1 WINDS OF CHANGE FROM THE WEST
New team Haas F1 are the cheekiest upstarts in the sport’s recent history. They finished in the top six in their first two Grand Prix outings, so hats off to them for that.
And Haas’s idea to buy as many parts as possible from Ferrari rather than designing them themselves is revolutionary in itself.
There’s a familiar face on the pit wall at Haas, too: Austrian Günther Steiner was once in charge of Red Bull’s NASCAR team.
2 Red Bull Racing is back
Last season wasn’t up to much. Then there was a long period of uncertainty about which engine the team would be using in 2016. They could only get to work on the RB12 in the autumn, later than ever before.
But the results are impressive. Red Bull’s motorsport advisor, Helmut Marko, says it’s, “…the best chassis we have ever had”. And with the engine – a Renault, but now called TAG Heuer -getting a power upgrade, Daniel Ricciardo and talented teenager Max Verstappen are back to winning ways.
3 TOP TIP: TORO ROSSO
Some insiders think the junior team are already good enough to contend for podium positions as they are. Under Franz Tost’s leadership, the Faenza-based team have created a brilliant racing car powered by last year’s Ferrari engine. Carlos Sainz Junior is doing a great job, and he’s been joined by Daniil Kvyat who drove for the team in 2014 and scored a podium for Red Bull Racing earlier this year.
4 DANCING TIFOSI
Last year, Ferrari’s team boss, Maurizio Arrivabene, announced that he would run 100km barefoot in the hills of Maranello if the team won four races. He barely got away with it; Sebastian Vettel “only” won three. This year, Arrivabene has prudently kept his mouth shut. The Ferrari SF16-H is the best weapon the Italians have had in their arsenal since the days of Michael Schumacher.
5 Silly Season
The fifth season of the year is now upon us: transfer season, that is. Who’s moving where? Who’s got dead-cert insider info that Ferrari have signed a preliminary contract with driver X and Mercedes have almost definitely secured the services of driver Y, while team Z is about to pass its engines on to team ZZ? It’s a fascinating circus. The constant debate on social media means we can now put up with the odd boring race or two.
6 REAL BAD ACTION
No one will confess that part of the reason they watch Formula One is for the crashes. But you could almost start to admit it now, seeing how safe the new cars are. Take Fernando Alonso’s crash in Melbourne. It was a huge explosion of carbon, but he suffered nothing worse than some broken ribs. So do we really need the new Halo cockpit protection device?
7 rosberg versus hamilton
You could see it coming in the closing races of the 2015 season. New father Rosberg was getting closer to party-boy Hamilton than he ever really had in his career, and it’s a trend that he’s picked up again seamlessly in 2016. And what could be better for F1 than two teammates with different personalities fighting it out at the highest level?
8 SOUND OF SILENCE
It’s fantastic. Some peace and quiet in the cockpit! No more race engineers bending the drivers’ ears with updates every minute on the temperature, the weather and their hamster’s state of health. In 2016, drivers have to make all their decisions themselves again, instead of being remote-controlled from the garage. Kimi Räikkönen will be happiest of all – he famously gave his engineer an earful a few years ago: “Leave me alone, I know what I’m doing.”
9 MARATHON SEASON
This Formula One season has 21 Grands Prix – that’s two races more than last year. Germany is back on the calendar and there’s also the brand new, spectacular circuit in Baku. Baku? Yep, that’s right, it’s Azerbaijan’s capital city. The season’s secret highlight, the legendary British GP at Silverstone, takes place on July 9. The season ends on November 27 at Yas Marina in Abu Dhabi.
10 PUSHY OLDIES
Age doesn’t just bring wisdom, it also brings charisma and, if we’re really lucky, frankness. Traits of character, in other words, that modern Formula One is sometimes lacking. Lucky for us, then, that Kimi Räikkönen and Jenson Button – two former world champions – are still on board and – sometimes at least – aren’t afraid to open their mouths and say what they think. Let’s enjoy them while we still have them around.