By Daniel Wilson.
It’s been ten days since this year’s testing came to an end, and with the first race now just days away, it’s the perfect time to think about where the teams are going to Melbourne and how they are shaping up going into the rest of the new season.
Of course, the obvious place to start would be at Mercedes. The world champions seem to have picked up where they left off last year. The car, like many others, looks largely unchanged, and the one stand out feature from testing was their reliability.
There were no real problems at all over the eight day run, and despite not going for fast times, the Brackley-based outfit clocked nearly 4,000 miles under their belt – almost double any other team.
Contrast this with Ferrari though, and it’s difficult to find the answer to a question burning people’s lips – can they really challenge Mercedes? The Scuderia was the quickest car over the two weeks of testing and they generally have a reliable package to work with, but I personally believe they are still some half a second behind Mercedes over one-lap and a couple of tenths in race pace.
I hope I’m wrong though because if they really can mount a credible threat, then the 2016 season could shape up to be a classic!
As for the rest of the field, it looks as though Williams and Red Bull could once again be battling it out for third in the constructors. Both put in decent testing performances, but both were difficult to read into for different reasons.
Williams are still searching for a win in F1 since their revival in 2014; and Red Bull, now with their engine supplier back as a name team, continue their push to get back to the highs pre-2013.
New F1 team Haas are the surprise turnout so far. Many have commented on their impressive test which has shown they have a lot to progress towards this year – an unusual verdict on a team making its debut in the sport. Points in Melbourne, maybe?
Teams like Force India, Renault and Toro Rosso have also upped their game, all putting in good reliable long runs and setting competitive lap times that could make them regular features in the top ten.
Meanwhile, McLaren are staring at another lackluster year in the sport as they push ahead with Honda. Testing was by comparison, an improvement on last year but reliability still looks to be an issue and their power unit doesn’t look very competitive.
Manor will be looking to enter a new age as they take to the track with a Mercedes engine for the first time, but again, reliability and power are the two key ingredients needed to start scoring points.
Finally, Sauber look troubled. After missing the first test, they are already on the back-foot and their problems extend off track as well. Financial concerns around the team have been raised, as have claims their workers were not paid for February on time. I just hope they can emulate the strong start they made last year and avoid becoming another team to fall foul of the money-trap that is F1.
All eyes now turn to the start of the season this weekend, and I for one can’t wait! I’m sceptical of the new qualifying format and whether it will take some of the limited drama away.
Let’s hope we can see a classic scrap between two teams out front, and an impressive move forward for some mid-field teams over the next record-breaking 21 races.
The 2016 Formula One season begins this weekend with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne (18-20 March).