How F1 is failing to prioritise its agenda and is smearing the image of motorsport

The week following the opening Australian Grand Prix has been one of farce and disbelief amongst fans and journalists alike. The political state of Formula One has reached its nadir, but many within the organisational bodies of the sport remain as headstrong and firm in directing their affirmative against reviving the structure of the premier class of motorsport. The egregious and shambolic elimination qualifying format has formed a soap opera of its own and the announcement of Sky Sports’ deal to agree exclusive live race coverage of F1 from 2019-2024, ceasing free-to-air live coverage likewise, are just the tip of iceberg within a sport whose relationship with its fans has hit point zero. Fan satisfaction of the sport is at absolute all-time low, with many questioning why they even ever took an interest in F1 and taking flak from bemused outsiders for their continued interest.

Fans of rival motorsport series may scoff with incredulity when reading this, but Formula 1 is and has been the face of motorsport since 1950. It has been marketed as having the best drivers in the world competing in the fastest cars, with an image of glitz and glamour to accompany to gladiatorial demeanour of its competitors. The trouble is however, it has appeared to represent anything but this since the loud, screaming 3 litre V10 engines, which were pushing close to 1000 horsepower, were outlawed at the end of 2005. In the place came the puny 2.4 litre V8 engines, slurred with statements from hotheads such as Juan Pablo Montoya as a transition from “Formula 3000 to Formula 3”. Constant restrictions of chassis developments, cutting down on testing, replacing gravel pits with tarmac run-offs, inflating parameters on driver and team penalties & fines and frivolous campaigns such as the FIA Action for Road Safety, are just some of the dismaying evolutions of recent seasons. Lack of driver satisfaction has become an ever-loudening presence within media printing, culminating in the infamous GPDA statement printed last Wednesday, slamming unnamed senior figures within the F1 ranks for the whole of the world to see.

Over the years F1 has tried (and failed) to please its fans and participants in numerous variations of hackneyed solutions and false promises. These include:

  • Insisting to reduce costs (Proposing the £100 million budget cap in 2009 to attract Caterham, HRT & Manor, the former two liquidated with massive debts)
  • Closer racing between cars (The research of the defunct Overtaking Working Group being deviated to suit the teams’ insistence on a large front wing, therefore disregarding its conclusions)
  • Accessibility for fans (Increase in the exclusivity of paddock passes, restrictions on boundaries have reduced fan enjoyment and the increase of pay TV broadcast deals)
  • Showcasing the modern automotive technology (Many see the current hybrid power unit formula as outdated and only existing due to the car manufacturers (Ferrari, Mercedes, Honda & Renault) determined to re-establish themselves on top of the sport’s hierarchy)
  • Clarity of the progression of the sport from the FIA, F1 Strategy Group and Formula One Group (Very little evidence of this)
  • An increase of aero appendages in order to restore F1’s status as overwhelming faster than rival series by 2017 (Teams and the FIA are still in the midst of negotiating the new technical regulations, with no agreement appearing to emerge in the immediate future)
  • A better distribution of TV and commercial revenue by CVC group (Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes unfairly receive the bulk of the revenue due to recent championship success and historical existence)
  • Attracting new manufacturers to supply hybrid power units (Volkswagen continue to express disinterest in doing so, whilst former suppliers such as BMW, Toyota and Ford insist upon never returning to F1)
  • Improving the Pirelli tyres and the authenticity of racing (Drivers and teams still express misgivings over the functionalities of the Pirelli tyres and the DRS wing is ever-increasingly relied upon to help drivers overtake slower cars)
  • Increased involvement on social media (Formula 1 only started to become proactive on Twitter, Instagram & Youtube as of last year, whilst rival series such as MotoGP started much earlier and have even started using emoticons on Twitter consisting of their riders’ numbers!)

By creating so many incongruous promises, the senior figures are establishing unrealistic ideals that are impossible to achieve simultaneously. The interests of major car manufacturers are guaranteed to clash against of the well-being of F1 and by allowing them to create a F1 Strategy Group, where only the top 5 finishers of the previous season’s constructor championship are permitted to the majority of technical conferring with the FIA, is absurd and wholly undemocratic on its merits. By listing a lengthy and ambiguous agenda, F1 is attempting to deliver numerous promises without realising only a few of them can be delivered upon. It needs to realise what is paramount in terms of importance before it can create a coherent marketing strategy. Being able to provide the best technology, with increased aero performance AND close racing are incompatible in their functionality together and many need to avoid being swayed by alarmist opinion pieces by idle journalists.

