To stay relevant in Formula 1 is becoming increasingly challenging for the next generation of young talents are also waiting to replace an ailing or struggling driver. Of course, Caterham and Marussia’s entrance into the depths of administration have done nothing to help the fight for seats by considerably reducing the number of places available.
Sebastian Vettel started the seat switching after announcing his Ferrari move and the clock stopped at McLaren after they settled on the experienced line up of Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button. However, following the close of the year dubbed ‘silly season’, drivers have landed in their 2015 position, with some in more favourable positions than others.
Championship position: 1st
He is an obvious choice but not to be overlooked. Hamilton was a class act in 2014, emerging victorious for his second championship with as many teams. His move to Mercedes was initially criticised by many fans and commentators but his choice has been vindicated following 11 wins. The Briton has opted not the race with the number ‘1’ branded on his car – as is the right of the defending champion – but will compete with his familiar 44. Despite this, Hamilton will emerge in Australia as the target and with momentum on his side.
Championship position: 8th
For a time, it looked as if 2014 was to be Button’s last season in F1. McLaren prodigy Kevin Magnussen had been drafted in to partner him for his debut season and following the arrival of Fernando Alonso, the 34-year-old was seemingly on his way out. His confirmation at McLaren may be a surprise to some but certainly puts the 2009 champion in a strong position, retaining his drive in time for Honda’s 2015 revival. The challenge that lies ahead is not one without its risks but allows Button the opportunity to prove his worth alongside Alonso; a driver considered among the best on the current grid.
Championship position: 15th
The young Russian made quite the impression during his first season at Toro Rosso to become the youngest driver to score a point in the sport’s long and illustrious history. In 2015, Kvyat steps up to the sister team, four time constructors champions Red Bull at the age of 20. Although out-scored by his team mate Jean-Eric Vergne, Daniel Ricciardo’s new team mate has been gifted with the opportunity of a lifetime following Vettel’s departure. For Kvyat, it was a case of being in the right place at the right time with the right credentials.
Championship position: 19th
Ericsson was somewhat of an unknown entity when he joined Caterham for 2014. Their all-new line up did not favour too well and lost the championship fight to Marussia for the first since their debut in 2010. However, Ericsson has moved on from the team’s administration and will join Sauber next year. The Swede is yet to prove his credentials and, if the C33 was anything to go by, his car may not be competitive but in a competition for seats, Ericsson has emerged victorious to continue his F1 progress at an historic and well-respected team.
Championship position: 9th
Although the German outscored his team mate Sergio Perez by 96 to 59, he did lose out during any potential negotiations with the top teams. Over the years the Force India racer has been linked with drives at the likes of Ferrari and McLaren but none of these have come to fruition. His ten race streak in the points came to a dramatic end at the Hungaoring and his team mate’s podium in Bahrain did little to hide the potential encased in the Mercedes power unit. However, while his F1 career is stuck in the midfield, an opening in the World Endurance Championships has come available which he will enjoy alongside his F1 duties next year, potentially offering an alternative when his current Force India contract expires.
Championship position: 22nd
Kobayashi was a surprise addition to the 2014 grid after fan funding saw him return to F1 after his Sauber dismissal in 2012. The Japanese racer had a score to settle but was unable to challenge a competitive Marussia pairing on a number of occasions. The second half of his season saw Ericsson finish higher in the championship after finding his feet. Late call ups and an opportunity lost into the depths of administration, Kobayashi’s presence in 2015 is slim and a career in endurance or electrical racing may well be on the cards.
Championship position: 11th
His place at McLaren looked comfortable after years under their guidance but Ron Dennis’ desire to partner two experienced drivers for the upcoming Honda era was at the determent to Magnussen despite his debut podium in Australia. The Dane will return to his former position, acting as test and reserve driver for the team while their power unit is under development. With both Alonso and Button thought to be on multi-year deals and GP2’s Stoffel Vandoorne waiting in the wings, 2015 signal the beginning of the end for the second generation driver.
Championship position: N/A
Although not a full-time driver this year, Rossi’s F1 dreams took a significant knock in 2014. The American’s switch from Caterham to Marussia was inspired until the former’s crowd-funding effort resulted in an available drive but without the long-standing connection. Rossi says he was called up to compete on four separate occasions but not contest a full race weekend, forcing many to question whether his luck has run out. Do not rule out the possibility of an Indy Car drive for this astute, sensible and engaging young racer.