- The Inside Line
A season of uncertaintyKate Walker March 2, 2015
As we wait for the official start of the 2015 Formula One season to kick off in Melbourne, there are a number of serious unknowns for the year ahead.
While the winter is always a time of speculation, this year the F1 circus will pack its bags for Melbourne unsure whether or not to expect Fernando Alonso in the cockpit and whether we will see 18 or 20 drivers - nine or ten teams - on the grid on Sunday 15 March.
Manor are making a concerted effort to rise from the ashes of Marussia, and while the team's success will depend on their passing FIA crash tests in time to get their cars to Melbourne, at the moment of writing there are no guarantees that the team's hard work will bear fruit. Freight for Australia leaves in less than a weeks' time, and Manor's margin for error is bordering on non-existent.
While the rescuing of the team is a noble effort, and one which will have positive repercussions throughout the motorsport supply chain as parts orders flow through the system, Manor have a tough year ahead even if they do make it to Melbourne. The Ferrari power unit deal agreed last week is for 2014 engines, meaning that Manor will be running at a power deficit to the rest of the grid. The prospect of scoring points is slim.
Meanwhile, McLaren - who were already the focus of much uncertainty given the shift to Honda power and the challenges such changes bring - face starting the season without their marquee name following a bizarre accident in testing that left Alonso hospitalised for three nights following a relatively low speed crash in windy conditions.
Should Alonso be forced to sit out one or more of the early races, McLaren's only advantage comes from the fact that their reserve driver, Kevin Magnussen, is a known quantity having raced for the team last year. K-Mag secured a podium finish at Albert Park on his F1 debut, and given the circumstances under which he lost his drive the Danish racer will be keen to show the team that they chose to keep the wrong man at the end of 2014.
Off-track, there are still clouds of financial uncertainty hanging over several teams. In most cases the wolf has been kept from the door with the addition of new well-funded drivers on the team roster, both in race and reserve roles, but financial health is a long way off. Much depends on the teams' and FIA's ability to work together to ensure cost reductions are made so that the sport remains a viable prospect for its entrants.