The 2015 Formula One season ended brilliantly with Lewis Hamilton claiming a third world championship under Mercedes-Benz, ahead of team-mate Nico Rosberg. This year sees a lot more changes and the competition surely is getting tougher with 21 races and 11 constructors competing for the championship.
The new season starts under the Australian wind in Melbourne’s Albert Park Lake and ends with flare under the floodlights of Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi once again. It is also said to be the longest season ever with six back to back weekends. There have been many changes regarding the race and thus we took the liberty to elaborate and focus on the things you need to know before the new F1 season flags off this weekend!
1. Change in technical and sporting regulations
In contrast of the previous season, there has been a minor change to the rules and regulation regarding the sport and perhaps it may do certain drivers a favour.
First off, great news for some fans as the ‘real’ hype of the sport is rejuvenated. Nothing says Formula One racing like the loud blast of engines. Following the introduction of the 1.6 litre V6 turbocharged engines in 2014, the decibels within the circuit have greatly reduced and was said to be dampening the atmosphere of the race. Due to the criticism, the cars this year will be designed with a two exhausts – the other being a ‘screamer pipe’- in a bid to increase the noise.
However, a number of fanatic viewers claim the action to be rather ‘artificial’ and ‘cosmetic’ as it does have any significant effect on the quality, speed or safety of the car to make it seem like the previous V8 engines.
Of course, the greater the number of cylinders, the greater the sound but it would be less economical to reuse the V8 engines or increasing the number of cylinders. Therefore, a simple solution has been decided by the FIA to counterbalance both aspects (despite the use of cosmetics).
Besides the greater volume, tyre suppliers Pirelli have introduced a fifth compound named ‘ultrasoft and three compounds will be brought to the races instead of two. Choice of compounds will depend on the teams. Practice sessions will also be cut down to two instead of three.
The drag reduction system (DRS), which is deactivated during the Virtual Safety Car period and full-course yellow flags will be enabled as soon as the period has ended, compared to last season where drivers had to wait two laps before reactivating the system. This definitely could be beneficial for drivers as it can shorten lap times and also, it quickens the race, especially in long circuits like Spa and Baku.
2. New qualifying format
It came out as a stipulation to be ‘potentially’ introduced this year and we thought it would not make the chase but seems like all things are confirmed with the plans of the new qualifying format. The new qualifying format will officially commence in the Australian GP in March 19.
The new format definitely sparked some controversies between drivers and viewers. Same like the old one, the new one will be divided into three sessions, each being 16, 15 and 14 minutes long. In every session, drivers will be battling to achieve their fastest lap time before the 9 minute mark and when the countdown begins, six cars be eliminated every 90 seconds to make it to the next session and all of this is repeated till the end until one driver is remained the pole-sitter.
The hoo-hah over the new format shook up the media and there were equal amounts of approval and disapproval. Albeit some drivers saying that the change will not bring any difference to the race, some were fumed over the fact that there was lack of communication between the upper hands and the ones behind the wheel, namely last year’s champion Lewis Hamilton and Force India’s Sergio Perez.
All things run in the hands of commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone and we cannot deny that Bernie has been trying to spice up the race for a very long time and came up with a string of strange ideas in the past. The new format may take time to adjust but we are certain that this is definitely not one of Bernie’s ‘strange’ ideas and there is a promising chance for the race to achieve higher turnovers and attract more viewers.
3. Return of history; History takes a different form
Two words: welcome back! This season sees the return of two historic races- the German Grand Prix and the European Grand Prix.
The German Grand Prix is an old classic loved my many and has achieved high standard recognitions across the world. With a year’s absence in 2015, the famed GP is set to make a return to the calendar this year in July 31 with Hockenheimring as its circuit.
Fernando Alonso is the only current driver with the most number of wins in the circuit with 3 wins in 2005, 2010 and 2012 whereas it was the natives Sebastian Vettel and Nico Rosberg that dominated their hometown race in following years.
Till this day, the Germans remain unbeaten in the number of wins in Germany. Topping the list is Rudolf Caracciola with six and you guessed it, Michael Schumacher with four.
The paddock this year will witness four German drivers- Rosberg, Vettel, Nico Hulkenberg (Force India) and rookie Pascal Wehrlein (Manor). Will the Germans continue to defend their victories? Or is it time for a change?
