THE 5 RED LIGHTS ARE OUT

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2014 Formula One championship kicks off amid slew of changes
THE 2014 season of Formula One, which sees more tech and rule changes than any other for decades, has expectedly started in spectacular fashion at the traditional season-opening grand prix in Melbourne, Australia. It’s safe to assume that the next 18 races will be just as thrilling. Here is a quick rundown on the must-knows this season.

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Challenging Vettel
AS can—or, well, cannot—be gleaned from the 2014 Formula One season-opening race in Melbourne, Australia, there are five drivers who will challenge Sebastian Vettel this year, each mounting a serious threat to the reigning champion’s bid to take a fifth consecutive F1 title. In no particular order, these are:

hamilton20140318Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
The 29-year-old is the early favorite to usurp Vettel and land his second world title. After leaving longtime employer McLaren, Hamilton last year scored a victory in Hungary, four podiums and five poles on the way to finishing fourth in the drivers’ championship.

Hamilton has started 129 GPs since his debut in Melbourne in 2007. He has 22 wins and 31 poles.

Fernando Alonso Ferrari
Alonso finished 155 points behind Vettel last year in an inferior car but the 31-year-old is widely respected as the sport’s finest all-round driver. And if Ferrari can get their act together, he will challenge.alonso20140318

Last season, Alonso only won two races, in China and Spain, but with the arrival of fellow former world champion Kimi Raikkonen as his new teammate, he is under pressure to produce the goods.

Alonso has the experience of 215 GPs since making his debut in Australia in 2001 and the two-time world champion will be looking to add to his 32 race wins and 22 poles.

raikkonen20140318Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari
Raikkonen’s switch from Lotus to Ferrari has prompted much debate about the team dynamics and his partnership with Alonso, but expect the “Iceman” to live up to his nickname and stay cool under fire.

Raikkonen returns to Ferrari, where he won the world title by one point in 2007 before leaving F1 for the World Rally Championship in 2010, only to return to F1 with Lotus in 2012. He will line up for his 194th start in Malaysia and has 20 wins and 16 poles.

rosberg20140318Nico Rosberg Mercedes
The super-quick Rosberg will provide a stern test for his teammate Hamilton at the improving Mercedes team this year as he seeks his maiden world title.

Rosberg finished sixth in last year’s championship and won twice for his team at Monaco and Silverstone, as well as two other podium finishes in India and Abu Dhabi.

Rosberg, 28, has three wins and four poles over his career and is likely to benefit from the wealth of technical experience at Mercedes this season.

button20140318Jenson Button McLaren
Button is F1 grid’s most experienced driver and he will be invigorated under McLaren’s revamped leadership, headed by arch-competitor Ron Dennis. He also has a style well suited to this year’s new technical requirements.

Button, whose 2009 title win makes him the last world champion before the Vettel era began, suffered a dreadful 2013 when McLaren failed to land a single podium finish—the team’s worst season since 1980.

Entering his 15th season, Button has 15 wins and eight poles from 247 GPs. He will be joined this year at McLaren by rookie Kevin Magnussen.

AFP

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