5 Things We'd Like to See in the 2015 Formula 1 Season
The 2015 Formula One season should fill the gaps that this year's campaign left behind.
Mercedes, the world champions, should not have it quite as easy as the rest of the field acclimatise to the new-spec regulations, with no shortage of teams primed to rejoin the winners' circle.
Likewise, there are plenty of drivers with a point to prove as they either look to make their mark in F1 or fight to keep their careers alive.
Here are five things we'd like to happen in 2015.
McLaren-Honda to Be Competitive
At McLaren's 2015 driver announcement earlier this month, there was a sense that the team had been reborn.
Their renewed technical partnership with Honda is not so much about recreating the glory days of the 1980s and early '90s as it is about marking a fresh start.
With Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button forming the finest driver line-up on the grid, Peter Prodromou heading the aerodynamic department and Ron Dennis and Eric Boullier providing strong leadership, the ingredients are in place for McLaren to return to the top.
Much will depend on the performance and reliability of Honda's new power unit, which suffered teething problems in the post-season test, but 2015 will be richer if McLaren are at the sharp end of the grid for the first time since 2012.
Alonso and Button, after a difficult couple of years, deserve to be rewarded with a front-running car.
Max Verstappen to Make an Early Point
Toro Rosso's signing of 17-year-old Max Vertsappen for 2015 was truly shocking.
It was so shocking, in fact, that earlier this month, the FIA (h/t Formula1.com) announced a new rule that will prevent drivers under the age of 18—and with less than two years of car racing under their belt—from obtaining a super license in the future.
The introduction of the "Verstappen Rule" suggests that even F1's own governing body believes that the youngster, son of ex-grand prix driver Jos, should not be on next year's grid.
Verstappen will be under a great deal of scrutiny in the early stages of 2015 and any mistakes will be used as evidence to justify the argument that a teenager has no place alongside the big boys on a Formula One grid.
However, a tidy start to the campaign and at least one top-10 finish in the opening races—preferably the season-opening Australian Grand Prix—would allow the Dutchman to silence his doubters and vindicate Red Bull's decision to throw him in at the deep end.
Nico Hulkenberg to Finally Stand on the Podium
Fifth place became Nico Hulkenberg's second home in the early stages of 2014 as the German made a habit of extracting big, juicy points from each grand prix weekend.
Despite scoring in the first 10 races of the year, it was Sergio Perez, not Hulkenberg, who had his name in lights as the Mexican claimed Force India's first podium finish since 2009 in Bahrain.
It was one of the biggest injustices of the year and yet another example of Hulkenberg's brilliance being unrewarded, with the former Sauber driver overlooked for seats at leading teams in recent years.
Now 27, the chances of Hulkenberg joining the Ferraris and Mercedes' of this world are dimming by the minute, but he deserves the recognition that comes with standing on a podium for the first time.
Williams to Return to Winnings Ways
Williams should have won a grand prix in 2014, but they failed to make the most of opportunities in Canada, Austria and Abu Dhabi.
Nevertheless, a record of nine podium finishes and third in the constructors' standings was an extremely solid return for a team who scored just five points in 2013.
The Grove-based outfit will be expected to take the next step of their resurgence in 2015 and should make a welcome return to the top step of the podium for the first time since Pastor Maldonado's 2012 Spanish Grand Prix victory.
There will be fewer excuses next season but Williams might not need any.
Kimi Raikkonen to Get Back on Track
The R-word hung over Jenson Button for much of 2014, and it is likely to haunt Kimi Raikkonen throughout next season.
The two-year contract that the 2007 world champion signed to return to Ferrari is due to expire at the end of 2015, when retirement will become a very real option for the Finnish driver.
Earlier this year, Raikkonen told Sky Sports' Mike Wise that he will "probably stop" when his deal runs out, but he has since hinted to CNN's Sarah Holt and Amanda Davies that he would be willing to stay on beyond '15.
Raikkonen's future will depend on the competitiveness of Ferrari's car, with a repeat of the frustrating '14 campaign—which saw him finish outside the top 10 in the drivers' championship for the first time in his career—likely to push him over the edge.
Should the Italian outfit produce a car more to his liking, however, Raikkonen should be able to challenge on a regular basis and therefore be inclined to remain in the sport.
And it's in F1's interests that the 35-year-old remains on the grid for a little while longer.