Monday, 20 April 2015

Special feature - What have we learnt from the first four flyaway races and what can we expect from the opening race of the European season?

(Mercedes AMG PETRONAS F1 Team)

The Formula One circus arrives in Spain in three weeks for the first race of the European leg of the season following four extremely exciting fly-away Grand Prix.

Mercedes AMG PETRONAS F1 Team’s reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton kicked of the season in Australia winning the Grand Prix by 1.36s from team mate Nico Rosberg while Scuderia Ferrari’s new signing, reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel finished the race in third place 34.523s behind Hamilton.

In Malaysia, Vettel started alongside Hamilton on the front row and went on to win the race and finished 8.569s ahead of Hamilton and Nico Rosberg while Kimi Raikkonen showed that the new Ferrari SF15-T is an extremely competitive car as the Iceman finished the race in fourth place. Scuderia Toro Rosso rookie driver’s Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz finished the race in the points in 7th and 8th place respectively.

The biggest surprise to come out of the first four Grand Prix has been the struggles of Infiniti Red Bull Racing. 

The Milton Keynes based outfit have encountered trouble with their new RB11 and Daniel Ricciardo is now onto his fourth Renault power unit after suffering three failures in the first four Grand Prix which means that it is more than likely that the Australian will have to take a ten place penalty for using a fifth power unit when the allocation for the season in four.

At the Chinese Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit, Lewis Hamilton took his third pole position in a row and went on to win the race ahead of team mate Nico Rosberg while Sebastian Vettel was once again on the podium in third place as a result the German four time world champion moved up to second place in the championship following his victory in Sepang.

The Lotus F1 Team who over the winter made the switch from Renault to Mercedes scored their first points of the season at the Chinese Grand Prix as Romain Grosjean secured a seventh place. In Bahrain over the weekend Grosjean once again finished the race in the points with another seventh place finish.

The Enstone outfit have now scored more points so far this season than they over the course of the entire 2014 Formula One season.

Williams Martini Racing who finished in third place ahead of Scuderia Ferrari have seen the Italian team leap frog them over the winter as the Prancing Horse would appear to be the second fastest team following Mercedes.

McLaren have also struggled in the first four Grand Prix of the season having moved from Mercedes to Honda power over the winter. Jenson Button failed to even start the Bahrain Grand Prix over the weekend having completed just 17 laps over the course of the race. Meanwhile Fernando Alonso who sat out the season opening Australian Grand Prix following his accident in testing finished the race just outside the points in eleventh place.

Alonso said following the first night race of the season that it would be the last time that the Woking based outfit will finish a Grand Prix outside the points.

The team who have made one of the biggest steps compared to last season is the Sauber F1 Team as in 2014 the Hinwil based outfit failed to score a single point however in the opening four Grand Prix of the season, they have scored 19 points and are currently in fifth place in the Constructors championship.

Towards the end of last year the Marussia F1 Team entered administration and last month the outfit was purchased by Northern Irish businessman Stephen Fitzpatrick and the rebranded Manor-Marussia F1 Team are now back on the Formula One grid and have two complete race distances behind them as both Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi completed the Chinese and Bahrain Grand Prix.

So who will be the team to beat when the F1 circus rolls into Barcelona? It is hard to look past Mercedes and Ferrari being right at the front once again while the Williams Martini Racing Team may also be very strong in Spain. The weather at the Spanish Grand Prix is expected to be very warm but not as hot as it was in Bahrain last weekend so this should suit Mercedes and Ferrari.

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen finished the Bahrain Grand Prix just 3.380s behind race winner and reigning world champion Mercedes AMG PETRONAS F1 Team’s Lewis Hamilton so the Iceman can be expected to be challenging for the race win in Spain.

© Ben Johnston 2015

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