In a year where tales of off-track happenings may be as big as stories of on-track action, the third and final part of the season preview discusses the main political talking points of Formula One in 2016. Here are five off-track stories to look out for in 2016…
Will Formula One’s new UK home be the perfect 4mula?
In the UK, F1 has a brand new terrestrial home for 2016. Channel Four have put together an impressive line-up of on-screen talent for their coverage of the new season. Channel 4’s coverage will be produced by Whisper Films, who’ve previously worked on epic F1 films such as this promo for Red Bull. It will be interesting to see how the coverage compares to the BBC’s effort from 2009-2015.
Will you be watching F1 on Channel 4 this year?
F1 has finally caved in to social media.
For many years, Formula One neglected fan interaction. Bernie Ecclestone saw no point in the usage of social media to take the sport to new fans and to present the sport to regular fans in a completely new way. Since the 2014 Singapore Grand Prix, however, Formula 1 has been active on Twitter, regularly engaging fans with polls and new video content. This will continue in 2016 and the launching of an official F1 Facebook page earlier this week is a clear statement of intent.
Whilst surely more can be done to involve fans further with race weekends, the sport is at least on the correct track. The FIA’s new ‘Driver of the Day’ award will be presented after the race to the driver who collected the most votes from fans. Hopefully this will be a fair award, and not dominated by drivers with a higher social media presence.
The debate over the 2017 regulations looks set to rumble on.
The cars and tyres will be wider from next year, and will be at least 3 seconds faster than they currently are. There’s a great piece by Craig Scarborough over on Autosport, which is well worth a read, outlining the proposed technical changes for 2017. Confirmation of the rules will come on 30th April, a deadline which has been recently extended.
Another major change to the 2017 cars will be the addition of further cockpit protection for the drivers. Ferrari tested a ‘halo’ design in pre-season testing, but it was met with mixed reactions. Kimi Raikkonen however said that the halo was ‘okay’ (which is as close to a compliment you’ll get from Kimi). He also said that the design has very little effect on visibility.
Recently, Red Bull have released a mock-up of their proposal:
— Motorsport.com (@Motorsport) March 15, 2016
The Red Bull design is more aesthetically pleasing. The argument over a move towards closed cockpits will, no doubt, be opened up again at some point this year.
Do you want to see more cockpit protection in Formula One?
The changes to qualifying have been seen as unnecessary by some, but will the new format run smoothly?
The three stage knock-out format of F1 qualifying has been popular amongst fans since its debut in 2006. Although the system has been modified over recent years- a pointless ‘fuel burning’ period was scrapped for 2008- the change that comes in 2016 is the biggest to the format yet. This handy graphic from the Australian Grand Prix organisers concisely shows how the new format will work:
— Aus Grand Prix (@ausgrandprix) March 12, 2016
Although the change may be unnecessary, I personally think that the system could add a little bit of extra tension to the Saturday sessions. It isn’t too different from previous seasons- instead of drivers being eliminated in bulk at the end of a session, they are eliminated one by one at 90 second intervals. It is not gimmickry, the fastest driver/car will still qualify on pole, bar any traffic issues.
Of course, the new format has not been tried out yet (not even in a test capacity) so it will be intriguing to see if everything, from teams being out at the right time to the timing and on-screen graphics, runs smoothly.
The Driver Market
After a fairly stagnant silly season in 2016, there could be big moves in the driver market for 2017.
As touched on in our 5 Drivers to Watch in 2016 post, there are lots of drivers who could be looking for new teams in 2017. Valtteri Bottas, Max Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen could be some of the big names moving around next year. What about the McLaren saga? Could Stoffel Vandoorne, the dominant 2015 GP2 champion who is racing in Super Formula this year, finally take a well deserved F1 seat? Alexander Rossi and Max Chilton have both made switches from F1 to IndyCar over the past year or so. Is it possible that the opposite could happen and an IndyCar favourite, such as James Hinchcliffe or Josef Newgarden, make the switch to Formula 1?
As we head into the summer, the growing speculation around who will be where in 2017 will be fascinating to witness.
Other things to look out for:
- Radio Silence– Even stricter radio communication rules, as noted by motorsport.com, will be in place this year. The idea is to make the driver make the decisions for himself. Will it work? Only time will tell.
- Tyre Rules– A rather complex set of rules has been brought in this year to bring more variety to the strategies used in 2016 Grands Prix. This handy video from Will Buxton explains the rules in a concise manner.
- Engine Development– An alteration to the confusing token system means that there will be more in-season engine development this year.
- Bernie– It wouldn’t be a Formula One season without some Bernie controversy, would it?
What are you looking forward to most about F1 2016? Let me know in the comments below!
Header image: Francesco Crippa