2016 F1 Teams’ Review of the Season: 1-10

  1. Mercedes (1st, 765 points- Nico Rosberg (1st, 385pts)/Lewis Hamilton (2nd, 380pts)) 10.0

A third consecutive season of processional dominance for the boys from Brackley. Out of 59 Grands Prix since the start of 2014, they have won 51 races, 56 poles and 34 fastest laps.  Out of an accumulated total of 3,551 laps, they have led 2,969 of them- a whopping 83.6%. They have consistently maintained a qualifying lap average of 0.7 seconds over their rivals, so there have a few conspiracy theorists, who have suggested that the Mercedes hierarchy secretly harboured to see a Nico Rosberg WDC victory to prove their accomplishments stemmed from the engineering solely. No team has sustained such dominance within such a time frame- not even Ferrari succeeded in doing this between 1999-01 and 2002-04, when they won an unprecedented six consecutive constructors’ world championships.

From 1999-2001, Ferrari won 25 races, 24 poles & 14 fastest laps out of 50 Grands Prix. Out of 3,139 laps, the Scuderia led 1,531 of them (48.8%). From 2002-2004, Ferrari won 38 races, 30 poles & 34 fastest laps (66.6%) (this is the only statistic higher than Mercedes’) out of 51 Grands Prix. Out of 3,230 laps, the Maranello boys led 2,033 of them (62.9%). During these years, F2002 & F2004 were their two most prominent cars, which were praised for their excellent mechanical grip, neutral handling and near bullet-proof reliability- F2002 recording just one mechanical failure, whilst F2004 clocked up none.

Red Bull, from 2011-13, won 32 races, 37 poles & 29 fastest laps out of 58 Grands Prix. Out of 3,456 laps, they led 1,985 of those laps (57.4%). During these years, RB11 & RB13 were their two most prominent cars, which were estimated by aerodynamicists as producing the most amount of downforce seen in any F1 cars before or since.

Williams, from 1992-1994, won 27 races, 36 poles & 29 fastest laps out of 48 Grands Prix. Out of 3,127 laps, they led 1,829 of them (58.5%). During these cars, FW14B & FW15C were their two most prominent cars, acknowledged by experts to be the most technologically complex machinery- active suspension, ABS brakes, traction control plus numerous other gizmos, leading Alain Prost to describe FW15c as a “mini Airbus”.

McLaren, from 1988-1990, won 31 races, 42 poles & 23 fastest laps out of 48 Grands Prix. Out of 3,122 laps, they led 2,376 of them (76.1%). In qualifying, their two prominent cars MP4-4 & MP4-5 blew their rivals away, capable of defeating the fastest non-McLaren car by up to three seconds in the hands of one-lap master Ayrton Senna. If the relationship between Prost and Senna hadn’t been so acrimonious and reliability wasn’t such a prevalent issue, it is possible the statistics in this period would match or even beat what Mercedes have achieved.

In terms of what Mercedes have achieved compared to rival teams in the modern era, it is similar to the astounding dominance achieved by individual drivers such as Juan Manuel Fangio, Jim Clark, Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel. It is unlikely we’ll ever see such supremacy from a team on such a totalitarian scale, so that should be a welcome sigh of relief for fans.

Of course, the 10.0 mark was not only awarded for their car’s third consecutive year of crushing superiority, but also the team’s management. Despite controversy in Spain, Canada & Austria, relations remained stable between their star drivers, allowing them to seal the WCC at Suzuka with four races to spare.

2. Red Bull-TAG Heuer (2nd, 468 points- Daniel Ricciardo (3rd, 256 pts)/Max Verstappen (5th, 204 pts)/Daniil Kvyat (14th, 25 pts)) 9.0

After last year’s debacle, which led to Red Bull badging their Renault engines after their new sponsor, 2016 showed a huge leap forward. 2017 should present a permissible opportunity to return to the front, with Ricciardo and Verstappen hogging the headlines. It is expected star designer Adrian Newey will pen a chassis to exploit the aggressively increased downforce and tyres regulations to the absolute maximum, whilst Renault provide a power unit with ample grunt.

3. Force India-Mercedes (4th, 173 points- Sergio Perez (7th, 101 points)/Nico Hulkenberg (9th, 72 points)) 8.5

The Silverstone-based team’s gradual ascent through F1’s hierarchy was richly rewarded with their best-ever WCC finish of 4th. It is unlikely such a result will be achieved in 2017, but credit where credit is due. The designers exploited the current regulations’ need for drag reduction and straight-line speed, which permitted the chassis to lap quickly thanks to the invaluablely-endowed Mercedes power unit. It is debatable that in the hands of the best drivers (i.e. Alonso, Hamilton & Verstappen), the VJM09 could have pushed Ferrari for 3rd in the WCC. Loyal stalwart Hulkenberg will leave for Renault, so for 2017, promising talent Esteban Ocon takes his place.

