F1 2015 Primer: The Teams

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Following on from our F1 2015 Primer looking at the 20 drivers that are set to race this season, here’s a run-down of the ten teams that will line up on the grid at this Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix.

The pecking order in F1 changed significantly in 2014, with Mercedes storming to the front of the field by taking full advantage of the new technical regulations.

Behind the Silver Arrows, Williams, Red Bull and Ferrari look to be left battling for second place, whilst McLaren will be hoping to bounce back this year after switching to Honda power units.

Here’s how the grid is shaping up in 2015.

Mercedes AMG Petronas

The defending champion team, Mercedes will be looking to secure another pair of titles in 2015. All of the early signs suggest that it will have little trouble in doing so, having produced yet another superb car in the form of the W06 Hybrid. In Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, Mercedes has two quick and competitive drivers, but the team management will be doing all it can to ensure that tensions do not boil over as they did at Spa last year.

Infiniti Red Bull Racing

After dominating F1 between 2010 and 2013, Red Bull’s 2014 was rather lacklustre in comparison, with Daniel Ricciardo scoring all three of its wins. The Australian driver will lead its charge in 2015 after Sebastian Vettel’s departure to Ferrari, with Daniil Kvyat moving up from Toro Rosso after just one season in F1 to replace the German. The team may lack depth and experience this year, but its line-up is one of the youngest and most interesting on the grid.

Williams Martini Racing

Williams’ return to the top table of F1 in 2014 came as a welcome surprise to the seasoned fan, with Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa reaping the rewards of the changes made at the team over the past few years. Once again, the team should be fighting at the front of the field in 2015, and could perhaps even be the team to snatch a win should Mercedes drop the ball at any time this year.

Scuderia Ferrari

2015 marks a new beginning at Maranello. The old regime has been ousted out after years of mediocrity and missed opportunities, and now Sebastian Vettel is the driver Ferrari’s efforts are focused on. Maurizio Arrivabene and Sergio Marchionne offer a fresh perspective for F1’s most famous team, and if its pre-season testing pace is to be taken seriously, 2015 could well hold far better things for Ferrari.

McLaren-Honda

Like Ferrari, McLaren is starting a new era in 2015 with the arrival of Honda engines and former Ferrari man Fernando Alonso. The British team has also grown tired of fighting in the midfield, having not won a grand prix since the end of the 2012 season. Immediate success may not come about with Honda, but once the teething problems are resolved, McLaren could yet rekindle the glory days of the last time it paired with the Japanese manufacturer in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Sahara Force India F1 Team

Force India has come close to beating McLaren in each of the past two years, and appeared to have the momentum coming into 2015 to mount a serious challenge against the British team. However, financial difficulties meant that Force India could not debut its new car until the final test of pre-season, putting it on the back foot. Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg are two talented drivers, but neither should be getting their hopes up heading into the new year.

Scuderia Toro Rosso

Red Bull’s satellite team continues to be a training ground for its future drivers in 2015, with Max Verstappen (17) and Carlos Sainz Jr. (20) arriving to form the youngest line-up in the history of F1. The lack of experience could cost the team this year, especially with Verstappen having spent just one year in single seaters, but at the same time, this is an exciting line-up that could be spoken about for years to come.

Lotus F1 Team

After coming close to financial doom in the past couple of years, Lotus managed to steady the ship last year and is now on the cusp of a revival in F1. The E23 Hybrid is an all-new car, not an evolution, giving the team a chance to break with the past. The arrival of Mercedes engines should also aid the team’s cause, and although both Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado may have critics, both have proven to be very difficult to beat on their day.

Manor Marussia F1 Team

Rising like a phoenix from the flames, Manor enters F1 in 2015 after Marussia entered administration following last year’s Russian Grand Prix. Thanks to fresh investment, a shell operation is running at the beginning of the new year, meaning that although points are out of the question, a future is. Roberto Merhi and Will Stevens may lack F1 experience, but both are young and exciting prospects.

Sauber F1 Team

Reeling from its worst ever year in F1, Sauber had entered 2015 with hopes of a fresh start. However, before it even got out on track in Melbourne, a legal row with ex-reserve driver Giedo van der Garde has overshadowed its efforts. Uncertainty lingers, but if the team can stabilize itself, a better year may be in the offing with the improved C34 car.

Lessons learned in three rounds of Extreme E pay huge dividends in the Copper X Prix for Tanner Foust

Foust Copper X Prix
McLaren Racing
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To paraphrase the Grateful Dead, what a long, unique trip it’s been for Tanner Foust in his first season with the Extreme E series as he took his early season lessons to Chile to compete in the Copper X Prix. And he’s learned his lessons well.

