worst season since 1980, McLaren is a team in transition. 2014 marks its final year with Mercedes engines before a switch to Honda, but many changes have already been made. Kevin Magnussen comes in to replace Sergio Perez, Ron Dennis returns as CEO and Eric Boullier arrives as Racing Director. The latter has replaced Martin Whitmarsh, of whom we are yet to hear news on. With Jenson Button hungry for a second title, the team could yet bounce back in fashion this year.
Having dumped the rather underwhelming line-up of Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil, Nico Hulkenberg (ever the nearly-man) and Sergio Perez (having left McLaren) arrive at Force India. Powered by Mercedes, the team appears to be well-placed for a strong season, so much so that Bernie Ecclestone has tipped Vijay Mallya’s team to win its first race this year. Hulkenberg and Perez are two exciting prospects, so it could be a big year for all at Force India.
Moving in the opposite direction to Hulkenberg, Adrian Sutil arrives at Sauber to partner Esteban Gutierrez as Sauber looks to bounce back from a tough 2013. The financial problems have been resolved, whilst the C33 has ran well during testing. The team may not win races, but it is certainly in better shape than it was at this time last year. With an array of drivers waiting in the wings for seats, the pressure is on Sutil and Gutierrez (2013’s rookie of the year) to perform.
SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO
Change is afoot at Toro Rosso. Following Daniel Ricciardo’s promotion to Red Bull, 19-year-old Daniil Kvyat was a surprise choice as his replacement, fending off Antonio Felix da Costa and Carlos Sainz Jr. to win the seat. Jean-Eric Vergne will become the team’s most experienced driver ever in 2014, but he knows that time is ticking. The move to Renault engines may have backfired, but in Xevi Pujolar, the team has secured a greatly talented engineer.
WILLIAMS MARTINI RACING
After scoring just five points in 2013, a raft of changes have been made at Williams. Gone are many of the problems that blighted last season, including Pastor Maldonado who accused the team of sabotage in Austin. Felipe Massa’s arrival is a win-win situation for driver and team, whilst engineers Jakob Andreasen and Rob Smedley will be keen to work with Pat Symonds in his first full season. Throw in Valtteri Bottas’ huge potential, Mercedes engines and the newly-announced Martini backing, and the stage is set for a breakthrough year at Williams.
Having finally beaten Caterham in 2013, Marussia enters the new season hopeful of a repeat performance, and perhaps some points. Ferrari engines will certainly aid the efforts of Max Chilton and Jules Bianchi, whilst the possibility for races of attrition could create a big opportunity for the Anglo-Russian outfit. Relying the race goes ahead as planned, the team will also enjoy its inaugural ‘home’ grand prix at Sochi in October.
All change at Caterham in 2014 as Giedo van der Garde and Charles Pic make way for fan favorite Kamui Kobayashi and GP2’s Marcus Ericsson, with the latter becoming the first Swede to race in F1 since Stefan Johansson in 1991. With a new mint image and a thirst for revenge after being marginally beaten by Marussia last season, 2014 could be a big year for Caterham and everyone at Leafield.