4. Toro Rosso-Ferrari (7th, 63 points- Carlos Sainz (12th, 46 pts)/Daniil Kvyat (14th, 25 pts)/Max Verstappen (5th, 204 pts)) 8.0

A second consecutive season of progress for Faenza boys was rewarded with another 7th in the WCC. If Verstappen had remained at the team for the entirety of the season, they might have caught McLaren for 6th, but their 2015-spec Ferrari power unit proved their Achilles’ Heel. It is expected for Toro Rosso to move up in 2017, with the excellent Carlos Sainz spearheading their challenge.

5. McLaren-Honda (6th, 76 points- Fernando Alonso (10th, 54 pts)/Jenson Button (15th, 21 pts)/Stoffel Vandoorne (20th, 1 pt)) 7.5

A steady, if unspectacular, second season of the reunited fabled McLaren-Honda partnership. The car still suffered from a fair degree of understeer and the Honda power unit underwhelming in its overall output, but reliability was a welcome boost. Alonso did his usual miracle job, whilst Button floundered, scoring just five more points than last year. In his place for 2017 will be Vandoorne, who lit the paddock with illuminating reviews with his dazzling performance at his sole outing at Bahrain, whilst deputising for Alonso. The Spaniard will be not be feeling too comfortable, though, as memories of a particular rookie tearing his reputation to shreds will see its tenth anniversary.

6. Haas-Ferrari (8th, 29 points- Romain Grosjean (13th, 29 pts)/Esteban Gutierrez (21st, o pts)) 7.0

In their first two races, America’s newest team became the first team since Toyota in their debut consecutive Grands Prix to score points. What’s more, Grosjean finished P6 in Melbourne, then P5 in Bahrain thanks to excellent pit calls. As the season progressed, though, Haas ran through the typical stumbling blocks every new team encounters in their early hurdles of the unforgiving environment of F1. Lack of experience of set-ups and the narrow operating windows of the Pirellis, as well as dubious feedback from their drivers exacerbated their acute struggles at certain races, with Mexico being their nadir with P19 & P20. Gutierrez finished P11 five times and did well to beat his French team-mate during mid-season, but he never appeared to have the spark to produce a vital points finish. In his place for 2017 will be Kevin Magnussen, who will be hoping to improve upon his lacklustre 2016.

7. Williams-Mercedes (5th, 138 points- Valtteri Bottas (8th, 85 pts)/Felipe Massa (11th, 53 pts)) 6.5

After two years of enjoying the fruits of a remarkable revival with two consecutive 3rds in the WCC, my prediction of a third consecutive P3 was pathetically wrong. Strategic errors remained prevalent, which were exacerbated further by lack of development and critics slamming their low-drag, low-downforce design philosophy as one-dimensional. Lance Stroll will be a welcome addition with exorbitant funding by his billionaire tycoon father, but with Nico Rosberg’s shock retirement, the second seat is a major conundrum. Will Bottas go to Mercedes? And if he does, will Felipe Massa postpone his retirement for one more season?

8. Renault (9th, 8 points- Kevin Magnussen (16th, 7 pts)/Jolyon Palmer (18th, 1 pt)) 5.5

Were they racing in 2016? It was a poor return to F1 for the double WCC-winning French marque, who insisted upon using a revised 2015 Lotus chassis as their challenger this season. It is understandable that due to cash flow issues Lotus suffered, as well as time constraints linked with their late buyout, that the car was hurried, but development did not produce desired improvements. Cyril Abitedoul stated an intent to sign a “charismatic” lead driver, so it remains to be seen if Nico Hulkenberg can live up to such a lofty position.

9. Manor-Mercedes (11th, 1 point (Pascal Wehrlein (19th, 1 pt)/Esteban Ocon (23rd, 0 pts)/Rio Haryanto (24th, 0 pts) 5.0

A decent season for the Banbury-based squad. In spite of a car that lacked downforce, it topped top speed sheets regularly thanks to drawing inspiration from technical partners Williams, who sourced out their suspension and transmission. Wehrlein impressed in parts, whilst Pertamina-backed Haryanto lost his drive when the dollars dried up, as his race performances were inadequately under par. Ocon took his place, producing a great drive in Brazil before he spun. The point he lost for P10 proved academic as Sauber’s Felipe Nasr scored two vital points in P9, thrusting the Hinwil squad into 10th in the WCC. So that left Manor languishing in 11th for a second consecutive year. As ever with the backmarkers, their driver line-up will announced at the last minute before next year’s much anticipated tests.

