2014 was not just another season in the history of F1.
F1 donned a new face and saw a huge changeover from the previous year.
Many avid fans had reservations about seeing F1 in its new avatar - 1.6 L V6 Turbo Charged Engines, Reduction to 5 Power Units from 8, Bigger Energy Recovery Systems, Reduced Downforce, 8 Gears ( from 7 last year ) to compensate for the Torque and reduced fuel usage to accommodate the new allocation of 100kgs ( of fuel ) over a race distance and most importantly double points in the season finale in Abu Dhabi.
F1 was on a mission to bring down costs and the rule changes would be the first step in that endeavour. However towards the end of the season we saw the demise of 2 teams and questions being raised by one and all as to whether F1 really profited from these drastic steps. The engines also weren't loud enough for many fans and everyone remembered the days of old. F1 Supremo Bernie Ecclestone even hinted at a return to the noisier V8s but a switchback will not happen anytime soon.
2014 saw the introduction of a new track - Sochi in Russia and the return of the Red Bull Ring at Spielberg in Austria.
How did the teams fare in 2014? Lets have a quick recap :
Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :
Mercedes had started work on their power unit 2 years before its introduction into the sport and they reaped huge rewards on the racetrack. The Factory Team enjoyed a considerable advantage over its rivals and its customer teams. The duel between the team-mates was all that mattered and childhood mates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg left no stone unturned as they battled for supremacy and the eventual crown.
The Team had the fastest car on the grid but they suffered with reliability issues throughout the season.
Lewis suffered retirements in Australia, Canada and Belgium while Nico in Britain and Singapore.
Lewis and Nico battled hard and sparks were flying between the two. Nico captured pole and victory at Monaco albeit "unsportingly" according to some experts. Lewis on the other hand didn't let Nico pass him during the Hungarian GP. Nico was pretty discontent going into the summer break.
The Battle between the team mates reached a flashpoint when Nico hit Lewis while challenging for the lead in the 2nd lap at Belgium. The damage caused Lewis to retire and instigate an internal investigation which ended in Nico issuing an apology to Lewis and suffering a heavy fine.
Lewis then went on a 5 race winning spree and overturning the deficit to Nico whose retirement in Singapore due to another mechanical failure didn't do his chances any good. Nico was trailing by 17 points going into the final race in Abu Dhabi but electrical problems denied him from mounting a challenge. Lewis won the Championship on pure merit though.
The 2008 World Champion notched up 11 wins to Nico's 5. He also produced stellar drives from the back of the grid to end up on the podium on a few occasions and was the victim of unreliability more often than his team-mate.
The Team finished with 16 Wins in 19 races, 11 1-2s and a colossal 701 points! The Team had sealed the Constructors' Championship at the Inaugural Russian GP ( Round 16 ).
2014 truly saw the dawn of the "Silver Arrows and the 3 Pointed Star" era.
Red Bull Racing F1 Team :
Red Bull had a torrid start to the 2014 campaign in testing and went into 2014 with a lot of uncertainty about them - most notably the reliability of the Renault Power Unit.
Sebastien Vettel who enjoyed 4 years of success struggled with the lack of downforce and the loss of considerable amount of aerodynamics on the new car. He suffered reliability issues and even exceeded the 5 Power Unit allocation for the season.The German however managed 4 podiums in the 2014 season - Malaysia, Canada, Singapore and Japan. Vettel decided it was time to move on and take on a new challenge. He will be joining Ferrari for the 2015 season. He finished the year in 5th.
Daniel Ricciardo the new graduate from Toro Rosso had a fantastic year and finished 2nd in his debut race for Red Bull on his home turf in Australia but Fuel Irregularity in his car meant that he was stripped of his 2nd place and disqualified.
Ricciardo produced stellar drives throughout the season and was the sole driver to capitalize on any mistake or reliability issues that the Mercedes duo faced. He notched up his First Win for Red Bull in Canada when both Hamilton and Rosberg suffered brake problems. Hungary and Belgium were 2 more victories that followed soon after and kept him in the title hunt. 5 podiums helped him top off a fine 2014 in 3rd place in the Drivers' Championship.
Red Bull relinquished their crown and finished in 2nd place, a resurgence after the uncertainties at the start of the season.
Williams - Martini Racing F1 Team :
Williams have been living in the shadows for a long time and a return to the sharp end of the gird was overdue. Williams hired the services of Felipe Massa and Rob Smedley, the latter becoming the Head of Vehicle Perfomance. Williams were the most successful customer team amongst the Mercedes Engine buyers and the duo of Bottas and Massa showed everyone that Williams were back in business.
Bottas was a little slow off the blocks but soon gathered pace and started bagging podiums. He finished in the top 3 on six occasions. His consistent performance in other races ensured that he stayed ahead of rivals to finish 4th in the Championship.
