The Formula One 2016 season has been one of the most interesting seasons ever with crashes, last lap overtakes, the swapping of drivers between two teams and Red Bull putting up an impressive challenge for the dominant Mercedes. This season is the longest in the history of Formula One, with 21 Grand Prix. With 12 of the 21 races complete and teams and drivers currently enjoying their short summer break, we look at the most memorable incidents and moments from the first half of the season.
5. Alonso’s accident at Australian Grand Prix-
McLaren’s Fernando Alonso suffered a horrific crash in the first grand prix of the year at the Albert Park Lake circuit in Melbourne. On lap 17, while trying to pass Esteban Gutiérrez’s Haas, Alonso clipped the rear wing of the Haas driver at 305 kmph, colliding into the wall, flipping his car twice in the air and ripping it to shreds. Many spectators feared the worst for the Spanish driver but Alonso appeared unscathed from the crash.
Alonso was thankful and stated that he was “lucky to be alive”.
“I am lucky to be here and thankful to be here,” said Alonso. “I am aware that today I spent some of the luck remaining in life. I want to thank McLaren and the FIA for the safety of this car. I am alive thanks to the job of the last 10-15 years in Formula One. I was flying, so you see the sky then the ground, then the sky, then the ground. You want to stop but it doesn’t stop. It keeps going and going and going. It was quite scary, but at the last moment the car stopped and I had a little space to go out and I said: ‘I will go out quickly because my mother will be watching at home.”’
As a result of the crash, Alonso was ruled out of the following Grand Prix in Bahrain on medical grounds as he suffered from broken ribs and a pneumothorax, which enabled the rookie driver, Stoffel Vandoorne, to replace him. Vandoorne finished 10th in the Bahrain Grand Prix and became the first reserve driver to score points on debut since Sebastian Vettel in the 2007 US Grand Prix.
4. Nico Rosberg’s impressive form at the start
Rosberg started the 2016 season where he left off the previous season, winning the first four races in 2016, making it seven consecutive Grand Prix wins starting from Mexican Grand Prix in 2015 to Russian Grand Prix in 2016.
Rosberg extended his championship lead to 43 points over his closest contender and his teammate,Hamilton, after the Russian Grand Prix.
Hamilton was plagued by poor first lap starts which enabled Rosberg to pass him in Australia and Bahrain. Hamilton also had reliability issues which meant that he started in the 10th position in Russia. This was also coupled by Rosberg’s errorless drive and a dominant Mercedes engine performance.
3. Swapping of drivers between Red Bull and sister team Toro Rosso
After Daniil Kvyat had been promoted to Red Bull from Toro Rosso, following the departure of Sebastian Vettel to Ferrari in 2015, he was sent back to Toro Rosso again, ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix in 2016.
The young Dutch, Max Verstappen replaced Kvyat at Red Bull after the Russian Grand Prix. The reason for the drastic step was Kvyat’s error prone driving in the Chinese and Russian Grand Prix. Kvyat ran into Vettel in the first lap of Russian Grand Prix and again in the same race, forcing Vettel to retire. He faced the ire of stewarts who gave him a 10 second stop/go penalty. Also, Vettel complained to Red Bull boss Christian Horner about the incident after he was forced to retire. After the incidents in China and Russia, Kvyat was demoted to Toro Rosso and swapped places with Max Verstappen.
According to Red Bull’s team principal Christian Horner, “Dany will be able to continue his development at Toro Rosso, in a team that he is familiar with, giving him the chance to regain his form and show his potential.”[ In July 2016, it was reported that Red Bull Racing decided not to renew his contract for the 2017 season.
2. Max Verstappen- The Power of Youth
The 18 year old Dutch won his debut race in Spain with Red Bull Racing, after he was promoted from Toro Rosso at the expense of Daniil Kvyat. He qualified fourth behind the two Mercedes and his teammate Daniel Ricciardo in the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona.
On the first lap, aggressive driving from Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg resulted in a collision which eliminated them both from the race. Their elimination meant that Max rose to second place behind Ricciardo in the first lap. However, an amusing three stop strategy for Ricciardo against the two stop strategy for Verstappen resulted in Max winning the race ahead of Ricciardo. By winning the race and displaying his impressive driving skills, Verstappen emulated Vettel by becoming the youngest driver ever to win a Formula One race at the age of 18 years and 227 days.
Max Verstappen has continued his impressive 2016 season with Red Bull Racing. In the 8 races with Red Bull in 2016, he has been on podium 4 times, including a Grand Prix victory.
After a 43 point deficit following the Russian Grand Prix, Hamilton has staged a comeback of his life and now leads the Drivers’ Championship by 19 points ahead of Rosberg, going into the summer break.
His comeback started from the Monaco Grand Prix, where a botched up pit stop of Daniel Ricciardo by Red Bull pit crew resulted in Hamilton stealing the lead and winning the race in exciting circumstances under different strategies. Rosberg came 7th which tremendously helped Hamilton to gain some ground on Rosberg in the Drivers’ Championship.
After a subsequent win, Rosberg finishing fifth in Canada further helped Hamilton’s cause. However, a bad European Grand Prix and a win for Rosberg resulted in Rosberg taking the intiative.
After qualifying on pole in Austria, different strategies meant Hamilton trailed Rosberg in the race at second position. However a brave move by Hamilton and Rosberg’s aggressiveness resulted in a last lap crash between the two, for which Rosberg was penalized later. Both the drivers suffered damages but Hamilton managed to pass the finishing line in 1st position and Rosberg ended 4th with a broken front wing. This was a defining moment in the first half of 2016 season. Mercedes boss, Toto Wolff was visibly upset and threatened to axe the drivers and imposing team orders if they collide again.
After winning his home Grand Prix in Silverstone easily, Hamilton took the lead for the first time this season in Hungary, leading a perfect one-two for Mercedes. Another strong start and a dominant display of his car, Hamilton won the German Grand Prix whereas Rosberg was trobled by the Red Bull pair and ended 4th after a 5 second time penalty for pushing Max Verstappen off the track.
Even with a 19 point lead, Hamilton still remains pessimistic about his Drivers’ Championship chances, as he is bound to take up two 10-place grid penalties or start from the back of the grid(if there is a double engine change in one race) for using more than five engines components.