As the most accurate signals of what’s to come, all eyes were on the results of the recent F1 test sessions in Barcelona, and it would seem it’s the news we’ve all been waiting for!
Even the most ardent of F1 fans will grudgingly admit that the 2015 season was pretty boring by most standards. While there were some decent midpack battles, and the occasional upset from Ferrari, it was really just a case of seeing which Silver Arrows car would cross the line first. Once Hamilton had secured the Championship in the USA with three races to go, it got even less interesting, as Rosberg was seemingly handed the last three races by the team to romp home taking the total Mercedes victory tally to 16 of 19 races.
Promising results coming from Barcelona indicate that things might not be quite so easy for Mercedes this year. Though Lewis Hamilton racked up an incredible 157 laps on the first day of testing, demonstrating that the Mercedes powerplant is still impressively dependable, it was Vettel who topped the lap times by over half a second for Ferrari.
Red Bull seem to be back in business too, as Daniel Ricciardo clocked the third fastest time of the day, which will be a relief to the team after their dramas looking for a new engine during the off season. They complained bitterly about being given no choice but a Renault engine, but the powerplant seems to have improved. Talking of Renault, the Renault F1 works team returns to the sport for 2016, and will be bringing considerable experience with them, as these guys won the championship twice with Alonso back in the 2005-06 seasons. Driving for Renault are Kevin Magnussen and rookie Jolyon Palmer, who will both be looking to make their mark with the prestigious outfit.
McLaren-Honda fans will be rejoicing in the fact that things are looking up for those guys too. On the first day of testing the team racked up a decent 84 laps, and a lap time only 1.8 seconds behind Vettel’s, meaning that both the pace and reliability of the Honda engine seem to have drastically improved.
An exciting new prospect comes in the form of Haas F1, an American team headed up by NASCAR boss Gene Haas. Haas F1 have secured the considerable talents of Romain Grosjean, alongside the dependable skills of Esteban Gutierrez for the season, as well as purchasing as many customer parts as the rules allow from Ferrari for their F1 car. So we can expect, if not, spectacular results, at least some decent challenges from the new team.
Determined and well-backed new teams, hungry young drivers, more pace and reliability from the Honda and Renault engines, and Ferrari back to its rapid old ways all point to a challenging season for the reigning champions, Mercedes F1! Here’s to a more exciting 2016 Formula One Championship.
GO: The 2016 Formula One Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix takes place from April 1 to 3. Visit www.bahraingp.com for more information.