Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, 2015

Ten things we want to know about the 2016 F1 season

2016 F1 seasonPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

A new year begins with a wealth of possibilities for the season ahead. Here are ten of the biggest talking points on and off the track ahead of the 2016 F1 championship.

Can Mercedes’ rivals close the gap this time?

Those who were eager to see Mercedes getting a tougher time from their rivals 12 months ago will be even more anxious to see the field close up this time. Despite Ferrari raising their game last year, the fading threat from Renault meant the three-pointed star managed to increase their points haul from 2014 to 2015.

Conventional wisdom suggests Mercedes will find it harder to find more pace having already exploited the opportunities available under the current rules more thoroughly than any of their rivals. But of course the same theory applied 12 months ago, and it didn’t work out that way.

Nonetheless Renault believe their late-season development work will put them on the right path for the year ahead, Honda expect they can make significant gains by correcting fundamental shortcomings with their 2015 power unit, and Ferrari will be better placed to give Sebastian Vettel – Mercedes’ closest rival last year – a car which is more finely tuned to his requirements.

And even if none of that comes to pass, the final three races of last season indicated Nico Rosberg may be in a position to give Lewis Hamilton a much harder fight.

How will the new Renault go – and look?

Robert Kubica, Renault, Istanbul, 2010
Will Renault revive their classic colours?
After four years competing only as an engine manufacturer, Renault has thrown its weight behind a full factory programme, as it ran from 2002 to 2011 and 1977 to 1985.

Their most recent spell as a full constructor yielded two constructors’ championships, saw Fernando Alonso take two drivers’ titles, and produced 20 grand prix victories. Wisely, those in charge of today’s team have acknowledged that kind of success is not going to happen again soon.

What can be expected of them in the meantime? The Enstone squad is a lean but well-equipped operation which will benefit from the cash injection. The power unit is a weak link but not a completely unknown quantity as Lotus used Renault hardware most recently in 2014. The benchmark, however, is the similarly-equipped Red Bull squad who will be keen to prove they can achieve more with the Renault engine than the factory squad can.

Then there’s the small matter of the livery. A revival of the vivid Renault yellow of the original team, which reappeared in 2010, would add a much-needed splash of colour to F1’s grey grid.

Time for a line-up shake-up?

It’s hard to remember the last time an off-season passed with so little movement between the teams. Almost every driver has stayed put ahead of the new season, with Romain Grosjean’s switch to Haas the only change announced so far.

However early signs indicate that may be about to change. Hamilton and Vettel could both find themselves with new team mates for 2017 as Mercedes and Ferrari will decide whether to retain or replace the drivers alongside them. While Rosberg may land at another team Raikkonen’s stated preference to be in a competitive car could spell and end for his career.

A change at either of F1’s top teams could set off a chain reaction of moves further down the field. Potential candidates for departure include Felipe Massa and either of the McLaren drivers, particularly if Honda fail to make the necessary gains…

Can Honda build a competitive power unit?

Fernando Alonso, McLaren, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, 2015
Honda must deliver for McLaren in 2016
McLaren were in the doldrums last year and the reason was painfully apparent. In twisty sectors the MP4-30 posted reasonable times but as soon as it hit a straight it was was devoured by almost every other car on the track.

At Suzuka its drivers were being overtaken on the approach to 130R where their rivals didn’t even have the assistance of DRS. That spelled out the team’s problem just as clearly as Alonso calling Honda’s power unit a “GP2 engine“.

McLaren and Honda believe the compromises forced on the engine to meet the team’s aerodynamic goals are worth making and the design will bear fruit once basic problems with the engine’s configuration, which could not be addressed during last season, have been fixed. If that proves to have been the case and they regain the missing two seconds, they could immediately be at the sharp end of the midfield or better.

If it turns out they got it wrong, it will surely be time for one side of the equation to change.

How will F1’s first new team for six years perform?

Twelve months ago it seemed there might be just 18 cars on the grid for the upcoming season. However the 11th-hour rescue of Manor and the impending arrival of Haas means there should be 22 cars on the grid at Melbourne on March 20th.

The deep collaboration between Haas and Ferrari prompted questions from Mercedes to the FIA over the extent to which teams could co-operate on areas such as aerodynamic development. By leaning heavily on Ferrari, Haas have given themselves the best possible chance of hitting the ground running in March.

However last year’s tail-enders Manor are poised to leap forward as they switch from year-old Ferrari power units to what will no doubt remain the class-leading Mercedes. And with the vital FOM prize fund only being awarded to the top ten teams, both will be anxious to avoid ending the year 11th and last.

Will Force India and Sauber’s EU complaint be resolved?

Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, Suzuka, 2015
Sauber and Force India want a ‘fairer’ F1
After years of speculation that Formula One could face a challenge from the European Union, in September last year the news broke that Force India and Sauber had indeed set legal proceedings in motion. It is now in the hands of EU Competition Commissioner Margarethe Vestager to judge whether those running Formula One have rigged the game against the smaller teams via financial and political means.