10. Sauber-Ferrari (10th, 2 points- Felipe Nasr (17th, 2 pts)/Marcus Ericsson (22nd, o pts)) 4.0

In a season of mounting financial pressures, further burdened by two mediocre pay drivers and a bland corporate image, it was a miracle Sauber escaped the wooden spoon in the WCC and on this list. To be frankly honest, Monisha Kaltenborn clearly has a lucky charm somewhere. The car was rehash of last year’s decent contender, so it was inevitably predictable how poor this season was going to be.  All year, the Hinwil team appeared destined to see a 11th finish to darken their worries over the long-term existence of Sauber, but the heavens opened in Interlagos and the rest is history. Marcus Ericsson is confirmed in one of their seats for 2017, but it remains to seen whether Nasr has the funding to continue.

The next article will focus on this year’s Reject Team of the Year. Don’t miss it!

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2016 F1 Driver Review of the Season: 17-21 plus part-timers

17. Marcus Ericsson (0 points- 22nd in WDC, Sauber C35-Ferrari) 5.0

It was never going to be an easy season at Sauber for the Swede, who needed sponsor Ikea to bail out the Hinwil-based squad early this year when wage payments to employees were defaulted for two months. Ericsson had the upper hand on Nasr until Canada, who was stricken by an ill-handling chassis. Their relationship deteriorated when the Brazilian’s refusal to obey orders at Monaco infuriated the Swede, causing Ericsson to take matters into his hands and wallop Nasr at Rascasse.

From thereon, Nasr regained his impetus in race performances, although Ericsson won the qualifying battles 13-8. Neither Sauber driver dominated each other much; Ericsson took an excellent P11 in Mexico, beating both McLarens and his team-mate, but Nasr scored two vital points in Brazil which elevated Sauber to P10 in WCC and $20 million in prize money.

18. Kevin Magnussen (7 points- 16th in WDC, Renault RS16) 4.5

With considerable experience and success behind him, it’s safe to say 2016 was underwhelming for the Dane. He was impeded by the Enstone squad divesting resources into their 2017 challenger, however, more was expected. K-Mag started brightly when he finished close behind Jolyon Palmer after losing a lap due to stalling and his P7 in Russia promised occasional points. However, he scored only once more in Singapore and news of his departure to Haas was announced. Palmer outperformed him in the last few races, perhaps a sign of Magnussen struggling for motivation and consistency. He beat Palmer 12-9 in the qualifying battle.

19. Daniil Kvyat (25 points- 14th in WDC, Toro Rosso STR11-Ferrari/Red Bull RB12-TAG Heuer) 4.5

In yesteryear, the Torpedo’s career would be currently spoken in past tense, but Helmut Marko’s reluctance to promote GP2 champion Pierre Gasly to F1 means the Russian will drive in 2017. Time will tell if Kvyat really has what it takes to carve out a long career in F1, as his feisty dice with Verstappen in Singapore was his only highlight of a depressing season. His first corner move on Vettel at China raised eyebrows, but his clumsy misjudgement on lap 1 at Russia proved expensive, as Dany suffered the ignominy of demotion to the junior team from Catalunya onwards. Losing the qualifying battle 11-6 to Sainz, Kvyat has a crucial winter of rebuilding.

20. Jolyon Palmer (1 point- 18th in WDC, Renault RS16) 4.0

The heavily-panned Horsham driver can count his lucky stars that there is indeed one driver who embarrassed more than he did, as Palmer appeared out of his depth against a developing talent in Magnussen during his early outings. Finishing bog last out of 22 finishers in China granted him the dubious honour of joining illustrious names such as Hermann & Karthikeyan, in being the last man to greet the chequered flag in races where all starters finished. His untimely spin in Hungary costed Palmer his first ever point, but he would make amends in Malaysia. His performances improved steadily, but Magnussen was never going to be a benchmark of his talent. Come 2017, Nico Hulkenberg will prove where Palmer truly stands in the F1 pecking order.


REJECT OF THE YEAR

21. Esteban Gutierrez (o points- 21st in WDC, Haas VF-16-Ferrari) 3.5

Five P11 finishes and a bucketful of excuses later, my bewilderment in Gene Haas’ selection of the 25-year-old Mexican has been proven correct. Considering a much worthier talent in Jean-Eric Vergne was up for grabs, it always appeared the choice of Gutierrez was a commercial one. Losing the qualifying battle 12-9 to Romain Grosjean, faring better than what Pastor Maldonado achieved against the Frenchman at Lotus last year (17-2). However, the Mexican struggled for consistency in races and his observation of blue flags bordered upon non-existent. Was he stunned to have been given a third stab at the highest tier of motorsport? Most of us, including his countrymen, would agree.

At least Maldonado scored 27 points to Grosjean’s 51 in 2015.


 

N/A Esteban Ocon (0 points- 23rd in WDC, Manor-Mercedes MRT05)

The 20-year-old Frenchman’s Grand Prix career may only be nine races old, but he has landed a prize seat at Force India as acknowledgement of his determined drives. He threw away P10 in Brazil, but his subtle style impressed insiders and his ability to learn quick will prove useful. He did lose the qualifying battle 7-2 to Pascal Wehrlein, though.

