With the final testing now completed, we have a very rough idea of where the various teams stand with their car development and who may have the upper hand.
Obviously Mercedes are once again the clear favourites – they were able to post the fastest times near the end of the testing on the “slower” soft tyres, whilst the quickest teamson the “super softs” were about a tenth of a second slower.
It’s difficult to say exactly how much quicker Mercedes are for a variety of reasons, but if you assume the “super softs” are about half a second a lap quicker – which seems to be the case based on the times we have seen, then Mercedes are just over half a second a lap quicker than Williams and Ferrari.
This means they are not going to dominate as they did in 2014 as they were a second a lap quicker in qualifying at the Barcelona circuit, so the deficit has been nearly halved. It’s not as simple as this however as we don’t know what fuel loads and set-ups were being used, but the deficit is certainly likely to be smaller than in 2014.
As for the other teams, it looks like Williams and Ferrari are going to be the main challengers to Mercedes, with Williams possibly being the stronger of the two teams. Williams have been working hard to try to hide their true pace, doing a lot of race distances and not so much work on qualifying and shorter stints, whilst Ferrari have gone a bit more aggressively for lap time rather than distance.
McLaren have had a lot of problems with their new car, partly due to the relative lack of recent experience with their new engine partner Honda. Lack of laps completed means I expect them to struggle for pace and reliability early in the season but I expect them to develop the car more than any other team during the season meaning they may challenge for podiums and even the odd win by the latter stages of the season.
I haven’t mentioned Red Bull as they are something of an unknown factor this season, as they have also been trying to hard to mask their true potential. They could well challenge Mercedes under certain conditions, ie damp track, certain circuits etc.
Of the rest no team will challenge for wins or probably even podiums but Sauber appear to have made some good progress and may be the “best of the rest” in 2015.
My advice if you are picking a team would be to ignore both Mercedes drivers as they are pricey and unlikely to do as well as last season, but if you choose Mercedes as one of your components you are guaranteed some good points.
Williams will probably deliver good points as will Red Bull and both are quite good value to fill up your components ie aero, chassis and engine.
From a driver point of view Daniil Kvyat is a bargain as he is priced based on his performance from last season, ie when he drove the relatively poor Toro Rosso. Now he is at Red Bull he should score regular points and maybe even the odd podium.
Bottas is pretty good value if you expect Williams to be challenging Mercedes and he should improve this season as a relatively new driver compared to his team-mate Massa, who may decline as he is getting near the end of his career.
Raikkonen had a bad season last year and represents good value if you think the new Ferrari will be competitive and to the Finn’s liking. Bit of a risk that one though!