Mercedes F1 W07
After back-to-back seasons of dominance, testing has gone ominously well. So there’s no reason to look past the Silver Arrows for title-favourite status
- Starts 127
- First GPFrance 1954
- Wins 45
- Poles 53
- Fastest Laps 38
- 2015 1st
Since the new power units were introduced at the start of the 2014 season, Mercedes has been the dominant force, winning 32 of 38 grands prix. It looks like we could see that level of performance again this year, judging by what has happened in testing, with the car looking quick and completing a vast number of miles straight out of the box. The Mercedes also features some good detail work to find small aerodynamic improvements and to ensure that the best car of the past two years can carry that form into the 2016 season.
It should not come as a surprise if, as expected, Mercedes is still on top.
Last year’s biggest improver needs to become a genuine title contender. But based on pre-season testing, it’s still got a step to make to threaten Mercedes
- Starts 902
- First GPMonaco 1950
- Wins 224
- Poles 208
- Fastest Laps 233
- 2015 2nd
There’s no doubt that Ferrari has progressed since last season, but judging by pre-season testing it’s looking like another race-winning, rather than title-winning, car. So there is some work to be done.
The car has plenty of small improvements, and it’s good to see James Allison and his technical team have adopted the short-nose concept every other serious team has moved towards, plus the pushrod front suspension – for whatever reason, Ferrari didn’t seem able to make the pullrod system work.
The result is a car that is less understeery than last year’s, to the satisfaction of the drivers, but is it fast enough?
Williams Williams-Mercedes FW38
After finishing third in the championship for the past two years, but not managing to win a race, it looks set to be more of the same for the venerable team in 2016
- Starts 625
- First GPSpain 1977
- Wins 114
- Poles 127
- Fastest Laps 131
- 2015 3rd
I was a bit worried about Williams after the first pre-season test. While it usually runs on heavy fuel loads in testing, there wasn’t much evidence that the car was the improvement the team kept saying it was. Things looked better in the second test, so the objective of being best of the rest behind Mercedes and Ferrari still seems perfectly possible. But it’s hard to see Williams doing any better than it has for the past two years.
Good progress has been made recently, but it’s important to remember that Williams is a customer team without the budget of the big squads. I would like to see more progress with the car, which seems to be a fairly standard step forward from last year.
Red Bull Red Bull-Renault RB12
Formula 1’s erstwhile dominant force came down to earth with a bump last year, failing to win a race for the first time since 2008. This season will also be tough
- Starts 203
- First GPAustralia 2005
- Wins 50
- Poles 57
- Fastest Laps 47
- 2015 4th
Last year could not have been much worse for Red Bull. Not only were the results poor, with no wins for the first time since 2008, but it fell out very publicly with Renault and ended up in the embarrassing situation of having to fight very hard to get any kind of engine deal. The result is we have two Red Bull-TAG Heuer cars on the grid this year, thanks to eating some humble pie and doing a badging deal for the same Renault power units that gave the team so much trouble last year. Don’t expect things to run like clockwork.
Force India Force India-Mercedes VJM09
After finishing fifth in the championship last year, the Silverstone-based squad has its sights set on more giantkilling, and perhaps even a few more podiums
- Starts 150
- First GPAustralia 2008
- Wins 0
- Poles 1
- Fastest Laps 3
- 2015 5th
After finishing fifth last season, the highest it has been since my old Jordan team transformed into Force India in 2008, testing suggests it is ready to build on that this year. The B-spec car, introduced in the middle of last season and developed with the help of the Toyota windtunnel in Cologne, has created a good foundation point. And, in building on that, Force India looks to have the chance to take the fight to Williams and Red Bull in the battle for the top four in the constructors’ championship.
It’s very positive to see that there has been no attempt to reinvent the wheel with the car – it’s an evolution of last year’s B-spec. That’s the right move, as there is clearly more potential to be exploited from that solid foundation.
The team formerly known as Toleman, Benetton, Renault and Lotus is now called Renault again, thanks to the French manufacturer buying back its old operation
- Starts 300
- First GPGreat Britain 1977
- Wins 35
- Poles 51
- Fastest Laps 31
- 2015 n/a
After so much uncertainty, it is very good to see the chance for some stability at Enstone. The team has lost a lot of good people over the years, but still retains some personnel and a way of working that have made it into a championship-winning team both in the 1990s and the 2000s. Given how late the takeover by Renault and the rebranding from Lotus were completed, it goes into 2016 very underprepared with a car that isn’t a dramatic step forward from last year, so this can only be considered a foundation year.