What Formula One fails to realise that the fans of motorsport operate their allegiances in a markedly different way to rival sport fans. Fans of team sports such as football and rugby lean towards supporting a club and watching matches of rival teams to check upon progress of rival players, whilst motorsport fans appoint their attachment to an organisation of a championship series. Although Motorsport fans may claim allegiance to a team (e.g. Mercedes) or a driver (e.g. Hamilton) within a series (e.g.F1), they supporting the championship series primarily as a whole by watching and attending their races. Whilst team sports will hold multiple one-to-one matches between teams at various venues within a league simultaneously, motorsport series pitch their competitors against one other within the same venue. There is also widespread conflict of opinions over whether motorsport is a form of sport or entertainment. Motorsport struggles in its popularity due to the lack of tribal culture shared within team sports amongst its ranks, as fan participation within football and rugby invariably lends itself towards fierce dedication to a club within their leagues. Therefore an “I-must-watch-my-team-at-all-costs” loyalty is paramount to the mentality of consumers of team sports, whilst motorsport series are regularly judged upon their entertainment factor, something which is disregarded to be a primary necessity by watchers of team sports.

In my own point of view, my interest in F1 principally lies within the support of an individual driver: Kimi Raikkonen. Arguably the sport’s last true maverick and a throwback to the old days of motorsport, Raikkonen has unwittingly forged a large fan-base, due to carefree and monosyllabic approach to media duties and his personal and professional life. The Iceman refuses to arrogantly rave about his status as one of the sport’s five world champions, preferring to avoid the glare of cameras by donning a trademark combo of shades and a cap. Often regarded as rude and aloof, Raikkonen is (silently) questioning the misguided need for lengthy press conferences, which consist of journalists asking vague questions and the sport’s attempts to masquerade its political situation. It is likely Raikkonen’s participation will cease by the end of this season, due to rumours of Ferrari refusing to offer a contract renewal. Why did I choose to support this driver? He is a symbolic representation of the drivers’ and the fans’ rapidly growing disillusion with F1 as a whole and the stale corporate image which is hammering the sport with an unappetising aura to casual viewers.

There is now an increasing suspicion that recent episodes such as the confusing implementation of the new elimination qualifying is yet another irritating smokescreen to divert fans’ attention from the true issues engulfing F1. It appears the main tactic of FIA (and its impotent president Jean Todt), F1 Strategy Group, Bernie Ecclestone, CVC and the Formula One Group is to create ambiguous headlines to retain a stimulus of interest within the sport amongst fans. In doing so, it instills a belief in many fans that they could solve the sport’s problems if they were given an increased voice. However last year, the GPDA released a survey, which was answered by 200,000 fans, but ultimately these ignored by governing officials. There is intense hubris amongst the major figures within the sport that many will display unquestioned loyalty in lieu of such degrading news, but an exodus to MotoGP (which provides the overtaking extravaganza F1 can’t deliver) and WEC (which provides the technological extravaganza F1 can’t deliver) is now indelibly prominent.

In a sense, it could be regarded that the senior officials of F1 have generally lost interest in attracting the youth of today and prefer to direct its attention on retaining its older audience, whom they believe will spend their larger exposable income on their products. It is well known the youth and the poor cannot afford to buy products from Rolex and Chandon, so it was likely Ecclestone saw the exclusive Sky deal as an affirmation of filling the sport’s coffers and accepting defeat on its quest to attract the less wealthy. In my view, the working class origins of the sport’s five world champions is being despised and viewed with derision, as everyone is passively permitting a return to the days of motorsport being solely a activity of the extensively wealthy for eternity. This is disgraceful, but tragically the new reality of the top echelons of motorsport.

