The 2016 Formula 1 season will officially get underway on Monday with the first pre-season test in Barcelona. Unlike 2015, teams only get two, four-day tests to hit the ground running and prepare their cars for the season-opener in Australia. However, with regulations remaining largely stable, the teams should be able to complete their respective programmes despite reduced track time.
Can Haas get it right from the very beginning?
American F1 squad Haas made some bold claims about its first F1 car, even before it completed a single lap in anger. The team feels it is capable enough of scoring points at the first very round of the season in Australia - which, to many, seems like wishful thinking.
To have any chance of finishing in the top 10 in Melbourne, the team needs to run reliably through the 58 lap race. And the two pre-season tests will provide a glimpse of just that.
Haas is better positioned than the three new teams that made their ill-fated debuts in 2010. Moreover, team has an interesting philosophy as to design of its car. It has signed a major partnership with Ferrari who will supply non-listed parts to the American team, including the power unit. The chassis itself has been effectively outsourced and will be manufactured by a dedicated team at Dallara. The team is headquartered in Kannapolis, with another factory in Banbury serving as a secondary hub.
It will be interesting to see how Haas fares during testing and once the season begins
Formula 1 engines are expected to churn out more noise during the 2016 season, thanks to changes in the exhaust layout. Increase in power arising out of the normal development cycle should also raise up the decibels.
But the question remains whether the cars will be noticeably louder this year, or gains will be modest at best.
One has to keep in mind that teams will be reluctant to run cars at full power during early days of pre-season testing.
Who’s got it wrong?
Testing may not give an indication of as to who will line up on pole position come Australia, it gives a fair idea as to who is in trouble.
From 2015 pre-season testing, it was evident that McLaren-Honda are set for a difficult year. This season, if Red Bull, Renault or McLaren find itself in trouble, it will be highlighted from the very beginning in pre-season testing.
Mileage over lap times
It is always difficult to judge teams based on pre-season testing. Each team is completing its own programme, on a different tyre and fuel load to its rivals. Hence, it’s never advisable to read too much into lap times.
However, a good parameter is mileage or number of laps completed by the 11 teams present. Each team will try to get as much running as possible to eke out problems with the new car. But if a team has an unreliable package, as McLaren had last season, it is likely to spend most of the time in the garage.
Conversely, a team racking lap after lap is in a better position vis-a-vis its rivals. Think Mercedes in 2015 which completed double race distance on the very first day of testing.
Has Honda made enough ‘progress’?
After a nightmare 2015 season that saw McLaren-Honda finish ninth in the standings, only ahead of Manor, the partnership will be looking for an upturn in their performance.
McLaren has sticked with its size-zero chassis and the team is confident that it has has made another step forward with the design of the car. Hence, the onus is now on Honda to deliver a more reliable and powerful engine and ERS unit. With its rivals having worked hard over the winter to maintain status quo, only major leapways will allow the Japanese manufacturer to close the gap to the front.
by Rachit Thukral