What will be interesting is how things develop in the second half of the season.
Toro Rosso Toro Rosso-Ferrari STR11
Red Bull’s second team has switched to 2015-spec Ferrari engines, but this should still be a step forward from the Renault power units it struggled with last year
- Starts 185
- First GPBahrain 2006
- Wins 1
- Poles 1
- Fastest Laps 0
- 2015 7th
There is a lot to like about Toro Rosso, which last year produced a very good chassis under the technical leadership of James Key, and showed what is possible for a smaller team. The only problem was that it was stuck with a Renault power unit that wasn’t up to the standards set by the car.
That weakness has been eliminated this year and, although the switch to Ferrari engines is a positive, there is a catch – it is using the specification of engine that finished the 2015 season, rather than the 2016 version used by the works team and fellow customers Sauber and Haas.
Sauber Sauber-Ferrari C35
After a terrible first year of the new regulations in 2014, Sauber had a solid season last year. Expect F1’s perennial midfielder to stay firmly in the midfield in 2016
- Starts 400
- First GPSouth Africa 1993
- Wins 1
- Poles 1
- Fastest Laps 5
- 2015 8th
After a terrible season in 2014, Sauber did a solid job last year to recover. But it’s difficult to know where it’s going beyond that, because it’s hard to see the potential for it to climb into the battle involving teams such as Toro Rosso higher up the midfield. The Ferrari powertrain package is a proven quantity and Sauber has good facilities, but it’s no secret that money is tight.
The car itself is more about tidying up the 2015 car than any major steps, although, with Mark Smith coming in as technical director last year, there are signs that things are changing in how the team operates that could help it climb the grid.
McLaren McLaren-Honda MP4-31
After last year’s disaster, things will be better in 2016. But not by enough for a team of this size, resources and history – and Honda power is still the weak point
- Starts 780
- First GPMonaco 1966
- Wins 182
- Poles 155
- Fastest Laps 152
- 2015 9th
McLaren-Honda needs to do better this year. Based on testing, that will be the case – but it’s only going to be a little better. This is not good enough for a team of this standing, which has the resources, the people and the drivers to be doing far better than fighting in the midfield for minor points finishes.
It’s hard to see McLaren struggling like this – I take no pleasure in it. It has not won a race since 2012. If you put a Mercedes power unit into the place of the Honda, would McLaren be fighting with Mercedes for the world championship? I don’t think so.
Manor Manor-Mercedes MRT05
A new livery, a new engine-supply deal, two new drivers and some new faces in management positions adds up to a new start for the ex-Virgin/Marussia team
- Starts 111
- First GPBahrain 2010
- Wins 0
- Poles 0
- Fastest Laps 0
- 2015 10th
The big change for Manor this year is the switch to the Mercedes engine. Seeing as it’s a minor miracle that the team exists at all, to have the best power unit in Formula 1 is a big step forward. Manor also claims this is an all-new car, so that should mean a big step improvement on last year, when the team ran a 2014 Marussia and a year-old Ferrari engine.
While the future looks more solid for this team, even after the departure of founders Graeme Lowdon and John Booth, that does not mean we should expect anything too dramatic this year.
Haas Haas-Ferrari VF16
The first American outfit to make it to the Formula 1 grid since the mid-1980s benefits from an alliance with Ferrari, which some argue makes it a ‘B-team’
- Starts 0
- First GPAustralia 2016
- Wins –
- Poles –
- Fastest Laps –
- 2015 n/a
Before the new Haas-Ferrari started running in testing, I was sceptical about this team and its optimistic claims that it would be able to score points in its first year. But, thanks to its partnership with Ferrari, the car looked perfectly capable of running respectably in the midfield bunch.
The approach the team has taken makes a lot of sense, and you can see why Gene Haas has been successful in NASCAR. There was the realisation that it’s incredibly hard to build up an F1 team from scratch, as the new teams that came in for 2010 showed. So, by using building blocks from Ferrari and the knowledge of Dallara, it has short-cut much of that process.