Is F1 a victim of success? It appears definitely so and a restructured organisation of Grand Prix racing as we know it needs to replace it as soon as possible. Such names such as “Premier Grand Prix” or “Grand Prix Elite” could be used for the new organisation, with a strong dictator with engineering knowledge such as Ross Brawn taking the helm to ensure the migrated participants co-operate and ensure the best possible success for the reformation. Ultimately, if F1 is allowed to continue to rein in its position as the premier class of motorsport, then the image and reputation of itself and rival series to the outside world will sustain irreversible damage.

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Voice of #F1 Fans: What is ‘arrogance’ in Formula One? – Part 2

thejudge13

VoiceFans

Disclaimer: TheJudge13 provides a platform for Formula 1 fans to publish their voice on matters relating to Formula 1. The views expressed in Voice of #F1 Fans are those of the contributor and not those held by TJ13.

Brought to you by TJ13 contributor, @WTF_F1

When a strong racing pedigree isn’t quite so…max-verstappen-seat-fitting

“Reputation is an idle and most false imposition; oft got without merit, and lost without deserving.” – William Shakespeare

So true, Bill. So true.

In Part 1 yesterday we established the underlying elements of arrogance and where I feel that word is correctly, and incorrectly, used with respect to Formula One. We touched on that corrosive element of entitlement, which can hold onto some drivers’ spirits in Formula One – think Villeneuve Jr. and Montoya – particularly in this young driver program era. Verstappen of course isn’t the only one, but at this stage he has the…

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Top 3 F1 Drivers 1999-2015

1999

1st Heinz-Harald Frentzen (Jordan-Mugen Honda)
2nd Ralf Schumacher (Williams-Supertec)
3rd Rubens Barrichello (Stewart-Ford)

2000

1st Michael Schumacher (Ferrari)
2nd Mika Hakkinen (McLaren-Mercedes)
3rd Jacques Villeneuve (BAR-Honda)

2001

1st Michael Schumacher (Ferrari)
2nd Juan Pablo Montoya (Williams-BMW)
3rd Fernando Alonso (Minardi-European)

2002

1st Michael Schumacher (Ferrari)
2nd Giancarlo Fisichella (Jordan-Honda)
3rd Mark Webber (Minardi-Asiatech)

2003

1st Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren-Mercedes)
2nd Fernando Alonso (Renault)
3rd Mark Webber (Jaguar-Cosworth)

2004

1st Michael Schumacher (Ferrari)
2nd Jenson Button (BAR-Honda)
3rd Giancarlo Fisichella (Sauber-Petronas)

2005

1st Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren-Mercedes)
2nd Fernando Alonso (Renault)
3rd Michael Schumacher (Ferrari)

2006

1st Fernando Alonso (Renault)
2nd Michael Schumacher (Ferrari)
3rd Mark Webber (Williams-Cosworth)

2007

1st Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari)
2nd Lewis Hamilton (McLaren-Mercedes)
3rd Nick Heidfeld (BMW Sauber)

2008

1st Lewis Hamilton (McLaren-Mercedes)
2nd Robert Kubica (BMW Sauber)
3rd Sebastian Vettel (Toro Rosso-Ferrari)

2009

1st Fernando Alonso (Renault)
2nd Nico Rosberg (Williams-Toyota)
3rd Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari)

2010

1st Fernando Alonso (Ferrari)
2nd Lewis Hamilton (McLaren-Mercedes)
3rd Robert Kubica (Renault)

2011

1st Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull-Renault)
2nd Jenson Button (McLaren-Mercedes)
3rd Fernando Alonso (Ferrari)

2012

1st Fernando Alonso (Ferrari)
2nd Lewis Hamilton (McLaren-Mercedes)
3rd Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus-Renault)

2013

1st Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull-Renault)
2nd Fernando Alonso (Ferrari)
3rd Nico Hulkenberg (Sauber-Ferrari)

2014

1st Fernando Alonso (Ferrari)
2nd Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
3rd Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull-Renault)

2015

1st Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)
2nd Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
3rd Max Verstappen (Toro Rosso-Renault)

2016 Australian Grand Prix Winners & Losers

GRAND PRIX RATING: 7/10

DRIVER/TEAM OF THE DAY

Romain Grosjean (Haas, P6)

What an astonishing drive. After a shoddy qualifying for the new boys, Haas took advantage of the red flag caused by their driver Esteban Gutierrez’s horrendous collision with McLaren’s Fernando Alonso. Race strategist Ruth Buscombe pulled off a brilliant decision to place Grosjean on new medium tyres, vaulting their French superstar above those many who took on used mediums or later made a second pit stop to unsuccessfully take advantage of soft compounds in their second stints.

