The lineup for the 2016 F1 season is confirmed. While there has not been a major reshuffling of the lineups amongst the top teams, some of the teams in the middle of the pack have shaken their lineups.
A look into the drivers who will have something to prove or to continue their work from the 2015 season for the upcoming championship.
Lewis Hamilton has had the best 2 years of his F1 Career. He won the title in 2015 with several races to spare. It’s no surprise that he would be the first favourite for the 2016 title as well, followed by his teammate.
Mercedes know their competitive advantage will be diminishing as other teams also come to grips with the new engines. Ferrari and Vettel are likely to finally mount a sustained title challenge, and it’s up to Hamilton to soak up the pressure from an experienced challenger, and avoid off-track distractions as such a thing mid-season could seriously dent his title run.
Don’t count Nico out from being the biggest rival, this year Hamilton will have his hands full. He should ideally be targeting at least 10 race wins and sustained podium finishes in the other races.
The German had a successful debut season with Ferrari, taking 3 wins and was a consistent podium finisher. Ferrari seems like the only team that bridged the gap to Mercedes and will want to be able to challenge Mercedes at every race this time around.
Vettel is the most experienced Driver at the top pile of the podium and is more mentally prepared for the title fight, being part of 3 narrow title fights in his career. The Ferrari SF 16-H will be Vettel’s chariot and seems promising. If Ferrari has bridged the gap in the aerodynamics and turbo (given their overall horsepower was not that far down), Vettel being an excellent tyre manager and an opportunist on the track, a title run is not out of the question.
While Mercedes may still have a slight edge this year, Ferrari should be able to be able to challenge more. Vettel should ideally target a second place in the Drivers’ Championship at the very least with at least 7 wins.
Since making his debut in 2009, Grosjean had been a promising prospect for Renault (later Lotus) F1. In 2012 and 2013 he was one of the highest finishing drivers. This was followed by a downturn of fortunes since 2014, and while he did recover and perform admirably well in 2015 including a podium at Spa.
Haas F1, the new F1 team have signed Grosjean. While it’s going to be a new challenge for him and a bit of a struggle, he has the capability of pushing the car well (as he showed with Lotus in the last couple of seasons)
A top 10 in the drivers standing might be out of the question but the closer he can get to that target, the better.
The young prodigy really came to life in F1 in the second half of the season with consistent point finishes including two 4th place finishes. Any critics who thought he was too young and reckless were pretty much silenced by his raw talent.
At 18 (finally starting the season at the legal age of driving) he still has the need to hone his skills further which will come in time. He dominated his teammate last year and led Toro Rosso to their highest points tally.
The question now is if he can sustain and improve on his performances. Yes, the Toro Rosso car is not one of the best but is a good machine and using modified 2015 Ferrari Power Units, an upgrade in power to their Renault power last year.
His ideal target would be to get a podium finish and improve on his 49 point tally, targeting somewhere close to the mid-60s mark. It’s one thing to show amazing potential and defy expectations in just 1 year, another to do it over 2 consecutive years.
In 2014, Magnussen had a fairly successful rookie year with consistent finishing and a podium finish on his debut season. However, McLaren relegated him to the role of a reserve driver with the acquisition of Fernando Alonso to help develop the McLaren Honda and he was unable to start the only race of 2015 courtesy of an Engine issue with his machine.
After being released from McLaren, he said he was in contact with several F1 teams over a possible race seat. In February, he was confirmed as Pastor Maldonado’s replacement at the new Renault F1 team after a breach of contract by the Venezuelan.
For the French Manufacture trying to rebuild their team, they have a young team. For Magnussen, it’s redeeming himself for his lost season in 2015 and work his way up the F1 standings. A good season would be beating his 2014 Point Tally of 55 points.
Ricciardo was a surprise package when he jumped to the Red Bull senior team in 2014, outperforming the quadruple world champion. 2015 was an eventful year for Red Bull Racing struggling with their failed “marriage” with Renault. Riccardo finished behind his teammate Kyvatt in the championship.
There is no optimism in the Red Bull Camp, at least not for the first half of the season. They have to hope their Tag-Heuer engines (rebranded Renault, although the base is Renault, it is going to be assembled by Ilmor), it remains to be seen if they will be happy with the engine or threaten to pull out of the sport.
Riccardo has been up to the task since he joined the team, and will want to keep the performance of last season behind. While winning seems a bit out of the question, Red Bull should be able to make the podiums easily and a top 5 finish in the Drivers Championship and at least 6-7 podium finishes. Perhaps he would target a win at Singapore or the European Grand Prix.
One of the elite drivers in the 21st Century, Alonso endured a dismal season at McLaren. The Spaniard with just 2 point finishes. While he is not backing down from a challenge of developing the car with an experienced Jenson Button, he really won’t be anywhere near a title challenge this season.
But McLaren and Honda would have made significant progress over the off-season and Alonso and Button both, will have to push up.
Alonso is more likely to score and push higher up the order, given his 5th place finish in 2015 was the best for McLaren Honda. Expect him to be the leader of the mid-table pack, and more point finishes with at least 3-4 results better than 6th place will be expected.