The quickest resolution to this would be if the EU were to rule no such abuse is taking place. This would be an ideal result for Bernie Ecclestone, but as yet there’s indication which way things will fall. Vestager certainly has no qualms about taking on bigger fish than Formula One Management – last year she pushed forward an antitrust case against Google.

F1 has been here before, of course. In May 1997 European Truck Racing broadcaster Wolfgang Eisele lodged a complaint with the European Commission regarding Ecclestone and the FIA’s control of motor racing television rights. It took four years for the parties to reach a settlement, and led to the division between FOM’s commercial responsibilities and the FIA’s regulatory which continues to this day.

A significant difference this time is the complaint has been brought not by an outsider but two F1 competitors, which adds another political dimension to what could be another long and drawn out legal tussle.

Is Max Verstappen the real deal?

Daniel Ricciardo, Max Verstappen, Toro Rosso, Sepang International Circuit, 2015
Verstappen stunned with his passes last year
The Max Verstappen hype reached fever pitch late last year as F1’s youngest ever driver executed some dazzling passes and claimed a pair of fourth place finishes.

He’s even been tipped by some as a potential replacement for Raikkonen at Ferrari next year – though the grand old team of F1 seldom recruit drivers with as little as two years’ F1 race experience, much less ones who are still teenagers.

It remains to be seen whether last year’s Ferrari power unit will be a more competitive proposition than this year’s Renault. It should at least offer a step forward in reliability for both Verstappen and his quietly impressive team mate Carlos Sainz Jnr. With only one rookie driver confirmed in the field so far, Verstappen has an opportunity to cement his position as F1’s hottest new talent.

How strong a hand will Ferrari play?

Ferrari on Wall Street, 2015
Ferrari must maximise its return from F1
With new direction at the top from Sergio Marchionne, a new F1 team leader in Maurizio Arrivabene and with an eye fixed on the financial bottom line following its flotation on the New York Stock Exchange, Ferrari enters 2016 seeking to use its considerable political strength to shape the future direction of F1.

The latter months have seen the team use its veto to block a reduction in power unit prices, declare its readiness (not for the first time) to leave F1 if it is unsatisfied, and even tell Bernie Ecclestone he must prepare to hand over the reins of power.

On the track the team is seeking its first championship success in eight years. Off the track it is even better armed and prepared for the kind of fight it usually wins.

Will a 21-race calendar finally happen?

Pits and paddock, Baku street circuit rendering, Azerbaijan
F1 is set to race in Azerbaijan
A 21-round schedule was promised last year but with the German Grand Prix falling through and the Korean Grand Prix never a realistic proposition the championship ended up consisting of 19 events.

The chances all 21 races will go ahead this year are better, though still uncertain. Particular concern surrounds the United States Grand Prix, which has struggled to pay its bills to Ecclestone as the government has reduced its financial support. A similar situation has recently emerged concerning the Spanish Grand Prix, though the Circuit de Catalunya’s race is not thought to be in immediate threat.

The newest addition to the calendar, the European Grand Prix in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku, will be subject to the usual track inspections prior to its first appearance in the championship. While the country’s corruption problems and human rights abuses have not deterred F1 from heading there, the sudden devaluation of its currency in late December – the manat lost 32% of its value against the US dollar due to falling oil prices – could present problems.

Can F1 halt its popularity slide?

Formula One’s steadily falling television viewing figures have been widely reported for years, and a stagnant championship contest in 2015 did little to help matters.

There are isolated success stories – audiences in the USA have steadily grown since NBCSN took over the broadcast. And FOM’s belated move to embrace social media last year may help in find new fans.

But the overall downward trend in F1’s viewing figures is a growing concern for all. It’s telling that Mercedes have even suggested they could change how they manage their two drivers in order to promote more racing between them if they remain as far ahead ahead in 2016.

Over to you

How do you think these questions will be answered? What else are you eager to learn about the year ahead?

And how were last year’s questions answered 12 months later?

2016 F1 season

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Posted on Categories 2016 F1 season, Feature

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  • 51 comments on “Ten things we want to know about the 2016 F1 season”

    1. I wanna know how hard the wake-up call for Haas will be, when they realize they are not the smartest people on the planet.

      1. The thing with Haas is they’re not here to win, they’re there to market Haas Automation as F1 has wider global reach than Nascar. He’s been very clear in saying that at best they want to join the midfield but don’t expect it to happen quickly which I think is a pretty good approach to take.

        So we’ve seen a marketing department take over a F1 racing team (Red Bull) and now we’re seeing a marketing department create a new racing team using knowledge transfer from Nascar and Ferrari (Haas), how long until we see a marketing department of a company without racing experience start from scratch?

        1. @alec-glen Well, we’ve already seen a bunch of have-a-go chancers turn up and do well in the past (Hesketh?)…

        2. @alec-glen Enter BAR? (Tyrrell weren’t team Brackley, were they?)

