F1 2015 Preview: Five storylines that could define the new season

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The 2015 Formula 1 season bursts into life this weekend with the Australian Grand Prix, bringing to an end to the winter solstice that has lasted since Lewis Hamilton’s title victory in Abu Dhabi last November.

Once again, Mercedes appears to be leading the way heading into the new season, with Hamilton and teammate Nico Rosberg poised to vie for the drivers’ title this year, just as they did in 2014.

However, behind the Silver Arrows, an almighty scrap for second place is on the cards, with Williams, Red Bull, Ferrari and even Lotus all looking capable of a podium finish, judging by their winter testing pace.

So ahead of the Australian Grand Prix on Sunday – live on NBCSN from 12:30a ET – here’s our look at five storylines that are set to define the 2015 Formula 1 season.

Lewis versus Nico, round two

Last year’s battle for the championship was one of the most entertaining in years, even if double points did give the final race of the year a little more hype. Even without this gimmick in 2015, the tussle for the title could go all the way once again as Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg duke it out at Mercedes.

One year on from the start of its dominant spell, Mercedes appears to have lost none of its advantage. In testing, both drivers laid down an impressive marker at the top of the timesheets without really pushing the W06 Hybrid car too hard, suggesting that it is still a full second clear of the rest of the field. If the reliability issues of 2014 can be ironed out, then the chase for the perfect season could be on once again for the German team.

Amid friendly fire at Mercedes last year, Nico and Lewis came out of the season war-weary but as noble rivals. They’ll enter the new year with far more fire than they started the 2014 season with though, knowing just how fierce the intra-team battle will be. It makes for a thrilling dynamic to start the season with.

Vettel and his arrival at “New Maranello”

Over the last year, a revolution has taken place at Ferrari. The top personnel that were failing to get the results required were slowly edged out: Luca di Montezemolo, Stefano Domenicali, Marco Mattiacci, Pat Fry and – most notably – Fernando Alonso. None of the lynchpins that took the team to Melbourne last year remain, and instead, a new regime under Sergio Marchionne and Maurizio Arrivabene is in place.

The biggest change on the driver front is the arrival of four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel. After 15 years under the Red Bull umbrella, Vettel has flown the nest, and is now looking to follow in the footsteps of his hero, Michael Schumacher, by reviving Ferrari and building a team around him. It will be fascinating to see how this new chapter goes for both the team and the driver. Neither expects immediate success, but both will be giving everything to lay the foundations for a brighter future at Maranello.

Echoes of the past at McLaren

Just as Ferrari is looking to break with the past and exit the doldrums, McLaren will be kicking off a brand new era on Sunday. After 20 seasons together, Mercedes will no longer power the British team this year, with Honda returning as an engine supplier. This reforges the famed partnership of the late eighties and early nineties that saw Ayrton Senn and Alain Prost go wheel-to-wheel, producing not only one of the greatest rivalries in F1 history, but also one of the most dominant streaks for any one team.

The return of Fernando Alonso to Woking came as a surprise, but he knows that a Honda-powered car is most probably his best chance of clinching that elusive third world title. The Spaniard will not be in Australia by virtue of his testing accident, with reserve driver Kevin Magnussen deputizing. There will be teething problems, but once the Honda power unit gets up to speed, we could be set for an almighty resurgence from McLaren.

The fight to survive

2014 was a brutal year for F1 politically, with the collapse of Caterham and Marussia proving just how deep the financial crisis was. Although Marussia has remarkably recovered and is now back on the grid as Manor, question marks still hang over Sauber, Lotus and Force India, with all four teams knowing that this season is by no means a sure-fire thing.

So 2015 will once again be about the political struggles that F1 is facing (or, as it would seem, refusing to face). The constant fight between the haves and have-nots will continue, and change is unlikely – but we could yet be surprised.

And if things do crumble? The big teams will likely carry on as normal. To them, a sport with Manor is little different to a sport without it. One can only hope that Gene Haas knows just what he is getting into upon the arrival of his team in 2016.

The future of F1

Amid the questions about the very existence of these teams, a great debate is raging on about the direction that F1 should take in the future. More powerful and louder engines? Wider tires? Fiercer looking cars? Sure, why not? It will cost though – something that seems to have been forgotten amid all of this.

