Kurt Verlin
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Top 5 Reasons to Watch the 2016 Formula 1 Season

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Empty Formula 1 starting grid

An empty grid is an unhappy grid.

If you’re a fan of the sport, odds are you already want to watch the 2016 Formula 1 season and don’t need additional reasons to do so. The screaming engines, the wheel-to-wheel battles, the beautiful circuits, the advancing automotive technology, and the endless stream of drama, speculation, tension, and rivalries are enough to keep you coming back every year.

All that being said, after a season as admittedly poor as 2015, a bit of extra motivation can’t hurt.


1: More competition (from Ferrari)

A large reason the 2015 season was so dull was the lack of competition. Ferrari and McLaren were partly responsible for this, through no real fault of their own. Ferrari improved, but only enough to get ahead of Williams and Red Bull and not quite enough to contest Mercedes’ rule. That meant that as McLaren receded to the back of the pack, none of the top teams were on the same level as each other, and there was no real battle left for the “best of the rest” like in 2014. This is perhaps most noticeable when you check out last year’s top 10 driver’s championship standings, which are cleanly distributed by team.

However, the progress Ferrari made last year bodes well for 2016. Though Mercedes won all but three races in each of the last two seasons, this was the consequence of mistakes or misfortune in 2014; in 2015, they were legitimately—albeit rarely—outraced by Ferrari and Red Bull. In 2016, Mercedes will likely still be the team to beat, but competition from Ferrari should be fiercer than ever. I do not expect them to sweep the championship as easily.


2: Rosberg vs. Hamilton, round 3

Another difference between the last two seasons was Nico Rosberg’s competitiveness. In 2014, though he lost to Hamilton, he won the pole trophy and took the title fight to the final race in Abu Dhabi. In 2015, the competitive fire seemed to have gone out of the German, and Hamilton mostly cruised to victory.

Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton

(Pictured left to right) The rivalry between Rosberg and Hamilton continues.

But, perhaps after being bullied on track one too many times by his teammate, something changed in Rosberg at the close of the season. He ended the 2015 championship with six consecutive pole positions and three consecutive wins, to which Hamilton seemed to have no answer. The effect was noticeable: while the champion skulked, Rosberg had regained his old confidence. Motor racing is almost as much a mental sport as it is about cars and driving, and that winning streak may have been the jolt Rosberg needed to bring the heat back to the next title fight in 2016.


3: McLaren Honda’s time to shine?

This is a make-or-break year for McLaren Honda. Last year, the team spent over $49 million on the best driver pair on the paddock and gave them one of the worst F1 cars either of them have ever driven in their considerable careers. The McLaren chassis seemed adequate, but the Honda power unit simply wasn’t there. Fortunately, it didn’t seem to suffer from fundamental issues that would be beyond fixing within the regulations, and the regulations themselves have been altered a little for 2016 as to allow them more room to catch up. At the end of 2015, we saw that McLaren could be competitive when they were able to actually turn the engine up to maximum capability. If they can tweak it just right, they may be able to fight the top dogs once again; they need to, else all that frustrated driver talent is almost certain to walk out of the door.


4: Haas F1 joins the lineup

Gene Haas

You may recognize this face from NASCAR.

A new team is coming to Formula 1! Not just that, but a well-funded, well-supported American team founded by Gene Haas, whose name you might recognize from his success in NASCAR. Formula 1 is a very different beast to tackle compared to oval racing in stock cars, and American teams and drivers have historically not done well in the European-dominated sport, but Haas has made it clear he has no illusions about the challenges he faces. The team will be led by Red Bull Racing’s former technical director, the car will be powered by a capable Ferrari engine, and money is no real issue. Furthermore, its driver lineup—comprising Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutiérrez—is seasoned and talented. New Formula 1 teams usually start at the bottom of the ladder, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Haas F1 taking it to the likes of Force India or even better in 2016.


5: Old and new circuits

The German Grand Prix, one of the most iconic in the calendar, was gone in 2015. It’ll be back in 2016 at the Hockenheimring, one of the most famous circuits in the world and one that nearly always produces exciting races. The European Grand Prix will also return at a new street circuit in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. There’s no way to know what to expect from it, but the Mexican Grand Prix’s debut last year was one of the highlights of 2015, so my hopes are high. Besides, new scenery can never really hurt.

Baku City Circuit

The planned layout for the new Baku City Circuit.