The 2016 F1 season is upon us and it begins as it has in recent seasons at the Albert Park Circuit in Melbourne on 20 March. There have been a number of changes in teams, drivers and regulations during the off-season, but one thing has remained constant – the dominance of Mercedes. The Silver Arrows team look to be the favourites again this year, but Ferrari have made a step-up and will hope to challenge them during the races, something they seldom did in 2015.
Haas Racing has made an entry into F1 this season as the 12th team, while the Lotus team is now defunct after being bought over by Renault, who have now re-entered as a works team. There have been driver changes as well, and the list of teams and drivers for the new season is below.
The 2016 season is also set to be the longest season in the history of the sport with 21 races on the cards. The German Grand Prix at Hockenheim has returned, while there is a new European Grand Prix at the Baku City Circuit in Azerbaijan.
Teams & Drivers
Mercedes – Lewis Hamilton & Nico Rosberg
Ferrari – Sebastian Vettel & Kimi Raikkonen
Red Bull Racing – Daniel Ricciardo & Daniil Kvyat
Williams – Felipe Massa & Valtteri Bottas
McLaren – Jenson Button & Fernando Alonso
Renault – Kevin Magnussen & Jolyon Palmer
Force India – Sergio Perez & Nico Hulkenberg
Sauber – Felipe Nasr & Marcus Ericsson
Toro Rosso – Max Verstappen & Carlos Sainz Jr
Manor Marussia – Pascal Wehrlein & Rio Haryanto
Haas Racing – Romain Grosjean & Esteban Gutierrez
New Regulations for 2016 F1 season
Power Unit: The regulations on the amount of development on the engines during the course of the season have been eased, thus giving the likes of Renault and Honda a better chance of catching up with Ferrari and Mercedes.
The exhaust systems have also been revised. The turbocharger wastegate's chamber has been removed from the exhaust, thus eliminating what had effectively become a silencer, in order to make the engines louder after complaints from drivers and fans that the essence of F1 was lost with the much quieter engines.
Tyre choice: Pirelli has introduced a new dry weather compound for the 2016 season, the purple band ultra-soft compound, which will mainly be used on the street circuits. They will join the already existing orange hards, white mediums, yellow softs and the red super soft tyres.
Pirelli will now bring three compounds to each race, each driver having 13 sets. Two sets of these will be nominated by Pirelli for the race, while a third set is reserved for Q3. Beyond that, each driver is free to make his own choice of compounds.
Radio Communication limitations: The communications between the driver and his race engineer have been further reduced from last season. The driver this season will have more of a say in the strategies, the engine modes they want to run at any particular point in the race and make their own tyre choices. The teams can, however, pinpoint critical details during the race like punctures or overheating engines, they can also warn the drivers regarding similar problems being faced by other team's cars.
New F1 qualifying format: The new F1 qualifying format which involves live elimination will be implemented from the first race at Albert Park in Australia after it was ratified by the FIA. It was initially believed that the new rules would not come into force for the Spanish Grand Prix, due to the necessary software not being in place. But the glitches have now been solved and it will be introduced at the 2016 season opener in Melbourne.
Q1: Sixteen minute session. After seven minutes, the slowest driver is eliminated, a process which continues every 90 seconds thereafter until chequered flag. Seven drivers eliminated.
Q2: Fifteen minute session. After six minutes, the slowest driver is eliminated, a process which is repeated every 90 seconds until chequered flag. Seven drivers eliminated.
Q3: Fifteen minutes session. After six minutes the slowest driver is eliminated, every 90 seconds until end of session. The quickest of the two drivers left in the final 90 seconds wins pole position.
More details on the regulation changes is available on the official F1 website.