It is a well-known fact that in Formula 1, standing still means going backwards. So, while the teams are all pleased to have reached the end of a long and stressful season, they have already turned their full attention to 2016, an all-new year with a record-breaking number of races scheduled.
As there are no significant alterations to the rules ahead of next season, the 2015 season provides the teams with a basis on which to build their campaigns for 2016. Let’s see how the teams are likely to get on based on what we know at this point in time.
Mercedes (Drivers: Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, 2015 finishing position: 1st):
Mercedes have been utterly dominant since the introduction of Formula 1’s new engines in 2014, with Hamilton and Rosberg securing all but six victories between them over the last two seasons. With no major rule changes coming into play in 2016, it is safe to assume that the German team will once again set the pace thanks in no small part to the superiority of their engine.
The threat from Ferrari is likely to be larger than in 2015, and while the Silver Arrows may not have it all their own way in 2016, they are still likely to enjoy a strong year with a whole hatful of victories and two new titles to make space for on the shelf.
Ferrari (Drivers: Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen, 2015 finishing position: 2nd):
Ferrari enjoyed a major revival in 2015 thanks to a whole myriad of factors, chief of which was a far more competitive power unit. In addition, the team finally has the right people in the right places. The talents of James Allison have started to shine through and Maurizio Arrivabene seems to be good at making his troops pull in the same direction.
The Scuderia are expected to take another step forward over the winter and have a strong base to build on, with their SF-15T proving to be a reliable and quick racing car throughout 2015.
While the Italian squad are likely to secure several victories in 2016, whether they can translate this into silverware is another question altogether. Mercedes are still likely to have the edge over Ferrari with regards to pace, and the Merc duo certainly have the talent to make that edge count over the course of the season and secure the Constructor’s title.
It is possible for Vettel to be the 2016 world champion, but if this is to happen, Hamilton and Rosberg will have to share the Mercedes victories evenly, with Vettel securing all the Scuderia’s wins. If this occurs, there is a chance for the German in the red car, but his title challenge is certainly not in his own hands. Victories for Ferrari? A fair expectation. The title? Possible, but not probable.
Williams (Drivers: Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa, 2015 finishing position: 3rd):
The charm of the Williams revival has worn off somewhat, and the team have slipped down the pecking order over the course of 2015. While the team have remained competitive of late, with results that look good on paper, they do not quite exude the aura of a top team.
The Grove-based team are unlikely to overtake Mercedes or Ferrari in 2016 and may well have to look over their shoulders next season as Red Bull (who found some strong pace towards the end of 2015) and Force India (who secured their highest ever finish as a team last season) ramp up their efforts to fight at the front.
Williams are likely to be there or thereabout for most of 2016, but their car, while fundamentally quick and very fast in a straight line, has some weaknesses that will need urgent attention if Williams are to maintain their position next year.
Red Bull (Drivers: Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo, 2015 finishing position: 4th):
Despite a trying 2015, Red Bull have some cause for optimism for next season.
The Milton-Keynes based squad were hampered largely by the performance (or lack thereof, rather) of their Renault power units, which were not only low on power, but on reliability as well. Despite this handicap however, Red Bull’s 2015 challenger, the RB11, benefitted from strong aerodynamic performance, and while the car’s good aerodynamics were not quite enough to offset the lacklustre engine, the team can take heart in the fact that they have a fundamentally well-designed car. Red Bull are well-known for their ability to not only design aerodynamically efficient cars but also to develop them throughout the season.
Much will depend on the team’s new TAG Heuer-branded Renault power unit, but provided progress is made in this department, Red Bull have the fundamentals in place to enjoy a happier time of things in 2016. They probably won’t trouble Mercedes, but they could keep Ferrari honest and perhaps overtake Williams.