Automotive

On the grid: 2016 Formula One season preview

On the grid: 2016 Formula One ...
Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg will be hoping this year's car picks up where the championship winner left off
Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg will be hoping this year's car picks up where the championship winner left off
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Mercedes covered more ground than any other constructor during winter testing
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Mercedes covered more ground than any other constructor during winter testing
Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg will be hoping this year's car picks up where the championship winner left off
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Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg will be hoping this year's car picks up where the championship winner left off
The focus has been on reliability for Mercedes in preseason testing
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The focus has been on reliability for Mercedes in preseason testing
Although the field has made strides over the break, Mercedes is confident it's still got an edge
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Although the field has made strides over the break, Mercedes is confident it's still got an edge
There are new tire compounds available to the field this year
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There are new tire compounds available to the field this year
Changes to regulations mean there will be more noise this year
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Changes to regulations mean there will be more noise this year
Mercedes' car is an evolution of last year's successful package
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Mercedes' car is an evolution of last year's successful package
Sebastian Vettel topped the timesheets during testing
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Sebastian Vettel topped the timesheets during testing
Ferrari is expecting to make big strides this season
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Ferrari is expecting to make big strides this season
Sebastian Vettel was the pace setter at the first Formula One testing session in Barcelona
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Sebastian Vettel was the pace setter at the first Formula One testing session in Barcelona
Ferrari spent some time on Pirelli's new, softer compound tire at testing
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Ferrari spent some time on Pirelli's new, softer compound tire at testing
The car's new red and white livery harks back to 1993
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The car's new red and white livery harks back to 1993
The Tifosi will be hoping for a more successful season, although Ferrari was the only team to take a win away from Mercedes last season
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The Tifosi will be hoping for a more successful season, although Ferrari was the only team to take a win away from Mercedes last season
This year's F1 cars have followed in Mercedes' footsteps by having narrower sidepods and tighter packaging of the turbocharged motors
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This year's F1 cars have followed in Mercedes' footsteps by having narrower sidepods and tighter packaging of the turbocharged motors
This year's regulations mean the cars will be louder, although they should put in similar laptimes to last year
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This year's regulations mean the cars will be louder, although they should put in similar laptimes to last year
For a team with such a rich history, the past few years have not been kind to Ferrari
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For a team with such a rich history, the past few years have not been kind to Ferrari
Red Bull has stuck with Renault power units, although they're now branded as Tag Heuer
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Red Bull has stuck with Renault power units, although they're now branded as Tag Heuer
Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat showed good pace in testing, thanks to a more powerful engine than the car had last year
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Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat showed good pace in testing, thanks to a more powerful engine than the car had last year
Last year's Red Bull chassis was widely regarded as one of the best on the grid, so combining it with a competitive engine
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Last year's Red Bull chassis was widely regarded as one of the best on the grid, so combining it with a competitive engine
Because last year's rules have remained largely the same for this year, teams have gone down an evolutionary path
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Because last year's rules have remained largely the same for this year, teams have gone down an evolutionary path
The dull finish on the car looks good, although we're not sure it will stand out in the pack
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The dull finish on the car looks good, although we're not sure it will stand out in the pack
Red Bull has seen a lot of success in its short time on the grid, but last year it didn't see the top step on the podium
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Red Bull has seen a lot of success in its short time on the grid, but last year it didn't see the top step on the podium
Thanks to stable regulations, Red Bull has been able to focus on the reliability and power of its power unit
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Thanks to stable regulations, Red Bull has been able to focus on the reliability and power of its power unit
Williams is a team with a proud history, and has started to string some more consistent results together in recent years
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Williams is a team with a proud history, and has started to string some more consistent results together in recent years
With its classic Martini livery, we think the Williams is one of the best looking cars on the grid
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With its classic Martini livery, we think the Williams is one of the best looking cars on the grid
New sidepods have been designed to make the car handle better in slow corners
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New sidepods have been designed to make the car handle better in slow corners
The car's aerodynamics have also been designed to help it handle better in wet conditions
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The car's aerodynamics have also been designed to help it handle better in wet conditions
Frank Williams is renowned for being a hard taskmaster, but its seems like his team is starting to gel in its current iteration
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Frank Williams is renowned for being a hard taskmaster, but its seems like his team is starting to gel in its current iteration
This year's car has narrower sidepods, thanks to improved packaging
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This year's car has narrower sidepods, thanks to improved packaging
Valteri Bottas and Felipe Massa have proved a reliable and consistent pairing behind the wheel
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Valteri Bottas and Felipe Massa have proved a reliable and consistent pairing behind the wheel
Having finished third in the 2014 and 2015 Constructors' Championships, Williams has established itself as a player at the front of the field
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Having finished third in the 2014 and 2015 Constructors' Championships, Williams has established itself as a player at the front of the field
McLaren Honda endured a torrid season in 2015, but is expecting big gains in 2016
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McLaren Honda endured a torrid season in 2015, but is expecting big gains in 2016
Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso are two of the most experienced drivers on the grid, but not even experience could make the car anywhere near competitive last year
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Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso are two of the most experienced drivers on the grid, but not even experience could make the car anywhere near competitive last year
Renault is making its return to the grid as a factory team in 2016, after it struggled to turn out a reliable power unit last year
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Renault is making its return to the grid as a factory team in 2016, after it struggled to turn out a reliable power unit last year
Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn isn't making grand claims about the team's expectations this year, but no team comes into F1 expecting to do badly
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Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn isn't making grand claims about the team's expectations this year, but no team comes into F1 expecting to do badly
With about 652 kW from its power unit, Renault is undoubtedly looking for reliability this season
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With about 652 kW from its power unit, Renault is undoubtedly looking for reliability this season
Renault has a successful past in F1, and will be hoping to hark back to the glory days of the mid 2000's when Fernando Alonso won two world championships in their cars
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Renault has a successful past in F1, and will be hoping to hark back to the glory days of the mid 2000's when Fernando Alonso won two world championships in their cars
Sauber has established itself as a strong mid pack player, although details are scant about their 2016 challenger
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Sauber has established itself as a strong mid pack player, although details are scant about their 2016 challenger
Force India has also established itself as a strong player in the mid pack, and has used an evolutionary chassis for this year
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Force India has also established itself as a strong player in the mid pack, and has used an evolutionary chassis for this year
The car's new livery looks good, and should help it to stand out among the pack
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The car's new livery looks good, and should help it to stand out among the pack
Force India's boss has taken the attitude of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it for" this season
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Force India's boss has taken the attitude of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it for" this season
The Scuderia Toro Rosso team is keeping its livery under wraps early in the season
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The Scuderia Toro Rosso team is keeping its livery under wraps early in the season
Last year saw Toro Rosso upstage its Red Bull big brother in a few races last season
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Last year saw Toro Rosso upstage its Red Bull big brother in a few races last season
Max Verstappen will look to improve on his performances last season, which belied his tender age
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Max Verstappen will look to improve on his performances last season, which belied his tender age
Haas F1 has already won plenty of fans by virtue of being the only American F1 team
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Haas F1 has already won plenty of fans by virtue of being the only American F1 team
Haas managed to put in 281 laps during testing in Barcelona
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Haas managed to put in 281 laps during testing in Barcelona
It's difficult for new teams to establish themselves in Formula One, but Haas seems to have a solid foundation behind it
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It's difficult for new teams to establish themselves in Formula One, but Haas seems to have a solid foundation behind it
Manor has dropped Marussia from its name, and swapped from Ferrari to Mercedes power in search of improvement
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Manor has dropped Marussia from its name, and swapped from Ferrari to Mercedes power in search of improvement
View gallery - 48 images

