Sunday 20th March marks the return of Formula One after a not-so-quiet winter hiatus.
In the lead up to the Australian Grand Prix there hasn’t been a day where F1 wasn’t in the news, and not always for positive reasons.
In case you missed any of it, here is a survivor’s guide to the 2016 Formula One season.
How many races are there in 2016?
2016 features the longest calendar in F1 history with a grand total of 21 races.
The Baku GP is a new addition to the calendar, while the German GP makes a return after a year’s hiatus.
Where can UK viewers watch it?
Channel 4 is broadcasting 10 races live, starting from the second round in Bahrain. Extended highlights will be shown for the remaining 11 races.
Sky Sports and BBC 5Live will cover every single round live.
What’s new for 2016?
Formula One has many issues. Many solutions have been suggested from various angles.
But no one was quite expecting the powers that be to announce a brand new qualifying format.
Qualifying will now be run elimination-style, with drivers given a certain amount of time to get out on track and set a time before the slowest drivers start to get eliminated at 90 second intervals. The driver is not allowed to complete the lap they are on, even if it is faster, unless they are the final driver to be eliminated from that session (and can then improve and knock someone else out. Got it? Me neither.)
Whether the new qualifying session last the season remains to be seen, with rumours already swirling that its set to be scrapped after one round.
Q1: 16 minutes, 7 drivers eliminated
Q2: 15 minutes, 7 drivers eliminated
Q3: 14 minutes, featuring 8 drivers until 2 fight for pole position
Adding extra complication to the new format is a tighter ban on radio communication.
F1 Fanatic has a detailed feature on what the FIA has clamped down on for 2016.
The aim of the ban is to limit coaching from the team to the driver on how to optimise or drive the car.
Tyres may play a more exciting role in F1 2016.
Previously, drivers were given 13 sets of tyres for a race weekend. Pirelli chose two different compounds of tyres per weekend, both of which every driver had to use during the race.
The rules have changed for 2016, whereby three compounds of tyres are now available for drivers to use during the race.
Pirelli have also introduced a new tyre, the ultrasoft compound.
For a nice explanation, check out the cool video from Pirelli below:
Who’s new for 2016?
GP2 Champion Jolyon Palmer joins the fray after being promoted from his test driver role to a full time drive at Renault.
He’s joined by former McLaren driver Kevin Magnussen, who was unceremoniously dumped by McLaren in autumn of 2015, after Pastor Maldonado received an unceremonious dumping of his own.
Manor Racing features an all-rookie lineup for 2016. DTM Champion Pascal Wehrlein (21) joins the team to much fanfare – keep an eye on him for the future. He’s joined by the first ever Indonesian driver Rio Haryanto, who makes the jump from GP2.
There’s also a brand new team entering the fray. The all-American Haas F1 team will make their F1 debut in Australia with Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez. They are hoping they will be more successful than the last time Formula One welcomed new blood.
in 2010 F1 was due to have four new teams. US F1 failed to make it onto the grid, Hispania were the first to fold, and now only Manor survives after having been saved from the brink of collapse.
Who will be strong in the first half of the season?
Mercedes put in a stunning performance over winter testing. After completing more than the race distance of the Spanish GP in the first two days, they then opted to alternate Rosberg and Hamilton so as to not completely exhaust them.
Ferrari seem to have gained performance over the winter, and many have tipped Sebastian Vettel to take the fight to the Mercedes, although it was teammate Kimi Raikkonen who set the fastest lap of winter testing.
McLaren’s reliability woes did rear their ugly head occasionally, however they were able to get some decent short-runs completed. Whether or not they have gained in performance remains to be seen.
Haas and Renault were pleasant surprises. Both are tipped to have a difficult campaign ahead as they get to grips with F1 in 2016, yet both managed impressive performances in Barcelona. It’s hard to imagine they won’t score points during the course of the season.
Toro Rosso may be more competitive than sister team Red Bull. They had to completely redesign their 2016 challenger to accommodate last year’s Ferrari engine, but are already looking strong. Red Bull are running TAG Heuer branded Renault engines after last year’s farcical drama, but will presumably be looking for a new supplier for 2017 onwards.
Who will struggle?
When news of the Manor deal with Mercedes came out, many hailed this as the start of a new era for the team, and assumed they would make the jump to the midfield.
However the Manor chassis does not look as competitive as its rivals, and with two rookies still learning the ropes, it’s unlikely anyone else will be taking over Manor’s backmarker-mantel.
Red Bull may face another difficult season – although their chassis is said to be one of the best on the grid, the lack of power in the Renault engine comparative to Ferrari and Mercedes will be a huge issue for the team.
McLaren Honda are also unlikely to have a spectacular season. Arguably they have one of the most talented lineups on the grid, but unless they start to deliver, they may find themselves having to persuade some new drivers to take the reigns of the 2017 challenger.
Formula One 2016
Abu Dhabi GP