F1 testing: New-look teams seek early edge in Jerez
Madrid: Formula One fans will get their first look at how a series of rule changes could affect the upcoming season when the opening four-day test gets under way in Jerez, southern Spain on Tuesday.
In all 10 teams will take part with only Lotus missing out. Turbocharged engines will return to the sport for the first time since 1988 in a raft of technical changes. Meanwhile, in a controversial move, double points will be awarded for the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi.
It is hoped that both the technical and sporting changes will lead to a more competitive fight for the drivers and constructors world championships after a four-year reign of dominance from Sebastian Vettel and his Red Bull team.
The Austrian outfit will be one of six teams to launch their new car on Tuesday as they roll out the RB10 for the first time. It will also be a first taste of life in the Red Bull for Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo.
The 24-year-old has joined after two seasons with sister team Toro Rosso to replace compatriot Mark Webber as Vettel's teammate after his retirement at the end of last season.
Red Bull's stiffest competition is expected to come from a rejuvenated Ferrari, who have been boosted by the return of 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen.
The pairing of the Finn with two-time champion Fernando Alonso would certainly appear to give the Italian team the strongest driver combination on the grid. However, doubts remain over their ability to dovetail as a partnership without a nominated number one driver.
At the launch of their F14-T on Saturday, both men voiced their desire to fight for Ferrari's first drivers title since Raikkonen's success seven years ago.
"We will follow wherever the team priorities lie and try to do our best to win both championships," Alonso insisted at the launch.
Yet, having finished second to Vettel in three of his four seasons since joining Ferrari, the Spaniard will want to be in position to take advantage should the German fail to hit the heights of recent years.
McLaren have also already launched their MP4-29 car as they attempt to bounce back from their worst season in over 30 years as they failed to make it onto the podium even once in 2013.
As a result Ron Dennis has returned as chief executive officer. Further changes are expected with former Lotus team principal Eric Boullier tipped to replace Martin Whitmarsh.
And 2009 champion Jenson Button believes Dennis' return could be the lift they need. "It's good for the team, good for Ron, that he has the chance to drive this team on again. Everyone here is excited about the challenge of 2014 with Ron in charge," said the British driver.
Danish rookie Kevin Magnussen will be keen to impress on his first outing since stepping up from the team's young driver programme to replace Mexican Sergio Perez as Button's teammate.
Mercedes, one of only two teams not to make a driver change over the winter, launch on Tuesday with Britain's Lewis Hamilton also looking to bounce back from a frustrating campaign in 2013.
Two more rounds of testing will take place in Bahrain next month before the season gets underway for real in Australia on March 16.