It's almost time for the 2016 Formula One season to kick off in Australia, which means we are about to see the results of what the 11 teams have been frantically working on. So, what should you expect come March 20? Can the rest of the pack close the gap to Mercedes and three-time world champion Lewis Hamilton? Let's take a walk along the starting grid to find out.

What's new for 2016?

You'll notice this year's cars look very similar to last years – that's because there have only been small tweaks for the 2016 season. Purists should be pleased, because the new cars are all fitted with a new exhaust system with a "separate exhaust wastegate tailpipe through which all and only wastegate exhaust gases must pass." Although it doesn't have any impact on the fuel economy or performance of the cars, the change means spectators will be exposed to more noise.

There's also a greater focus on driver safety, with larger padded areas around the driver's head.

On the tire front, Pirelli will now offer three dry compounds, including a new super soft compound that has proven fast in testing.

Mercedes

We're going to start at the front of the grid because, if the last two years are anything to go by, that's where we'll find the Silver Arrows in 2016. Thanks to relatively stable regulations, the W07 chassis and its 106C power unit are more of a subtle evolution of last year's car than a revolution. That doesn't mean it's the same car, though, with Mercedes having worked to iron out the small reliability glitches that held it back throughout the season. So far it seems to be working, with Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg combining for 187 laps during day four of testing in Barcelona – 24 more than its nearest competitor.

Changes to regulations mean there will be more noise this year
Changes to regulations mean there will be more noise this year

Ferrari

Gizmag is expecting big things from the Prancing Horse in 2016. Having succeeded Luca di Montzemolo last year, new Ferrari Chairman Sergio Marchionne has made it clear that success in Formula One is a top priority, and early signs in testing would suggest the Italians have the pace to challenge Mercedes. As well as its shortened nose, Ferrari's engineers have fitted the car with pushrod suspension for the first time in four years.

Red Bull Racing

For a young team, Red Bull Racing has seen a lot of success. Since its inception in 2005, Christian Horner's team has secured four constructors championships, and powered Sebastian Vettel to his four driver's titles. Last year, however, the team was held back by power issues from its Renault engine. Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat will be hoping this year's motor, branded a Tag Heuer, runs like clockwork, because Adrian Newey's chassis was widely regarded as the best on the grid last year.