          1. RaceProUK (@)
            4th January 2016, 18:52

            As it turns out, yes they were (Tyrrell => BAR => Honda => Brawn => Mercedes)

            1. I thought they essentially bought the racing license and nothing more.

            2. RaceProUK (@)
              5th January 2016, 13:09

              As it turns out… yes, they did :blush:

        3. In my view, the performance of Haas in 2016 will prove to be extremely important for the future F1. A successful season for Haas would be to regularly find themselves in the lower reaches of the points. If they achieve this, it would provide the perfect blue-print for fledgling outfits who harbor dreams of competing in F1. With more teams on the grid, surely this will serve to improve the health of the sport?

          I have high hopes for Haas. He is realistic and he has a business model that appears to be very sensible on paper. However, we all know how unkind an animal F1 can prove to be. Although some disagree, Haas’ experience of running of a top NASCAR team definitely put him better stead than many of his predecessors who tried and failed at setting up teams.

          The thing that I like most about Haas is that he was honest about the fact that joining F1 is predominantly a marketing exercise for his company. I applaud that, because just like any good businessman he knows what his goals are.

          The other thing to consider is that, Haas’ “buy as much as you can” model will keep the big boys like Ferrari and Merc happy, as this would serve to prop up their revenue streams.

          Here’s to Haas’ success! Bring on 2016!

        4. in the last 20 years the track record of starting teams from scratch is not very positive…
          all 4 teams that started in 2010… gone except Manor
          previously, we had Super Aguri (gone), Toyota (large budget… little results… gone), Stewart (taken over by Ford)

          1. Stewart (19 years ago, decent and sold due to Jackie adriotly predicting the manufacturer era) -> Jaguar (more money than sense) -> Red Bull

            Lola (19 years ago, went bust after 1 qualifying sesson)

            Toyota (14 years ago, more money than sense)

            Super Aguri (10 years ago, noble effort but first victim of Honda’s belt-tightening, well before recession formally hit the world)

            Campos (6 years ago, ran out of money) -> Hispania (never got over absurdly bad start)

            Manor (6 years ago, found big sponsor) -> Virgin (tail-ender, stake sold to different sponsor) -> Marussia (tail-ender edging towards remainder of the pack, then sponsor bailed at short notice) -> Manor (tail-ender which narrowly avoided going bust) -> MRT

            Litespeed (6 years ago, ran out of money) -> Lotus (nice try, boss got bored after technical misdirection)

            We don’t get new teams in F1 often… …and F1 is extremely tough on those who try!

      2. Seems like they are doing a good job them Haas. I cannot remember a new team doing a better job entering F1.

        Two years to preper, secure good technical partnership, slight rule abuse to gain an advantage, competitive engine… They might be ahead of McLaren and Renault teams? Depending all on how well the Ferrari facilities copied for them.

        All same time they aim for lower midfield, pretty low expectations. I bet they will meet them and wont be more than 2s of Ferrari pace.

        1. @jureo, the same could also be said about a number of other new entrants that then proved to be utterly disastrous.

          Toyota spent three years preparing to enter F1, spent the whole of 2001 testing (covering around 23,000km in testing around 11 different circuits) and had the largest workforce and budget in the entire field – yet 2002 proved to be a harsh wake up call for the team given they finished 10th in the WCC.
          When BAR entered, they had one of the most successful chassis manufacturers of the time (Reynard Motorsport) behind them, a blank cheque from BAT and a highly experienced workforce (having bought out Tyrrell Racing), yet their inaugural season was a disaster; similarly, Jaguar Racing acquired an experienced team that had been progressively improving year on year and with their own in house engine division, and managed to throw away most of their promise with poor engineering decisions.

          As an aside, if they were to turn up in Australia with a car that was 2s a lap off Ferrari’s pace, it wouldn’t exactly be good news – that would put them pretty solidly behind most of the grid, save perhaps Manor.

    2. For the fun of it, here are my predictions to these questions:

      1) I expect the biggest gains to be made by Manor and McLaren. I will believe that Renault can build a decent power unit when I see it. As for the sharp-end of the grid, Ferrari might end up a little bit closer, but I expect Mercedes to still have the fastest car. However as we saw in 2012, having the fastest car does not guarantee World Championships.

      2) I loved the Renault livery in 2010, so I am hoping very much to see a return of that. As for how they will perform, I think they have already pretty much written off this year. This should be a year of nothing more than restructuring. Anything on top of that is a bonus. They also have the weakest driver pairing for a works team since Toyota were around.

      3) There was very little in the way of movement in 2008 for the start of 2009. 18 of the 20 drivers who finished the year in 2008 remained with the same team for ’09. However we then had a massive shake-up for 2010 with Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button, Michael Schumacher, Nico Rosberg, Robert Kubica and Kimi Raikkonen all making significant movement. I doubt we will see a driver market flop again as we saw last year.

