It’s 74 days until the first Grand Prix of 2016, and whilst we have pre-season testing to wet our appetites before the lights go out in Melbourne, the change from three pre-season tests to two will leave us with even less time to assess who might be a surprise frontrunner in come the new season. With the arrival of Haas and Renault, the Mercedes powered Manor’s and the never ending promises of McLaren’s improvement, 2016 looks set to be one of the most unpredictable seasons to date (maybe not at the front, but the midfield could be anyone’s guess). Following on from my (sometimes controversial) V8SC predictions yesterday,here are four things which could happen over the course of the next 12 months in the world of Formula One.
You can my find part one of my F1 Testing Report Card here and part two here. Also, please do check out some radical ideas I’ve proposed to make F1 more exciting!
Haas and McLaren will be very evenly matched, car wise. First of all, I’m going with Haas and McLaren to produce very closely matched cars. McLaren’s probable aerodynamic superiority will be drastically let down by their improved, but still lagging Honda engine, whilst Haas’s 2016 Ferrari power unit will keep McLaren well within reach. That being said, I’m not sure where these two teams will end up fighting. I don’t think McLaren can possibly be as bad as 2015 and Haas have had enough time to prepare, so I think these two will end up scrapping around with the rest of the midfield, which could be very congested this season. Their cars might be evenly matched, but the experience of Alonso and Button will ensure McLaren do eventually finish above Haas in the table.
Toro Rosso to be ahead of Renault, and maybe Red Bull right at the start of the season, but only at the start. This one may be a bit far fetched, but given that Toro Rosso will race with 2015 Ferrari engines next season, I wouldn’t be too shocked to see them ahead of, or at least matching the Renault powered cars early on in the season. Remember how far Renault were behind on the engine front by the end of last season? A repeat of the last winter break where Renault failed to make the needed progress on the engine front could well see the year old Ferrari unit starting 2016 still the more powerful. The jury is still out on how well Red Bull will develop their engine over the course of the season, but with Horner already playing down their chances in 2016, we can assume their engine won’t be a Mercedes beater. Over the course of the year I expect Renault to finally make some inroads on the engine front and eventually overhaul Toro Rosso.
Jenson Button to retire come the end of year. It would be sad to see JB go, but given how close he was to announcing his retirement at the end of 2015, I can’t see him wanting to stick around for more than one more season. Button has been a great ambassador for F1, Mclaren and motorsport in general and if he did retire, he would be sorely missed. With Vandoorne waiting in the wings, I feel Button has often been treated with a lack of respect from McLaren boss Ron Dennis and whilst the majority in the garage may want the 2009 champ to stay on, Dennis may finally have his way. His latest protege Magnussen was replaced after just one season in the car, and then unceremoniously dumped by McLaren just a year later, and with Vandoorne storming to the GP2 title in the way he did, you can’t imagine Dennis letting another young gun slip away from him.
Toys will be thrown out the pram at Mercedes. Judging by how 2015 finished, and even with Toto Wolff’s warning, we can expect even more bickering from Hamilton and Rosberg in 2016, especially if Rosberg’s stunning end of season form is carried over to Melbourne. Even with the championship sewn up with time to spare, Hamilton didn’t seem to take too kindly to Rosberg’s end of season winning streak, and all eyes will be on the couple as they line up on the grid in Melbourne. Whether they are in a class of their own, or joined by Vettel and Ferrari remains to be seen, however Rosberg and Hamilton are sure to be evenly matched, and how Mercedes deal with these two extremely competitive drivers will be a fascinating sub plot to 2016, especially if the racing is a processional as last year.
What do you think of my predictions for 2016? Do you have any of your own? I’d love to see them so feel free to pop them in the comments below!