WINNERS

Nico Rosberg (Mercedes, P1)

Rosberg’s start was poor, but nowhere near as poor as Hamilton’s. His performance proved Mercedes’ great longevity on the medium compounds.

Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull, P4)

In spite of a grimly underpowered power unit, Ricciardo successfully pulled off a four tyre compound strategy (used super-softs, new super-softs, new softs & used super-softs). The Red Bull RB12 chassis appears to be the gentlest on its tyres in race-trim, allowing the local boy to set the race’s  fastest lap of 1:28.997.

Kevin Magnussen (Renault, P12)

The Dane drove a steady, determined race after his first lap incident which damaged his car significantly. To finish just two seconds behind Palmer, having driven more than half of the race on used mediums bodes well for K-Mag.

REJECTS OF THE DAY

FIA, F1 Strategy Group & Bernie Ecclestone

The most laughable qualifying session took place on Saturday and proved many within the FIA are not fit to govern the premier class of motorsport. The F1 Strategy Group itself should refund the fans who were subjected to such a pathetic farce. As for Bernie, he is finished.

LOSERS OF THE DAY

Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes, P2)

Once again the Blessed One courted bad publicity during the mid-week, breaching the dress code of a Auckland casino and then taking a selfie on his motorcycle, thus attracting police attention. In the race itself, Hamilton dropped to P6 at the start and struggled to overtake the Toro Rossos in the following stints. In the end, it was damage limitation and the Briton was fortunate Sebastian Vettel took a trip to the grass in the closing laps whilst pursuing him.

Ferrari (Vettel, P3/Raikkonen, DNF)

The boys from Maranello threw away a very likely victory with a poor tyre strategy for Vettel. There seems to be a lack of confidence in the prowess of the SF16-H to run consistent laps on the medium compounds. A turbo failure and a “small” fire for Raikkonen and a slow 5.6 second pit stop for Vettel’s 2nd pit stop was inexcusable. Operational errors need to wiped out immediately.

Williams (Massa, P5/Bottas, P8)

An incredibly disappointing performance for the Banbury squad, who appear to be divesting funds to their 2017 car. For Massa to finish nearly a minute down on Rosberg, despite having used the optimal new medium compound at the restart, was more than underwhelming to say the least.

Toro Rosso (Sainz, P9/Verstappen, P10)

A questionable decision to not change tyre compounds during the red flag proved costly, as both Sainz and Verstappen fell out with their engineers on the radio.

Sergio Perez (Force India, P13)

Anonymous and comprehensively beaten by Hulkenberg.

McLaren-Honda (Button, P14 & Alonso, DNF and alive)

A slightly promising performance in qualifying turned horribly sour in the race itself. The MP4-31 does not look drivable on used compounds at all.

Pirelli

Please give the teams at least 18 sets of tyres for the weekend. 13 sets are far too insufficient.

2016 Team Mate Wars Preview

In Formula 1, the first driver you must beat is your team mate.

Lewis HAMILTON 55% vs. Nico Rosberg 45%

Hamilton begins a new season as the favourite to win and dominate his third world driver’s title. Rosberg’s end-of-season three race win streak, though, suggests a much closer battle than in previous seasons. The German has worked hard to close the gap on the Briton since they were first paired together at Mercedes in 2013. Hamilton struggled with last year’s Mercedes W06 developing more understeer near of the end of last season, but work has been implemented to avoid the same issues recurring.

Sebastian VETTEL 53% vs. Kimi Raikkonen 47%

In contrast to frosty relations between the Mercedes drivers, Ferrari have a partnership considerably more rosy. Raikkonen has struggled massively since returning to Ferrari, unable to replicate his Lotus form. Many believe the Prancing Horse’s return to a conventional pushrod suspension will help the Finn, but he still lacks pace over a single lap in comparison to Vettel. The German will most likely continue his rich vein of form from last season, closing any opportunity for the Iceman to defeat him over this season.