Last year's Red Bull chassis was widely regarded as one of the best on the grid, so combining it with a competitive engine
Last year's Red Bull chassis was widely regarded as one of the best on the grid, so combining it with a competitive engine

Williams

After some tough times, the past two years have seen something of a resurgence from the Martini-liveried Williams outfit. Having finished third in the 2014 and 2015 Constructors' Championship, Frank Williams will be looking to make a leap and start challenging Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes for the top step on the podium. Engineers are hoping a new sidepod design and an evolutionary aerodynamics package will make the car more manageable in slow corners and wet conditions.

New sidepods have been designed to make the car handle better in slow corners
New sidepods have been designed to make the car handle better in slow corners

McLaren-Honda

For a team with such rich history, 2015 was an absolute nightmare. Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso scored just 27 points between them, and the team didn't see the podium all season due to an overall lack of pace and reliability. Things already look more promising this year, with a report published in Road and Track suggesting the Japanese brand's engineers have unlocked an extra 223 hp from its power units.

McLaren Honda endured a torrid season in 2015, but is expecting big gains in 2016
McLaren Honda endured a torrid season in 2015, but is expecting big gains in 2016

Renault

A factory-backed Renault F1 team hasn't featured on the grid since 2010, but the French manufacturer hasn't been out of the game completely. As well as supplying engines to world-champion Red Bull Racing, Renault was involved with the Lotus team in 2010 and 2011 before scaling back its involvement. The team is yet to reveal exact power figures for its engine, but is expecting to produce about 652 kW (874 hp) from its V6 engine, which is redlined at 15,000 rpm.

Renault has a successful past in F1, and will be hoping to hark back to the glory days of the mid 2000's when Fernando Alonso won two world championships in their cars
Renault has a successful past in F1, and will be hoping to hark back to the glory days of the mid 2000's when Fernando Alonso won two world championships in their cars

Sauber

After failing to score a point in 2014, Sauber managed to snatch eighth in the Constructors' Championship last year thanks to a much more manageable chassis setup. The team will be hoping to continue the form it showed at this year's first test, where Felipe Nasr finished fifth on the timesheets on day two.

Sauber has established itself as a strong mid pack player, although details are scant about their 2016 challenger
Sauber has established itself as a strong mid pack player, although details are scant about their 2016 challenger

Force India

After finishing fifth in last year's Constructors' Championship, Force India's 2016 campaign hinges on an evolution of last year's b-spec chassis. With regulations likely to change dramatically in 2017, Technical Director Andrew Green said it "didn't really seem like an efficient use of our resources to start from scratch on a project that would have such a limited lifetime."

Or, as Team Principal Vijay Malaya put it – "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

The car's new livery looks good, and should help it to stand out among the pack
The car's new livery looks good, and should help it to stand out among the pack

Scuderia Toro Rosso

Toro Rosso managed to put a car on the track in Barcelona, but we're yet to see it in its full-liveried glory. Despite facing up on the grid with F1's youngest driver lineup, the team regularly upstaged its Red Bull big brother early last season before it was hamstrung by reliability issues from its Renault power unit. Early signs are good in 2016, with Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz clocking 447 laps at the first test in Barcelona.

Max Verstappen will look to improve on his performances last season, which belied his tender age
Max Verstappen will look to improve on his performances last season, which belied his tender age

Haas F1

Haas is yet to turn a wheel in anger, but it's already won plenty of fans by being the first American-led F1 team since 1986. As you'd expect of a first year entry, sponsors are few and far between, but there's plenty to like about the team's early form. Lurking under the car's red, white and grey paintjob is a Ferrari power unit which proved reliable over the first four days of official testing in Barcelona, allowing it to complete 281 laps.

Haas managed to put in 281 laps during testing in Barcelona
Haas managed to put in 281 laps during testing in Barcelona

Manor

2016 sees Manor drop Marussia from its name and swap from Ferrari to Mercedes power in the hope of moving up the grid. Having endured the death of driver Jules Bianchi, the team has also fought through countless moments where it looked like money would finally run out, only to be saved by an eleventh-hour investor. Drivers Pascal Wehrlein and Rio Haryanto will be hoping for reliability over race distance from the 2016 entry.

Manor has dropped Marussia from its name, and swapped from Ferrari to Mercedes power in search of improvement
Manor has dropped Marussia from its name, and swapped from Ferrari to Mercedes power in search of improvement

Head through to our 2016 F1 preview gallery for a closer look at all the team's cars.

View gallery - 48 images
3 comments
MikeW
I do hope F1 finds a way to increase passing as most times you can watch lap 1/2 and know who will win. Great engineering but grossly over regulated to the point where passing for the lead is too rare.
Also, too bad as this looks like a great season coming up but I am dropping my premium Cable and that leaves me without anyway to watch F1 or many of the NASCAR races. Thanks NBCSN!
Both organizations have locked out non-cable/sat viewers. One cannot even pay for F1/NASCAR without cable/sat.
hugh02@mymts.net
That's what I like ,short,concise,thumb nail description of what's happening. I'm excitedly waiting for the new F1 season. Come on Williams you can do it.........
PeterOsborne
Innovation is gone from FG-1. Remember the six wheel Elf-Tyrell, the Honda H-16 engine, movable aerodynamic devices and so on? There is zero chance of any breakout designs, just sharper engineering of something everyone already has.