Editor’s note: From Monday, March 9 until Thursday, March 12, FOX Sports’ F1 expert Adam Cooper will break down the F1 grid, taking a look at each driver heading into the 2015 F1 season.
No. 11 – Sergio Perez
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Sergio Perez was thrown a lifeline by Force India after McLaren dropped him in favor of Kevin Magnussen at the end of 2013. The Mexican grabbed the chance with both hands, and last season he soon showed that he was worthy of the opportunity with some strong performances, notably his third place in Bahrain. He was also very closely matched with teammate Nico Hulkenberg, and the two former Sauber drivers will continue to push each other hard this year. The return of the Mexican GP ensures that this will be a big season for the 25-year-old. The big problem for both drivers is the team’s financial struggle, which led to the late arrival of the car.
No. 27 – Nico Hulkenberg
Nico Hulkenberg has one of the most impressive resumes of any driver on the grid, having won in A1 GP, Euro F3, and GP2. However, despite his consistent strong performances over his F1 career he has yet to secure a drive with a true front-running team. He has shone on spells with Williams, Force India and Sauber, and on his return for a second stint at Force India last year he was again a regular point scorer, and gave teammate Sergio Perez a hard time. For the first time in his career he enjoys the benefits of continuity as he races with the same team for a second consecutive season, and that has to be a plus.
No. 33 – Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen has established a new record this year as the youngest driver in F1 history and, given that from next year the minimum age for a superlicence will be 18, it’s a mark that will stand forever. His father Jos competed in F1 between 1994 and 2003, and latterly he masterminded his son’s karting career. Max made the move to cars in Euro F3 last year, and did well enough to attract support from Red Bull, which propelled him straight into the Toro Rosso seat. He clearly has huge talent, but nevertheless he will still have a lot of learning to do this year.
Several sons of World Champions have competed at the top level of the sport, but Carlos Sainz Jr. is the first son of a rally champion to make it to F1. Instead of following in the footsteps of father Carlos Sr., he preferred karting and then circuit racing and, with the help of Red Bull, he has enjoyed a quick rise through the ranks. Last year he won the Renault 3.5 title, an achievement that proved that he is much more than a famous name. At 20 he is little older and more experienced than his teammate. He won’t be in the spotlight quite as much – except of course in his native Spain – and that is probably a bonus.
Roberto Merhi – Manor
Spaniard Roberto Merhi is a last minute nomination for Manor, although so far he has only been confirmed for the opening races of the season, and he already has a contract to run in the Renault 3.5 series. The 23-year-old has a solid record, having won the Euro F3 title in 2011, before moving to DTM, and he was third in last year’s Renault series which was one by Carlos Sainz Jr. It remains to be seen whether if he is gives up the seat for another driver with sponsorship. He took part in FP1 for Caterham at Monza, Sochi and Suzuka last year, so has some F1 experience, but like Stevens he faces an uphill battle.