Valtteri BOTTAS 60% vs. Felipe Massa 40%

Over at Williams, we have the up-and-down pairing of Bottas and Massa. The Finn displayed great glimpses of his racecraft in 2014, but last year saw the veteran Brazilian close the gap with strong qualifying performances. Bottas should re-open the gap to Massa again this season, but he needs to do far more than just that to convince top teams of hiring him.

Daniil Kvyat 37% vs. Daniel RICCIARDO 63%

The odd couple at Milton Keynes appeared to have similar performances when one glances at last season’s championship table, but a further in-depth analysis proved the Australian dominated the young, but shy Russian in terms of race performance. Kvyat will need to start beating Ricciardo more convincingly if he is to convince his critics of being a serious championship contender in the future.

Sergio Perez 49% vs. Nico HULKENBERG 51%

Big and small return for another season with Force India, with the results of last season proving a major surprise. Perez pulled off some stunning performances, including his podium at Russia, whilst Hulkenberg saw himself involved in a worrying number of collisions. Many see Perez as the master of prolonging tyre life, which is vital in regards to the characteristics of the Pirellis, but Hulkenberg having the greater outright pace. This is a team-mate battle worth keeping your eye on.

Kevin Magnussen 48% vs. Jolyon PALMER 52%

The battle between the Renault young guns could be prove to be a near-imitation of Force India’s duo. Magnussen shares similarities with Hulkenberg, with many seeing them with the outright pace over their team-mates, but Palmer, like Perez, proved to be an adept expert of caressing the heat sensitive Pirellis in his 2014 GP2 championship winning campaign. Magnussen struggled with dealing the Pirellis in his first season of F1 when he drove for McLaren, often excelling in qualifying but deteriorating in the races in a vein similar to Jarno Trulli from a not-so-distant past. Plus Palmer spent last season partaking in free practice sessions for this team when they were badged as Lotus, so he has a better knowledge of the team than K-Mag does. The Dane will share the majority of the spoils in qualifying, but the Briton will come to the fore in the races.

Max VERSTAPPEN 61% vs. Carlos Sainz 39%

The battle of the Dutch puppy and the Spanish puppy could prove to be a major red herring in disguise. Verstappen’s driving style bears a resemblance to that of Lewis Hamilton, whilst Sainz carries the hallmarks of a classic oversteering, tail-happy type of driver. The Spanish prospect displayed raw pace in qualifying, but his races were littered by inconsistency and reliability issues. His young Dutch team-mate caught the eye with daring overtakes on the likes of Felipe Nasr and Pastor Maldonado. However, Verstappen incurred the wrath of senior drivers such as Felipe Massa & Romain Grosjean for his antics at Monaco and some believe controversial headlines will be a recurring theme of the Dutchman’s 2016 season.

Felipe NASR 72% vs. Marcus Ericsson 28%

Nasr impressed many with his P5 in his debut Grand Prix at Melbourne last season, whilst Ericsson endured a baptism of fire in his first season within the midfield ranks. The young Swede urgently needs to improve if he has any hopes of a future in F1, whilst his Brazilian team-mate needs to maintain his form to encourage interest from rival team owners.

Fernando ALONSO 68% vs. Jenson Button 32%

McLaren’s world champion pairing deserved more than their paltry points total of 27 last season, but pre-season testing has promised some improvements. Alonso continues to express doubts over the longevity of his future within the top level of motorsport, whilst questions over whether McLaren will renew Button’s contract for 2017 remain. In terms of this team-mate battle, as long as Alonso maintains his motivation, he will defeat Button by a comfortable margin.

Romain GROSJEAN 85% vs. Esteban Gutierrez 15%

Grosjean returns this season after a glittering 2015 with Lotus, where at Spa he took their first podium for two years. Gutierrez returns after having spent last season as Ferrari’s reserve driver, but his track record in F1 is poor. Heavily trounced by Hulkenberg in 2013 when he made his debut for Sauber, but equal to an average Adrian Sutil in 2014, little is expected of this genial Mexican.

Pascal WEHRLEIN 99% vs. Rio Haryanto 1%

Manor start another new season with two rookies, but this time it’s overwhelmingly obvious who is the lead driver (i.e. not the one on the right).

