► 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Amiable and experienced, but beginning to live off past glories.
We say: His epitaph will read: ‘was two corners from the title.’
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.
Fast, reliable and experienced. Huge asset for Force India, and no Le Mans distraction this time.
We say: Controls the midfield.
A much more complete driver now than he was during his tricky year at McLaren in 2013.
We say:He won’t shock us.
Welcome back to the constructors’ fold. But you might find it harder this time around…
Few drivers get a second chance. Kev’s got it; he has to make it count.
We say: Possible dark horse.
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.
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.
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.
One of the fastest and most impetuous drivers on the grid. Needs a winning car.
We say: Time to look elsewhere?
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.
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.
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.
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.
No Ronnie Peterson, but no Slim Borgudd either.
We say: Who was that Swedish guy – drove for Sauber?
Power of dreams? Last year Honda’s motor had the power of nightmares. Things can only get better from here.
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.
May not have many years left; can he go out on a high?
We say:Always competes. Will do so again.
With a 2016 Mercedes engine, they should make significant progress.
Merc favoured son and reigning DTM champ. Interesting.
We say: Merc rate him. Could be the next Nico Rosberg.
Amazing what a bit – make that a whole heap – of government money can buy.
We say: Can’t buy me points.