This year either of them could overtake Alain Prost to become the second most successful driver of all time. Prost scored 51 wins to Hamilton’s 43 and Vettel’s 42.
Hamilton won ten races last year and eleven the year before. The expectation he will have another formidable Mercedes at his disposal this year makes him the favourite to get there first. And his next victory will be the 44th for driver number 44.
Another Hamilton versus Vettel contest: can either of them complete a clean sweep of winning at least one race at every track on the calendar? Here are the gaps in their collection so far:
This is a big one. Senna’s achievement of 65 pole positions was long thought to be unbeatable. It took a long time for Michael Schumacher to push the record to 68.
Hamilton could reach it this year, though he’ll need 16 pole positions to make it. That’s not beyond the realm of possibility – he started from pole in 11 of the first 12 races last year. But even if he does, like Schumacher he’ll have taken many more races to do it.
Most wins without a title: Rosberg to pass Moss?
Stirling Moss’s unwanted record for scoring 16 grand prix victories without winning the championship has stood for 54 years.
The record was taken from him by Nigel Mansell in 1991, but the following year he finally clinched the crown and Moss had his record back.
However Nico Rosberg is closing in quickly. Six wins last year left him just two shy of the Moss record. With another competitive Mercedes it will surely be his – unless he makes the mistake of winning the championship.
Raikkonen can become most successful Finn
It’s an oft-remarked fact that for a country of just 5.5 million inhabitants Finland has produced an exceptional crop of driving talent. Kimi Raikkonen is its third world champion and his last win at Melbourne in 2013 put him level with Mika Hakkinen on 20 wins as the country’s top driver in terms of race victories.
He missed chances to claim the 21st victory last year, but if Ferrari are competitive again this year more opportunities will surely come his way. Don’t expect much by way of a celebration if he manages it, though.
Formula One’s new generation of V6 hybrid turbo engines continues to produce some flabbergasting top speeds. Last year Pastor Maldonado’s Mercedes power unit propelled him to 366.4kph (227.7mph), aided by the long straight and thin air at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.
With more development over the winter, even higher speeds could be seen at F1’s two top tracks for his speeds: Mexico City and Monza.
Mercedes seek another crushing year
Having dominated the 2014 championship Mercedes thrashed their rivals even more emphatically in 2015. They scored 12 one-twos instead of 11, 32 podiums compared to 31, 15 front row lock-outs versus 12, and increased their points tally from 701 to 703.
With two extra races on the schedule they have a chance to do even better this year. But as much as everyone at Brackley will want it to happen, for the sake of the championship hopefully they won’t.
Thanks to Mercedes, just three different drivers won races in each of the last two seasons. Prior to 2014 that hadn’t happened since McLaren’s stunning 1988 campaign. That’s another streak which hopefully won’t continue.
Time for the field to close up
The performance gap between the quickest and slowest car in the field generally reduced between the arrival of three new teams in 2010 and the introduction of new engine rules in 2014. Last year Manor had to make do with year-old equipment which meant the gap widened dramatically.
But with Manor upgrading to the class-leading Mercedes hardware this year and Haas arriving with a supply of the latest Ferraris, the back of the grid should be closer to the pace in the year ahead.
Data reflects the average lap time gap between the best and worst performing car in each season as a percentage.
Youngest driver on the podium
Max Verstappen had a pair of fourth place finishes last year and if he can go one better next year he will claim another record.
The youngest driver ever to reach the podium in F1 was Vettel when he won at Monza in 2008 at the age of 21 years and 74 days. Verstappen doesn’t turn 19 until September so even if he doesn’t manage it this year he should get another chance in 2017 and throughout most of 2018.
McLaren’s longest slump
McLaren’s last grand prix victory, courtesy of Jenson Button at Interlagos in 2012, was 57 races ago. That’s the team’s longest win-less period in terms of consecutive starts since Bruce McLaren put their first car on the grid at Monaco 50 years ago.
But after the miserable year they’ve just endured Honda’s technicians will have to weave some magic during the off-season to get the team in the hunt for podiums, let alone victories.
Here are some of the milestones which should be reached during the course of 2016:
Australian Grand Prix: Renault’s 301st start, following their 300th after a five-year absence
Russian Grand Prix: Sergio Perez, Daniel Ricciardo and Pastor Maldonado’s 100th race appearances