In a year where tales of off-track happenings may be as big as stories of on-track action, there’s a lot to look forward to in 2016. This is the second part in a series of three blogs discussing the main talking points of Formula One this year. Here are five teams to look out for in 2016…
Is a third year of domination on the cards for Mercedes?
The past two years for Mercedes have been undeniably phenomenal, they’ve won every Grand Prix bar 6, and taken every pole except 2. From pre-season testing it looks as though Ferrari may be a little closer and, should Ferrari begin to consistently battle for wins, Mercedes’ coping mechanism will be intriguing to watch. Even if Ferrari are nowhere near all season, team-mates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg look set to continue their rivalry. This in itself will be equally intriguing to watch. Toto Wolff, speaking to The Guardian, said that:
“It will get nasty again. We are going to have some interesting moments on the track. But this time I am not trying to control and contain it. We accept that they’re rivals, competing for a drivers’ world championship, which is the essential target for both of them.”
The management, or lack thereof, of the two rivals from within the team, if they are indeed free to race once again, is a key point to look out for this year.
Will it be business as usual for Mercedes? Or is the order in the hybrid era of Formula 1 about to be shaken?
3 wins in 2015, but can Ferrari take the fight to Mercedes in 2016?
If the order is to be shaken, Ferrari are the team most likely to shake it. The arrival of Sebastian Vettel to the team last year seems to have given the Maranello based team a new lease of life. Rumours of engine issues in pre-season testing have died down for the moment, so it will be interesting to see how the engines cope around Albert Park. Ferrari’s aim this year is simple: to consistently challenge for wins. If they are a few tenths down in qualifying and on par with Mercedes on race pace, there is no reason why Ferrari cannot theoretically take the championship fight to the Silver Arrows. The big question mark here though is whether Kimi Raikkonen’s performances will be better than in 2015. Ferrari need both drivers to be regularly outscoring the Mercedes’ drivers in order to battle for the constructor’s title, and Raikkonen could prove to be the weak link. Expect speculation to heighten over the summer over the future for Ferrari’s number two.
Is there light at the end of the tunnel following a catastrophic first season with Honda?
McLaren’s glory days seem a long way away at this point. They haven’t won a Grand Prix since Brazil 2012. That doesn’t look likely to change this season. There is, however, at least some small signs of progress from the Honda engine. Although there were a few niggles in winter testing, McLaren were able to put in some solid running, even if their pace wasn’t that impressive. Their popular drivers, champions Button and Alonso, are arguably the best pair to help Honda push on in 2016 and, under the ever watchful eye of Ron Dennis, the team needs to start progressing through the field this year.
Can Red Bull return to winning ways with a same old brand new engine?
Which engine wasn’t rumoured to be in the back of the Red Bull at some point last year? Following a serious case of ‘toys out of the pram’ syndrome last year, Red Bull return with a TAG Heuer badged engine, which is a Renault engine in every way except the name. Red Bull’s main talking point for 2016 could well be exactly the same as last year, as the divorce process with Renault continues. If everything is not running smoothly behind the scenes at Red Bull, at least they have two drivers who can put in solid results. The two Dans- Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat- were a good pairing last year, and with Kvyat having found his feet within the team, the battle of the team-mates (which Kvyat won last year) will be on again this year. Considering they have both Toro Rosso drivers after their seats, both Dans will be out to prove their worth this year in their matt-liveried cars. A win could be possible in a mixed up race- they came close in 2015 when the team scored a double podium in Hungary.
Haas are all set to put America back on the F1 grid. Will this be the best F1 debut since Toyota?
Mika Salo came 6th for Toyota in their debut race in 2002. It’s seemingly unlikely that Haas can reach those heights in their first race but they surely have a chance of consistently picking up points throughout the season. Having worked closely with Ferrari in developing their car, the only thing that may stop Haas being midfield runners is the team personnel themselves. Haas have taken on many experienced recruits from many areas of the paddock. Getting their team of people to gel and work together efficiently in a new environment is Haas’ main struggle this year. On the driver side, it will be interesting to see how Esteban Gutierrez, after a sabbatical, compares to Romain Grosjean. Although Esteban stayed out of trouble in his two season stint at Sauber, he didn’t set the world alight with his performances. He now has the chance to perfect his racing, and gain valuable knowledge from his more experienced team-mate.
Will Haas be the most positive news story in Formula One this year?
The other teams to watch:
- Manor have Mercedes engines this year, as well as gearboxes from Williams. Expect to see them challenging for the midfield more regularly, especially with the number 94 car of Pascal Wehrlein.
- What can Sauber do this year? Nasr and Ericsson will be hoping for their moment in the sun in 2016.
- Renault make a return to F1 as a works team this year. They won’t be challenging for wins, so expect a solid learning year for them and their two young drivers.
- Toro Rosso have two impressive drivers in their cars, but will the cars hold their talent back? With 2015 Ferrari engines, you can expect their car to be more competitive in the first half of the season.
- Force India and Williams, both Mercedes powered, will be hoping for at least status quo in 2016. The two teams have been podium visitors in recent years and there’s no doubt that their drivers will be hungry for more
Which team will you be watching closely this year? Let me know in the comments below!