Besides the German Grand Prix, another Grand Prix has made its way back to the schedule- the European Grand Prix. The iconic race that has long been held in Western European countries like the UK, Germany and Spain will take a different route this time and make its stop in Eastern Europe at Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan is commonly known as one of the transcontinental countries that lie between Europe and Asia. Situated in the Caucasus region, it is bounded by Russia to the north, Caspian Sea to the east, Armenia to the west and Iran to the South.
Located at the Baku City Circuit, the European Grand Prix is set to be a twilight street race across the beautiful Azeri landscapes near the Baku Boulevard. The Baku City Circuit will be making its maiden appearance in the sport in July 19, colliding with the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans. Nico Hulkenberg will be missing his chance to retain his champion title this year.
4. Good morning, America
An American team will be making its debut this season. Gene Haas will be presenting the first American-led team to compete in F1 since Carl Haas’ (not related) Haas Lola back in 1985-86.
The sport has struggled to garner attention in the United States due to the massive focus on basketball, Nascar and American football. However, Haas has opted to promote his brand worldwide and encourage people to indulge in the sport. Unlike Haas Lola which was based in Colnbrook, England, Gene Haas’ team will be based mainly in Kannapolis, North Carolina.
“It’s a synergy between racing and selling machine tools. I don’t see myself as any different from Red Bull or Nike,” Haas said.
The team will be led by team principal Gunther Steiner and will consist of former Lotus’ driver Romain Grosjean and former Ferrari reserve Esteban Gutierrez. Haas will be sporting mechanical supplies from Ferrari and reports claimed that the two teams are very close. According to Haas, the team seemed to have the best overall programme and the relation with Ferrari is will lead to positive outcomes.
“It’s the best chance to be world champion one day,” said Grosjean as quoted from The National.
“I want to be the driver that when you go to America everyone is cheering for you because you brought the American flag up there. And you live only once in your life.”
“I think we could potentially be in the points early in the season. From there we need to move from the points to the top five and then to the podium and then the win. It’s a long process, how long it is going to take I don’t know,” added the Frenchman.
Unlike past rookies Caterham and Marussia, seems like Haas will be their debut on fire and they could already be a potential threat.
“I think in the first five years it’s just surviving,” Haas remains coy of their success.
“I don’t have any expectations of grandeur that we’re going to go out there and win championships. I’m not expecting to beat anybody, just maybe beat the guys at the back.”
But that’s not what Grosjean and the viewers expect.
5. Rookies unleashed
Teams and drivers are reshuffled and there will be a total of 22 drivers and 11 teams competing in the current season. With Grosjean jumping onto the American wagon and Pastor ‘Crashtor’ Maldonado leaving this season, Team Lotus- now Renault, will be replaced by former McLaren-Honda reserve Kevin Magnussen and Englishman Jolyon Palmer. Sons of F1 drivers Jan Magnussen and Jonathan Palmer, the two are expected to bring the team to greater heights during their ‘rebuilding’ year.
Kevin, whom previously drove for McLaren-Mercedes in 2014, secured his spot at no.11 in the ultimate driver’s standings whereas Jolyon was Lotus’ reserve driver for a year.
Apart from Renault, Manor will be sporting new faces following the leave of Roberto Merhi and Will Stevens. Rookies Pascal Wehrlein and Rio Haryanto are the talk of the town these few months after their new contracts with Manor and the two will be making their debut in the renewed outfit at the Australian Grand Prix this March.
Wehrlein seemed to be the perfect candidate for the upgrade as the German had a stunning resume in the DTM (German touring cars) and he was also the official reserve driver for Mercedes since 2014. Following Manor’s switch to Mercedes engines this year, Wehrlein was the perfect guy. But can he take Manor to pull of their greatest upsets this year? We still have to see how the overall season proceeds.
Haryanto made the headlines when he became the first ever Indonesia driver to race on the F1 grid and not to mention, the first Asian driver since Kamui Kobayashi in Caterham two years ago. The Indonesian has a wide fan base in his home town is regarded to be one of the best drivers in the region but despite the big talk, Haryanto has not been fairing well in the practice sessions in Barcelona. Can the Asian pull it off?
The changes in the 2016 season will be having a massive effect on the sport in terms of quality.
Are you all excited for the new season of Formula One?! Let us know by dropping your comment below!