Massa too enjoyed life with his new team and was a very different racer in 2014. He too took his time to start scoring good points for the team and even stole pole position at the Austrian GP. However he could only manage 3 podiums - Italy, Brazil and Abu Dhabi.
Massa was a handful in 2014 and will be a force to reckon with in 2015. He finished 7th in the Standings.
Williams had a slow start to 2014 but consistency from both drivers helped them gather points rapidly. They won the duel with Ferrari to take 3rd Place in the Constructors. This was a massive jump from 8th last year and the extra cash will definitely help them move closer to the top in 2015.
Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :
Ferrari had the strongest driver lineup on the grid and all were eyes were on them to see how 2 drivers with 3 world championships between them would cope with the new season. Massa's Departure meant the return of the Iceman KIMI RAIKKONEN! Ferrari had last won the Drivers' Championship with Kimi in 2007. What Promised to be a battle royale between Alonso and Raikkonen eventually fizzled out.
Alonso lead the charge for Ferrari and flattered to deceive in a car which was simply not good enough to challenge the Mercedes. Alonso managed 2 podiums - 3rd in China and 2nd in Hungary. He scored consistently throughout the season and managed to finish 6th in the Championship.
Kimi Raikkonen had a season to forget. The Iceman suffered all year long and his best finish in the year was 4th in Belgium.
Kimi could only muster 55 points and finished 12th in the Championship.
Ferrari was the most reliable car on the grid but not the quickest and they paid a heavy price for their lack of pace as they finished a disappointing 4th in the Constructors' Championship. The primary reason for failure has been attributed to the Pushrod Suspension Design. The Design is better aerodynamically but makes the front end unresponsive. Kimi really struggled with the lack of front end grip and also the new "Brake by wire" system. These simply don't suit his driving style. Ferrari have been working all year to address these issues and progress is visible. Alonso suffered 2 retirements due to mechanical failures and the Spaniard has struggled during his time at Ferrari. He announced that he would leave the team at the end of the season and has returned to McLaren for 2015.
McLaren Mercedes F1 Team :
McLaren brought in a Driver Program graduate Kevin Magnussen to partner Jenson Button for 2014. McLaren and Mercedes have enjoyed a great partnership down the years but the partnership would come to an end at the end of 2014 as McLaren switched to Honda with the hope of restoring the days of Prost and Senna.
Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button had an amazing start to the Season when they finished 2nd and 3rd respectively. ( Australia )
However post that none could manage any more podiums. Button was more consistent and his experience shone on track. His future at McLaren was uncertain but some stellar drives towards the end helped his cause as well as McLaren's who were locked in a heated battle with Force India and even trailing them for a certain period. Button finished 8th in the standings with 126 points.
Magnussen's rookie year in F1 was a promising one. He made a few mistakes and struggled to score big post his podium in the first race. Magnussen finished 11th with 55 points.
McLaren were the weakest of the Mercedes' Customer teams but improved towards the end of the season to narrowly beat Sahara Force India F1 Team to 5th position and save themselves the blushes.
Sahara Force India F1 Team :
Force India saw the return of Nico Hulkenberg who partnered Sergio Perez, the latter removed by McLaren for not fulfilling expectations and being vocal about the lack of performance of the 2013 contender. Force India is slowly clawing their way up the grid and 2014 was a really rewarding one for the team.
Nico Hulkenberg performed well for the team, scoring good points consistently and making a strong case for himself. He truly deserves to be driving for a team higher up the grid and Force India would be really thankful for this acquisition. Hulkenberg's best finish was 5th on 4 occasions and he finished the season in 9th with 96 points.
Sergio Perez had a mercurial 2014. Some heroic driving helped him earn a podium for the team ( 3rd place ) ( Belgium 2009 being Force India's last ). He was robbed of another 3rd place in Canada after his coming together with Massa on the last lap.
He was unable to make heavy inroads in the rest of the races and finished 2014 in 10th place with 59 points.
Force India can take encouragement from a much better 2014 and build from here. Their association with Mercedes will definitely help them in 2015 too.
Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 Team :
Toro Rosso acquired the services of young Daniil Kvyat, another graduate from the Red Bull Driver Program while Jean-Eric Vergne retained his seat for 2015. Toro Rosso switched to Renault from Ferrari in 2014 to become the 4th Customer team for the French Engine Manufacturer.
Jean-Eric Vergne had a rough start to 2014 with retirements and questions being raised about his calibre.However a couple of strong performances helped him reinstate his authority within the team.He managed to finish 7 times in the points. Vergne finished 13th with 22 points. Vergne is only 24 and deserved another year of racing to make a strong case for himself but Red Bull ( Toro Rosso's Main Sponsor ) thought otherwise. Toro Rosso relieved him of his services allowing him to become a reserve driver for Ferrari in 2015.
