With the 2014 season opener in Melbourne now less than a month away, It is set to be one of the most unpredictable years in the history of the sport and the driver lineups certainly threw up a number of surprises. Lets have a look at the 22 drivers set to be on the grid on March 16th, In this first part we look at Red Bull, Mercedes, Ferrari and Lotus.
Red Bull Racing keep hold of their prized asset Sebastian Vettel after he signed a contract extension last June which should see him stay at the Milton Keynes team until the end of the 2015 season, the 26 year old German had been linked with Ferrari but for now he stays at Red Bull and will be looking to win a record equalling 5th consecutive world title, however Vettel will have to deal with a new teammate after his Aussie nemisis Mark Webber announced his F1 retirement last summer after seven years with the team, replacing Webber will be his compatriot Daniel Ricciardo, he steps up from Toro Rosso to drive for the world champions this year, Ricciardo was favoured over Kimi Raikkonen and his Toro Rosso teammate Jean-Eric Vergne, Will that faith in the man who has a best race result of 7th place reward Christian Horner and the team with another Constructors title.
Mercedes are one of only two teams on the grid to keep their driver pairing from last year, Lewis Hamilton enters his second year with the team after a solid first season where he won the Hungarian GP and finished 4th in the Drivers Championship, the Brit again will be partnered by his good friend Nico Rosberg, he had a great year last time out finishing 6th in the championship after earning three poles and winning two races, only finishing 18 points behind Hamilton is quite good considering that Hamilton is regarded as one of, if not, the fastest driver on the grid.
Ferrari will possess the most explosive driver lineup on the grid with Fernando Alonso remaining for another year despite rumours linking him with a move to McLaren, he will be keen to deliver a championship to the Maranello based team, it must be considered that he could quite easily have won two, 2010 and 2012 but both times being pipped by Vettel, the fact that Ferrari have not won a drivers title since 2007 has prompted them to bring back the man that won that title, Kimi Raikkonen returns to the team replacing 2008 champion of around 30 seconds Felipe Massa, only a few years after Raikkonen was replaced quite ironically by Alonso and despite having the opportunity to sign highly rated Nico Hulkenberg it was decided that they would opt for the known quantity of the Finn in a Ferrari.
Lotus, left reeling not only by the loss of Raikkonen but also with the farcical situation involving a possible deal with Quantum Group which led some to believe that they would be able to sign Nico Hulkenberg despite him not coming with much money around him, however the deal never materialised and led the Lotus team that had all season struggled to pay their drivers in a situation where they would need a ‘pay-driver’ to help them in terms of their financial peril, that man is Pastor Maldonado, with his many millions from the PDVSA oil group in his native Venezuela, though lets not forget is a race-winner and has on multiple occasions proved he has the speed to be a top F1 driver. Partnering him at Lotus is arguably the most-improved driver of last year in Romain Grosjean, he like Maldonado had a reputation for being involved in an incident and was often questioned about his ability as a driver, however with 6 podiums he has shown his maturity and the Enstone outfit will be hoping for a similar transition with Maldonado.