N/A Rio Haryanto (0 points- 24th in WDC, Manor-Mercedes MRT05)

Never deserved a chance in F1, but out-qualifying highly-lauded Wehrlein five times in twelve races is either credit to the Indonesian’s will or something the German improved upon when paired with Haryanto’s replacement Ocon. Haryanto harbours wishes of a return in 2017.

N/A Stoffel Vandoorne (1 point- 20th in WDC, McLaren-Honda MP4-31)

The 24-year-old GP2 extraordinaire finally made his belated F1 debut in Bahrain thanks to Alonso’s rib injury, thrilling viewers with precise moves on Perez and others in machinery powered by more grunt than his feeble Honda. He outqualified Button in their sole outing as team-mates, so let that be a warning to his grizzled two-time champion team-mate.

F1 Silly Season 2016: September

The announcement of Felipe Massa’s retirement and Jenson Button’s demotion to reserve driver at McLaren sent shock waves throughout the sport during this year’s Italian Grand Prix. It was universally agreed everyone was pleased to see Stoffel Vandoorne finally be handed a full-time ride with McLaren, but Button’s talents being lost to midfield teams, who may need an experienced driver to fill a void. The decision by Ron Dennis and associates to rearrange their driver line-up for 2017 was shrewd and assuring: Vandoorne finally gets his chance, Button is kept on board to please sponsors as McLaren’s British commercial representative, whilst if Fernando Alonso decides to retire from F1 earlier than expected, Button would be a competent and reliable substitute.

Here is my perspective of the future of the sport’s current incumbents:

Force India

Huge interest circulating, but no concrete decisions yet

Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez have refuse to refute rumours linking to other teams. Hulkenberg has a contact which ties him to Force India until the end of 2017, but has made no secret of his desires to land Kimi Raikkonen’s seat at Ferrari, when the Finn’s current deal finishes. Perez is linked to Williams, which would be a move sideways, and Renault, where huge investment into their 2017 car may yield immediate rewards. The team have made no secret of their desire to retain both drivers for the foreseeable future, so therefore have not talked about replacements.

Haas

A bump in the road for the American new boys

The two G’s of America’s only F1 teams are very much part of the silly season rumour mill. There has been condemnation over Romain Grosjean’s ability to perform the role of team leader, something which has disgruntled Gene Haas and reports link Grosjean returning to Renault (named Lotus when he drove for them). Esteban Gutierrez continues to polarise pundits over his ability; he has outpaced Grosjean recently, but is unable to rid himself of his knack of failing to finish able 11th. Reports of his poor feedback have circulated, so maybe the clock is indeed ticking on the cordial Mexican’s career. If Gutierrez does remain in F1, though, it will be mostly likely to be a second season with Haas. Prospective GP3 champion Charles LeClerc has emerged as a contender for a seat at Haas, along with Alexander Rossi.

Manor MRT

So far, so good

Pascal Wehrlein is expected to spend a second season at Manor for 2017, but some feel this is a waste of his sizeable talent. Some believe Mercedes would help to accelerate his progress by placing him in the soon-to-be vacated second seat at Williams, allowing the German to compete in midfield battles more regularly instead of trundling at the rear of the grid. Rio Haryanto was recently demoted to the position of reserve driver after Pertamina’s funding extinguished, but his associates have made noises about new sources of sponsorship, which may help Haryanto return to a full-time seat in 2017 at Manor. An option to retain Esteban Ocon is on cards, as long as the Banbury-based squad can negotiate the conundrum of his intertwined contracts with Renault and Mercedes.

Renault Sport

A year in transition

Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer have done little to impress pundits this season. Magnussen’s P7 at Russia remains his only highlight thus far, whilst Palmer threw away a potential points finish when he spun at Hungary, running in P10 beforehand. Sponsorship funding will be key to the future of these youngsters, although no interest has been affirmed from rival outfits as of yet. Cyril Abiteboul has spoken of the need for a “charismatic” driver to lead the Enstone-based squad, which was possibly the French boss pillorying the efforts of his team’s incumbent drivers. Carlos Sainz, Sergio Perez, Romain Grosjean and Esteban Ocon have  been mentioned to be targets for this iconic outfit.

Sauber

A light at the end of the tunnel?

This season has proven to be a truly state of affairs for this Hinwil-based squad. A takeover by Longbow Finance, though, has been stated to be securing Sauber’s future, although one cannot always take these statements literally in the rapid, cut-throat world of F1. Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr have not had a car in which either has had the opportunity to impress; indeed, this season has been the nadir of Sauber’s Grand Prix racing history. With little money to spend on development, their current drivers are hoping Monisha Kaltenborn is not eyeing up other drivers, as no rival teams have expressed interest in their services. Nasr, however, was once Williams’ test driver and many feel the Grove-based squad would welcome his injection of Banco do Brasil cash. It would make commercial business sense to replace an ageing Brazilian favourite with another emerging Brazilian talent, appeasing sponsors and retaining global identity.