Ferrari is leading the call for a revolution in F1, but the sport really needs to focus on the problems at hand instead of considering solutions to ones that don’t actually exist. TV figures aren’t falling because people don’t like F1 anymore; it’s because of the financial structure that is in place, where profit and revenue is king. If it’s a choice between 500k viewers on a subscription service or 3m watching for free, the 2.5m missing viewers won’t be missed.

The F1 product can, like anything, always be improved. However, it would be better to have a healthy grid of ten teams competing instead of there being cool-looking cars with fire-breathing engines that only five operations can afford to produce. The system requires fixing, and it will be fascinating to see how the approach of F1’s future changes across the course of the season.

***

These are just some of the storylines that you can expect to define the 2015 season. However, don’t forget:

  • The fight for P2 between Red Bull, Williams and Ferrari.
  • Red Bull adjusting to life post-Vettel and post-Newey.
  • Lotus’ new era with Mercedes engines.
  • The return of the Mexican Grand Prix in November.
  • The build-up to the arrival of Haas F1 Team in 2016.
  • Max Verstappen’s debut season at just 17 years old.
  • Sauber’s legal quandary with Giedo van der Garde.
  • The future of the German Grand Prix.
  • Our continued support for Jules Bianchi and Michael Schumacher.

2015 has the makings of a fantastic season, so be sure to start it in the right way by joining us on NBCSN this weekend for comprehensive coverage of the Australian Grand Prix. Click here to see all of the TV times.

Final 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona results, stats

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona overall results were all streaks: two consecutive victories in the endurance classic for Meyer Shank Racing and three in a row for Acura.

And Helio Castroneves became the second driver to win three consecutive Rolex 24s and the first to win in three straight years (Peter Gregg won in 1973, ’75 and ’76; the race wasn’t held in ’74 because of a global oil crisis).

Starting from the pole position, Tom Blomqvist took the checkered flag in the No. 60 ARX-06 that led a race-high 365 of 783 laps with co-drivers Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud and Colin Braun.

RESULTS: Click here for the finishing order in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona l By class

Meyer Shank Racing now has two Rolex 24 victories and the 2022 championship since entering the premier prototype category of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2021.

“I think what’s so special about this team is we are a small team compared to some of our opponents, but the atmosphere, the way we work, enables people to get the best out of themselves, and I think that’s why we’re such high achievers,” Blomqvist said. “I think there’s no egos. It’s a very open book, and that just enables each and every one of us to reach our potential. I think that’s why we’ve achieved so much success in really a short time at this level of competition.”

It’s the 16th IMSA victory for MSR.

The 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona marked the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category that brought hybrid engine technology to IMSA’s top level.

In other categories:

LMP2: James Allen passed Ben Hanley on the final lap and delivered a victory in the No. 55 ORECA by 0.016 seconds. It’s the second IMSA victory for Proton Competition, which last won at Sebring in 2012. It was the first Rolex 24 victory for Allen and co-drivers Gianmaria Bruni, Fred Poordad and Francesco Pizzi.

GTD Pro: Cooper MacNeil won in the last start of his IMSA career as the No. 79 Mercedes-AMG GT3 scored the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for WeatherTech Racing and the team’s fourth career victory.

MacNeil, who co-drove with Maro Engel, Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella, earned his 12th career victory and first at the Rolex 24.

“Winning by last IMSA race is tremendous,” MacNeil said.

GTD: The No. 27 Heart of Racing Team delivered the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for Aston Martin, which has been competing in endurance races at Daytona International Speedway since 1964. Drivers Marco Sorensen, Roman De Angelis, Darren Turner and Ian James (also the team principal) earned the victory in the English brand’s 13th attempt.

It’s also the first Rolex 24 at Daytona win for Heart of Racing, which has seven IMSA wins.

LMP3: Anthony Mantella, Wayne Boyd, Nico Varrone and Thomas Merrill drove the No. 17 AWA Duqueine D08 to victory by 12 laps for the team’s first class win in IMSA.


STATS PACKAGE FOR ROLEX 24 HOURS OF DAYTONA:

Fastest laps by driver

Fastest laps by driver after race (over the weekend)

Fastest laps by driver and class after race

Fastest lap sequence

Lap chart

Leader sequence

Race analysis by lap

Stint analysis

Time cards

Pit stop time cards

Best sector times

Race distance and speed average

Flag analysis

Weather report

NEXT: The 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season will resume with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring March 18 with coverage across NBC, USA and Peacock.