Formula 1 began last weekend in Melbourne, Australia. Fans will witness all the changes and driver shuffles that has come to exemplify the season opener. In 2016 we will have new teams, new drivers and new rules which will all be unveiled on the melting tarmac of Melbourne. Let’s take a look at what we can expect from the new year of elite motorsport.
The teams have been busy in pre-season. Practice runs have been taking place in Barcelona with Ferrari being the fastest on three of the four days in Spain. The big surprise came from Hulkenberg’s Force India, which recorded the fastest time on the other day. While Mercedes have been behind on time, they would have benefitted from the amount of miles they have managed to clock up to better understand the car. The new Mercedes has clocked up almost 2000 miles, far ahead of any of its rivals. Their two drivers are still favourites for winning this season with bookmakers even without the news of the Ferrari going faster.
The big changes for the season have come about in locations and qualifying. The European Grand Prix has taken a surprise turn to Baku, Azerbaijan. The German Grand Prix is thankfully back too, after a year of absence with the race globetrotting to Hockenheimring, though in the future it will alternate with the Nurburgring.
Qualifying will be a stricter and faster affair with sweeping changes. Cars will be eliminated every 90 seconds in timed instalments until the pole position is chosen. The cars have seen minimal changes themselves with the odd body extensions and a new exhaust rule, to allow for the cars to produce louder noise. Apart from the minor tweak the cars however, on the tracks it will be largely unchanged from 2015.
The real excitement comes in the paddock with teams and drivers hopping around like excited bunnies.
The cars have been testing with cockpit protection this year. Ferrari unveiled a ‘Halo’ design, while Red Bull have suggested a more classic windshield to avoid any pillars impairing vision. The debate over this has been heated in the paddock. Lewis Hamilton has come out against it and claimed that the aesthetics alone should be reason to not have it. Drivers should be allowed a choice he says. Sebastien Vettel however says that looks should not come before life. The decision to test for cockpit safety comes after the death of Jules Bianchi, who would have benefited from a Halo type system. Bernie Ecclestone has said some form of protection will be introduced in 2017, so we will have to wait. Teams will be trialling many designs until then though.
The real excitement comes in the paddock with teams and drivers hopping around like excited bunnies. Renault make their return to the sport six years after selling their stake. They have rebought the rights off of Lotus, who they sold to in 2010. Jolyon Palmer will make his debut for the French car giant, after winning GP2 and he will be joined by exile Kevin Magnussen.
Marussia have changed their name to Manor, and swapped engines to a Mercedes for the new season. Both of their drivers will be rookies, and it will be interesting to see if these two teams will get blown out of the water with their decision to go for inexperience instead of trusted old heads.
The biggest change in the teams is the arrival of Team Haas F1 from America. This is the first US based team since the unrelated Haas Lola team in 1986. There was an attempt at a revival in 2010, with US F1, but they never made it to the start line. Like US F1, Team Haas is based in North Carolina and will be utilising a Ferrari engine. Their driving stable looks interesting too. Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez look like an exciting pairing. The biggest news is their development driver, who is a 17-year-old named Santino Ferucci. He is not Italian though, but American himself, and he realises the pressure this puts on him, “To be an American who is part of an American team is something I take a tremendous amount of pride in,” said Ferrucci in a Haas F1 press release.
2016 looks to be an exciting year for the sport and while the cars may not be too different fans can hope for a more competitive competition with Ferrari the fastest in testing.