Toro Rosso

What became of the broken hearted? 

Carlos Sainz has been confirmed for a third season at the Faenza-based squad, although some feel this will be his last if a promotion to the Red Bull senior isn’t beckoning. A move to Renault has been rumoured, although the Spanish press have also stoked rumours of a move to Force India or even Ferrari. A potential move to the Maranello-based squad may tempt Sainz, but he would do so at the age of just 23- his lack of experience with politics within a team entrenched by Machiavellian tendencies may deter him, though. His cerebral and embattled team-mate Daniil Kvyat is fighting an intense battle to save his F1 career; his relations with Franz Tost and Helmut Marko are believed to be at ground zero and with no hints of interest from rival teams, Kvyat’s best hopes lay with an undisclosed Russian backer buying him a seat at Williams, Sauber, Manor or Force India.

Williams

F1’s Tottenham Hotspur

The Grove-based squad is yet to confirm Valtteri Bottas for a fourth season, but many feel it is just a matter of applying pen to paper. The career prospects of Finland’s best prospect have flatlined, with interest from Ferrari seemingly a distant past. With Felipe Massa’s retirement at the end of this season confirmed, the speculation over Williams’ second seat escalated when Jenson Button announced his role with McLaren for the next two years. Lance Stroll, Nasr, Kvyat, Perez, Wehrlein are just several out of many names linked to this seat, but some feel their inclusion may be a stop-gap solution for the foreseeable future.

F1 Stars of the Future: GP2 and Development Drivers

It has been a heated matter of conjecture concerning whether GP2 is a conducive breeding ground. A sad trend of pay drivers (i.e. Sergio Canamasas) occupying seats worthy of more talented prodigies has irked fans and journalists, with many questioning driving standards.

It has also become an emerging trend for F1 teams to select starlets from lower series, with Daniil Kyvat & Valtteri Bottas plucked straight from GP3 and Carlos Sainz Jr & Kevin Magnussen graduating from Formula Renault 3.5 (now Formula V8 3.5). However, hope is not lost for GP2, as the implemention of the FIA Superlicence points system will rigorously enforce prospects to accumulate experience steadily through junior formulae.

*Eligibility for F1 requires a minimum of 40 Superlicence points (Points listed from conclusion of 2015 racing seasons)

Alexander Rossi

Current series: Indycar (Bryan Herta Autosport w/ Andretti Autosport #98)

Indycar 2016 position: 11th (370 points, one race remaining)

Superlicence points: 43

F1 2017 Likelihood: 6/10

The Californian displayed flashes of brilliance against the all-conquering Stoffel Vandoorne in 2015, where he made the most of resources supplied to him by Racing Engineering to finish ahead of Rio Haryanto and current GP2 ace Sergey Sirotkin. Rossi fared favourably against Formula Renault 3.5 veteran Will Stevens, but lack of sponsorship funding meant a switch to the notoriously competitive Indycar Series and a reserve role with Manor. In spite of his meticulously calculated Indy 500 victory, progress has been steady if unspectacular. Rumours swing from a return to a race seat with Manor or Haas in F1 to remaining where he is, but no one can doubt his versatility would hold him in strong stead against Pascal Wehrlein or Romain Grosjean if he was selected.

Alex Lynn

Current series: GP2 (DAMS #5)

GP2 2016 position: (8th- 93 points, 4 races remaining)

Superlicence points: 58

F1 Likelihood: 5/10

Once a highly touted prospect, Lynn’s sparking progress has fizzed out in the F1’s top feeder series. The Essex exocet’s performances this season have mirrored that of his debut season, with both seasons seeing him win twice, but performing inconsistently thoughout. His development driver contract with Williams may be terminated if he fails to emerge as a championship contender in 2017.

Antonio Giovinazzi

Current series: GP2 (Prema #20)

GP2 2016 position: (2nd- 164 points, 4 races remaining)

Superlicence points: 43

F1 Likelihood: 7/10

A native of Martina Franca, Giovinazzi has spent much of his junior career beneath the radar of F1 scouts- until now. His recent invitation to a simulator test with Ferrari is justified recognition of his vastly-improved performances, transforming himself from a F3 journeyman to a championship contender in GP2. A brilliant double win in Baku with back-to-back victories in Belgium and Italy were just exactly what the doctor ordered, leaving the Italian ten points behind team-mate & championship leader Pierre Gasly with 96 points remaining. He may not debut in F1 next year, but a test seat is certainly not out of question.

