With a couple of weeks until the European leg begins at Barcelona, teams have been scurrying back to their laptops to crunch the numbers after the opening flyaways. Darshan Chokhani reflects.
“Ferrari is back and looks strong” – Toto Wolff.
“It’s tough to battle Lewis and it’s tough to battle the Ferraris now that they are in the mix” – Nico Rosberg.
Ferrari presents its challenge
The 2015 Formula 1 season is truly on now. Four races down, and although three have been won by Mercedes, the one win from Ferrari and four podium finishes have surely rang some alarm bells in the Silver Arrows’ camp. Mercedes is still the dominant team, pace-wise, but it is certainly a bit more cautious about the Prancing Horse’s resurgence this season.
This time last year, Mercedes had four wins and 152 points. Right now, it might only have three wins but 159 points; the reason for the seven-point jump is Hamilton’s Australia DNF in 2014. This year, both cars have finished all the four races.
Hamilton has looked in a league of his own at times. His teammate Rosberg seems to have lost the plot, cracking under-pressure more often. His qualifying advantage of 2014 has been quashed by Hamilton so far.
The German showed glimpses of aggression during the Bahrain Grand Prix but it remains to be seen if he can really challenge Hamilton or not.
Ferrari had only 52 points after race four last season, and scored just two podium finishes all year. This season it has been on the podium at each race, and has almost doubled its points score to 107.
It seems like Sebastian Vettel’s introduction has lit up Ferrari’s morale, and Kimi Raikkonen showed in Bahrain that he’s not lost his spark either.
Williams – often Mercedes’ chief challenger last year – has been left in its wake, along with a troubled Red Bull Racing.
McLaren woes continue; midfield tightens
McLaren has failed to register a point so far with returning engine manufacturer Honda. To make matters worse, the midfield pack with Lotus, Sauber, Toro Rosso and Force India have all shown promising pace, which has put McLaren in a difficult position all the more.
The Woking-based team is only ahead of minnows Manor in the Constructors’ Championship, while Sauber leads the midfield pack despite its obvious off-track struggles.
The battle is certainly close this season: only eight points separates these four midfielders.
Red Bull stumbles; rookies shine
The biggest faller so far this season is Red Bull Racing, which lies fourth with 23 points, only four points ahead of Sauber. The dominant Vettel era seems like an age ago. Its dispute with engine supplier Renault is out in the open; Daniel Ricciardo finishing the Bahrain GP with a blown engine pretty much sums up its season.
On Red Bull’s flipside, the rookie drivers in its sister team Toro Rosso have stacked up well. Teeneger Max Verstappen’s run in China silenced his critics, and had his advocates purring. His teammate Carlos Sainz Jr started brightly too, with a brace of points finishes in the opening grands prix.
Elsewhere, Felipe Nasr’s sublime fifth position in Australia was certainly the highlight of the rookies’ season so far.
Back to the base, European leg ahead
These four races have set the stage, while the off-track drama has made the news more often than the racing itself.
The focus heading into the European leg will be on the fight between Mercedes and Ferrari, and whether Rosberg can mount the challenge on Hamilton.