F1 2015 season preview: Meet the rookies


As part of our extensive Formula 1 season preview on MotorSportsTalk, we’ve decided to take a closer look at the rookies that will make their debuts at next Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix.

At the time of writing, Manor Marussia F1 Team is yet to firm up its line-up, with one seat remaining alongside Will Stevens who raced in last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix for Caterham (and is therefore not a rookie, despite lacking F1 experience).

So in a couple of days, there may be one more name to add to the list of F1 rookies. For now though, here’s a closer look at the three drivers who will be making their F1 bows in 2015.

Felipe Nasr – Sauber

Age: 22
Car Number: 12
Biggest Achievement: 2011 British F3 champion
2014 Result: 3rd in GP2 Series

Felipe Nasr has been in the running for a Formula 1 seat for a few years now, but will finally make his debut with Sauber in Australia. The Brazilian finished third in last year’s GP2 Series, proving to be Jolyon Palmer’s biggest title rival before his form petered out towards the end of the year. His most notable success to date came in the 2011 British F3 championship, in which he soundly defeated McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen, and he spent last year working as Williams’ test and reserve driver.

2015 is where things get serious for Nasr, though. His failure to put up a greater challenge to Palmer last year in GP2 led many to question his ability, and with Sauber, he doesn’t exactly have the best car to showcase his talents. Nevertheless, the 22-year-old will be hoping to make the most of this opportunity and enjoy a solid rookie season with the Swiss team.

Carlos Sainz Jr.

Age: 20
Car Number: 55
Biggest Achievement: 2014 Formula Renault 3.5 champion
2014 Result: 1st in Formula Renault 3.5

Another man who has been on the fringes of F1 for some time is Carlos Sainz Jr. Son of rally legend Carlos Sainz, “Carlitos” has been a candidate for a seat at Toro Rosso for two or three years. He was not the team’s first pick for the seat at Toro Rosso, but the chain of events sparked by Sebastian Vettel’s departure from Red Bull gave him a reprieve and a place on the grid for 2015.

His title win in FR3.5 last year was impressive, but lacked a bit of fire at times. He should have clinched the crown far earlier than the final race of the year, and it is interesting to note that he never finished on the podium without being on the top step. He certainly has potential, but the notoriously cut-throat nature of the Red Bull junior system means that this is very much a last chance for the Spaniard.

Max Verstappen

Age: 17
Car Number: 33
Biggest Achievement: 2013 World KZ Karting Champion
2014 Result: 3rd in FIA F3 European Championship

The most talked about rookie in F1 this year will undoubtedly be Max Verstappen (pictured). His rise through the ranks into an F1 seat has been controversial, sparking a raft of new criteria to be allowed to race in F1 such as being at least 18 years of age and holding a valid road driver’s licence (Max fits neither). Red Bull has taken a punt on him, but there is no doubt that Verstappen has the makings of a great.

Son of ex-F1 driver Jos, Max was highly impressive in FIA F3 last year, but some inconsistency meant that he finished third in the final standings. His practice run-outs for Toro Rosso showed that he looks ready, and the praise he has received is only likely to continue over the coming weeks and months. However, the big test will be when he goes wheel-to-wheel with the experienced racers out on track. Be aware though: this ‘kid’ could change everything.

Ford unveils a new Mustang for 2024 Le Mans in motorsports ‘lifestyle brand’ retooling

Ford Mustang Le Mans
Ford Performance

LE MANS, France — Ford has planned a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans with its iconic Mustang muscle car next year under a massive rebranding of Ford Performance aimed at bringing the automotive manufacturer “into the racing business.”

The Friday unveil of the new Mustang Dark Horse-based race car follows Ford’s announcement in February (and a ballyhooed test at Sebring in March) that it will return to Formula One in 2026 in partnership with reigning world champion Red Bull.

The Mustang will enter the GT3 category next year with at least two cars in both IMSA and the World Endurance Championship, and is hopeful to earn an invitation to next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The IMSA entries will be a factory Ford Performance program run by Multimatic, and a customer program in WEC with Proton Competition.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, also an amateur sports car racer, told The Associated Press the Mustang will be available to compete in various GT3 series across the globe to customer teams. But more important, Farley said, is the overall rebranding of Ford Performance – done by renowned motorsports designer Troy Lee – that is aimed at making Ford a lifestyle brand with a sporting mindset.

“It’s kind of like the company finding its own, and rediscovering its icons, and doubling down on them,” Farley told the AP. “And then this motorsports activity is getting serious about connecting enthusiast customers with those rediscovered icons. It’s a big switch for the company – this is really about building strong, iconic vehicles with enthusiasts at the center of our marketing.”

Ford last competed in sports car racing in 2019 as part of a three-year program with Chip Ganassi Racing. The team scored the class win at Le Mans in 2016 in a targeted performance aimed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ford snapping Ferrari’s six-year winning streak.

Ford on Friday displayed a Mustang with a Lee-designed livery that showcased the cleaner, simplified look that will soon be featured on all its racing vehicles. The traditional blue oval with Ford Performance in white lettering underneath will now be branded simply FP.

The new mark will be used across car liveries, merchandise and apparel, display assets, parts and accessories and in advertising.

Farley cited Porsche as an automaker that has successfully figured out how to sell cars to consumers and race cars in various series around the world while creating a culture of brand enthusiasts. He believes Ford’s new direction will help the company sell street cars, race cars, boost interest in driving schools, and create a merchandise line that convinces consumers that a stalwart of American automakers is a hip, cool brand.

“We’re going to build a global motorsports business off road and on road,” Farley told the AP, adding that the design of the Mustang is “unapologetically American.”

He lauded the work of Lee, who is considered the top helmet designer among race car drivers.

“We’re in the first inning of a nine inning game, and going to Le Mans is really important,” Farley said. “But for customer cars, getting the graphics right, designing race cars that win at all different levels, and then designing a racing brand for Ford Performance that gets rebranded and elevated is super important.”

He said he’s kept a close eye on how Porsche and Aston Martin have built their motorsports businesses and said Ford will be better.

“We’re going in the exact same direction. We just want to be better than them, that’s all,” Farley said. “Second is the first loser.”

Farley, an avid amateur racer himself, did not travel to Le Mans for the announcement. The race that begins Saturday features an entry from NASCAR, and Ford is the reigning Cup Series champion with Joey Logano and Team Penske.

The NASCAR “Garage 56” entry is a collaboration between Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear, and is being widely celebrated throughout the industry. Farley did feel left out of the party in France – a sentiment NASCAR tried to avoid by inviting many of its partners to attend the race so that it wouldn’t seem like a Chevrolet-only celebration.

“They’re going right and I’m going left – that NASCAR thing is a one-year deal, right? It’s Garage 56 and they can have their NASCAR party, but that’s a one-year party,” Farley said. “We won Le Mans outright four times, we won in the GT class, and we’re coming back with Mustang and it’s not a one-year deal.

“So they can get all excited about Garage 56. I almost see that as a marketing exercise for NASCAR, but for me, that’s a science project,” Farley continued. “I don’t live in a world of science projects. I live in the world of building a vital company that everyone is excited about. To do that, we’re not going to do a Garage 56 – I’ve got to beat Porsche and Aston Martin and Ferrari year after year after year.”

Ford’s announcement comes on the heels of General Motors changing its GT3 strategy next season and ending its factory Corvette program. GM, which unlike Ford competes in the IMSA Grand Touring Prototype division (with its Cadillac brand), will shift fully to a customer model for Corvettes in 2024 (with some factory support in the IMSA GTD Pro category).