Okay – I know we have a lot of places of for next year’s grid filled, but I would be interested to see what others’ predictions of the field for next year are after all the news. Also, maybe we could have a stab at where the teams will be in relation to each other at the end of the year.
Infiniti Red Bull Racing – Renault
1. Sebastian Vettel – DEU
2. Daniel Ricciardo – AUS
> Despite a lot of work towards the 2014 season, the new regulations catch Red Bull off guard, meaning they have a lot of catching up to do. Combine this with the comparative lack of experience in Ricciardo, the first half of the season is a struggle. Stronger performances towards the end of the season bring them back towards contention, but they are just a little too far behind, and therefore finish the season 3rd in the WCC.
Scuderia Ferrari – Ferrari
3. Fernando Alonso – ESP
4. Kimi Räikkönen – FIN
Like Red Bull, the Maranello outfit do not get the interpretation of the regulations right at the beginning of the season, but they react more quickly to the need for change, meaning they have a better first half of the season. The second half of the season is very close between Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull, and the season goes down to the wire for the Constructors’ Championship. Ferrari take the title by one point.
Mercedes AMG Petronas – Mercedes
5. Lewis Hamilton – GBR
6. Nico Rosberg – DEU
Ross Brawn’s uncanny ability to interpret and apply new regulations better than his opponents continues to show itself in 2014 as Mercedes are totally dominant in the first flyaway races of the season. However, development back at Maranello allows Ferrari to pull back the advantage as the European season begins. Then, after the summer break, Red Bull also enter the fray – Mercedes’ development programme has just not been strong enough to hold both Red Bull and Ferrari back, and they all end up taking points off each other. Mercedes finish second by one point, but the team take great pride in their performance over the year.
Lotus GP – Renault
7. Romain Grosjean – FRA
8. Nico Hülkenberg – DEU
Hülkenberg joins the team after a great end to the 2013 season with Sauber. The team maintain the consistency they had in 2013, with frequent double podium finishes. Through the season, they give Red Bull a run for their money, finishing the season a handful of points behind them.
Telmex McLaren – Mercedes
9. Jenson Button – GBR
10. Sergio Pérez – MEX
The 2013 season was a real low point for the Woking-based squad, and initially it looked as though the 2014 season was going to be a reversal of those fortunes, with McLarens locking out the front row of the grid at Australia by a large margin. However, when the cars fail to deliver on race pace, the smiles on the pit wall turn to worried faces. If that isn’t enough, the ‘midfield’ of 2013 (Force India, Sauber, Toro Rosso and Williams) have notable improvements in their fortunes, and despite frantic development of their car, McLaren soon find themselves drifting further away from the front of the field.
Sahara Force India – Mercedes
11. Paul di Resta – GBR
12. James Calado (R) – GBR
Force India begin to lose patience with di Resta but, having dropped Sutil in favour of taking on rookie James Calado, they need someone experienced to show him he ropes, so they give him another chance. Calado immediately impresses, as he frequently matches, and even occasionally beats di Resta in terms of performance, but the car is a bit of a letdown overall, which allows Sauber to overtake them in the long-running midfield battle, as McLaren fall back and Toro Rosso and Williams close up.
Sauber F1 Team – Ferrari
14. Felipe Massa – BRA
15. Esteban Gutierrez – MEX
Nico Hülkenberg’s departure leaves the team feeling somewhat downcast – after all, he (at the end of the Korean Grand Prix) single-handedly moved Sauber ahead of rivals Toro Rosso! However, the presence of Felipe Massa as a free agent on the market who brings Brazilian sponsorship money seems too good an option to miss, particularly as Massa has driven with Sauber in the past. Sergey Sirotkin is deemed to be just a little too young for a full-time drive with the team, but (thanks to Massa’s gracious spirit), he gets to race at the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi, as well as driving in several practice sessions through the season. Sauber finish fifth overall, ahead of Force India and McLaren.
Scuderia Toro Rosso – Renault
16. António Félix da Costa (R) – POR
17. Felipe Nasr (R) – BRA
The Red Bull Young Driver Programme has a history of giving drivers a two year ‘grace’ period, and their approach to Jean-Éric Vergne is no different – two years with the team and consistently outclassed by his teammate (who moved to Red Bull) led Toro Rosso to drop him in favour of taking on two rookies for the 2014 season. This strategy is always risky, as these drivers have no experience in the category, and only have each other to learn from. However, both drivers live up to their hype, scoring points reasonably early on in the season, and keeping the midfield teams’ battle strong and fiery.
Williams AMG F1 Team – Mercedes
18. Valtteri Bottas – FIN
19. Susie Wolff (R) – GBR
It happens like this every once in a while…you have a driver with a fiery temperament, and a team who put up with it for so long, but eventually the stress gets too much on everyone. Maldonado’s rhetoric about ‘preferring to stay at home rather than fighting at the back of the field’ is granted as Claire Williams loses patience with him. At the same time, Susie Wolff steps up, bringing welcome funding and support from new engine suppliers Mercedes, being F1′s first female driver since Giovanna Amati in 1992. The pairing of Bottas and Wolff seems a little inexperienced to begin with, but with the change in regulations, they bring the fight to the midfield. The difference in points between Sauber, Force India, McLaren, Toro Rosso and Williams at the end of the season is so slim – it is a sign of one of the closest and most exciting seasons for quite some time.
Marussia F1 Team – Ferrari
20. Jules Bianchi – FRA
21. Vitaly Petrov – RUS
In the winter break, there is a lot of fevered discussion about who should drive for the team with Marussia’s loyalties divided between the money Max Chilton brings and signing a Russian driver to raise the profile of the team, sport and brand. In the end, the point is moot when Vitaly Petrov enters the arena with a large sponsorship deal, and the team decide to hire him to drive with Bianchi for 2014. Chilton is retained as reserve driver with regular practice drives. With the extra funding and the new Ferrari contract, Marussia is a much more competitive outfit, and begins investing in their R&D departments and infrastructure. They score their first points (about time, really) and begin to grow in strength. They finish the season ahead of the also improving Caterham team.
AirAsia Caterham F1 Team – Renault
22. Charles Pic – FRA
23. Heikki Kovalainen – FIN
Though the team needs sponsorship, they also need experience, so they decide to go out on a limb and rehire Heikki Kovalainen in place of Giedo van der Garde. The much-liked Finn immediately sets to imparting his experience, and the team begins to seem more confident and ‘together’. They also score their first points in 2014.
I know some of this could be said to be far-fetched, but I don’t think any of it is beyond the realms of possibility…