By Adam Tate, Managing Editor
The 2016 Formula One season is finally underway, down under in Albert Park. Despite the soggy start, the excitement of fans world wide cannot be dampened. Before the drivers lay down their cards for qualifying a few hours from now, I will make five bold predictions on some of the more exciting stories of the season. Without further ado….
5. All teams will score points
Gone are the days when a lovable back marker like Minardi could only pray for points. Gone are the days when Caterham and HRT would spend half the race looking for blue flags and half the race looking in their mirrors. Manor has stepped up to the plate with a Mercedes engine, and a gearbox and suspension courtesy of Williams Martini. American newcomers Haas F1 have a Ferrari engine, gearbox and suspension. These aren’t teams that will need miraculous races of attrition, or heroic, Bianchi-esque drives to earn points, these are teams that should compete with midfielders like Sauber and Renault straight out of the gate.
4. Sauber will leave Ferrari
Speaking of…long time Ferrari partner Sauber has been unceremoniously swept aside by the Scuderia’s new agreement with Haas F1. After a strong start to 2015, the team has been backsliding since. Recent news of financial difficulties prove that Ferrari’s investment in what was once a close ally has severely diminished of late. The house that Peter built, led by Monisha Kaltenborn has recently bandied the Honda name about. While the Japanese giant makes progress with McLaren, they will be keen to take on another, albeit less essential partner on the grid. Sauber fits that bill perfectly.
3. Max Verstappen will be the youngest podium finisher in F1 history
Toro Rosso powered Verstappen to two 4th place finishes in 2015. With Ferrari power replacing the much maligned Renault unit and cutting edge aerodynamics, Toro Rosso has some of the strongest momentum of any team at the start of the season. Verstappen is still hungry and longs to prove himself. An opportunistic race will be needed to achieve a top three result, but with variable weather conditions at Albert Park, Sepang and other early season events, coupled with the newfangled qualifying format, an opportunity will present itself and Max will seize it.
2. Williams will win
History shows us that it usually takes Williams three to four seasons after a major rules change before claiming a win. After the big change in 1998, it took until 2001 and an inspired Juan Pablo Montoya to take them to the top step of the podium. After the big change in 2009, it took till the 2012 Spanish Gran Prix for Pastor Maldonado to win. Since the rules shake up in 2014, Williams has consistently been the best of the rest behind Mercedes and Ferrari. 2016 will be the year they strike. The team stopped development of the FW37 early last season focus its resources on the 2016 design. Valtteri Bottas is hungry as ever to prove himself and claim his first victory. Felipe Massa is back to his best, the kind of form saw him briefly claim the 2008 World Championship. The veteran claims to have several seasons left in him and he is burning for the vindication his long awaited 12th win will bring. After 8 long years of waiting, 2016 may finally be his time.
1. Sebastian Vettel will be the 2016 World Drivers’ Champion
Despite coming third in last year’s standings, Sebastian Vettel drove better than anyone in 2015, the feuding Mercedes duo included. He was always nipping at Mercedes’ heels, showing the same grit and tenacity Michael Schumacher’s displayed in his early years with the Scuderia. Seasons when Michael drove some of the best races in his career, only to come up short against a dominant Mercedes powered team. It took Ferrari and Schumacher five long seasons to seal the deal, but Vettel will not have to wait as long as his friend and mentor. Lewis Hamilton fear’s Ferrari has an ace up their sleeve and after the two most dominant seasons in the sports’ history, Ferrari will find a chink in the Mercedes’ armor. Expect Sebastian Vettel to exploit that to the maximum, and bag a fifth World Championship along the way.