Here is part 2 of Badger’s review of 2014’s runners and riders. You can check out part 1 here.
Mercedes – Silver Arrows are flying
Remember when Lewis Hamilton left McLaren in 2012 for Mercedes? Remember everyone saying it was purely motivated by greed and money? Yeah, well, maybe not. With the exception of a couple of ropey days in the final Bahrain test, Mercedes have been THE team to beat pre-season, with the car clocking up a lot of laps and displaying a fair lick of speed.
Add to this the undeniable pace of Hamilton and team-mate Nico Rosberg and it’s easy to see why they are the bookies’ favorites to take home both titles this year. The only question may be whether the team can sustain a title challenge and develop the car, something they are a little unproven at since their transformation from Brawn back in 2009.
Lotus – Pastor of Muppets
Lotus are in trouble. The signs were there at the end of last year, with stories of drivers not being paid and staff being made redundant. The future of the team seemingly balanced on the completion of a deal with the somewhat mysterious Quantum Motorsport group. This Badger doesn’t know enough of the details to make an accurate comment, so won’t, but for whatever reason, that didn’t happen. A lack of funds is one thing, but when paired with a car that was seemingly not ready for the first test in Jerez and an engine that has had a tendency to go “pop”, it’s led to a lack of both laps and times. We can’t deny the car has the most interesting of the solutions to 2014’s daft nose regulations, however.
The addition of Badger favorite Pastor Crazy-Eyes Maldonado to the promising if slightly erratic Romain Grosjean may have been more financially than racing motivated, but it at least gives the team a very, err, aggressive driver line-up for the season. Expect sparks and carbon-fibre in abundance.
McLaren – The boss is back
The last few years have not been up to McLaren’s standards, with drivers, sponsors and key staff leaving the Woking outfit for other projects and, more notably, other silver-coloured Mercedes-powered Formula 1 teams. Much of this disapointing performance has come under the watchful eye of Martin Whitmarsh, who appears to have fallen victim to an internal political coup within McLaren’s glass corridors of power. He has seemingly disappeared entirely, with no-one having heard nor seen much of the former CEO. Instead F1 and McLaren legend Ron Dennis has seized power and installed ex-Lotus favorite Éric Boullier as Racing Director.
There has also been change on the driver side of things with the under-performing Sergio Pérez shipped off to Force India, while young Danish star Kevin Magnussen has been drafted in for his debut season to partner F1’s elder statesman, Jenson Button. In fact it is the reigning Formula Renault 3.5 champ who has been making a lot of the headlines in pre-season testing, with his name often appearing at the sharp end of the times and putting himself across as mature and level-headed in press interviews. Very much one to watch.
Sauber – Shades of Grey
The most midfieldy of the midfield teams looks to maintain their midfield position by signing a midfield driver and producing a car that looks spectacularly midfield. This may seem a little harsh, but it is probably a fairly accurate description of the Swiss team in 2014. While there have been rumblings of financial problems, these seem to have abated – for now at least. Testing times have been solid, but not overwhelming.
With Adrian Sutil venturing from long-time employers Force India to partner the drug-barron-named Esteban Gutiérrez, there is little to get excited about on the driver front either. In fact there should be a new adjective to describe their pre-season: they have been very ‘sauber’.
Marussia – Steady improvement
As is well documented, none of the three teams that entered Formula 1 some 4 years ago have scored any points and, quite honestly, none have looked much like they might. One is dead in the water, and the other two have been scrapping for the title of “least bad” over the last few seasons. That, however, may be about to change, and it is the Russian-owned outfit that looks to be the one to break the mould. A car that, despite suffering some teething issues, hasn’t been the most unreliable on the grid has also shown some glimpses of pace.
In Jules Bianchi, Marussia have a talent with the potential to at least hold a steady midfield drive, and in Max Chilton they have, well, a safe pair of hands. He did manage to bring the car home at every race last season, a task no other rookie has managed, so kudos to him for that.