      4) Honda can build engines. I am partway through watching the 1994 CART season, where Bobby Rahal’s team was struggling with an underpowered Honda engine. However Honda are around to this day in IndyCar and they have delivered titles. It is absolutely vital that Honda somehow manages to close the gap to Mercedes and Ferrari this year and show significant progress in all areas, otherwise Ron Dennis may well be on the phone to other manufacturers. Also for McLaren’s sake, because they could well end up finishing last if Manor and Haas perform as I expect them to…

      5) Gene Haas has seemingly done everything right so far. He has a top driver in Romain Grosjean (and a not-so top driver in Esteban Gutierrez), has a technical partnership with Ferrari and he has not rushed this project. With Ferrari power units, they should be handy on the straights compared to Renault, Red Bull, Toro Rosso and probably McLaren. I expect a number of points this year. On another note, Manor need to build a solid chassis and hire two decent drivers for them to really be taken seriously. This is a massive opportunity for them.

      6) I can see this being quite messy. I’m hoping that it gets resolved, mainly in favour of sport itself more than anything, but we will see.

      7) Yes. He is. As is his team mate.

      8) Ferrari has too much power, and I am sure that they will use plenty of it.

      9) 19 races is what I predict. I can see Baku not happening and I remain hesitant to say that Germany will happen again this year.

      10) Well if the racing is as dire as it was last year, and I can say that I am not exactly optimistic about this year, I wouldn’t be too surprised to see viewing figures drop even more.

      1. @craig-o

        2) I loved the Renault livery in 2010, so I am hoping very much to see a return of that. As for how they will perform, I think they have already pretty much written off this year. This should be a year of nothing more than restructuring. Anything on top of that is a bonus. They also have the weakest driver pairing for a works team since Toyota were around.

        Interesting but debatable. In my opinion Trulli-Glock was a far superior lineup to Maldonado-Palmer, so was Trulli-Ralf.

        I’m not even sure if Maldonado-Palmer is any better than Da Matta-Panis or Salo-McNish.

        1. But Maldonado-Palmer is not a line up any manufacturer actually fielded (apart from during the winter until Pastor’s money failed to show up and until they confirmed Magnussen) @kingshark.

          I do agree with you that Trulli-Glock was not all that bad of a line-up either.

          1. The other angle on this is that the last year Toyota were around (2009), was the year Ferrari (a works team) briefly fielded Raikkonen-Badoer, which almost might as well have been a one-car team. I can’t think of a worse works line-up since that two-race pairing.

    3. It would be a good move for StarWars to took the franchise from Lucas and give it to a new producer, as Abrams. The last issues of the saga just concentrate in aspects of the story nobody cares.
      *Replace SW references to F1.

    4. While the stats indicates that Mercedes were stronger this last season in respect to the 2014, I have the feeling that they were more challenged in 2015 by pace of other cars, when in 2014 the only challenge to them came from within themselves due to reliability which was a better for them in 2015. And there is the Singapore form flop which is a total mystery yet.
      So I believe 2016 can bring the challenge closer.

      1. knoxploration
        5th January 2016, 16:15

        Care to outline the reasons you also believe in Santa, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny?

        Let’s make this clear now: Unless there is a significant change in (or change in the application of) the rules, Hamilton and Merc have already won.

    5. My Predictions for 2016:
      1. Sebastian Vettel VS Lewis Hamilton (May the Best Man Win)
      2. Max Verstappen will miss at least 1 Race (Banned)
      3. McLaren-Honda will be 3rd and Force India will be 4th in the Constructors.
      4. Williams and Red Bull will go further back.
      5. Haas will score at least 1 Podium.
      6. Manor will be Jump Sauber and Renault
      7. Manor will score points.

      Driver’s Standings Predictions:
      1. Vet/Ham
      2. Vet/Ham
      3. Ros
      4. Rai
      5. Alo
      6. But
      7. Per

      Team’s Standings
      1. Mercedes / Ferrari
      2. Mercedes / Ferrari
      3. McLaren-Honda
      4. Force India
      5. Red Bull
      6. Williams

    6. I think the thing to watch out for in ’16 is going to be, which team will end up 3th, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th. McLaren, Williams, Force India, Red Bull and Toro Rosso might end up 3th or just as easily 7th, and even after the first few races it can still be hard to tell which team ends up where at the years end ranking. The midfield battle might be a really tight one next year and worth to keep an eye out, even if at the front of the grid things proof to be quite tame again there could be fireworks in the midfield to keep us occupied next season.

    7. Agree with most of the above. Looking forward to see how Haas, Jolyon Palmer, and Manor-Mercedes go. I also think it’s time Williams stepped it up a bit, looking to see a bit more from them. And it’s always good visiting a new track, even if it’s Tilke-does-street-track type stuff again.

      From a rules point of view interested to see how the new tyre rules work or if they don’t actually make much difference at all.

      Lastly, interested to see how Channel 4 deal with taking on F1, especially at pretty short notice – can they bring anything new to the party?

