- The Inside Line
The only way is upKate Walker January 30, 2015
Three of Formula One's four longest-serving teams - Ferrari, McLaren, and Sauber - performed below their own expectations in 2014, with Sauber having had their worst season since joining the F1 paddock in 1993.
It was little better in Maranello and Woking. While McLaren's 2014 fifth place in the constructor's championship marked a slight improvement on 2013's fifth-place podium-free season, the previous time Ron Dennis' team finished fifth in the championship was in 1983. Ferrari, meanwhile, suffered their first winless season since 1993.
Little surprise, then, that all three teams focused on managing expectations while conducting their online car reveals.
Bad results are relative, of course. From 2014's tenth-place in the championship, Sauber would have given their eye teeth for McLaren's fifth or Ferrari's fourth, irrespective of the number of wins and podiums involved.
It was interesting to see three of the oldest hands falter in the face of last season's regulatory overhaul. Sauber and Ferrari were both hamstrung by the relative underperformance of the Ferrari power unit, while the Mercedes-powered McLaren were in a year of transition, moving from preferred client to soon-to-be ex-customer while balancing the demands of a rebooted relationship with Honda.
But to blame it all on the power units is overly simplistic.
Sauber readily admit that last year's car was a horror to work with, with problems so numerous that the bulk of the season was given over to rectifying rather than improving. Having learned the lessons of 2014 - and with added freedom to develop power units over the course of the season - even with two rookies behind the wheel it is not hard to envisage a higher championship position for the Swiss racers at the end of the year.
McLaren have totally changed their design philosophy for 2015, thanks in no small part to the arrival of former Red Bull aerodynamics chief Peter Prodromou. But even with this altered approach the team were wary of making big promises when unveiling the car this week, pointing to the challenge of returning to winning ways while getting the most out of their new Honda power unit.
"Honda haven't returned with anything other than ambitions to be at the front and win races and championships - that's why we make such good partners," chief operating officer Jonathan Neale said. "But we have to be realistic about the process of getting to that. Honda have had half the amount of time to develop this engine that the other engine manufacturers have had and we McLaren racing are on a recovery of our on-track performance as well. Our first priority is to get this ambitious technical program stabilized and then to push on into the season and push for race wins."
Ferrari spoke of bigger ambitions at their launch, with the team aiming for at least two wins in 2015. Even that confidence was qualified, however.
"We have to be realistic, nobody has the magic to change things when things are unchangeable," new Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene said. "The car was ready in December and we applied some modifications which we think are interesting. I don't want to say we are going to win the world championship but we feel we can win at least two races."