F1 2014 Season Preview
One race in judgements are a lot more informed and predictions a whole lot more accurate. The competition will be tight, but the early season form says that one team looks like winners already.
2014 World Drivers' Championship: Nico Rosberg @ 3.90 See the Latest Odds
TV: Sky Sports F1 (UK), NBC (USA)
Considering the complete unknown in which the F1 world descended into last weekend in Australia, it was probably wise for many to keep their predictions fairly quiet. Although somewhat safely Mercedes are heavily tipped to take the title, with many confidently predicting Lewis Hamilton to take his second crown come the year’s end, Melbourne’s race showed that not everything can be predicted.
Yes, Nico Rosberg won quite convincingly, but it was those behind him that stirred reaction among F1’s soothsayers. Not one person could have predicted a Red Bull podium coming into round one, and in one way they have been vindicated considering Daniel Ricciardo’s disqualification. Nevertheless, his performance showed that the rest of the field might be a bit closer than everyone thought. And his performance to out-qualify Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes, albeit in the wet, was outstanding and demonstrated that these Silver Arrows were not unbeatable machines.
Notwithstanding that the three cars who will take the podium position points away from Melbourne are all Mercedes powered cars, there will be strong and intense competition for all races this year. With Malaysia providing a two week gap between races, teams will be working frantically with Ron Dennis already proudly proclaiming McLaren will be half a second quicker in Sepang.
But let’s be clear. Mercedes are clear favourites. Of that there is no doubt. In a way the easiest prediction is saying that Mercedes will take the both championships, the hardest prediction which Mercedes driver will stand on top.
Lewis Hamilton has been after another crown ever since he won his first. It’s only since Sebastian Vettel began his unbelievable streak of four titles in a row that Hamilton’s frustration has been truly visible. The Brit believes that it is he and Fernando Alonso who should be regarded as the best F1 drivers of the current generation, but instead has borne witness the epic Vettel-Alonso battles of 2010 and 2012, with his name nowhere in the picture.
It might sound trivial, but if nothing else, Hamilton is on a mission in 2014 to rectify that balance and show that it is he who deserves the be the first name in those discussions of the best driers of this generation.
Stopping him is his teammate Rosberg. An unknown quantity for many before 2013, man were surprised by just how well he shaped up against Hamilton in their first year together. This shouldn’t have been a surprise. A man who beat Michael Schumacher three years in a row is not someone to be taken lightly and his performances since the competitiveness of the Silver Arrows turned around has been nothing short of consistent and excellent.
He has the perfect start. A win and a crucial 25 points clear of Hamilton, it seems like it’s going to be incredibly tight between the two good friends. Where Hamilton is better qualifier, Rosberg is probably the better racer. Mercedes have to be happy they have two drivers on top of their game, but with different strengths. Would it not be for the fact that Rosberg’s stats and lack of World Championships don’t do his driving ability justice, the Mercedes duo might be regarded as the best pairing on the grid, even ahead of the Ferrari pair of Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen.
There is little to say that this year’s championship is going to be a runaway. Yes Mercedes are good, but with the steep development curve that is inevitable with such a substantial change in regulations, other rivals will have ample opportunity to close and even overturn that advantage.
But this is all hypothetical. Predicting who is going to take those opportunities is as futile as predicting who’ll win the Brazilian Grand Prix in 2017. No one really has any clue.
What is clear is that the challenge for a season long championship campaign is going to come from four teams. Mercedes, McLaren, Ferrari and Red Bull. As of current performance, it looks likely to be in that order.
McLaren and Ferrari are perhaps closer together than the Australian GP suggested. Ferrari have made the most they could with the regulation changes, taking a car that was quite a bit of the pace towards the end of 2013, and making it a viable consistent contender for podiums this year.
Fernando Alonso is a known quantity. Perhaps past his peak, although he was still widely regarded as the best driver on the grid only two years ago, he now faces stiff competition from Raikkonen, something that’s been absent for the better part of four years. The Finn on the other hand looked markedly unsettled in Melbourne. Everything appeared a struggle, something that couldn’t be attributed to Raikkonen during his rebirth with Lotus. That’s fine. It takes time to settle into a new environment, even if it’s one he has experience before.
McLaren on the other hand appear to have uncovered a true shining gem. Kevin Magnussen’s performance in Melbourne was nothing short of spectacular from a man on debut. Qualifying P4 in the rain in cars that are visibly more difficult to drive in slippery conditions and then consolidating that with a faultless performance for a debut podium.
It’s clear that there’s plenty more where that came from. Jenson Button provided the ideal teammate. A driver who’s youthful exuberance is well behind him, Button will use all his experience and guile to mount a challenge for a second world title, aiming to be the man to bookend this Vettel run of winning.
And then Red Bull. At this point in time they’re at their lowest point since Monza 2012. Nothing appears to be going right for them. Even when they miraculously find themselves on the podium in a race where many expected them to not even finish, they end up being disqualified. Sebastian Vettel is close to letting his frustration boil over the point of containment. At the moment he maintains an optimistic outlook, praising the team for their hard work and maintaining that the title is still their goal. That’s well and fine, but they’re has to be improvement soon. Otherwise the title will be well and truly out of reach.
A smart tipster will wait for the year to pan out some more before deciding which horse they’re going to back. Often it’s the most difficult to predict the winner in a season which starts with one car so clearly more competitive than all the rest, even harder when form goes out the window due to brand new rules and regulation.
Let’s not forget the controversial double points scenario that we’ll encounter in the last race. The adage of being fastest at the end is going to be tremendously more significant this season.
It’s a brave man who says Mercedes won’t be lifting the trophy at the end of the season. The next bit is where everyone is split. Rosberg will be the Divers’ World Champion and the rational is simple. When Formula 1 enters into the unknown, whether it be a new car, new rules or even new weather conditions, it’s always the race driver that comes out on top.
Nico Rosberg has proved himself to be a better race driver than Lewis Hamilton, and that’s why he’s going win the title in 2014.
Follow Me: @TheF1_Professor