      Other than that, it’s surely got to be a better season than last year dull-fest, but it could potentially just be a holding pattern for whatever weirdness 2017’s changes promise.

      1. Jonathan Parkin
        8th January 2016, 12:03

        For this year, I think we should just be grateful to Channel 4 for keeping some of the races on regular tv. They did take it on at the last minute, so we shouldn’t expect too much. They will improve undoubtedly just give them time

    8. Might as well post some predictions on a snowy day.

      Can Mercedes’ rivals close the gap this time?
      I find it hard to predict how much Ferrari will improve; sadly since 2010 they have built a legacy of oddly losing over winter or during the season. I have no doubt Vettel will be better equipped, being more familiar with the team and everything, but it’ll be down to relative improvement in the Ferrari chassis and engine. Sadly, I don’t see Williams going up a whole lot more next season based on their 2015 development rate and Red Bull will largely depend on the Renault engine for improvement. At that, I do fear Red Bull might end up taking more points from Ferrari than they take from Mercedes, so we could end up with a boring championship regardless. As for Rosberg, I don’t dare to predict his form anymore.

      How will the new Renault go – and look?
      I think Alesi’s assessment that podiums might be hard to be a reasonable one. Design on the 2016 car has to be suboptimal following the financial and engine uncertainty. If anything, it could be able of reaching 2010 or 2015 performance if the engine is good, but I don’t expect much more. As for livery – depends on sponsors. During the previous decade Renault has shown a willingness to radically change the livery based on sponsors (going from Mild Seven to ING). I fear it’ll only be yellow if they don’t have a major sponsor. With Infiniti leaving Red Bull, I think they might end up on the Renault.

      Time for a line-up shake-up?
      I think the silly season will be one of the silliest in years, but a lot will come down to performance, rather than motivation I think. Raikkonen at Ferrari and Massa at Williams will probably be rated against their teammates before getting a new deal. Initial movement will probably focus on those seats. I personally don’t see Rosberg leaving Merc, but I didn’t see Lewis leaving McLaren or Alonso leaving Ferrari this early either. I fear much of the silly season will be waiting on Rosberg, Raikkonen, Massa, Alonso and Button. Secondary rumors will probably focus on Red Bull/Toro Rosso and Sauber. I think we’ll be in for a good silly season, but doubt much will come of Rosberg, Red Bull or rookies for 2017.

      Can Honda build a competitive power unit?
      I think many of us expected Honda to improve much more during the 2015 season. As such, I find it a little hard to make a reasonable prediction. I find it hard to say they will find two seconds, because that would be a massive achievement and McLaren hasn’t been a heavy hitter in both performance and reliability since 2008, with little signs of improvement since 2013. Honda too reminds me more of the works F1 team we saw last decade than the engine supplier of the 80s. But I feel it would be too easy and cynical to write them off, too. Again, hard for me to make a prediction I wouldn’t find too light hearted or negative, so I’ll say they’ll be on Williams’ 2015 level at the end of the 2016 season; close to the podium some races, lower in the points other races.

      How will F1’s first new team for six years perform?
      Haas seems to be either a black sheep or a dark horse for F1 fans. Being a completely new team caught out the new teams of 2010 massively and Super Aguri before had a hard time as well. That being said, I have faith in Haas for taking a sensible approach and expect them to score points a couple of times, but be on Sauber 2014 performance levels otherwise; near the points but never in it completely on merit. I expect basically the same from Manor. It’ll be busy in the midfield.

      Will Force India and Sauber’s EU complaint be resolved?
      Not in 2016. There will probably be some movement, but bureaucracy and politics will probably prevent a speedy investigation.

      Is Max Verstappen the real deal?
      Max will probably continue to generate headlines, regardless of results. At least in the Netherlands, his father will be familiar with that. If Toro Rosso builds another good car the results might be similar to 2015, but he will have to make sure he beats Carlos on track. Carlos is a very talented driver as well who was rather unlucky in 2015, and while he might not have the hype Max has surrounding him, he continues to impress. Results will probably determine if Max ends up being the real deal or Carlos ends up a hype killer, I expect that they will be much closer than this season and they will both be highly sought after for 2017. All depending on if there’s a promotion on the table, though.

      How strong a hand will Ferrari play?
      Marchionne seems to me like a reasonable guy, who likes to flex his company’s muscles every now and again to boost his negotiation position. That being said, he is a FIAT/Ferrari man, so there’s no doubt some misguided ideas about the power his company has. As much as I love Ferrari, I expect I’ll read news regarding them, their position in F1 and their demands for the future of F1 multiple times this season and lower my head in shame. Ultimately, I expect maybe a veto on engine rule proposals again, but boasting in the media will probably be as much politics as we’ll get.