In February, McLaren announced they would expand their motorsports program with an Extreme E entry. They signed two talented rally drivers in Foust and Emma Gilmour – and paired them for the opening round in Neom, Saudi Arabia with just a few days of testing under their belts. Baked by the Arabian desert sun, it was trial by fire.

The duo performed well in their debut, advancing into the final round and finishing fifth. As Extreme E headed to another desert halfway across the globe for Round 4, it was a good time to catch up with Foust and ask about McLaren’s progress. The Copper X Prix was held this past weekend in one of the most extreme regions in the world: the Atacama Desert.

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“The shock going into the first race was the speed,” Foust told NBC Sports. “It was much higher than we had tested. We spent a lot of time around 100 miles per hour [in race trim] and our testing speeds were more in the 60 to 70-mile range. Then, once we sort of got around that, the car got updated so you can drive it even faster.”

In rally racing, some incidents are out of a driver’s control. Even peeking around another car can be dangerous because of potholes that have recently been gouged in the ground or large bushes that seem to sprout up between laps. A couple of rollovers brought Foust back to earth – but the pace was there and that was important.

“We had some challenges this season,” Foust said prior to the Copper X Prix. “We had a good start; made the final, which is a difficult thing to do in this series. I had two rolls in the first three events, but I have improved each time. Now we come into Round 4 in Chile in a pretty strong position. We have competitive times as a team. We are communicating really well and have our heads around this Odyssey vehicle.”

Foust’s words proved to be prophetic.

He won the Crazy Race – Extreme E’s version of a Last Chance Qualifier – and did so after passing the field. It was the same manner in which he qualified for Saudi Arabia’s finale, but this time things would be better. There were those hard-earned lessons on which to lean – and Foust had reps under his belt. He was not going to be caught off guard by any random obstacles.

Tanner Foust passed Sebastien Loeb heading to the Switch Zone in the Copper X Prix. (Photo by Sam Bagnall / LAT Images)

In the Copper X Prix finale, he pressured one of the best rally drivers in the history of the sport.

Pitching sideways through a tight left-hander late in his stint, Foust put his McLaren Extreme E Odyssey at the head of the pack in front of Sebastien Loeb as they headed to the Switch Zone. There, he would turn the car over to his co-driver Gilmour.

The Extreme E series pairs male and female drivers with both taking a turn behind the wheel.

After the driver change, Gilmour lost the lead momentarily to Loeb’s teammate Cristina Gutierrez, but as they charged toward the finish line, she surged ahead and crossed under the checkers first.

“What an improvement for the team over this year,” Foust said after the race. “We have struggled through some of the events, being in our first year in competition. We showed true pace this weekend; overtaking Sebastien Loeb was a highlight.

“Emma put in a great run in the Final. I was fortunate to go from last to first in the Crazy Race and then first in the Final but with some flag penalties, we had 20 seconds added to our time, which put us into fifth. It was a great feeling crossing the line first, I love this wide style track and the NEOM McLaren Odyssey was fantastic here.

“Hopefully we can continue that momentum into Uruguay.”

Loeb and Gutierrez were elevated to the top of the podium, but no one can take away the feeling of crossing under the checkers first.


Racing Responsibly

Since cars were first invented, racing has played a socially responsible role by improving safety. As Earth reaches a tipping point with climate change, racing needs to adapt to these new needs and requirements, which is where Extreme E’s unique strategy becomes increasingly important.

The Extreme E experience is more than simple racing. Each race is accompanied by a legacy program designed to offset damage done by climate change and to erase the footprint caused by the events.

Foust, a biology major from the University of Colorado, was given the chance to rekindle his interest and give back to the environment ahead of the Copper X Prix.

The Atacama is the oldest desert in the world at 150 million years. It is the driest place on earth and has the highest degree of ultraviolet light. And yet somehow life perseveres through underground rivers with oases dating back to Incan times. Foust participated in preparing a local habitat for the reintroduction of a critically endangered water frog to Chile’s longest river, the Loa, which snakes its way through the desert.

“I’m loving the experience,” Foust said. “I’m putting on a lot of Chapstick, a lot of sunscreen. What a fascinating part of the world. I never would have come here otherwise.

“I honestly am very honored to be a part of this sport. I am a huge believer in the fact that motorsports has done us good in the last 100 years. I think we benefit every single time we put our seatbelts on and drive down the road to the lessons learned in racing since the turn of the century. And I really hope motorsports continues that tradition.

“I think that motorsports like [Extreme E] does it in a responsible way, a gender-neutral way and a carbon-neutral way.”