F1 2014 season preview – Hamilton to be champion, Vettel and Red Bull to struggle?

Who is on the grid this year? What are their prospects? Formula One pundit David Coulthard explains all, and we make a few predictions of our own, in our guide to the new F1 season.

Red Bull
#1 – Sebastian Vettel
2013: 1st, 397 points
2014 prediction: 2nd
“He hasn’t got anything to prove as a racing driver, but he, like any of the other exceptional guys, wants to win. He’s at his happiest when winning, but they can’t all win. There are a lot of unknowns, but it’s looking like it’s going to be difficult for him and Red Bull.”

Red Bull
#3 – Daniel Ricciardo
2013: 14th, 20 points
2014 prediction: 7th
“He’s got his opportunity with a world championship-winning team and, if he can match Vettel, he’ll be a very valuable asset for them. If he doesn’t match him, and is consistently unable to be a good supporting role, then his career will meander to somewhere else. I think he’s got good speed though.”

Mercedes
#44 – Lewis Hamilton
2013: 4th, 189 points
2014 prediction: 1st
“Last year he did a pretty solid job for Mercedes. Whenever you go to a new job there is a period of adjustment, but he is now in a situation where the car will be designed around his body shape. Can he win the championship this season? Yes.”

Mercedes
#6 – Nico Rosberg
2013: 6th, 171 points
2014 prediction: 4th
“Nico has really cemented his reputation over the past year. The way he has performed alongside Lewis Hamilton shows that he is the real deal. He’s not just another son of a famous driver in Formula One – he can win a title, he’s got that potential.”

Ferrari
#14 – Fernando Alonso
2013: 2nd, 242 points
2014 prediction: 3rd
“It’s important for him to win the championship, having made the decision to join Ferrari in the first place. He’s not always taken the most conventional choice in teams to get results, but he remains an exceptional driver – even if Ferrari were further away last year.”

Ferrari
#7 – Kimi Raikkonen
2013: 5th, 183 points
2014 prediction: 5th
“He did an exceptional job at Lotus last year and it’s very difficult to argue with his approach. Having worked with Kimi, I know that he’s not political – he’s a fast racing driver, so I don’t expect him to be a controversial figure at Ferrari this year.”

Lotus
#8 – Romain Grosjean
2013: 7th, 132 points
2014 prediction: 10th
“If Lotus can produce a competitive car, then Grosjean is capable of winning races this season. He’s overcome adversity and I think his performances at the end of last season were worthy of a winner. Whether he can become a championship contender is in his hands.”

Lotus
#13 – Pastor Maldonado
2013: 18th, One point
2014 prediction: 11th
“I think Pastor is better than last season suggests. His win [in 2012] shows he’s clearly fast and can handle the pressure of Formula One. There were obvious frustrations at Williams and now it’s time to show us his talent. There’s nothing to suggest that he does not have the potential.”

McLaren
#22 – Jenson Button
2013: 9th, 73 points
2014 prediction: 6th
“Last year was terrible for McLaren, but Jenson is the right man to be able to take that disappointment. His strength is in his consistency and decision-making ability rather than his outright speed. Nevertheless, this is a big year for him.”

McLaren
#20 – Kevin Magnusson
2013: n/a
2014 prediction: 8th
“Kevin comes to Formula one with good credentials, having performed well in the lower Formula series and he’s going to push Jenson Button a lot harder than Sergio Perez did last season. At the end of this year you’ll either put him in the elite category, or you’ll just say that he’s a very good racing driver.”

Force India
#27 – Nico Hulkenberg
2013: 10th, 51 points
2014 prediction: 13th
“Possibly should have been at Ferrari. He’s a good driver and is professional enough to take the opportunities available. I suspect that Hulkenberg will be the team leader at Force India. Once the cars are fully developed perhaps weight won’t be such an issue for him this year.”

Force India
#11 – Sergio Perez
2013: 11th, 49 points
2014 prediction: 14th
“It was always going to be difficult at McLaren for Perez last year. He’s a young guy and it will be about whether he can reflect on that one season and feel as though he left no stone unturned while he was there – I’m not so sure he can.”

Sauber
#99 – Adrian Sutil
2013: 13th, 29 points
2014 prediction: 15th
“Sauber are successful in the middle of the grid, their peaks and troughs are consistent and in that respect Adrian’s the perfect driver for them. He was pretty quiet before his year away from the sport and has to be given credit for how he handled the comeback, regularly scoring points last year.”

Sauber
#21 – Esteban Gutierrez
2013: 16th, Six points
2014 prediction: 17th
“His performances came a bit late last season, when he started to have some good qualifying results. A lack of Formula One experience is not an excuse for not having the speed to perform though. There needs to be something that makes you say ‘wow’, and I’m not sure he can do that. Maybe this is the year where he can gel with the new regulations and deliver.”

Toro Rosso
#25 – Jean-Eric Vergne
2013: 15th, 13 points
2014 prediction: 16th
“He is driving for his career. It’s a big year for Vergne. He’s got the swagger and the look of a stereotypical Grand Prix driver, but he’s got to deliver the consistency in qualifying and performance that he did not do last season.”

Toro Rosso
#26 – Daniil Kyvat
2013: n/a
2014 prediction: 18th
“His performance in Brazil in damp conditions last season was something of a standout moment. Whether he eventually goes on to show himself to be someone who can win races and challenge for championships someday remains to be seen though.”

Williams
#19 – Felipe Massa
2013: 8th, 112 points
2014 prediction: 9th
“Felipe has good speed. Alongside Fernando Alonso last season there were a number of occasions where he matched or out qualified him. In the race though it was a different case, but he is a safe pair of hands. He’s still relatively young, he’s enthusiastic and his energy will be good for Williams, who can be the dark horses on the grid this year.”

Williams
#77 – Valtteri Bottas
2013: 17th, Four points
2014 prediction: 12th
“Has been mooted as one of the most exceptional talents seen since Ayrton Senna. He finished last season strong and is a focused, serious guy. It continues to be a big opportunity for him and hopefully he can put in some flashes of brilliance. He needs to beat team-mate Felipe Massa to be considered in the next category of driver.”

Marussia
#17 – Jules Bianchi
2013: 19th, 0 points
2014 prediction: 20th
“Well respected in the sport. He reminds me of Giancarlo Fisichella in his look and is a fast racing driver. It’s difficult for him to be spending another year at Marussia based on previous performance, but hopefully this year Marussia take another step forward.”

Marussia
#4 – Max Chilton
2013: 23rd, 0 points
2014 prediction: 22nd
“Max’s season is in his own hands. Last year he wasn’t consistently close enough to teammate Jules Bianchi and, while he finished every grand prix, he needs to be showing more alongside Bianchi. If he doesn’t do that, he won’t get the opportunity for a top team.”

Caterham
#10 – Kamui Kobayashi
2013: n/a
2014 prediction: 19th
“I’m pleased he’s back. He’s got a good personality, great character and I love how he’s been funded by Japanese online support. I believe he is the best Japanese Formula One driver that we’ve ever had. He’s got good speed and an interesting approach. I believe we’ll see the true performance of the Caterham car based on how he drives it.”

Caterham
#9 – Marcus Ericsson
2013: n/a
2014 prediction: 21st
“He’s an unknown quantity, unless you followed him in the lower Formula series. He’s achieved reasonable results and this is his chance. The teams at the back of the grid have a history of soaking up funding and talent, so he has got to take this opportunity.”

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