2016 is here and it brings with it the opportunity to create a dynamic, and with any luck, an unforgettable new chapter of Formula 1 racing. Already an array of topics from driver line-ups to power unit suppliers is demanding attention.
The Italian marquee’s 2015 season while not earth shattering has created big expectations in Italy. The rest of the world, who’s perspective is a bit more realistic than that of the passion infused Tifosi, know that even matching the might of Mercedes is not a foregone conclusion. Since joining the team in 2013 Technical director James Alison is now firmly entrenched in Ferrari. The turnaround from a disastrous 2014 to a race-winning 2015 means serious pressure on Alison and his team to perform in 2016. It will be the responsibility of team Principal Maurizio Arrivabene to keep his team focused on its goals and to temper the expectations of the Ferrari board and its fans.
It’s no question that where it concerns driver line-ups the spotlight will be squarely focused on the “relationship” between Mercedes drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton. Through their partnerships both have enjoyed spectacular and conversely poor moments and spent plenty of time sulking in respective corners. Up until now the team has been able to handle its drivers without too much issue. But the balancing act between placating both drivers and avoiding a full blown war between the two is a tenuous line.
If Mercedes finds itself as runaway leaders of the pack again team director Toto Wolff has said it may prompt them allow the drivers free reign when it comes to strategy, thereby “improving the show.” For the sake of the show let’s hope Mercedes has a real challenger.
The French manufacturer’s purchase of the Lotus F1 Team has been made official which will see the championship winning constructor return to the sport as a fully-fledged works team. 2016 is a big year in many ways for Renault of which priority number one will be to silence the boisterous criticism of its power unit.
Venezuelan driver Pastor Maldonado has been retained by Renault for 2016 and will be partnered by British rookie Jolyon Palmer. Together these two drivers will form one of the weakest driver line-ups of the season. While Palmer appears to be a solid driver any rookie is a leap into the unknown. Normally, a teammate with five years worth of experience would be useful for someone like Palmer. But when that teammate is Pastor Maldonado it’s a bit of a different story.
Many will attest to the fact that you could hardly meet a greater gentleman than Pastor Maldonado in the F1 paddock. He has shown glimpses of real potential throughout his F1 career including the stunning victory at the 2012 Spanish grand prix. But the Venezuelan has a big chink in his armour – his habitual tendency to crash frequently and expensively. For Renault the conservative objective is to finish solidly in the top ten and perhaps snatch a podium or two should the frontrunners fail to reach the chequered flag. Their drivers will have to step-up is this is to be achieved.
Gene Haas is American racing royalty but he isn’t banking on his stateside fame and success to make it in Formula 1. The team has forged an alliance with Ferrari who will supply Haas with a power unit. In addition, Ferrari can also supply the American team with front and rear suspension and share in the R&D costs. While Ferrari supply the mechanical side of the Haas car Italian manufacturer Dallara has designed its chassis. This resourceful recipe should catapult this team firmly into the midfield.
The next step in preparation for the 2016 season is for the customary shakedown tests of the new cars to be completed before they’re unveiled to the world. Most teams have announced mid-February launches for the respective cars just ahead of the vital first test session of the season.