The return of the Formula One World Championship is finally among us, and the headlines have seen more negatives than positives this week.
Sauber have been in the courts this week as former reserve driver Giedo Van Der Garde took the Swiss team to court due to the team going back on a 2015 drive promised to Van Der Garde and hiring Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson. Giedo was successful in appealing the decision and is supposedly entitled to a race seat for this weekend.
The Dutchman is eager to get started as Formula One hits Melbourne: “"I'm very happy with the outcome. I'm fit and very strong and I’m looking forward to going back to the team and doing the best we can," Van Der Garde said. The team are appealing the decision but it looks like Nasr or Ericsson will be dropped in favour of the former Caterham driver.
The other headlines this week surrounded Manor F1 and their somewhat miraculous comeback to the grid. The team, formerly Marussia, named Roberto Merhi as their second driver this week after announcing Will Stevens as their first last week. Merhi who has a few Friday Practice outings under his belt, will race until at least April, as he’s contracted to participate in the Formula Renault 3.5 series.
Also Fernando Alonso will not race here in Melbourne after doctors advised the Spaniard to sit out this race to avoid a re-occurrence of the concussion he received from his high speed crash in testing in Barcelona in February. The McLaren driver will be replaced by reserve driver Kevin Magnussen, who has been drafted in to rekindle the 2014 driver partnership.
In terms of what to expect, it’s evident Mercedes are still far ahead, as their W06 hybrid looks arguably as strong if not stronger than their world title winning W05. Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg look like the drivers to beat this season again, and a win for either driver looks likely.
However the chasing pack, Red Bull, Williams and Ferrari are there to take the fight to the Silver Arrows, and a surprise result from one of these teams is high on the expectancy scale also. With Sebastian Vettel now at Ferrari, it’ll be intriguing to see how he settles into a new team and their regime.
Daniel Ricciardo is the man to watch, as the ever-smiling Aussie is a real threat when he’s on form, and he’ll be looking to do better than his third in last season’s Drivers Championship. The likelihood of McLaren not doing too well in Melbourne is almost certain. After a tumultuous testing campaign, the McLaren-Honda reunion hasn’t gone to plan as of yet, with just short of 400 laps completed in four sessions.
However the Australian Grand Prix never fails to deliver excitement, and so an entertaining race lies ahead.
Drivers for Australian Grand Prix:
Mercedes – Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg
Red Bull – Daniel Ricciardo, Daniil Kvyat
Williams – Felipe Massa, Valterri Bottas
Ferrari – Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen
McLaren – Jenson Button, Kevin Magnussen
Force India – Nico Hulkenberg, Sergio Perez
Toro Rosso – Max Verstappen, Carlos Sainz
Lotus – Romain Grosjean, Pastor Maldonado
Sauber – (Giedo Van Der Garde, Marcus Ericsson or Felipe Nasr, TBA)
Manor – Will Stevens, Roberto Merhi
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