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Last year, the focus was entirely on new rules dictating the use of technology, and redesigned cars. Ahead of the 2015 Formula One, or F1, season starting in Melbourne, Australia, this weekend, there have again been some rule changes in an effort to make the sport safer and more cost-effective.

Drivers too have changed gears. Fernando Alonso moves from Ferrari to McLaren Honda, and four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel takes his place at Ferrari, switching from Red Bull. Can Vettel help the Prancing Horse get back to its winning ways? Or will Alonso’s gamble on Honda prove to be the masterstroke?

Mercedes, the constructors’ champion last year, will surely want to build on that victory. Lewis Hamilton will have to defend his driver’s title against a renewed challenge from teammate Nico Rosberg, as well as the likes of Williams’ Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa, and Red Bull’s gritty Aussie Daniel Ricciardo.

With new engines, it will, of course, take a couple of races for the teams to truly understand how the cars are performing.

Designers’ playground

After last season’s debates and controversies, the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile, or FIA, has introduced tweaked guidelines for cars—the nose, front wing and other aerodynamic structures. The rule book states, “2014 layouts like the anteater and twin tusk will no longer be legal."

The nose, which hits the air first, effectively determines how the airflow works around the car. This season, cars are required to have a low nose tip with a cross-sectional area measuring at least 9,000 sq. mm. Just 100mm behind the tip, the nose must broaden to measure at least 20,000 sq. mm.

So designers had to go back to the drawing board.

McLaren Honda’s “Platypus" nose is a standout design element—the front-wing pillars are much further behind the tip. The rear wing has a pillar-less design, and the floor in front of the rear wheels has been left as work-in-progress to improve airflow.

Mercedes unveiled the W06 car for 2015 last month. It features a narrower but longer nose, and tweaked bodywork at the back to reduce the car’s width to improve drivability. The Ferrari SF15-T has a redesigned front wing for better aerodynamics, and the longer nose is a big change from last year’s car.

The Red Bull RB11 has rather unconventional livery
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The Red Bull RB11 has rather unconventional livery
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