Predicting Red Bull's Biggest Rival for 2014 Formula 1 Season

Fraser Masefield@@fmasefieldContributor IOctober 16, 2013

Predicting Red Bull's Biggest Rival for 2014 Formula 1 Season

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    Paul Gilham/Getty Images

    With the 2013 Formula 1 season pretty much done and dusted, the focus on the development of next year’s machines is already well underway.

    While the Adrian Newey-designed Red Bull machines have dominated over the past few seasons, brushing aside all before them, next season may present a very different story.

    The reason for this it that the regulations are changing. Out go the 2.4-litre normally aspirated engines to be replaced with 1.6-litre turbocharged V6 engines.

    Both Newey and Mercedes principal Ross Brawn have predicted that there may be more retirements early on in the season due to engine failures as the new units require much more cooling due to the new components including the more powerful ERS unit and the turbocharger.

    And with the gearboxes now tasked with lasting six races, 2014 could see a more level playing field.

    Here are the top teams that may give Red Bull more of a fight next season.

4. McLaren

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    Vladimir Rys/Getty Images

    There’s little doubt that the 2013 season has been an extremely poor one for the Woking-based team given their extremely high standards.

    It all went wrong at the beginning of the season when the team bucked the trend of evolving their 2012 car and opted for a complete redesign that backfired spectacularly.

    The good news for McLaren is that even before the midseason mark they realised the errors of their ways and switched their attention to developing the 2014 machine, as quoted by team principal martin Whitmarsh on BBC Sport at the time.

    We have got to ensure we are in a competitive situation next year. We are putting more effort into next year's programme, earlier than usual. We have a big few years ahead of us. We are strengthening the team and recruiting quite strongly in the technical organisation to meet the challenge of 2014 and also the exciting challenge of 2015. We are determined that next year will be a competitive situation.

    And with the team switching to Honda power once again in 2015, a return to the glory years may not be long in the waiting.

    Verdict: McLaren will be a much stronger force and may even win the odd race, although they may have to wait to 2015 and beyond to be serious contenders again.

3. Lotus

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    Will Grosjean leading Vettel become a more regular sight?
    Will Grosjean leading Vettel become a more regular sight?Clive Rose/Getty Images

    Although the loss of Kimi Raikkonen to Ferrari is undoubtedly a big blow, the good news for Lotus is that they are poised to complete a new funding deal according to reports from Autosport.

    The new investment, thought to be with Quantum Motorsports, will give the team the financial stability to recruit the highly rated Nico Hulkenberg alongside the rejuvenated Romain Grosjean in a partnership that now looks to be one of the strongest on paper.

    Verdict: Lotus will win races and be up there by the end of the season although not as title contenders.

2. Mercedes

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    Hamilton leads Vettel in Hungary
    Hamilton leads Vettel in HungaryMark Thompson/Getty Images

    When Lewis Hamilton surged to victory in the Hungarian Grand Prix, it looked for all money as if Mercedes would be Red Bull’s biggest challenger until the end of the season.

    But with only one podium since then and an alarming slump in form for both Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, the team will already be looking to mounting a stronger challenge in 2014.

    Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff told Autosport that he thinks the reason Mercedes have fallen behind is because Renault used clever engine mapping settings and exhaust flow to improve the performance of the Red Bull and Renault machines.

    The question we need to look at is what they do in terms of engine mapping maybe. Is there something there? The blowing strategy maybe? In terms of development over the last races, we seem to be behind. Is it because there is something we don't understand in terms of mechanical set up? Or did first Red Bull and then Lotus do something which is related to engine strategy?

    One thing is for certain, Mercedes will not rest on their laurels and have a mountain of money to throw at any problem to ensure they catch up. And with Hamilton and Rosberg, they still possess one of the best driver pairings on the grid.

    Verdict: Mercedes will be one of the top three teams in 2014 and have championship potential.

1. Ferrari

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    Will the new Ferrari 'dream team' end Red Bull's dominance?
    Will the new Ferrari 'dream team' end Red Bull's dominance?Clive Mason/Getty Images

    Fernando Alonso is arguably the only reason that Ferrari are in with a solid chance of finishing second in the drivers’ and constructors’ standings this season.

    He has dragged his Ferrari kicking and screaming to positions this season that it has often had no right to be, and the frustration has at times bubbled over, with Alonso criticising the team for its lack of performance.

    Yet the situation has since been resolved, and Alonso has vowed to stay with Ferrari in his quest to win a third drivers’ title. What’s more, the team will be strengthened by the arrival of their 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen and highly rated engineer James Allison, who worked with Alonso at Renault.

    And with team principal Stefano Domanicali insisting the focus is now 100 percent on next year’s title race as quoted on ESPNF1, Ferrari should be a force to be reckoned with.

    We have already switched 100% the activity at home [to 2014]. We have still got something to bring to the track that we will try, but the technical office is completely dedicated to next year's project. That is very challenging for everyone.

    Verdict: They will push Red Bull all the way in 2014.