The new Formula 1 season kicks off on Sunday with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, and the class 0f ’15 is raring to resume racing after a long winter and testing period.
As part of MotorSportsTalk’s ongoing preview of the new season, here’s a run-down of the drivers that will be racing in F1 this season. Most of the old hats return, but with four rookies on the grid, there is a fresh feel about the sport in 2015.
Lewis Hamilton #44
The defending world champion was in devastating form last year, scoring 11 race wins to beat teammate Nico Rosberg to the title in Abu Dhabi. Hamilton can match his hero Ayrton Senna with a third championship in 2015, and is the pre-season favorite.
Nico Rosberg #6
2014 was Rosberg’s first taste of a championship battle, and although he emerged the loser, the German learned plenty and will be hoping to use this experience in 2015. Qualifying is his key strength, but he’s yet to prove he can beat Hamilton in a straight fight on-track.
RED BULL RACING
Daniel Ricciardo #3
The affable Australian was the breakout start of the 2014 season, scoring three wins and putting four-time champion Sebastian Vettel in the shade at Red Bull. Now he is team leader, Ricciardo will be hoping to build on this form and return to the top step of the podium in 2015.
Daniil Kvyat #26
Kvyat’s rookie season in F1 with Toro Rosso was solid if unspectacular, but he did enough to secure a seat at Red Bull for 2015 in what will be his sophomore year. The Russian still has plenty to prove, and all eyes will be watching closely to see if he can be a suitable replacement for Vettel at Milton Keynes.
Valtteri Bottas #77
Besides Ricciardo, Bottas was the other surprise package of 2014, scoring six podium finishes for Williams en route to fourth place in the drivers’ championship. The flying Finn will have his sights set on a maiden race win in 2015, with the Williams FW37 looking to be a strong car once again.
Felipe Massa #19
Massa may be entering the final few years of his F1 career, but the Brazilian proved in 2014 that he still has what it takes to cut it at the very top. Misfortune limited him to just three podium finishes last year, so with a better run of luck, Massa could yet match his younger teammate at Williams.
Sebastian Vettel #5
The four-time world champion follows in the footsteps of his hero, Michael Schumacher, by joining Ferrari when the team is by no means a leading force in F1. Vettel has the chance to truly establish himself as an all-time great by picking the team up and leading its charge back up the grid.
Kimi Raikkonen #7
Raikkonen’s motivation came into question last year as he struggled to adapt to the 2014 Ferrari car, but the Finn has lost none of his pace. 2015 could be a make or break year as he considers his future in F1 and motorsport.
Fernando Alonso #14
Forced out of Ferrari, Alonso has returned to McLaren in a move that many would have thought unthinkable following their turbulent one-year relationship back in 2007. Both the team and the driver need each other more than ever, but time will tell if the scars have healed.
Jenson Button #22
Button was almost dropped by McLaren in favor of reserve driver Kevin Magnussen, but retained his seat after taking a pay cut. A two-year deal means he will be in F1 until he is 37, and the 2009 world champion will be keen to lead the team’s new era with Honda engines.
FORCE INDIA F1 TEAM
Nico Hulkenberg #27
Hulkenberg led Force India’s charge in 2014 with a very consistent display, but is still seeking that elusive first podium finish. The German driver will balance his F1 commitments with two races for Porsche in the FIA World Endurance Championship, racing for the marque at Spa and Le Mans.
Sergio Perez #11
With Esteban Gutierrez losing his seat at Sauber, Sergio Perez will be the only Mexican driver to race at his returning home grand prix in November. After being jilted by McLaren in 2013, Perez has revived his F1 career at Force India, and will look to build on a solid 2014 this year.
SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO
Max Verstapppen #33
At just 17 years old, Verstappen will smash the existing record for the youngest driver to start a grand prix on Sunday. His rise to F1 has sparked controversy, but he appears to have the makings of a champion. Toro Rosso will be the perfect training ground for the Dutchman.
Carlos Sainz Jr #55
Son of rally legend Carlos Sainz, “Carlitos” enters F1 after winning last year’s Formula Renault 3.5 championship. He was not Toro Rosso’s first pick for the race seat, so has plenty to prove in 2015, but should not be underestimated in the fight against his junior teammate.
LOTUS F1 TEAM
Romain Grosjean #8
Grosjean’s stock rose considerably in 2014 despite scoring just eight points, as he couldn’t do much more with the difficult Lotus E22 car. This year, the team has switched to Mercedes power and appears to be far more stable, paving the way for Grosjean to move back up the grid.
Pastor Maldonado #13
A one-time grand prix winner, Maldonado’s reputation has been blighted by a number of incidents and accidents. If the E23 Hybrid car allows him to though, points could be on the cards for the Venezuelan in 2015, providing a chance for him to atone for past mistakes.
MANOR MARUSSIA F1 TEAM
Will Stevens #28
Stevens made his F1 debut under unusual circumstances at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last year for Caterham, but now has a shot at a full season with the revived Manor team. The car won’t be competitive, so taking his results with a pinch of salt will be key in 2015.
Roberto Merhi #98
Merhi had been due to make his F1 debut for Caterham last year before the team folded, but he has been given a second chance with Manor. The Spaniard enjoyed an impressive junior career, and brings plenty of experience from all forms of racing to the team for the new season.
SAUBER F1 TEAM
Marcus Ericsson #9
Ericsson is one of the few drivers to come out of the Caterham mess better off, securing a seat with Sauber for the new season. He made big improvements towards the end of 2014, and will be looking to carry this form over to his new team for 2015.
Felipe Nasr #12
Finishing third in last year’s GP2 championship, Nasr has proven his pace in junior categories, but perhaps lacks that killer instinct. His F1 debut has been a long time coming, and one can only hope that the Brazilian is able to prove his worth with Sauber this year.