With the new F1 season just a few days away VM Life takes to the grid and looks at all the changes that's happened over the winter, and what we can expect in the 67th Championship once the lights go out.
The 2015 season will be looked back on with mixed feelings. Mercedes Lewis Hamilton picked up his third World Drivers Championship ahead of team mate Nico Rosberg, but it really was a 2 horse race for the whole season with the constructor winning 17 of the 19 races.
The domination – though not the fault of Mercedes – made for lacklustre viewing at times, and Brit Hamilton had the Championship wrapped up 3 races from the end. And qualification was even more dominant with the Mercedes team taking 18 of the 19 pole positions – Hamilton taking 11 of the first 12 of the season, and Rosberg finishing strong by talking the last 6.
Reliability and engine power proved to be the big downfall for most of the other teams. The season started with just 15 cars seeing the green light (the lowest number for over 45 years), and for some teams they never really improved. 8 time Constructors Champions McLaren – with 2 former World Champions driving for them – finished the season second last with a measly 27 points (for reference Mercedes finished with 703 points).
That however is now in the past, and with numerous changes to the rules, teams, drivers, and tracks the 2016 season looks much more positive.
Ok to start with we have a new team in F1. Haas F1 will be the first American team to compete in the sport in exactly 30 years. With NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team owner Gene Haas at the helm the new team have been welcomed with open arms, and have a realistic chance of picking up some points right of the bat.
Other changes see Marussia rebranded as Manor Racing, and Lotus F1 rebranded as Renault Sport, and sister teams Red Bull and Toro Rosso change engine suppliers.
There were also several driver changes over the winter too, with the main one for British fans being the addition of Jolyon Palmer at the Renault Team. The second generation driver is the 2014 GP2 Series Champion, and he will be joined at Renault by former McLaren driver Kevin Magnussen. They are replacing Pastor Maldonado and Romain Grosjean, with the latter joining the newly formed Haas F1 team. He will be joined at Haas by former Sauber driver Esteban Gutierrez.
The other complete overhaul is at Manor Racing where unfortunately British driver Will Stevens and Spaniard Roberto Merhi are being replaced by 21-year old German Pascal Wehrlein, and Rio Haryanto who will become the first ever Indonesian driver to race in the Championship.
The actual race calendar for the year has also seen changes – no more so than an increase from 19 races last season to 21 this. The two additions are the return of the German GP at the Hockenheimring after a dispute last year, and after a four-year absence the return of the European GP, which will this time emanate from Baku the capital of Azerbaijan.
Now we won’t bore you with the technical changes, most of which relate to tires, although after criticism last year that the cars weren’t noisy enough there is an interesting change to the exhausts to make them louder.
The actual sporting regulations are again dare we say it pretty boring, and in some cases just slight tweaks to regulations that are already in place. The one major change is to the qualifying process. This has caused quite a stir, as it was only introduced less than 2 weeks ago. The Q1, Q2, and Q3 format is still in place, but now with a progressive "knock-out" style of elimination. Drivers conducting a lap at the end of each session will still be allowed to complete their lap, though this does not apply to mid-session eliminations.
Q1 will last 16 minutes, with the slowest driver being eliminated every 90 seconds after the first 7 minutes until 15 cars remain.
Q2 will last 15 minutes, with the slowest driver being eliminated every 90 seconds after the first 6 minutes until 8 cars remain.
Q3 will last 14 minutes, with the slowest driver being eliminated every 90 seconds after the first 5 minutes until pole position is determined.
This has been created to bring life back to ‘Quali’ after recent years that sometimes saw long periods of the qualifying stints where no cars where on the track, although the jury is still out on whether this new format will actually work.
All in all things are looking very positive for the new season. More races, more teams and drivers, and much more competitive cars means it is shaping up for an excellent season ahead.
The season gets underway this weekend with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, and runs until November 29th when it ends with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit.
Find out more at the official website here.