After a three-month off-season and a month of testing, it’s all to do again for the stars of Formula One. As is tradition, Formula One returns for another year with the Australian Grand Prix. While a new season often starts with a lot of questions, the only real question that most are asking is Lewis or Nico?
The first step in answering that question came in the first race of the season. Unlike last season, it was Lewis who took first blood and won the first race of the 2015 World Championship. Considering all the drama that happened during the weekend, it was almost as if the battle at the front of the field was just a backdrop to everything happening off-track.
With less than two weeks to go before the first Grand Prix of the season in Melbourne, the second test at the Circuit de Catalunya near Barcelona was the final chance that the teams got to get ready for the 2015 season.
For some teams, it was more of the same. Mercedes was at the front of the pack while McLaren struggled to get some consistent running in. Other teams found some much-needed form. Williams found some speed in the final test of the pre-season and Force India finally ran their 2015 car with as much mileage in three days as McLaren had in three weeks.
After barely making it to the first test at Jerez after firing up the car for the first time the day before the test started, Lotus showed that the Mercedes engine is a lovely piece of kit. Two of the four days of the Barcelona were topped by Lotus, including the top time of the weekend.
While Lotus thrived, the likes of Red Bull, Ferrari, Williams Mercedes and McLaren all struggled for consistency during the first test at a track on the 2015 Formula One calendar. Sure, Mercedes is likely to dominate F1 for the second straight year but everyone looks a little vulnerable in testing.
Usually the Formula One off-season seems to last forever before the stars of F1’s travelling circus return to the track for pre-season testing. However, if the two-month layoff between Abu Dhabi and Jerez seemed short to you, imagine how short it must have seemed for the teams.
After this first test, the off-season probably seemed far too short for McLaren who barely got any running in over the four days. Lotus was also hoping for a longer break as they missed the first day because they only fired their new Mercedes engine for the first time the day before the test began.
Up front, two of the familiar suspects found themselves frequently near the front of the timesheets with a very unexpected pair of faces in the top two all week.
Double points, regular points and no points. It doesn’t matter what the points on offer would have been in the final race of the 2014 Formula One World Championship because the result would have been the same. With an ERS failure crippling his car for the final half of the race, reliability was finally on Lewis Hamilton’s side as he scored the win and clinched the World Drivers’ Championship.
In Formula One, all it takes is one mistake to ruin your day. Lewis Hamilton had the superior race pace despite not having as quick qualifying paste as his teammate, Nico Rosberg. However, a spin at the end of his second stint ended any chance he had of getting past Rosberg and instead kept his teammate alive in the hunt for the World Drivers’ Championship.
Of course, that wasn’t all of the news of the weekend. Money was still a hot topic of conversation and it looks like that discussion is only going to get more contentious from here.
Nico Rosberg might have started the race on pole but he wasn’t able to finish on the point. Despite a late charge from the German, it was Lewis Hamilton who won his 10th race of the 2014 season and became the winningest British driver in Formula One history in only his 7th season in the top flight of international motorsport.
However, the race was really only a B-plot to this weekend’s story. The three weeks leading up to the United States Grand Prix saw two of the 11 teams on the grid go into administration and fail to turn up for this weekend’s race. In fact, neither team is expected to return in 2014 and may not be back in 2015. The weekend’s real story is the state of the sport and the financial viability for the whole grid and not the mainstays at the sharp end.