Formula One pack hunts Mercedes
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Vettel and Alonso in new teams as heat goes on Silver Arrows
With everyone looking to challenge Mercedes this year in Formula One, former world champions Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso will do so with new teams.
Here are some things to look out for in the upcoming season, which begins in Melbourne on Sunday.
Best of enemies
Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg went into last season on about as good a terms as any teammates can be at a top team, yet the inevitable pressures of fighting each other for the drivers’ championship strained their relationship to near breaking point.
A collision between the pair at the Belgian Grand Prix forced Hamilton out of the race and left Rosberg 29 points clear at the top of the standings and seemingly headed for the championship. However, Hamilton responded by winning six of the seven remaining races to earn his second career title.
Preseason testing indicates Mercedes will continue to excel into the new season, at least in the early part, so another Hamilton vs Rosberg title showdown looms.
Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo was the only man to take race wins off Mercedes last year, and the team is banking on an improved Renault engine to narrow the gap to Mercedes, but faces an uphill task to surpass the silver cars.
Ferrari, too, will be hoping for better things with the arrival of four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, but it also has a lot of ground to make up in terms of engine development.
F1 has a nose job
After the major technical changes of 2014, when the sport ushered in its complex new engines, this season will have relatively minor alterations to the rules governing cars and racing.
The most apparent change is a return of noses tapering down to a low front wing, as the high fronts of recent years have been outlawed. It may have created a lot more work for aerodynamic designers, but is much more aesthetically pleasing.
The restriction on pit-driver communication will be stepped up this year, with teams forbidden from sharing technical data such as settings for fuel use.
In a sport where exploitation of loopholes can often be the difference between success and failure, expect to see teams sailing close to the wind on that one.
The late afternoon start times for several races have been moved forward in response to the crash of Marussia driver Jules Bianchi last year in Japan. The French driver suffered severe head injuries when crashing into a trackside mobile crane in gloomy and wet conditions late in a race that finished near dusk.
Bianchi remains hospitalised in critical condition.
A year after introducing individualised driver numbers, Formula One now wants to force the sport’s stars to stick with iconic helmet designs.
The proposed rule would severely restrict the number of design changes to helmets each season, to make drivers more identifiable both at the track and on television.
The plan stillhas to be ratified by the World Motor Sports Council.
Sebastian Vettel regularly changed his helmet design when he was at Red Bull, with some innovative displays, and was not the only one to do so.
Some drivers have already grumbled about curbs on self-expression and restraint of trade, but the broader interest of fans and the sport seem likely to win out.