Artem Markelov

Current series: GP2 (Russian Time #10)

GP2 2016 position: (11th- 80 points, 4 races remaining)

Superlicence points: 10 (Insufficient)

F1 Likelihood: 2/10

Rumours of the young Russian and his investors enquiring F1 teams about a 2017 race seat have circulated in the paddock, but it would be wholly undeserved on the basis of his results achieved in his three years of GP2. Just a single win from an incident-filled Monaco feature race this year has proved to be an exception on an otherwise unimpressive CV.

Charles LeClerc

Current series: GP3 (ART Grand Prix #1)

GP3 2016 position: (1st- 177 points, 4 races remaining)

Superlicence points: 20 (Will be increased to 45 if he wins GP3 title)

F1 2017 Likelihood: 5.5/10

A fabulous record in karting followed by accolades in Formula Renault 2.0 and European F3 were proof that the Monegasque was a probable championship victor when he made his GP3 debut and his supporters have been indicated. He only turns 19 next month, but he has completed three Friday practice sessions with Haas at Silverstone, Hungaroring and Hockenheim. Some may consider 2017 too soon for his F1 debut, but a reserve role intertwined with a seat in DTM appears preferable to the rough-and-tumble nature of GP2.

Esteban Ocon

Current series: F1 (Manor MRT #31)

Previous series: DTM (Mercedes ART #34)

F1 2017 Likelihood: 7/10

Esteban Ocon is an enigma. Two ordinary seasons in Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 followed by immediate championship success in European F3 and GP3 is evidence of his ability to toil through strenuous self improvement, but perhaps a slight lack of raw natural talent. His GP3 season saw him win the title with ten second places, but just a solitary win in the season opener. His partial season in DTM yielded just two points, guaranteeing an eventual championship position of no higher than 24th. His initial full Grand Prix outings with Manor have laid the bricks for gradual improvement, but whether Renault or another team will be convinced to offer him a full-time seat remains a mystery.

Lance Stroll

la

Current series: FIA European F3 (Prema #1)

F3 2016 position: (1st- 364 points, 6 races remaining)

Superlicence points: 20 (Will be increased to 60 if he wins F3 title)

F1 2017 Likelihood: 6.5/10

Widely dismissed as a rich kid freeloading from a tycoon father, the Montreal native has stiffen his credentials annually, with honours galore in karting and titles in Italian F4 and Toyota Racing Series and an almost probable championship win in this year’s FIA European Formula 3 championship. However, many will pontificate the vast sums invested into Prema Powerteam he drives for and how it has taken two years to claim the title at this level, but he is yet to turn 18. He retains a watertight development contract with Williams, whom are doubtless appreciative of lucrative funding provided by his father.

Pierre Gasly

Current series: GP2 (Prema #21)

GP2 2016 position: (1st- 174 points, 4 races remaining)

Superlicence points: 39 (Will be increased to 69 if he wins GP2 title)

F1 2017 Likelihood: 9/10

With stories of Daniil Kvyat’s relationship with the Red Bull hierarchy declining, the well regarded Frenchman appears a dead cert for the Russian’s Toro Rosso seat. As the most likely of this year’s junior hotshots to cement a seat in F1 next season, you’d think pundits would praise him highly, but many feel impassive by his steady yet unspectacular path to prominence. His solitary season in Formula Renault 3.5, where he finished runner up, yielded no wins and his first season in GP2 produced four podiums and no wins. His feature race victory at Silverstone this season ended his three year winning duck, stretching back to his Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 title-winning campaign, an omen Gasly will not want to carry into his F1 career.

Other GP2 stars

Oliver Rowland, Sergey Sirotkin and Raffaele Marciello currently hold the required number of points for FIA Superlicence eligibility, but their chances of appearing in F1 are heavily reliant upon sponsorship funding. Mitch Evans is yet to match the stunning heights he achieved in his earlier junior formulae career, with five victories throughout his four year GP2 career, but a slim chance of finishing 5th in this year’s championship has rendered the Kiwi unlikely to ever drive in F1. Manor development driver Jordan King and Norman Nato have also impressed, but will remain ineligible for a Superlicence if they finish where they currently stand (5th & 6th).

2016 F1 Post-Baku Mid-Term Report

THE CHAMPIONSHIP CONTENDERS

Lewis Hamilton (2nd, 117 points) Mercedes 7.5/10

Before the season even kicked off, Hamilton was attracting controversy over use of a phone to take a selfie whilst on a motorcycle in Auckland. On-track, the Briton has been hampered by reliability issues, as well as clutch issues at start of races. However, his many collisions with other drivers has tainted his 2016 thus far and his radio outbursts in Baku will not aid his bid for a fourth WDC.

Nico Rosberg (1st, 141 points) Mercedes 8.5/10

The elegant German has had an exemplary start to what is his eleventh season in F1. Despite claims of nepotism, Rosberg has done what has been asked of him. However, his troubled run in Monaco, where his brakes were unresponsive, and his error-strewn performance in Canada, have left his critics doubting his true WDC credentials.

