The new season is underway, and there's plenty of thrills and spills to come. Check out our season preview, complete with team by team rundown...
After months of testing, practice and roster moves, Formula One is back for another year of thrills and spills – all of which you can catch on Sky Sports Mobile TV. And it’s all started with a real bang as Nico Rosberg cruised to wins in Australia ad Bahrain in the first two grand prix of the season, with Lewis Hamilton also picking up second in Melbourne.
So far, so 2015, right? Twelve of last year’s nineteen grand prix finished with Mercedes taking first and second place on the podium. Australia might indicate a similar trend this year but, as always, there promises to be plenty of drama as the season continues and the likes of Ferrari, Red Bull and Williams should make things nice and competitive.
With major rule changes planned for next year’s competition, this year’s changes are more tweaks than overhauls. The 2016 season features 21 races – the most ever in an F1 season – which means drivers have been allowed an additional power unit to use through the course of the season. There’s some additional cockpit padding to increase driver safety – always a good thing – and radio regulations are going to be stricter this season, with pit crews no longer allowed to give detailed instructions to their drivers during the race.
But who should you be looking out for this season? Let’s run through the teams one by one, starting with last year’s champions…
If Australia is anything to go by, get ready to see plenty of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton dousing each other with champagne this year. Mercedes is still king of the V6 era – at least until next year’s sweeping regulation changes – and the most exciting battle in the sport is not necessarily going to be Mercedes vs. the rest of the trailing pack, but Rosberg vs. Hamilton. With Rosberg entering the last year of his contract, he has everything to prove against reigning champion Hamilton, and these two had some jaw-dropping duels last year. Let’s hope Mercedes really unleashes its two drivers for more of the same this season.
Ferrari ended the 2016 pre-season testing with the fastest lap-times, but Australia was the same old story for the Prancing Horse, with Sebastian Vettel taking third behind the Silver Arrows pair. Ferrari’s car is certainly quick enough to compete, and they’re the best placed out of all the teams to put pressure on Mercedes, but their season will rely heavily on Kimi Raikkonen rediscovering the form that made him a world champion many years ago. Vettel is good, but he probably can’t do it alone.
In the midst of their incredible success during the Vettel years, it’s easy to forget that Red Bull are still a very young team, with only a decade of experience on the circuit. Last year, Christian Horner’s team was hamstrung by their under-performing Renault engine, but Red Bull still have plenty going for them, including two very talented young drivers in Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat, not to mention Adrian Newey – a genius without equal when it comes to aerodynamics, and one of the greatest engineers the sport has ever seen.
Williams has excelled in picking up consistent points over the last two seasons, finishing third in the Constructors’ Championships for two years running. This year’s car has had some significant modification to the sidepod design and aerodynamics package, and with two experienced heads in the cockpit in Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas, Williams could be this season’s dark horses. Make no mistake: this is a team rejuvenated.
Where Williams has thrived, McLaren-Honda has really struggled recently. When you consider that Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button – both former world champions – only won 27 points between them, and didn’t register a single podium last year, well, the only way is up. Things look rosier this year though; Button and Alonso are still world class drivers on their good days, and this year’s car looks much more competitive than last year’s.
This is the first time we’ve seen a Renault team on the grid since 2010, and it’s a welcome return for one of Formula One’s old guard. Kevin Magnussen and British driver Jolyon Palmer both finished just outside the points in Australia, and there will no doubt be a few growing pains for the returning outfit. They’re likely to improve as the season goes on, although the reliability of their engines was very publicly called into question by Red Bull boss Christian Horner last year.
Toro Rosso struggled with the same Renault engine as big brothers Red Bull last year, but showed real signs of promise early in the season. We haven’t seen much from them in 2016, but if the consistency issues are gone, Toro Rosso will be right behind Williams in the dark horse stakes. The team boasts two of the brightest talents in the sport, Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz, with the former in particular tipped for greatness. If this year’s car is consistent, and competitive, 2016 could be the year we see Verstappen rise to become one of the elite drivers in Formula One.
For a team that has been around the F1 block a few times, Sauber has really struggled over the last few years. 2015 saw them take eighth place in the Constructors’ Championship, and although driver Felipe Nasr recorded some quick times in testing, he and partner Marcus Ericsson took 15th and 17th respectively at the Australian Grand Prix. Things are improving for Sauber, but the popular opinion is that they’re more likely to find themselves battling with the likes of Manor and Haas than challenging for podiums.
Force India had a strong finish to last year’s season, and the relative lack of regulation changes in the off-season should suit them down to the ground. Drivers Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez both set strong times in testing, and although their seventh and thirteenth place finishes respectively in Australia were probably a little disappointing, many are expecting them to put pressure on the likes of Red Bull and Williams for that third Constructors’ Championship spot behind Mercedes and Ferrari. Definitely a team to watch.
Haas may be new to F1, but it’s certainly not a new name to motorsports. Owner Gene Haas is looking to transition from a successful NASCAR outfit to Formula One, where he and his team are the first American-led squad to compete on the circuit since namesake (but no relation) Beatrice Haas back in 1985. They’ve recruited an experienced head in Romain Grosjean as their lead driver, backed up by Esteban Guitierrez, with Grosjean already having picked up a very respectable sixth place in Australia. For a rookie outfit, Haas has looked very capable so far.
Manor has dropped the ‘Marussia’ tag this season to become simply ‘Manor Racing’. And that’s not the only change to report – this year’s car has traded Ferrari for Mercedes in the engine department, in the search for the consistency that’s eluded the team for the last couple of years. After the tragic death of driver Jules Bianchi last year, and very nearly running out of money, Manor is just about still standing, and newbie drivers Pascal Wehrlein and Rio Haryanto will be looking to make their mark.
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