Formula One Season Preview: Biggest Change In Decades to Shake Up F1

It's the dawn of a Formula One season that will see many changes introduced. Unibet's F1 expert Keith Collantine previews an intriguing new campaign...

The beginning of a new Formula One season often brings a slight shake-up in the pecking order.

But 2014 is a year of massive change and at the first race of the year many expect to discover the form book has been completely rewritten.

The reason is the most dramatic change to the F1 rulebook for decades. The old V8 engines have gone, and in their place have come vastly more complicated V6 turbo power units with sophisticated heat and kinetic energy recovery systems.

This has been a huge challenge for F1's three engine manufacturers - Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault - and the eleven teams they supply. And some have got off to a better start than others.

Who have been the big winners?

The winners so far seem to be Mercedes. Second in the constructors' championship last year, they hit the ground running during testing and covered more miles than any of their rivals. And the W05 looks quick as well.

Is Lewis Hamilton's decision to join Mercedes last year about to pay off? The bookies think so and have made him favourite to win the drivers' championship for the second time in his career, on odds of 2.75. Team mate Nico Rosberg, a three-times race winner who gave Hamilton a good run for his money last year, is more generously priced at 5.00.

Mercedes are also favourites for the constructors' championship at 1.80. But they could face competition from the three teams they supply engines to: McLaren, Williams and Force India.

Look out for Williams

Williams had a torrid campaign last year with Renault engines, but their new Mercedes-powered FW36 looked quick throughout testing in the hands of promising young driver Valtteri Bottas, who's entering his second season with the team, and highly-experienced ex-Ferrari pilot Felipe Massa.

Bottas hasn't attracted much attention from the bookmakers so far but his debut season last year indicated he could be a star of the future. In a wet qualifying session in Canada he placed his car third on the grid - far beyond where it deserved to be.

The upshot is Williams' odds on claiming their first constructors' title since 1997 have fallen to 12.00. But their drivers' championship odds are somewhat longer - Massa on 35.00, Bottas on 60.00. Those could change very quickly if the FW36 continues to show the kind of pace it had in testing.

Ferrari's engine and car looked promising in the tests but at the moment they appear to be behind Mercedes and their customer teams. The F14 T ran reliably, which is expected to be a major factor in the early part of the year. And there's not much wrong with their driver line-up. Two-times world champion Fernando Alonso has odds of 7.00 to win another title, while team mate Kimi Raikkonen is at 10.0 to take back the title he won in 2007.

What about Red Bull?

The dominant team of the last four seasons have claimed the constructors' title in every year since 2010 while Sebastian Vettel has done the same in the drivers' championship. He signed off last year with a record-breaking nine consecutive grand prix wins.

But don't bet on him winning a tenth. All the Renault-engined teams had trouble in testing and Red Bull's problems were especially acute as the RB10 repeatedly overheated. They look set to start the year on the back foot and Vettel fears his only chance of scoring points in Australia is if some of their rivals drop out.

Keith Collantine is the editor of Formula One blog F1 Fanatic.