As we speed towards Christmas, 2016 and most importantly, the first proper pre-season test at Barcelona on 22nd February the respective teams, factories and drivers will be working flat out to ensure they hit the tarmac at the running. With Renault’s return, and Red Bull and Toro Rosso surely running behind on their builds due to their respective engine dramas there are plenty of unknowns as to what the hierarchy will be come Melbourne in March so as the end of 2015 draws ever closer, we’ve compiled our Formula One Christmas wish list of the things we’d most like to see on track in 2016.
Haas providing Grosjean with a car capable of at least fighting in the midfield. Ok, we’re going to start off with a bit of a long shot here, but it is a wishlist and dreams do sometimes come true. With their Ferrari tie-up, Haas should start their debut season in F1 in a much better position than any of the previous debutants in history – most notably Team Lotus, Virgin Racing and HRT who all joined in 2010. A strong pedigree in Nascar racing and th realistic and committed mindset from Gene Haas will prove invaluable during their debut season and Haas’ target of scoring points should be relatively achievable by the end of the year.
By signing a driver of the calibre of Romain Grosjean, Haas have found themselves both a proven team leader and a extremely quick and hungry racing driver, and as the past year at Lotus showed, a perfect team player. Grosjean never spoke out against the Enstone team, and has stood by them through thick and thin over the last few seasons, something which will be important for Haas, especially as they find their feet in the championship early on. A lack of development at Lotus meant that Grosjean spent much of 2015 fighting in the midfield and ended the season driving what effectively was the same car that rolled out at pre season testing in the winter a fact which makes his podium at Spa all the more impressive.
Much like Button and Alonso this season (and we’ll come onto that in a little bit), a year for Grosjean spent in no mans land at the back of the grid would be an incredible waste of talent, so we hope by at least the latter part of the season, Grosjean has the opportunity to show off his rapidly growing stock and is challenging others around him whether that be in the midfield or the bottom half of the top ten.
Tie ups with Mercedes and Williams help Manor to at least be closer to the outright pace. 2015 was always going to be a phenomenal struggle for Manor and they did a remarkable job by just making it to the end of the season, however fast forward to Melbourne 2016 and expectations will no doubt be much higher for a more successful year. Their technical deal with Williams to provide transmission and suspension, and Mercedes engine deal could just be the push Manor need to elevate them into the midfield battle next season. For a team which has gone through the trauma they have over the last two years, an improvement in pace and form is the least Manor deserve. With their driver line up still unconfirmed, and money though to be dictating a major role in the negotiations it remains to be seen whether Manor opt for funding over the obvious talents of available drivers such as Wehrlein, Rossi, Magnussen etc but a strong driver line up surely remains Manor’s best chance of points in 2016.
Honda and Renault/TAG make drastic improvements. This wish goes without saying really, but to avoid the processional racing and team by team order we saw at many races this year Honda and Renault must make serious ground over the winter. Ferrari proved it could be done last season and now its up to both struggling engine manufacturers to make the statements they’ve been saying all season come true. Failure to improve could well see much of the same in 2016, with Mercedes and Ferrari leading the way with Red Bull, McLaren and now Renault falling some way off the pace. Such a repeat of 2015 will do nothing but harm to Formula One and as the FIA and Bernie struggle to level the playing field, the need for a competitive season is becoming greater than ever.
In addition, such is the importance of a strong engine in the current F1 regulations, that without one talents such as Alonso, Button, Ricciardo and Kvyat will essentially go to waste. Unlike a few seasons ago, we currently have a huge surplus of top level drivers, all of which are more than deserving of an F1 race seat and already there are plenty waiting on the sidelines Vandoorne, Rossi, Magnussen and Vergne to name but a few. In order to avoid F1 turning into what essentially could be a two tier series, improvements from Renault and Honda are critical to the future of our sport.
In what will (probably) be his final F1 season, Raikkonen goes out on a high and proves a much closer match to Vettel. 2016 is shaping up to be Raikkonen’s final season in the sport. With Ferrari already keeping an eye on Verstappen, and a host of other drivers such as Grosjean and Bottas also in contention to partner Vettel in the future, Raikkonen’s age many finally catch up with him as he turns 37 next year. Being a long way off his teamates pace both in 2014 and 2015 , the jury is out on whether Raikkonen can make our final wish come true, but it would be a shame to see the 2007 Champion end his successful F1 career on a whimper. He experienced his fair share of bad luck and reliability issues over the course of 2015, and with an improved Ferrari and those mistakes ironed out, 2016 may represent his best, and final chance to beat his teammate once again.
What would your Christmas wish list look like for 2016? Feel free to let us know in the comments below!