Sebastian Vettel (3rd, 96 points) Ferrari 8.0/10

The effervescent German has performed consistently, but has had a deeper struggle in his start to his second season at Maranello. Most of issues have stemmed from strategic decisions from the Ferrari pit crew, who need to up their game. Otherwise, 2016 will be a wasted season for the four-time world champion.

Kimi Raikkonen (4th, 81 points) Ferrari 6.5/10

In a season where the Iceman needed to counter his doubters, he has justified their scepticism. Strong runs to 2nd, 3rd and 2nd in Bahrain, Russia & Spain suggested a return to form, only for his crash in Monaco followed by anonymous performances in Canada & Baku, where tyre degradation and fuel consumption issues affected Kimi more than Seb, have left many calling for his retirement form F1.

Daniel Ricciardo (5th, 78 points) Red Bull 7.5/10

Oh Daniel, what could it have been? Three consecutive fourth places in the first three races was testament to the perseverance of the Honey Badger, but a lack of foresight into Red Bull’s pit decisions at Barcelona & Monaco costed him almost certain victories. The past two races have seen a dip in form, but the Perth driver’s solid racecraft and aggression will surely see him succeed big time soon.

Max Verstappen (6th, 54 points) Red Bull 7.0/10

At the tender age of 18, the flying Dutchboy became F1’s youngest race victor at Barcelona, albeit thanks to the Turn 4 incident between Hamilton and Rosberg. It fully justified his surprise promotion to the senior Red Bull team, but the pressure to deliver is firmly on his shoulders. His defence of 4th place at Montreal, ahead of an impatient Rosberg, was a wonder to marvel. However, he needs to cut out sloppy inconsistencies, such as his willingness to run too close to the barriers at Monaco.

THE MIDFIELDERS

Valtteri Bottas (7th, 52 points) Williams 6.5/10

Hmmm. Two seasons ago, everyone was raving about the tenacity of this young Finn, who impressed with solid runs to second places at Silverstone & Hockenheim. The past eighteen months, however, have seen glimpses of Bottas’s potential, but nothing exciting. The first eight races of 2016 have seen the Williams pit crew struggle with pit strategy, but one is left wanting more when analysing Bottas’ performances thus far.

Sergio Perez (8th, 39 points) Force India 7.5/10

The mercurial Mexican has often left pundits urging more of him throughout his F1 career, but it appears a change of attitude is finally reaping rewards. Previously maligned by his bosses at McLaren, Perez has shown a cool head and intelligence in the chaos at Monaco & Baku to deliver two more podiums to his resume. Rumours of a seat at Ferrari have abounded and it would be tough to rule him if his form continues.

Felipe Massa (9th, 38 points) Williams (6.0/10)

The Brazilian veteran blows hot and cold in tandem to the manner of his overall F1 career. Despite beating Bottas in the first three races, the best days of Massa are beginning to leave him behind and he has recently admitted this season is likely to be his last at Williams.

Daniil Kvyat (10th, 22 points) Toro Rosso 5.5/10

The reticent Russian has not recovered since his shock demotion from the senior team. Kvyat impressed many with his run to 3rd at Shanghai and his subsequent refusal to be intimidated by a disgruntled Vettel, but his double collision with the illustrious German provided amble reason for the trigger happy Helmut Marko to ditch him immediately. Kyvat has struggled to combat Carlos Sainz’s raw pace and commitment, leaving many to doubt whether the Ufa born driver has a future in F1.

Romain Grosjean (11th, 22 points) Haas 7.5/10

In a move which some saw as career-threatening, but others applauded for its audacity, Grosjean has made his decision to join Haas to pay off to huge plaudits. It may be a cliche, but the Frenchman and America’s new F1 team pulled off the dream start with 6th and 5th places in Australia and Bahrain. They further consolidated their championship position with 8th place in Russia, enabling Haas to sit in an impressive 8th place in the WCC. However, a slight dip of form lately has hindered Grosjean, but his struggles are vindictive of an experienced driver helping a new team to learn the ropes of F1.

Nico Hulkenberg (12th, 20 points) Force India 7.0/10

It is difficult to assess Hulkenberg’s start to 2016 in lieu of mechanical problems and bad luck, which have become a pattern of the German’s results recently. Many are astonished to think that Nico has not still not achieved a podium result to date in F1, but a few are growing sceptical of his true credentials.

Fernando Alonso (13th, 18 points) McLaren 7.5/10

“The Jacques Villeneuve of his generation” may be harsh to describe who many consider to be pound-for-pound F1’s best driver, but his results are mirroring a similar flow to the outspoken French-Canadian later F1 career results: frequent non-points finishes with an occasional top five result. Is his motivation still there? Does he still enjoy F1? Judging from his performances at Sochi & Monaco, it appears the answer to those questions is almost yes.

