Revisiting Predictions at the Start of the F1 Season: Some Right, More Wrong
There were plenty of unknowns coming into the 2014 Formula One season. With massive changes to the engine regulations promising more retirements and plenty of tantalizing new driver pairings, it seemed like the most wide-open season in recent memory.
And then Mercedes won the first six races (along with five second-place finishes).
While the Constructors' Championship has not been in doubt since about the second race of the season, at least Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg have kept the Drivers' Championship close.
Now that we have a much better idea of where the season is heading, and with the summer break dragging on, here is a look back at some preseason predictions (from Bleacher Report and elsewhere). Some are bang on, and some—like anyone who tabbed Fernando Alonso for the Drivers' title—are spectacularly wrong.
No One Expects Daniel Ricciardo to Beat Sebastian Vettel...
There was a lot of uncertainty when Red Bull named Daniel Ricciardo as Mark Webber's replacement for this season. The young Aussie was untested at the front of the grid, and it cannot even be said that he decisively beat Jean-Eric Vergne during their two years at Toro Rosso.
That concern was expressed by the Daily Mirror's Byron Young, who wrote that: "No-one seriously expects a relative rookie to beat the four-time champion."
Of course, Ricciardo has now won two races while Vettel's best results are two third-place finishes. The Aussie has also outscored his teammate 131-88.
Well, Almost No One
Maybe it was just patriotism, or maybe it was his insider knowledge, but Mark Webber was one of the few who foresaw greatness for Ricciardo this season.
According to James Maasdorp of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Webber said: "I believe he'll win grands prix this year, which will be a very big confidence boost for him."
Note the plural: grands prix. A bold prediction, but Ricciardo has already won twice, in Canada and Hungary. Well done, Mark!
Force India Can Win a Race
With Mercedes power units and a hot driver pairing, Force India were a trendy preseason pick to surprise. F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone even told the Indian news agency IANS (via ESPN F1) that: "I would love to see them win a race. And I am confident they can achieve that."
In Bahrain, the third race of the season, Sergio Perez scored the team's first podium finish since 2009. But since then, Force India's results have tailed off.
At this point, a victory looks unlikely.
A More Sensible Force India Prediction
Crash.net's season preview offered a more measured—and so far more accurate—prediction for Force India:
The return of the highly-rated Nico Hulkenberg has proved to be a morale boost for the team, who are widely expected to secure the odd podium this year, an achievement that has eluded them since Force India took pole and finished second at the 2009 Belgian Grand Prix.
The occasional podium may be the best that the Silverstone-based team can hope for this year—although considering their budget, that is still a noteworthy achievement.
What If No Cars Finish a Grand Prix?
With the new power units failing left and right during preseason testing, there was a worry that some of the early races could see mass retirements.
Some people, like Roberto Dalla, head of F1 electronics supplier Magneti Marelli's motorsport division, even speculated that there could be a race where no cars took the chequered flag.
Dalla told Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport (via Autoweek) that: "In Melbourne, it could happen that all the cars do not see the finish line, because every team experienced serious problems in testing."
Thirteen cars were classified in Australia, and the Canadian Grand Prix has seen the fewest finishers so far, with 11.
There have been more retirements than we have been used to in recent seasons, but we have been spared the engine apocalypse.
Felipe Massa over Valtteri Bottas?
Williams were another hot preseason pick. Valtteri Bottas was already a rising star, and the addition of veteran grand prix winner Felipe Massa and Mercedes power units had the team from Grove poised for success.
Looking at the teammate battle at Williams, the BBC's Allan McNish (via Crash.net) said: "Between the two it's your youth and experience combination; Massa seems to have a new lease of life and I would say Felipe actually, believe it or not."
While Massa has performed well, despite suffering some bad luck (see Canada), he has yet to finish on the podium and has just 40 points to his name.
Meanwhile, Bottas scored three straight podiums in Austria, Great Britain and Germany (including second-place finishes at the latter two) and has more than doubled his teammate's output, with 95 points.
Somebody Picked Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel for the Drivers' Title?
OK, now for the really good stuff. Before the season, all the Bleacher Report F1 columnists made a bunch of predictions for our big season preview.
While some of the results are still up in the air, it is not too soon to laugh at a few of our prognostications (nor to laud the few we seem to have gotten right).
Likewise, F1 editor Mark Patterson picked Vettel—we already looked at how his season has gone. But at least those two former champions had a great scrap (for fifth place) at Silverstone.
The other guys all went with either Hamilton or Rosberg. Maybe the obvious picks, but at least they stand a chance of getting it right!
And Ferrari as Constructors' Champions?
For the Constructors' Championship, we all went with Mercedes—except for Oliver Harden, who picked Ferrari.
He wrote that: "the experienced, all-champion pairing of Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen will, as always, find a way to get consistent points on the board." Indeed, Alonso is the only driver to score in every race so far this season. Unfortunately, Raikkonen has not finished higher than sixth.
Williams to Tank?
We also predicted the surprise flops of the season, and most of the guys were right on.
Neil James predicted Alonso's domination of Raikkonen, Mark Patterson nailed Lotus' problems and Oliver Harden foresaw the sale (and struggles) of Caterham.
Meanwhile, I wrote that: "I can't see Williams winning the development race against the bigger-budget teams as the season progresses. They may have a surprise result or two early (remember when Pastor Maldonado won the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix?), but it will not last."
Instead, Williams have only gotten stronger as the season has progressed. And they may not have peaked yet.
Head of Vehicle Performance Rob Smedley thinks the next two tracks—Spa and Monza—will suit the Williams car and said victory is "a possibility," per ESPN F1.
Lewis Hamilton: King of Qualifying?
Nearly all of us predicted that Lewis Hamilton would be the king of qualifying. We were looking pretty smart after the first five races, where the Brit took pole four times.
But since then, it has been a different story. Over the last six races, Rosberg has five poles and Hamilton has none. For the season, Rosberg leads the qualifying battle six to four.
Hamilton still has a way to go to meet Neil James' prediction of, "At least 10 poles for the Brit."
That's all for now, but we will have a recap at the end of the season so you can see how many more predictions we flubbed.
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