New Tyre Regulations – A guide from Pirelli

thejudge13

The new, somewhat complicated tyre regulations this year have divided opinion amongst the drivers. Some think it might bring in some scope for different strategies and the possibility for some surprise results, at least until the teams have worked out the optimum strategies for the new rules. For your perusal, we have provided a handy guide to the new rules for 2016, courtesy of Pirelli.

—–

PRE-RACE TYRE NOMINATIONS AND PREPARATIONS

In consultation with the FIA, Pirelli will decide in advance which three compounds can be used at each race, and communicate this information to the teams.

The total number of sets that can be used during practice, qualifying and racing remains the same as it is currently: 13.
Pirelli will nominate two mandatory race sets for each car. Furthermore, one set of the softer compound will have to be kept for use in Q3 only.

The two mandatory sets chosen…

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The 2016 F1 season in 20 questions (Keith Collantine)

http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/2016/03/12/2016-f1-season-20-questions/

1. Other than Mercedes, which teams will win races this year? Ferrari & Red Bull
2. What will be the best result for Haas? P9
3. Who will score more points: Max Verstappen or Nico Hulkenberg? Hulk
4. Which team will score more points: McLaren or Renault? McHonda
5. Which driver will out-qualify his team mate most frequently? Wehrlein
6. Will Kimi Raikkonen remain on the grid for 2017? Yes
7. How many of the 11 teams will score points? Ten
8. Before the season ends, will Monza be confirmed as the host of the 2017 Italian Grand Prix? No
9. Who will win the FIA pole position trophy? Rosberg
10. Who will be the first driver to be replaced or substituted for a race? Ericsson
11. And who will take their place? Vandoorne (Honda pay Sauber to let him race in their second car for the remainder of 2016)
12. Which driver will collect the most penalty points for driving infringements? Magnussen
13. Who will win the Monaco Grand Prix? Ricciardo
14. Who will crash out of the most races? Gutierrez
15. Whose engines will Red Bull use in 2017? Honda
16. At which race will the drivers’ championship be decided? Abu Dhabi
17. What will be the biggest political story of the year? 2017 F1 Regulations, Red Bull vs. Renault & Engines/Power Units
18. What will be the most entertaining race of the year? Hungary

Constructors? Merc

Drivers? Hamilton

CHANNEL 4’S 2016 F1 GRAND PRIX COVERAGE

Channel 4 F1®

Australia            March 20      Highlights
Bahrain              April 3       Live
China                April 17      Highlights
Russia               May 1         Highlights
Spain                May 15        Live
Monaco               May 29        Highlights
Canada               June 12       Highlights
Europe (Azerbaijan)  June 19       Live
Austria              July 3        Highlights
Britain              July 10       Live
Hungary              July 24       Live
Germany              July 31       Highlights
Belgium              August 28     Live
Italy                September 4   Live
Singapore            September 18  Highlights
Malaysia             October 2     Live
Japan                October 9     Highlights
USA                  October 23    Highlights
Mexico               October 30    Live
Brazil               November 13   Highlights
Abu Dhabi            November 27   Live

2016 F1 Season Preview Part 4 (Sauber, Haas, Manor)

Life at the back of the grid is tough and has little financial reward, but a new team from across the Atlantic has joined the fight for 2016. Here’s the run-down of the teams fighting to avoid the wooden spoon:

Sauber F1 Team

Chassis: C35

Engine: Ferrari

Predicted championship position: 9th

Pre-season testing proved to be solid, if unspectacular affair for the Hinwil-based squad, but another year of lower midfield mediocrity awaits plucky Sauber. Deputy Team Principal, CEO and 33% stake holder Monisha Kaltenborn remains in charge, whilst Mark Smith will oversee the technical department. The well-remunerated pair of Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson are retained as drivers, but it would be egregious to suggest another court battle over drivers’ contracts will re-emerge. Sauber had signed contracts with Adrian Sutil and Giedo van der Garde for 2015 race seats, but the settlement they agreed leaves the team in a perilous financial position. Sadly, this means technical development will remain as primitive as ever.

