Kansas City – Happy New Year to all! 2014 officially began about 9 days and 13 hours ago here in the Midwestern states. With a new year comes new excitement and new opportunities, and as every other year since 1950, a new season of the Formula 1 World Championship! Though the season doesn’t properly begin until the Australian Grand Prix (14-16 March), the teams and many press writers (myself included in a freelance capacity) are hard at work preparing for the lights to go out and the race to begin in Melbourne.
So, what should we expect for 2014? If you want to start with the big question of “Who will win the 2014 championship?” odds are that that answer could be Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel (GER) for the fifth time in a row. After his strong 9 race winning streak at the end of 2013, I would not be surprised if the Newey, Vettel, Horner team outmatch all the other drivers like they did last year. No doubt the new engines will lessen the power of the RB10 in comparison to its immediate predecessor the RB9, but with the design skill of Newey, and the stamina and skill of Vettel, I would be surprised if anyone else took the crown this year.
How about second and third then? In terms of constructors, my guess is another repeat of Scuderia Ferrari and Mercedes-AMG-Petronas, however the prediction as to who will get second and who will get third between the pair is still up for grabs. No doubt the Alonso Räikkönen pair will be one to watch out for, as both are world champions and just fantastic drivers all around, but at the same time the Mercedes team has done quite well in their own right, with Rosberg and Hamilton performing very well for themselves throughout this past season. Considering the fact that Mercedes has lost Ross Brawn, at least only for this season if Niki Lauda has anything to say about it, I could see an off chance of them suffering from what I’d call sudden loss of leadership syndrome, though perhaps not as badly as Manchester United has so far this season. In this light I’ll go for Ferrari taking second in the constructor’s championship, with Alonso and Räikkönen both performing equally well.
With the top three out of the way, it comes down to the rest of the field. Despite their poor performance in 2013, McLaren’s acquisition of Denmark’s Kevin Magnussen could help bring them back to strength. Having won the 2013 Formula Renault 3.5 Series with 274 points, earning pole in nearly all of the races, not to mention never finishing below second place, Magnussen could help reinvigorate the lads from Woking. Frankly though, I was sad to see the team drop Sergio Pérez (MEX), especially considering how promising the end of the season was for him in regards to his on track performance.
Whilst on the topic of Pérez, I do think he’ll has a promising career ahead of him at Force India. In fact, this could be the season when Force India takes their first win. With the combination of Hülkenberg (GER) and Pérez, they certainly seem stronger than the next competition, Lotus, who I think will be lucky to end up higher than 6th. True, Romain Grosjean (FRA) has been showing great potential with the team, especially at the end of the 2013 season, but I tend to doubt Pastor Maldonado (VEN) will do anything that spectacular this season, though I do expect him to have a few points winning finishes here and there.
The 7th and 8th places in the constructor’s championship could very well go to Sauber and Williams. The Swiss team’s choices of Mexican Esteban Gutiérrez and German Adrian Sutil seem quite suited to the team’s strengths. Though I don’t expect Sauber to win any Grands Prix this year, they could have a decent shot at a few pole positions in the next few years plus a win or two. Williams on the other hand does seem to be on the verge of something good. Though perhaps not the glory of the ’90s so fondly remembered by their Brazilian driver Feilipe Massa, who has left Ferrari after 7 seasons driving for the Italians, Williams’ future is still quite bright. Between Massa and his Finnish teammate Valtteri Bottas, Sir Frank’s team could very well bring in a win or two here or there. I especially admire the resilience of the Williams team, the sort of everyman of F1, who has stuck with the sport, with their passion, despite their generally dismal performance since the team’s last podium at the 2008 Australian Grand Prix.
Finally, in regards to the three teams that I’ve yet to mention: Scuderia Toro Rosso, Marussia, and Caterham, I’d imagine they will stay in that order. True, Toro Rosso’s new young Russian driver Daniil Kvyat did a fantastic job in GP3 this past year, especially for someone who’s only 19 years old, but honestly I don’t see him making much of a mark in Formula 1 for a couple years still. Now, if he does I’ll eat my words right away. Meanwhile his French teammate, Jean-Éric Vergne, doesn’t seem to be setting himself up for anything spectatular either, looking at his 17th place finish in the 2012 tables and 15th place the following year. In any case, Vergne could do some damage to the other teams standings, particularly to Sauber and Williams, but overall I am skeptical.
The big question remaining for the lineup is just who will take the last remaining seat at Marussia and just generally who will be driving for Caterham? Last I checked, Marussia has only confirmed Frenchman Jules Bianchi as one of their two drivers. Judging by his 19th place inaugural performance in 2013 in Formula 1, I could see him staying in about the same area. It really is too bad in that my most striking memory of him from 2013 was when his car caught fire in Germany and proceeded to roll out onto and across the track, taking out a UBS sign on the way. Caterham on the other hand is still a fairly big question. The names proposed on 8 January in an article on F1.com were Frenchman Charles Pic, Dutchman Giedo van der Garde, Finn Heikki Kovalainen, Britons Max Chilton and Paul di Resta (whose name has also come up in Indy Car speculation), Swede Marcus Ericcson, and Japanese driver Kamui Kobayashi. Whatever the case, the races between Caterham and Marussia will be as enjoyable as usual.
In any case, these are all just my own musings and predictions based upon what I saw in 2013. If you want to see another angle on predicting the 2014 championship, look no further than Ladbrokes’ 2014 F1 Drivers’ Championship Odds, in which the chances for winning the crown go from Vettel’s 10/11 odds all the way down to Jules Bianchi’s 1000/1 chance. Click here to see the full listings from Ladbrokes, and do gamble responsibly.
Thats’ all for now for my F1 writing. I’ll be back for certain in a few weeks, probably after NBC Sports has their annual season preview broadcast.