Daniil Kvyat made his F1 Debut at a tender age of 19. Some suggested that it was too early to bring the Russian into F1. I second that opinion but one musn't forget the turnout he generated at the Inaugural Russian GP. Kvyat showed brilliance in parts and only managed 5 points finishes. Kvyat should have spent another year with Toro Rosso but Vettel's Departure to Ferrari has given him the rare privilege of driving for the A Team in 2015.
Toro Rosso didn't have the best year in F1 and the rising costs also troubled them in 2014. They finished a disappointing 7th in the Constructors' Championship.
Lotus F1 Team :
Lotus F1 saw an exodus of talented people at the end of 2013. The Team had been brilliant in 2012 and 2013 and hired the services of Pastor Maldonado who replaced Kimi Raikkonen for 2014. Maldonado also brought in a big sponsor in PDVSA and expectations were high going into 2014. However pre-season testing revealed that the team was nowhere near ready for the season opener. The 2014 car had done minimum running and was plagued with Renault Power Unit problems.
The team had a very rough 2014 with both drivers qualifying at the back of the grid on more occasions than one. Reliability issues didn't help their cause either. Romain Grosjean finished in the points only on 2 occasions and Maldonado's best finish was 8th ( only once ). Grosjean finished in 14th on 8 points while Maldonado was 16th on 2.
Lotus F1 scored 10 points ( 8th in Constructors ) and the loss of talented people at the top hurt them bad. Lotus have parted ways with Renault and will work with a Mercedes engine in 2015.
Marussia F1 Team :
Marussia continued with Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton for 2014. The Team was locked in a heated battle with Caterham and Sauber Ferrari all season long and they earned their first points in Monaco when Jules Bianchi finished 9th.
The 2 points turned out to be vital in the Constructors' Championship. Max Chilton too continued to finish races until a retirement in Canada ended his record run of 25 consecutive classified race finishes.
However rising costs and lack of funds were threatening the very existence of the team. The F1 world was rattled when Jules Bianchi suffered a horrific crash ( on Sunday ) in Suzuka on a rainy day and in fading light. The Car went under a tractor which was trying to extricate the stricken Sauber of Adrian Sutil from the gravel. Bianchi has been in induced coma since and was recently shifted to Europe to continue treatment. The F1 Fraternity has rallied around the Frenchman and we all hope to see him hale and hearty and racing ontrack soon. Flag Rules, Race Timings and Safety for drivers has become the centre of discussions again in the aftermath of the incident.
Marussia set up Bianchi's car ( to honour him ) and raced only one car during the Russian GP weekend. The mood was sombre in the paddock.
Marussia and Caterham F1 became the victims of rising costs in F1. Marussia went into administration and didn't make a return to F1. The Team's higher finishing position had no value now.
Sauber F1 Team :
Sauber, powered by Ferrari acquired the services of Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez. Sauber struggled with the balance of the car as well as its weight in pre-season testing and was never able to address the issue. Sauber was another team feeling the pinch of rising costs and certain sources even suggested that the team was searching for a new investor to continue racing in F1. Adrian Sutil took the team's best result by qualifying in 9th in the United States, but his performance was short-lived, as he was hit from behind by Sergio Perez and the team endured their first pointless season in their 22 year history.
Caterham F1 Team :
Caterham had a torrid 2014. Rising costs, lack of funds coupled with an unreliable Renault engine left the team in complete disarray. Team Principal Tony Fernandes didn't see F1 as profitable anymore and sold the team to a consortium of Swiss - Middle Eastern investors in July. The Team hired the services of ex-F1 driver Christijan Albers for Team Principal but he too stepped down at the end of the Italian GP in September citing "Personal reasons".
Marcus Ericcson and Kamui Kobayashi drove for the team until the latter was replaced by three time Le Mans winner and FIA WEC Champion champion Andre Lotterer for the Belgian GP. He outqualified Ericcson but retired after his power unit failed on the first lap.
The deal with the investors however fell through and the Team went into administration post the Russian GP. They were unable to return for the US GP and the Brazilian GP. The team started an online campaign to raise funds to return for the Final race in Abu Dhabi and were able to make it happen. The Team replaced Ericsson with 23 year old rookie Will Stevens for the Final Race.
The existence of the team was always in question and the chances of survival were few and far between. Will Caterham be on the grid in 2015? I certainly hope so.
2014 wasn't a great year for Kimi and neither for me. I hope 2015 brings a change in fortunes for both of us. Mercedes AMG Petronas deserve to be Champions and we must give credit where its due.
2014 was nonetheless a brilliant season in terms of racing and showcased the sheer dominance of One Engine manufacturer over its competitors.
The 2015 Season is almost upon us.. Watch this space..the preview is coming soon!! God Bless everyone and enjoy the holidays!!