2016 looks set to be a fascinating year for Formula One. Although we may know by the end of qualifying on Saturday if we’re in for another year of Mercedes domination, there are plenty more battles to delve into further down the pack this year. 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 first part in a series of three blogs discussing the main talking points of Formula One in 2016. Here are five drivers to look out for in 2016…
Lewis Hamilton’s championship victories over his team-mate in both 2014 and 2015 will have been bitter blows to Nico Rosberg, but Rosberg’s form towards the end of last season suggests that he’s far from defeated just yet.
The question now is one of whether or not he can continue that form into the new season. Nico seemed to be more relaxed than Lewis about the Mercedes’ handling in pre-season testing. This could be the first sign that 2016 is destined to be Rosberg’s year. Qualifying seemed to be weaker in 2015 than in 2014 for the German and it is an area where he has to improve this year to dent Hamiton’s confidence. His race day battles against his team-mate need to step up too, and hopefully we’ll see lots of opportunities for wheel-to-wheel action between the Silver Arrows this year. If Nico does fail for a third time against Lewis then his future at the team becomes questionable, will he want to stick around at Mercedes in all but a second driver capacity?
Will 2016 be Nico’s opportunity to take the driver’s championship?
2016 could be the year for Valtteri Bottas to follow in the Ferrari-bound footsteps of fellow Finn Kimi Raikkonen.
He came close at Silverstone last year, but the elusive first win escaped his grasp through pit strategy and weather conditions. Still, Bottas is deemed to be a world champion of the future and, with an opening possibly appearing at Ferrari for 2017, Valtteri will be hoping that Williams provide him with a car in which he can show his true potential. Bottas beat his team-mate, and former Ferrari driver, Felipe Massa by only 15 points last year. He needs to out-race Massa more consistently in 2016 to be in the frame for a Ferrari seat.
Could 2016 be the year of Valtteri Bottas’ first win?
2016 will be an important year for all four of the Red Bull family of drivers. Helmut Marko’s recent comments, warning that “the one who is not delivering goes”, will not come as a surprise considering the ill-fated F1 journeys of Sebastien Buemi, Jean Eric Vergne and Sebastien Bourdais.
oth Toro Rosso drivers impressed in 2015 and this year, with a heavier weight of expectation freshly landed upon their shoulders, the pressure to impress again is on. The battle between Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz will undoubtedly be a fascinating element of the 2016 season. Most of the media chatter is about Verstappen, but expect Sainz to bring home decent results too. Verstappen needs to be consistent this year, forgiveable errors such as his collision with Romain Grosjean in Monaco in his rookie season may not be as forgiveable this year, and he is only four penalty points away from a race ban. Consistent decent results will prove that Max is a capable pair of hands and it is entirely possible that this could be his last year in the junior Red Bull team before being promoted.
With talk of Toro Rosso’s package being good enough for a podium, at least in the first half of the season, could Verstappen even reach the top step of the podium by the season’s end? Seems unlikely, but let’s not forget Monza 2008…
Hailed as a future champion after his first race with McLaren, Kevin Magnussen was dropped after just one year. Now, upon his triumphant return with Renault, Magnussen will be out to prove his worth.
Second chances don’t come around too often in Formula One, and in October 2015 it looked as though Magnussen’s F1 dream had ended. But, thanks to Pastor Maldonado’s Venezuelan sponsors running out of money (and oil), Kevin is back on the grid with Renault in 2016. Kevin’s only season in F1 was decorated with a flurry of high points, including his sensational Melbourne podium, but also featured some mediocre, at best, performances. Renault are not expecting big things from their 2016 campaign, which allows for Magnussen to take some time getting back up to speed and build further on his impressive race craft. His rookie team-mate, Jolyon Palmer, will no doubt help his cause. Renault do however hope to be championship contenders within the next five years, and the 23 year-old Dane will be hoping to prove that he is the man to lead them to victory in the future.
Will Kevin Magnussen’s return to Formula One be worthwhile?
The two-time champion will be hoping that Honda can improve on 2015’s dire performance. But is 2016 a deciding year in Fernando Alonso’s Formula One career?
Fernando Alonso’s career looked promising even from his Minardi days. After becoming the youngest ever winner of a Grand Prix in 2003, he went on to take two championships with Renault in 2005 and 2006. Since then, Fernando’s chances of taking a third title have seemed less likely with every passing year. Despite just missing out on titles in 2010 and 2012 with Ferrari, Alonso was never able to emulate Schumacher as many believed he could. His tumultuous 2007 McLaren stint is all but a distant memory now, but it is entirely possible that old wounds could be re-opened if McLaren, and especially Honda, fail to deliver this year. At this stage it is impossible to tell where McLaren will end up in the constructors’ order, but it seems that podiums may be a little out of grasp for the Woking-based squad. Alonso will be hoping for solid midfield runnings throughout the season and if that is the case, with an overhaul of technical regulations in 2017, Fernando may be willing to stick around for Honda’s third year in the new era.
If McLaren’s performance does not improve then Fernando could well be looking at other options for 2017. Could a sensational switch to Mercedes, if Rosberg is beaten for a third time by Hamilton, take place?
Other notable drivers to watch:
- Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton will each be hoping that more title glory awaits them in 2016.
- Kimi Raikkonen, Jenson Button and maybe even Felipe Massa could be about to compete in their final year of Formula 1, specualtion will undoubtedly grow as the season goes on.
- The rookies on the grid- Jolyon Palmer, Pascal Wehrlein and Rio Haryanto– will aim to keep out of trouble in their debut season.
- Romain Grosjean, at the new Haas team, will be doing everything he can to catch the eye of Ferrari throughout the season.
Who have I missed? Who do you think we should keep an eye out for in Formula One in 2016? Let me know in the comments below…
After graduating in 2015 with a First Class honours degree in English Language and Literature, Nicky Haldenby, a lifelong fan of Formula 1, founded the Lights Out F1 Blog in 2016. The blog has become a firm fan-favourite, delving deep into the sport’s history books and lifting the cover on unusual F1 statistics.
Nicky also writes at F1Destinations and Motorsport Guides and can be heard as the resident stats man on the 2 Soft Compounds Podcast. His work has appeared on WTF1, BadgerGP, motorsport.com, Sky Sports F1 and BBC Radio 5 Live. Nicky is also the host of the F1 Rewind Podcast.