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The excesses of Christmas and New Year may still be fresh in the mind, but the new Formula 1 season is closer than you might think.

It is just 76 days until the lights go out in Melbourne's Albert Park for the start of the Australian Grand Prix and behind the scenes in factories across Europe the 22 cars from 11 teams that will contest the season are already coming together.

As the clock ticks down to the start of the shortest period of pre-season testing in F1 history - just eight on-track days in Spain starting on 22 February - we look at the five key issues that could shape the 2016 grand prix season.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has clearly spent his Christmas break pondering how to handle the rivalry between his drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, in 2016.

The tensions between the two were largely buried through last year as Hamilton cruised to the title, but they re-emerged in the final six races as Rosberg finally found his form.

This may well have been caused by Hamilton easing off having tied up the title with three races to go. But if the German can continue the performances that led to a run of six poles and three wins with which he ended the season, the fight could be much closer in 2016.

The likelihood of Mercedes remaining the team to beat has left Wolff pondering his duty to the wider sport and he has raised the possibility of letting the drivers race more freely in 2016.

"I want the dominance to continue but if it were to continue like this I need to think what we do so we do not become the enemy," Wolff told the Mail on Sunday in an interview over the Christmas period.

"Maybe it's about unleashing them completely. Give them their own strategy."

Hamilton and Rosberg have been allowed to compete on track for the last two years, but within specific guidelines operated by the team.

Key among these has been that the lead driver always gets first choice on pit-stop timing.

This is to prevent the driver behind gaining what has been deemed an unfair advantage by stopping first and using the extra grip of new tyres to take the lead.

But it reduces the possibility of the two swapping positions and restricts racing to on the track, where passing is difficult between two evenly matched cars.

Wolff's suggestion - which is only an idea for now - would undoubtedly make life more entertaining for those watching. But it would effectively force the two drivers' engineering teams to work in opposition to each other.

And it would increase the risk of one of the drivers being beaten by a rival from another team as it could risk them ending up on an unfavourable strategy.

The background to this is that Wolff has said he will consider changing his driver line-up if the disharmony between the drivers starts to affect the team. And that remark is made in the context of Rosberg's contract being up for renewal at the end of the season.

For everyone at Mercedes, there could be quite a tightrope to walk in 2016



Ferrari were a team to a large extent re-born in 2015, the pain of a winless 2014 behind them and three excellent victories by four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel raising optimism for the future.

But can they keep it up?

Last year's progress was based on a very specific issue. The new hybrid engine had a design flaw in 2014 - its energy recovery system was under-par - and Ferrari rectified it for 2015.

But, despite being not far off engine parity with Mercedes, they remained on average 0.6 seconds a lap slower than the champions in qualifying.

In Formula 1, that's an awfully large gap to close in one winter.

The 2016 car will be the first to be produced fully by the re-shaped team under highly regarded technical director James Allison, following a Ferrari staff cull at the end of the aforementioned disastrous 2014.

Its performance relative to Mercedes will be a good indication of whether the Italian team really are on the road back to success.

And the comparison between the Ferrari chassis and that produced by Red Bull will be interesting, despite the fact their engine will likely not allow them to compete at the front.

Can McLaren avoid another horrifying year?

Fernando Alonso left Ferrari for McLaren-Honda at the end of 2014 because he felt the English team would provide him a quicker route to a third drivers' title than Maranello, where he had suffered five years of disappointments.

It did not look that way in 2015, as McLaren laboured at the back of the grid largely as a result of the dire performance and reliability of the Honda engine in the Japanese company's first year back in the sport.

But, like Ferrari in 2014, there was a very specific reason for Honda's lack of performance.

As Red Bull technical chief Adrian Newey has pointed out, the internal combustion part of the Honda engine was actually pretty decent - not a Mercedes beater, but not a million miles off. The problem was the hybrid aspect, particularly energy recovery from the turbo.

Honda were well aware of this and had by last summer laid specific plans to resolve the issue.

McLaren could, then - at least in theory - make the 2.5-second a lap leap in performance that Alonso was saying was possible in the last three or four races of last year.

But what if they don't?

read the rest here:wink:


Formula 1: Why 2016 could be Mercedes' undoing - BBC Sport
 

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Can't see them binning either driver if they bring success. Winners win, personality trait is to take risks to win. Get that and who gives a fig whether drivers get on etc...


But if they trip over each other, cause problems that cause the team to fall back into the clutches of the chasing pack? You fix it.
 

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I say let the chaps race. That is what they do. But the first time they take out their teammate, pay for the loss out of their salary. Race but race cleanly. This is F1 not NASCAR, they cannot afford to be trading paint so to speak.

F1 could help out too by changing the payout formula for mfg and drivers championship to pay out part for both instead of all the money being tied to manufacturing championship only.

And finally, please alter the formula to make it possible to race innovative cars. I would limit the total fuel allowed per race but not the flow rate. I would open the possibility to pitstops for more fuel. Allows team to run lighter but the stops will (may??) take longer. By getting rid of or raising fuel flow limits, the turbo cars could make more power for short durations but at the cost of fuel use and the total fuel limit would prevent doing this all race. It would also in theory allow a larger normally aspirated hybrid engine to run competitively (V8, V10, V12). Eliminate the rpm limit on the N/A engines so they can be competitive. Allow adjustable wastegate/boost pressure on the turbo cars. I think they can do that anyway but the fuel flow limits its value. Drop displacement of the turbo cars to 1.2 liter and allow up to 3.0l N/A engines as an alternative. Do not limit the electric on-board hp. This will get balanced by the battery storage limits and the weight of larger motors and the energy harvest capabilities. Reward fuel efficiency and penalize weight and fuel hogs. Hell I would allow NOs if they want it, lol.

I long for the days when Ken Tyrell was able to build his own car and win with it. I miss the days when the best innovator could beat the team with the best budget. I miss the burnt metal smell of screaming V12's and turbo V6's that only had to last for a qualifying session or for one race. Make the sport interesting and there will be enough advertising money for all the teams to eat well.

Irish
 
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