With the completion of the Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, the 2016 Formula One season has drawn to a close. Here, I’ll list of some thoughts I’ve had about the whole thing:
- Following the opening Grand Prix in Australia, I thought would be a great deal of competition between Ferrari and Mercedes. As the season progressed, Ferrari failed to deliver on their initial promising performance. The performance disparity in my opinion was not helped by the restriction on engine development. Mercedes were able to hang on to their advantage, while Renault and Honda were never able to catch up.
- The US-based Haas team added to the spectacle of the season, with highly variable performances from track to track. They are the only recent new team to have avoided languishing at the back of the grid. Hopefully they run a less ghastly livery next year.
- Everyone has since forgotten about the disastrous qualifying format change in Australia which was promptly binned in favour of the earlier version which works well. However, I think that top-10 cars should start on their Q3 tyres since the top teams can cruise through Q2 on slower, more durable tyres and gain an even greater advantage over the other teams.
- The restrictions on team radio communications during mid-season were absurd and denied viewers the same immersion inside the thought processes of the teams and the emotional states of the drivers. With Rosberg’s penalty in Britain, this clueless experimentation by the FIA could have interfered with the championship outcome had things gone differently.
- The track in Azerbaijan was exciting enough (and good fun on the F1 2016 PC game)! In reality, the race wasn’t exciting in spite of the massive top speeds down the start/finish straight. It’s also disappointing that F1 chooses to normalise oppressive dictatorships such as Bahrain, Azerbaijan and the UAE (one could include Russia and China at a stretch) while other nations such as Argentina, France, the Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden and South Africa no longer hold races. Much of this will be due to safety standards, but also the financial costs imposed by FOM. The obsequious slogan “Well Done Baku” was plastered all over the venue and was a well-deserved source of mockery.
- The conduct of Red Bull Racing continued to disappoint me. Their disdain for Renault as an engine supplier was contemptible, especially given that Renault were able to deliver an appreciable performance gain this year such that RBR won two races and nearly won at least two more. They should show Renault the courtesy of putting their name on the cars. Then, there was Mexico. Verstappen cut a corner while in 3rd place and failed to let Ferrari’s Vettel through as mandated by the rules. Verstappen held Vettel up, in the hope that his RBR team mate would pass him. Verstappen was penalised for corner-cutting and Vettel was penalised for blocking Ricciardo under braking (something Verstappen has gotten away with on numerous occasions). Thus Ricciardo was awarded 3rd and RBR got away with their dirty tricks.
- The British public is upset that Rosberg won the Driver’s Championship, evident by the conspiracy theories surrounding Hamilton’s mechanical misfortunes in Malaysia. They don’t consider that Mercedes wouldn’t want to sabotage one of their cars at the home race of their major sponsor. If Mercedes really didn’t want Hamilton to win, they could simply replace him with the likes of Ocon or Wehrlien, who have demonstrated great potential in the bottom-ranked Manor team.
- The British press is no better. For example, the BBC published a disgraceful article titled: Nico Rosberg is the 2016 Formula 1 world champion, but does he deserve it? The answer is obvious: whoever gets the most points deserves to be world champion. Other metrics simply don’t matter, the fastest driver is not entitled to be world champion. Consider that Massa’s misfortune in Singapore 2008 was a follow-on from the deliberate crash caused by Renault. Given that the race standings were essentially fixed and if the FIA decided that the race null and void, Massa would be 2008 WDC. No one complains about that, because that would be ridiculous. The same goes for 2016. Like life, F1 doesn’t need to be fair.
I am pessimistic about the changes to the 2017 regulations. The cars will be about ~5 s/lap faster due to changes in aerodynamics. This will just make overtaking even harder as the cars will find it even harder to follow each other. The retirements of Massa and Button open up opportunities for new drivers to take part. It also marks the second season of Renault’s return as an F1 team. Fans like myself from their previous run (2002 – 2010) will be hoping that the investment provided from the manufacturer will Make Renault Great Again!