Following its 2015 resurgence, will Ferrari be able to knock Mercedes off its perch this season? And can Raikkonen get back his mojo? Rach F1’s Matthew Gannon predicts….
Constructors Championship - 2nd.
While Ferrari look to have significantly closed the gap to Mercedes, I don't quite think it'll be enough to overhaul the Silver Arrows this season. The closest constructors championship battle since the V6 turbo hybrid era began is imminent, however.
Mercedes just look to have the edge on tyre stint length, and if this proves true, the high tyre wear tracks could well be what costs Ferrari the title.
Sebastian Vettel - 2nd.
Vettel secured his return to glory last year, picking up his and Scuderia’s first win since 2013. Three victories in 2015 have set the ball rolling for what I believe to be an even better 2016.
Expect him to push Mercedes to the very best of their ability in a battle to the end - one which will ultimately come out with Vettel beating Rosberg, which nearly happened last year despite the car being considerably slower than Mercedes on majority of the circuits. As a summary, I'd say be wary of the Prancing Horse as it will be there to take anyone who falls into its range.
Kimi Raikkonen - 3rd.
Last season saw a lot of bad luck for the veteran Finnish driver. He secured a fantastic second place at Bahrain and was running very well in Hungary before car issues put him out of the race. His qualifying performance in Canada showed he could match Vettel on one-lap pace by taking over his role in fighting the Mercs, in what many people, myself included, believe to be his final season in F1. Raikkonen will be on a mission to prove all his doubters wrong and I think he will.
The car in his hands looks consistent and pacy which could all lead to him winning his first race since Melbourne 2013. The best Ferrari Kimi will drive in his second stint with the team is here and I am of the belief he can pull it out of the bag and really chase Vettel down, a fight he will narrowly lose, and in doing so will slay Rosberg, who just doesn't seem to quite have the cutting instinct of his three title rivals. Like Vettel if the mistakes are made,then this Prancing Horse driver will also stampede over its rivals.
Pre-season notes -
While the pace of the Ferrari is almost equal to that of Mercedes on the race simulation, stint length looks a fraction less for Ferrari - perfect for the undercut. However, can they make the tyres last on those key tracks or will Belgium last year be a sight we see again?
What impressed me the most on the Catalunya race simulation was that Raikkonen on hard compound tyres was on average only two tenths slower than Vettel on medium tyres. Ignoring the fuel load, engine settings and a host of other factors, this could be crucial in both race trim and qualifying. We all wait with baited breath to see how this one shapes up.
by Matthew Ganon