Carlos Sainz, Jr. (14th, 18 points) Toro Rosso 7.0/10

Emerging out of Verstappen’s shadow, the son of his eponymous former World Rally Champion father is finally making a name for himself. It is no surprise of journalists circulating rumours of a Ferrari move, but it is perhaps too soon for this radiant 21 year old hotshot. Five point finishes is solid start thus far and his beating of more experienced Kvyat is further enhancing his status of Spain’s next World Champion.

Kevin Magnussen (15th, 6 points) Renault 6.5/10

It’s tough to judge a driver who is driving in a solidly lower-midfield car, but it’s even tougher to judge his true credentials in comparison to other youngsters when it is indisputable that Magnussen’s teammate Jolyon Palmer is a dud. The Dane’s drive to 7th at Sochi was a great calling card of his defensive skills, but Renault’s focus on 2017 will leave many uncertain of what he can achieve when given a fully developed car.

Jenson Button (16th, 5 points) McLaren 6.0/10

The Frome veteran remains an ever-present in the midfield of F1’s grid, but it is hard to judge how good or bad Button has been when he is driving such an underpowered car. The truth is that his performances suggest Button to be performing at an acceptable but not particularly outstanding level. Three points finishes is okay, but when a young Belgian hotshot is eyeing your seat, it’s not or never.

Stoffel Vandoorne (17th, 1 point) McLaren N/A

Deputising for a stricken Alonso, who was still recovering from his Melbourne horror crash, Vandoorne displayed an awe-inspiring performance at Bahrain, even overtaking Perez without DRS (!). Alas, a few rookie errors costed him a higher finish, but much is expected of him. No marks have been awarded due to no other race appearances, so Stoffel will be focusing on Super Formula in Japan.

THE NON POINT SCORERS (Thus far)

Esteban Gutierrez (18th, 0 points) Haas 4.0/10

Why has this driver been awarded a THIRD season in F1? It begs belief to see such a lacklustre “talent” persist so long in the top tier of single seater racing, especially when real diamonds such as Vandoorne are forced to watch from the sidelines. However, the Mexican has outqualified Grosjean of late, but it remains to be seen whether this is a changing trend or a blip. Most likely the latter.

Jolyon Palmer (19th, 0 points) Renault 2.5/10

Many GP2 fans have lamented the exclusion of previous champions such as Davide Valsecchi & Fabio Leimer from F1, with many believing such an achievement automatically merits a seat in Grand Prix racing. Unfortunately, the most recent British GP2 champion is doing everything to undermine their argument. Rarely ever close to Kevin Magnussen’s pace, Palmer’s race performances have been erratic, none more so than his cringeworthy crash at Monaco whilst circulating behind the safety car. This added insult to his already tarnished record, where at Shanghai, Palmer joined Hans Hermann and Narain Kerthikeyan on the list of drivers to finish last in races where all starters saw the chequered flag.  A serious improvement is needed, because only a Herculean amount of sponsorship could lend a second season for this struggling rookie.

Marcus Ericsson (20th, 0 points) Sauber 5.0/10

The heavily remunerated Swede has turned the tables on his Brazilian teammate Nasr, but their relationship is souring rapidly. That comical collision at Monaco, which was a culmination of Ericsson’s frustration over Nasr’s refusal to allow him past, has been a harbinger of Sauber’s accumulating financial issues, which threatens the careers of their drivers and their existence as a team.

Felipe Nasr (21st, 0 points) Sauber 3.0/10

This time last year, everyone was speaking highly of this Brazilian’s performances, where he was lying in 10th in the WDC and Sauber flying high in 7th in the WCC post-Canada. Fortunes have turned dramatically this year and talk of Nasr taking his sponsors elsewhere have already begun.

Pascal Wehrlein (22nd, 0 points) Manor 5.5/10

The prognosis of Wehrlein’s true potential will be displayed as this season progresses, but he has been at the end of his less-than-well-regarded teammate Haryanto outqualifying him. His run to 13th at Bahrain promised much, but it appears the learning game was very much on with his embarrassing crash in qualifying at China being proof of the German’s lack of experience. At Baku, however, launching his car into 9th albeit by running longer than others, is vindictive of a giant-killing he may pull off later in his career.

Rio Haryanto (23rd, 0 points) Manor 3.5/10

Has he impressed? No. Has he performed above expectations? Yes, but only marginally. The perpetual state of austerity is a never-ending theme for backmarkers in F1, so the inclusion of drivers of this quality is mandatory. It is rumoured that the Indonesian’s sponsorship money only stretches as far as Hungary, so it is likely a new teammate for Wehrlein will appear at Germany. At least Haryanto can point to his qualifying lap to start 16th at Baku as a highlight of what is likely to be a heavily-truncated F1 career.

 

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).

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.