CAR’s F1 2016 preview: team by team, CAR+ April 2016

Published: 14 March 2016

► Exclusive preview to the 2016 F1 season
► Renault team returns to the table
► Haas F1 team arrives ready to do battle 

Mercedes AMG Petronas 

The most complete team in F1 in 2016 – and possibly of all time. With a brand new power unit and big aero gains on the chassis, their biggest threat might be the drivers crashing into each other – or one of them sustaining an eye injury in a freak hat-hurling incident.

Lewis Hamitlon

Favourite to seal a third consecutive title, so long as he spends more time with his engineers than with rappers. 

We say: true test of greatness starts here.

Nico Rosberg

Has the speed, but does he have the consistency? With Merc protégé Pascal Wehrlein lurking in the wings, a defining season. WE SAY Only Nico believes he is not a number two driver. This is his last chance to convince the rest of us.

Scuderia Ferrari   

Or, to give them their full title, The Team Most Likely To Topple Mercedes, if their pre-season hype is to be believed. Time for the Scuderia to show up, or shut up. 

Sebastian Vettel 

Says Hamilton’s recent dominance has damaged F1, thereby qualifying Seb as the man with the shortest memory in the sport’s history. Still, everyone in F1 wants him to be a proper challenger this year, even Mercedes!

We say: Has a real chance of hustling the Mercs into errors, then building pressure.

Kimi Raikkonen 

At 36, he’s F1’s oldest driver, and this is probably his swansong. Not a man who ever thinks he’s got something to prove, and yet…

We say: You just never know. He has the talent, and the mischief, to alter the plot. 

Williams Martini racing

Made too many mistakes last year. Will need to up their game to retain third place in the constructors’ standings.

Felipe Massa

Amiable and experienced, but beginning to live off past glories.

We say: His epitaph will read: ‘was two corners from the title.’

Vallteri Bottas

Undoubtedly a major talent, but he’s 26 now and still not a winner. Clock is ticking.

We say: Frustration will show.

Sahara Force India

The Leicester City Football Club of F1 – they achieve a lot with ridiculously little. Expect them to pull up more trees this year.

Nico Hulkenberg

Fast, reliable and experienced. Huge asset for Force India, and no Le Mans distraction this time.

We say: Controls the midfield.

Sergio Perez

A much more complete driver now than he was during his tricky year at McLaren in 2013.

We say:He won’t shock us.

Renault F1

Welcome back to the constructors’ fold. But you might find it harder this time around…

Kevin Magnussen

Few drivers get a second chance. Kev’s got it; he has to make it count.

We say: Possible dark horse. 

Jolyon Palmer

The 161st British F1 driver. Better than his dad (who got no podiums from 83 starts).

We say: Will find it very tough.

Haas F1 team

Bankrolled by machine-tool gazillionaire Gene Haas and with a suspiciously close Ferrari tie-up, this looks serious.

Romain Grosjean

A mighty leap of faith for 10-time podium-occupying Frenchman to quit Lotus for the unknown. 

We say: It’s a Ferrari. He’ll be fast.

Esteban Gutierrez

Still only 24, with two Sauber seasons and a year as Vettel understudy behind him.

We say: 2016’s fastest Mexican.

Red Bull Racing

Still a top drawer racing team; they just need a decent engine. Unlikely to happen this year with Renault.

Daniel Riccardo

One of the fastest and most impetuous drivers on the grid. Needs a winning car.

We say: Time to look elsewhere?

Daniil Kvyat 

After a sticky start, came on strong in 2015. Year of consolidation at F1’s top table ahead.

We say: Still just 21. Patience!

Scuderia Toro Rosso

The switch to Ferrari engines is a step up from Renault, but the year-old motors will limit ambitions as the year progresses.

Max Verstappen

Fast and a brilliant racer, and still only just old enough to drive on the road. His last year at Toro Rosso, surely?

We say: Car will stunt his overtaking antics.

Carlos Sainz

Played second-fiddle to Verstappen last year by dint of having a driving licence. Deserves praise in his own right.

We say: Underrated. One to watch.

Sauber F1 team

Perennial mid-fielders, now cash-strapped. Hard to see them troubling the scorers this year.

Felipe Nasr

The fastest Brazilian in F1? Deserves a chance, but this car won’t give it to him.

We say: At 23 he’s still young enough, but F1 is cruel. Hope his CV is up to date.

Marcus Ericsson 

No Ronnie Peterson, but no Slim Borgudd either. 

We say: Who was that Swedish guy – drove for Sauber?

McLaren Honda

Power of dreams? Last year Honda’s motor had the power of nightmares. Things can only get better from here.

Fernando Alonso

Still one of the best drivers in F1; just needs an F1 car to drive.

We say: Will be more fired up than the car in 2016.

Jenson Button

May not have many years left; can he go out on a high?

We say:Always competes. Will do so again.

Manor Racing

With a 2016 Mercedes engine, they should make significant progress.

Pascal Wehrlein

Merc favoured son and reigning DTM champ. Interesting.

We say: Merc rate him. Could be the next Nico Rosberg.

Rio Haryanto

Amazing what a bit – make that a whole heap – of government money can buy.

We say: Can’t buy me points.

By Tom Clarkson

F1 correspondent, BBC pitlane man, accesser of all areas, head beans-spiller