2016 Formula 1 season kicks off
Formula 1 is no longer the competition in which we fell in love with when we started following it. Things have changed, and not all were for good. But despite all those changes, we are all waiting for the start of the new season with almost the same passion and excitement like many years ago. And that’s the one thing that probably will never change.
The 2016 campaign kicks off in Melbourne and we are desperate to see if there will be any changes in the balance of the power between the teams. Mercedes was absolutely dominant during the last two seasons and is still considered as an early favorite for the new championship title.
New qualifying format is a major change
The biggest changes in regard to the previous year are a number of the teams and the qualifying format. In 2016, 11 teams will be on the grid. Haas F1 is a newcomer to the Formula 1 while Renault returned with its own team after purchasing Lotus. Their ambitions are relatively modest but we will discuss the teams and drivers later in the text.
According to many, the new qualifying system is completely unnecessary. The teams are not happy with it, nor are the most of the drivers. It was obvious that some changes were needed as the Formula 1 was, or still is, becoming monotonous, but nobody can say for sure that the change of qualifying format will bring more excitement.
Another important change is the introduction of the new tires. Pirelli prepared ultra-soft tires, so now there are five types of tires for the dry track and two for the wet.
Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team (F1 W07 Hybrid) – #6 Niko Rosberg, #44 Lewis Hamilton
Reigning champions are the main favorites to win the Constructors’ title for a third time in a row. Lewis Hamilton will try to do the same and clinch the third consecutive title, but as the team principal Toto Wolff said earlier, they are expecting a more intense battle between Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. The Briton’s main advantage in regard to the German was his ability to handle pressure and it will be interesting to see whether Rosberg matured enough to be a real contender to take the crown from his teammate.
Scuderia Ferrari (SF16-H) – #5 Sebastian Vettel #7 Kimi Raikkonen
The preseason results gave a hope that Ferrari can jump in a proper battle with Mercedes. But, nobody knows where the ’Prancing pony’ really is before the start. In the finish of the last season, Ferrari already tested a couple of new things but results weren’t seen. Sebastian Vettel in his first year with the team gave his and took all the best from the car and he will try to do the same in 2016. Kimi Raikkonen had a disappointing 2015 season although Ferrari team officials did not want to admit that. This will probably be the Finn’s last year with the team and in Formula 1.
Williams Martini Racing (FW38) – #19 Felipe Massa #77 Valtteri Bottas
Williams had the speed last year but he missed durability and consistency. Expectations are always high for the Grove-based side, but their ability to surprise, positively or negatively, must not be forgotten. Last year, Felipe Massa looked too tight, sometimes maybe even scared to risk, while Valtteri Bottas was braver, sometimes losing patience. Williams’ main ambition for 2016 could be to win the first race after four years, but looking from this perspective, that could be a really hard task.
Red Bull Racing (RB 12) – #3 Daniel Ricciardo #25 Daniil Kvyat
After turbulent 2015, marked with so many complaints, alibi seeking and threats of leaving the competition, the main question could be if Red Bull Racing could stop sinking. Progress is not in the sight and the Australian and Russian drivers again will have a ’Mission impossible’ to pull something out of nothing. Both Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat were good last year considering they do not cars that match their talent, and even worse could be in 2016.
Sahara Force India Formula One Team (VJM09) – #11 Sergio Perez #27 Nico Hulkenberg
This team perhaps was the most pleasant surprise of the 2015 season. With interesting drivers line-up, Force India cars regularly scored points. They were really fast but missed something to gain more podium finishes. The team showed how the good things could be done even with a small budget. Preseason went well and expectations are to make a step further as a team. Nico Hulkenberg definitely could be one to watch as he already turned the attention of bigger teams and Sergio Perez is also capable of doing miracle or two.
Renault Sport Formula One Team (RS 16) – #20 Kevin Magnussen #30 Jolyon Palmer
The French manufacturer return with its factory team could be good for Formula 1. They have an ambition, knowledge and experience, but the team officials said they are not expecting miracles in their returning season. With young and very talented drivers Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer, they surely will face some ups and downs. But, if the RS 16 proves to be reliable, we can expect Renault drivers relatively constantly in the battle for points.
Scuderia Toro Rosso (STR11) – #33 Max Verstappen #55 Carlos Sainz Jr.
They have the youngest drivers again, but this pair already showed the capability to fight against more experienced drivers. With Max Verstappen, Toro Rosso has the hottest prospect of Formula 1 and the Dutch teenager has all it takes to become a superstar of the series. He is brave, he is talented and he is also a rebel, hungry for success and ready to fight until the last moment. Carlos Sainz Jr. also could be a contender for points and the Spaniard definitely has a potential for progress. The team switched from Renault to Ferrari engine, so it is possible they will be more competitive in 2016.
Sauber F1 Team (C35) – #9 Marcus Ericsson #12 Felipe Nasr
The Swiss team, probably the least popular team in the F1 circles, is an outsider again. They kept the same drivers line-up of Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr. Sauber’s only aim is to, with a bit of luck, score as many points as they can. Places at the podium are still a dream for the Swiss side which is suffering financial problems and despite all efforts, they can expect a difficult season.
McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team (MP4-31) – #14 Fernando Alonso #22 Jenson Button
Sadness and torture are the words which could describe the last season for the one of the most popular teams with two former drivers’ champions. But, Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button were dignified despite driving rattletrap. It is hard to believe that another disastrous season can happen to McLaren. A small progress could be seen during the preseason but it is hard to tell whether it will be enough to match teams’ ambitions and fans’ expectations.
Manor Racing MRT (MRT05) – #88 Rio Haryanto #94 Pascal Wehrlein
Manor won’t be the same team as it was in 2015. The team is completely renovated, with new staff, new drivers and a new car after the one from the last season was outdated. Much better results are expected from the team this year, even with the two rookie drivers – the reigning DTM champion and Mercedes protege Pascal Wehrlein, considered as one of the future stars, and Rio Haryanto from Indonesia.
Haas F1 Team (VF-16) – #8 Romain Grosjean #21 Esteban Gutierrez
Here it is the new American team in the series. It is always hard to predict what the newcomer is able to do but judging by statements of the team officials, the team’s main ambition is to score points on regular basis. The cars are fast, but during the test they were pretty unreliable. In Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez, Haas F1 team have quality and well-experienced drivers capable of pulling out of the cars everything to make team’s first season successful.