      Will a 21-race calendar finally happen?
      I suspect either all will happen and we’ll lose at least three races for 2017 (Spanish, German, US), or we’ll lose multiple rounds during the season (German, European), with dire consequences. I wouldn’t be surprised if the 2017 calendar will be the topic of much debate during the season and as such, the costs of hosting a race. Ultimately it will be all swept under the rug by the FIA and FOM and they’ll line up some more crazy races for 2020 and beyond.

      Can F1 halt its popularity slide?
      Not as long as F1 doesn’t go after young adults and tries to prime itself for the next generation of consumers. The problem is that there isn’t a lot of money in them now and CVC isn’t a company why likes to invest in the far future. Between more rule changes for 2017 and not addressing points made by long time and loyal fans and doing nothing to attract new ones, I dare to predict viewing figures will drop by a few more percent in established F1 countries in 2016.

      I’ll bookmark this post and after the final race see what I made of these predictions. I hope I’m wrong about these last two, though.

    9. 1. No
      2. Mediocre – Boring
      3. Let’s wait for 2017
      4. No
      5. Mediocre
      6. In favour of Bernie
      7. No
      8. Let’s wait for 2017
      9. Yes
      10. No

    10. 1. Yes – smaller gap, Mercedes still ahead.
      2. Look like a yellow Lotus, go like a Renault powered Lotus which means Force India are safe.
      3. Rosberg extension, Raikkonen’s last season, surprise move by Grosjean to Ferrari, Rossi and Vergne to Haas.
      4. No, may just reach Renaults 2015 performance so still off the pace. Reliability better but still rank last.
      5. Fighting Sauber, Torro Rosso, McLaren and Renault.
      6. EU will tell them it’s not an EU issue.
      7. Yes, and will be fighting with Grosjean, Alonso and Button so should be fun.
      8. 4 stories during the year on how they could leave.
      9. No
      10. Depends how good Channel 4 coverage is. Likely no.

    11. The entertainment factor of high definition onboard cameras. :)

      1. Its a good idea. (jó ötlet :)
        + 360 degree, super slow motion cameras and seeing more videos with temperature cameras when drivers start, accelerate, corner, brake or in the pit.

    12. 1. Ferrari will give them more of a headache than in 2015 but that can be not enough to fight for titles.
      2. Their livery will look good, their results won’t be spectacular, a podium or two at best.
      3. It’s pure speculation now, I hope the drivers with which I learned F1 stay as long as possible.
      4. They can be on 2014 level.
      5. They look promising for the midfield and some good points-scoring results.
      6. No.
      7. His star won’t be shining as brightly after the season.
      8. They will be tough to deal with off the track.
      9. It will be 20 or 21.
      10. The decline will be stopped but I don’t expected any growth either.

    13. Potentially the biggest question surely must be what decision will be made regarding the independent engine story. Even if it never happens, it will have implications on the technical as well as political side.

    14. I don’t see how viewing figures can improve while it’s so expensive to follow the championship live. There are so many other things to do these days. In the UK only 650k watch on Sky and why would the 3.x million who watch half delayed highlights increase?

      1. @lockup, if the quality of Channel 4’s coverage is good enough, you might see a bit of a rise in viewing figures. Over the years, it does seem as if some were being put off by a decline in the standard of the BBC’s coverage and a sense that the BBC no longer cared about the show – a new and more enthusiastic approach (for example, Channel 4 has already promised to make more use of archive material, one of the BBC’s more popular features) might help draw back some fans.

        1. We can only hope @anon. Some sources seem to think viewership will drop because Ch4 is a bit less mainstream and historic than BBC.

          It seems to me Sky pay a lot of money to have the whole championship live, and that’s because it’s a far more attractive proposition. Conversely, half delayed highlights is a lot less involving. It’s a terrible model IMO, for the sport, and basically sets up a slow decline. Other series would sell their grandmothers for the coverage Bernie tossed in the bin.

          There’s a good reason the Concord Agreement said ‘all races free to air’, after all; just a pity teams weren’t smart enough to spot the missing word ‘live’.

          1. I can honestly say I have never enjoyed an F1 season less than I did in 2015, and it was largely down to the horrible ‘race highlights’ I was stuck with viewing for half of the races. Watching it that way was abysmal and would be sure to turn off all but the most dedicated of viewers. I know FOM are a bit fossilised in their approach to many things but why on earth don’t they have a pay-per-view option for fans who can’t or won’t get pay TV?

    15. Could have been missing red bull, torro rosso, renault/lotus, manor and Haas from the 2016 grid. Imagine that! 12 cars on the grid starting in Melbourne!

    16. While Haas is a new team in last 6 years, when was the last time a new “factory” started making F1 cars? Mercedes bought Brackley from Brawn, Red Bull bought Milton Keynes from Jaguar, Toro Rosso from Minardi and all others one were just using the same factories.

      The Cologne facility was closed without anyone buying but before Haas, when did we really have a new factory?

