Barring Rosberg’s crash, not much of note happened during the first Friday practice of the 2016 season, so I’m going to combine both V8 Supercars and F1 into just this one post today. If you do like it please do let me know! This won’t happen often (unless it proves very popular) but below, you can find what I think are the four biggest conclusions we learnt from two not very exciting F1 practice sessions and two 12 lap V8 Supercar Sprints, starting with V8’s.
Before I start, and I know this won’t affect anyone reading this in Australia or New Zealand, but I’m disappointed that Superview isn’t available for this non championship round. Surprisingly, I received a less than friendly email back from the V8 Supercars when I enquired, but I think the whole non championship tv rights situation is quite frankly a bit of a farce. It’s not so much the cost which irritates me, for £21 GBP a season I think Superview represents incredible value however not streaming a round, whether championship or not can’t in any way be favourably looked upon. It makes you wonder who, or more importantly why someone at V8SC agreed to such unfavourable contract terms. It’s such a good chance for V8’s to showcase themselves to a global audience, but being on the support bill is an insult to the series, and they aren’t doing themselves any favours at all.
Triple Eight’s Triple on the Podium
As much as I’ll be rooting for McLaughlin and GRM this season, I can’t help but feel that yesterdays T8 1,2,3 will be the first of many this season. Compared to Albert Park last year, where PRA swept the floor with the field, Triple Eight have certainly progressed, alarmingly so. I expected SVG to take at least a few rounds to fully bed into the Red Bull Commodore and his new team however I think the two races we’ve just seen show just how seriously we need to take the Kiwi as a championship contender this season. I know we’re only halfway through the four races, but you wouldn’t bet against SVG taking the V8 Supercar Challenge trophy, realistically I think Whincup and possibly Lowndes will be his only challengers.
Craig Lowndes hounded Whincup throughout the second race before taking second place, and Roland Dane must surely be already counting his chickens, though he still should be wary of the Prodrive and DJRTP Fords. You can’t say Triple Eight are dominating the series at the moment by any means, but I think it’s probably safe to say that there’s a good chance the drivers title might be heading to Brisbane in December, possibly earlier. With Winterbottom and Mostert split between garages PRA after all, have effectively sacrificed the teams title already.
Bad Luck for Frosty
Of course, its far too early to speculate that Winterbottom is out of the championship race, especially this weekend but he sure hasn’t enjoyed the best of starts to his title defence. Frosty said earlier this week that he didn’t expect PRA to enjoy the same dominance as they did in 2015 but as I mentioned above, the form of Triple Eight is ominous. Frosty is lucky that Cam Waters looks to be quickly getting to grips with his promotion from the Dunlop Series, and I think he’ll be extremely important later in the season if the Bottle O’ Falcon driver finds himself in a championship tussle.
With Winterbottom, Mostert and Waters, Tim Edwards has a driver line up not as rich in experience, but almost certainly as fast as Triple Eight and PRA’s golden trio will need all the luck they can get on Saturday if they are to build on Mostert’s race one podium. At the moment, and I know its very early days but DJR look like a real threat to PRA’s status as the top Ford team in V8SC, and they’re only going to get better. It is worth nothing however that Frosty did qualify on the front row until he got turned around by DJRTP’s Fabian Coulthard.
Red Bull and McLaren look like they improved
Its early in the season, but looking at the times from Friday (mainly FP1) Red Bull lapped around a second and a half quicker than they did in 2015. Whilst the end of day timesheet can’t be taken too seriously after all that rain I think the evidence is there of clear progress from Red Bull and maybe they’ll be able to mount a serious challenge for the position of third fastest team. Kvyat and Ricciardo ended up second and third overall on Friday and whilst it’s difficult to image them qualifying up there in a dry session, any rain or changeable conditions could make them an outside bet for a front row start or a podium.
Its a similar story with McLaren, who finished Friday seventh and eighth. I can’t image Alonso and Button qualifying inside the top ten, especially when you consider Williams have almost certainly not yet showed their hand but you can see clear evidence of progress from this time last year. McLaren should certainly be expecting to get out of Q1 on almost every occasion this year, and like with Red Bull, changeable conditions this weekend could see them punch a little above their weight.
The Halo is on its way
I think this news got a little lost in the fanfare that was the return of F1 but the Halo is well on its way to being introduced in 2017 according to the FIA. I think a greater amount of head protection for the drivers can only be a good thing, and personally I’m not sure the Halo looks that bad. At the end of the day, whether the FIA pump with the Halo as tested by Ferrari, or a windscreen like structure as mocked up by Red Bull we’re all going to have to deal with a drastic change in the appearance of F1 cars and quite frankly either idea will take a lot of getting used to.
Anything will be better than the disgusting noses we saw grace F1 throughout the 2014 season and perhaps the FIA are hoping that the other visual changes we are due to see with the 2017 F1 cars will take some of the attention off the added head protection. Either way, some form of extra cockpit protection looks almost certain to be added to F1 cars for 2017, and its just a question of whether we see that evolve over time.