Haas F1 Team

Chassis: VF-16

Engine: Ferrari

Predicted constructors’ position: 10th

America’s first F1 team since Penske will take their bow in Melbourne in just two weeks’ time and the atmosphere within the Kannapolis/Banbury-based squad is one of optimism. Gene Haas has had question marks aimed at him for his belief that he can run a NASCAR and F1 operation simultaneously, but having Günther Steiner as team principal and Ben Agathangelou as Head of Aerodynamics is a step towards a good foundation. Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez have been employed to provide star quality and experience and Haas have a realistic chance pressurising their Ferrari customer counterparts Sauber. The technical relationship that Haas have with Ferrari may not yield success immediately for the Americans, but later success is forthcoming.

Manor Racing MRT

Chassis: MRT05

Engine: Mercedes

Predicted constructors’ position: 11th

The MRT05 chassis is the first new model that Manor will have designed in two years and a quantum leap in performance in pre-season testing has been achieved. However, the Banbury-based squad will remain as the whipping boys of F1. Yet huge and very promising changes in management have taken place. Team owner Stephen Fitzpatrick has installed Dave Ryan (ex-McLaren) as Racing Director, John McQuilliam (ex-Williams) as Technical Director, Nicholas Tombazis (ex-Ferrari & McLaren) as Head of Aerodynamics and Pat Fry (ex-Ferrari & McLaren) as Technical Consultant. Reigning DTM champion Pascal Wehrlein has been installed as the team’s lead driver, whilst there are question marks over whether heavily-remunerated Rio Haryanto will complete this season. Haryanto makes history as Indonesia’s first F1 driver, but his junior formula CV in GP2 and GP3 is underwhelming to say the least. Signs of progress may not be immediate, but a strong future awaits for Manor Racing.*

*Manor Motorsport is the WEC team ran by the team’s former president and sporting director John Booth and Graeme Lowdon. This team has no links to the Manor Racing F1 operation.

2016 F1 Season Part 3 Preview (Toro Rosso, McLaren & Renault)

The lower midfield could be crudely viewed as the battle between the young guns and the veterans, but a lot is at stake for these embattled teams this season. Here’s a run-down of these midfield runners:

Scuderia Toro Rosso

Chassis: STR11

Engine: 2015 Ferrari

Predicted constructors’ position: 6th

The Faenza-based squad will fly to Melbourne with a strong sense of optimism, after an incredibly productive pre-season testing programme. Franz Tost and James Key will continue to lead the reins at Red Bull’s junior team, whilst enticing youngsters Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz, Jr remain as drivers. Many believe Toro Rosso could exceed expectations and finish as high as a lofty 4th in the constructors’ position, but this would heighten tensions considerably within the senior Red Bull Racing squad if they were to beat them.

McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team

Chassis: MP4-31

Engine: Honda

Predicted constructors’ position: 7th

After last season’s farce, the only way is up for the Woking-based squad. Pre-season testing at Barcelona showed noticeable improvements, but mostly in terms of the reliability of the chassis and engine. The Honda hybrid unit is still at least 80BHP down on the pacesetting Mercedes engines and heads have already been turned with Yusuke Hasegawa replacing Yasuhisa Arai as Honda motorsport chief officer. Ron Dennis remains Group Chairman, Eric Bouiller continues as Racing Director, whilst Jost Capito has been drafted in as CEO. In the technical department, Tim Goss, Neil Oatley and Peter Prodomou continue to take the reins. However, the patience of star driver Fernando Alonso is draining and this season could prove to be Jenson Button‘s swansong.

Renault Sport Formula One Team

Chassis: RS16

Engine: Renault

Predicted constructors’ position: 8th

The Renault name may have returned as a constructor entry, but in the eyes of fans, the spirit of “Team Enstone” lives on for another year. Pre-season testing proved underwhelming, however, as the team set low expectations and their main priority was mileage. As with any team buyout, a new management has been put in place. Carlos Ghosn takes over as Group Chairman and CEO, despite his infamous lack of enthusiasm for motorsports, whilst Jérôme Stoll, Cyril Abitedoul and Frédéric Vasseur take over as President, Managing Director and Racing Director respectively. Bob Bell will resume his Chief Technical Officer from the Lotus days, whilst Jolyon Palmer and Kevin Magnussen provide new blood in the driving department. One heavy topic of contention throughout this season will be their fractious relationship with Red Bull Racing.