      1. Red Bull-Audi would sound good. :)

      2. Sumedh, Toyota Motorsport Group still owns and runs their factory in Cologne – it is currently the centre of operations for their WEC programme, as well as having a profitable sideline in running research and development work for third parties. I don’t know where you heard about it being shut down, but that is definitely not the case – it is still active, and in fact does quite a bit of work for F1 teams as well (most F1 teams have used Toyota’s wind tunnel facilities).

    17. 1. The gap will be smaller but I still expect Mercedes to take both titles again.

      2. Renault to be mostly fighting for minor points if they get on top of reliability.

      If Infiniti are sponsors it’ll be a mostly purple affair (just think of the Mild Seven and ING years). I’d expect at least a splash of yellow though. Red endplates and rear wing for Total are a given.

      3. I expect this to be Raikkonen’s last season and possibly Massa’s and Button’s too. Not sure Mercedes have the bottle to change the driver line-up even if there was another incident. I’d expect Hamilton or Rosberg to leave before one is sacked. It’s difficult to predict anything for 2017 at this point though.

      4. Yes they can. A lot can happen over the winter as we saw with Ferrari’s engine last year. I don’t expect McLaren to be fighting for podiums though. Regular points would be welcome to start with.

      If it’s 2015 all over again, it’ll be the story of the season. McLaren will be calling Mercedes back.

      5. Haas will be near the back, but a strong reliable Ferrari engine should give them a shot at points occasionally. With Grosjean they can have a very decent debut season.

      6. Bernie will find a way to resolve this. I doubt much will change.

      7. Yes he is. 2016 will be a true test. If he can keep his team-mate at bay and the points ticking over, like late last season (car dependent but Toro Rosso usually build points-scorers), then promotion is imminent.

      8. They’ll moan about F1 and threaten to leave at some point in the year like they do every year. It’s all very boring.

      9. It wouldn’t surprise me if Germany dropped off this year’s calendar. So it’ll be either 21 or 20 races.

      10. Yes.

    18. I wonder what Ferrari are going to change to their car, technically. This year, Vettel has more insight into the car then last year. We all know Vettel blasted times with that blown diffuser. So perhaps he might want to have more grip at the end. Also, I do wonder how Mercedes are going to react to the rising Ferrari… 1 thing is certain, Ferrari, who were with F1 at the verry beginning, can provide Vettel a verry strong, competitive package this year. And ofcourse, Vettel is a verry strong engineer as well as 1 of the legendary drivers…

      1. Vettel is a verry strong engineer. No he Isn’t, what a load of crap, he’s interested in the technical aspects of F1 that’s all.

        1. Just interested huh? Well mr, just interested, maybe you forgot about infinity, how he helped them make the car more suitable for drivers. Maybe you forgot about how he made the blown diffuser work. Maybe you forgot about how he made the car go quicker. Sounds like he does know a whole lot more then someone who is “just” interested in technicall aspects of F1. Would you drive an F1 car if you are “just” interested in technicall aspects of F1?

    19. Also a question to ask: “Is Bernie Ecclestone going to leave F1 at the end of this year?”

    20. CVC to sell this year and F1 to have new owners.

    21. Good questions. :D

    22. I’m not sure now anyone else feels about this but I would much prefer to see Bottas in the 2017 ferrari seat than Verstappen. Bottas in my opinion is a more complete driver, is still quite young and would give Vettel a run for his money. More than Webber did….

    23. Can Mercedes’ rivals close the gap this time?
      Rivals? No. Just one Rival – Ferrari. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that out of the 20 races, 6 to 7 poles will be taken by Vettel’s Ferrari. In the races, I expect Ferrari to be an even match for Mercedes on most circuits, and with better on track operations/strategy, I expect the Ferrari drivers to take 7 wins among themselves this year. Mercedes will take 11 wins, and 2 wins will be from some surprise results in abnormal conditions

      How will the new Renault go – and look?
      Renault will look similar to the 2010 livery… Just a little toned down. I expect the car to be the 5th or 6th quickest by mid season, but their driver line up will be a disappointment. I expect them to scrape in to the points on a regular basis though

      Time for a line-up shake-up?
      I think the driver line ups will remain as announced by teams for 2016 at least. Mid 2017 though, I expect Vandoorne in a Mclaren, Grosjean in a Ferrari, Verstappen in a Red Bull, Sainz in a Williams and maybe… just maybe Alonso in a Renault.

      Can Honda build a competitive power unit?
      Nope. They will still be at least 80 to 90 hp down on the Mercedes and at least 60 to 70hp down on the Ferrari PUs. Renault should be more reliable and slightly better in performance than Honda as well.

      How will F1’s first new team for six years perform?
      They will finish the year second to last through some Romain heroics. Maybe they end the season with 1 point

      Will Force India and Sauber’s EU complaint be resolved?
      Nope. No progress whatsoever

      Is Max Verstappen the real deal?
      I think he will shine this year, and perform slightly stronger than Sainz throughout the season. I expect a podium out of him this year.

      How strong a hand will Ferrari play?
      They will veto some engine rules to ensure Mercedes doesn’t increase the gap.

      Will a 21-race calendar finally happen?
      Nope. 20 races

      Can F1 halt its popularity slide?
      The ‘show’ will be better than last year. There will be closer battles and a stronger inter team rivalry at Mercedes. I expect it to be more interesting than the last two seasons, but not enough to make up for the damage done recently. TV viewing figures will continue to drop globally despite better on track action


    24. The quickest resolution to this would be if the EU were to rule no such abuse is taking place. This would be an ideal result for Bernie Ecclestone, but as yet there’s indication which way things will fall.

      Interestingly, James Allen wrote this a couple of days ago:

      If the EU decides to investigate and finds against F1, then the winners will be Bernie Ecclestone, who loves operating amid uncertainty and chaos, and the smaller teams, who ultimately should get a fairer slice of the money.

      I guess you are both right, Ecclestone usually wins anyway :) Personally, I hope that they will reach a settlement and that the small teams will ultimately become more competitive as that is what we as fans need. I do not think that the engineers and aerodynamicists at Sauber and Force India are much worse than the people at Mercedes so it would be very interesting to see what they could do with proper resources.

    25. good list of questions, would add

      11) will Alonso complete the season with McLaren

    26. 1. Mercedes to slightly increase its gap, due to Ferrari’s improved race pace not making up for repeated qualifying woes, and for having to strategise for the field closing up behind them.

      2. Renault will go fairly slowly but improve over the course of the season in Grosjean’s hands. I’m worried about Palmer after his recent comments (the sheer volume of them rather than anything specific he’s said), and am not sure what his performances are going to be like.

      3. I predict quite a lot of movement, with Raikkonen and one of the McLaren drivers retiring (I don’t dare predict which yet) because they are bored, and Rosberg and one of the Toro Rosso drivers (again, I don’t dare predict which) being demoted or leaving F1 entirely due to not matching their team-mate. I’m expecting controlled chaos in the Force India line-up – if neither Pérez nor Hulkenberg gets picked up by a team wanting a change, then the likely new leader will probably be a new broom sweeping clean*. As such, there could be anything up to six salaried seats up for grabs by either new faces (that’ll be the Toro Rosso seat) or current drivers who deserve a shot at the big time (that’ll be the Ferrari seat).

      The economy seems to be teetering on the edge of something, so anything could happen in the part of the grid where drivers depend on sponsorship.

      4. Honda can build a competitive power unit. In 2018. But wait for 2020 for its proper moment in the limelight.

      5. Haas will be penultimate runner for much of the season, falling to last at tracks where MRT gets its act especially well together and Haas falls over its own feet (it will take both for any position change to occur). Similar comments until 2020, pretty much regardless of what Haas does – but by then it may be in a position to vault into some part of the midfield with the regulation changes mooted for then.

      6. Force India and Sauber’s EU complaint will not be resolved in 2016. Check back in 2019 or six months after Bernie’s successor begins negotiations for a Second Nice Agreement, whichever comes first. Ironically the fact that Force India is collateral on one of Vijay’s loans may be the saving of the complaint, for if Vijay’s empire does face destruction by law, it means Diageo (a F1-friendly sponsor) will end up with the team and it is likely to continue racing in some form within the series. I’m not sure how secure Sauber’s presence in F1 would be if Bernie decided it was in his interests to prod it financially to get the complaint withdrawn. (Given Ecclestone – assuming he’s still alive when the complaint is decided – is likely to win regardless of the judgment, it would be sensible for him to encourage the teams. But sense has not been Bernie’s strong point recently).

      7. I’m not convinced about Verstappen. He seems to be the same level as Sainz, but more hyped and more prone to “playing to stereotype”. That’s a dangerous position for a second-year racer to be. This year, he’ll either prove me wrong and get himself a ticket into one of the five salaried seats I mentioned earlier or displace Kyvat at Red Bull… …or he’ll start overdriving and media pressure will expediate serious trouble for Max’s career. This year, he’s either going to be like second-year Vettel or second-year Speed. With him, I see no middle ground.

      8. I see Ferrari being forced to play a very strong hand, simply to see F1 staying in one piece in the medium-term. It benefits nobody in reality to fragment F1, but only Ferrari seems to understand how destructive the current leadership’s preferred policies in general (as opposed to specific items) are to the sport.

      9. No. I think Baku won’t happen because it’s been set up to fail by the powers-that-be, with all other races happening as planned. 2017 may see a decrease in rounds though, from several directions, although the most likely result is continuing to have 20 races.

      10. F1 cannot stop its popularity slide this year. It can, however, slow it down considerably by placing sensible measures to make F1 more of a racing sport and less of a psuedopolitical collapsed soufflé. No sign of this happening, sadly.

      * – A prediction I’d rather not make but would be remiss in omitting: if Vijay Mallya is still the Force India’s leader in practical terms on December 31 this year (as opposed to not at all, or only on paper while he tries to pay off his debts in an Indian prison), I will eat my hat.

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