Exactly one month ago the 2015 Formula One season wrapped up from Abu Dhabi and we are just under three months until the 2016 season opener from Melbourne, Australia. Lewis Hamilton heads to 2016 gunning for his third consecutive title and fourth overall. Both Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel are within shouting distance of Alain Prost for second all-time in grand prix victories. Meanwhile, Nico Rosberg hopes to dethrone his teammate and remain the top German and the rest of the grid just hope to be remotely competitive.
1. There Will Be At Least Four Race Winners and One Will Be a First Time Winner
After back-to-back seasons that saw only three winners from two teams, I think we will see a little more diversity on the top step of the podium in 2016. The Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg will still be there. Sebastian Vettel will give those two more of a run for their money. I think Red Bull could bounce back. Williams could have one fall into their laps. Who knows? Maybe Max Verstappen wins one in the rain.
2. Nico Rosberg Will Not Lead Germans in Victories
And you know what that means: Sebastian Vettel will win more races than Rosberg. I think Vettel and Ferrari made big leaps in 2015 and while he only won three races, he is on the coattails of Mercedes. I think 2016 will be the season remembered for the Lewis Hamilton vs. Sebastian Vettel battle we have all been waiting for. They have been racing in the same series since the middle of 2007 but never have been on top at the same time. When Hamilton has won his championship, Vettel has been on a playing field below him. When Vettel dominated, Hamilton wasn't at his best. The title might not come down to the final race but the first 18 rounds should be great.
3. There Will Be At Least One Incident Where a Mercedes Retires Because of Contact With Another Mercedes
I think tension will be at an all-time high in the Mercedes camp especially if Vettel provides a greater challenge. I think at one race you could see Hamilton feeling the pressure of Vettel and Ferrari breathing down his neck and Rosberg feeling the pressure of being once again running second fiddle to Hamilton while also have Vettel ahead of him and those two have a moment where each is trying to make up ground and end up ruining each other's race.
4. Alain Prost Will Still Have A Share Of Second All-Time In Victories After the 2016 Season
As of today, the record book for Grand Prix victories looks like this:
Michael Schumacher- 91
Alain Prost- 51
Lewis Hamilton- 43
Sebastian Vettel- 42
I could see Hamilton and Vettel each winning about seven races. I don't think we will see a double-digit race winner next season and I don't think Hamilton will win nine. I think Prost will be fine for a season. His slip in the record books will come in 2017.
5. Haas F1 Scores At Least One Points Before Hungary
Maybe I am being too optimistic but I think Haas F1's entrance into Formula One will be a thousand times better than the entrances of Virgin Racing (now Manor), Lotus Racing (then-Caterham) and HRT in 2010. I think the team will struggle on reliability at the start of the season but I think they will have more pace than expected. I think Romain Grosjean could steal a point at Monaco or Montreal at the earliest.
6. Manor Scores At Least Two Points
Especially if they hire Pascal Wehrlein (although there could be an issue with FIA Super License points) and Alexander Rossi (although I don't see this happening because Rossi is American and Americans don't get breaks in Formula One and someone will have more money than him and get the seat). I think Manor could finish ahead of Haas F1 in the Constructors' Championship but they have lost John Booth and Graeme Lowdon and that could be a massive set back just when it looked like the team could take a step in the right direction.
7. McLaren Will Be At Least the Second-Best British Constructor
McLaren has been crap for the last two seasons and it couldn't get much worse than 2015. We aren't sure if Fernando Alonso will be back but all signs point to him returning. Jenson Button is back for one more rodeo. Honda will have an offseason to pick up on their power deficiency to the rest of the field. They finished ahead of Manor this year and that shouldn't be an issue next year. Lotus' future is still uncertain as the sale to Renault is still being finalized. I think they can finish ahead of Lotus, which has no real leader (Pastor Maldonado is the senior driver). I think they can definitely jump Sauber and I think Toro Rosso could fall down to earth.
8. A Driver That Has Never Had a 100-Plus Point Season Scores 100 Points or More
The century-mark use to be extremely difficult to obtain and was normally reserved for men whose name ended in "macher" but since the points system changed in 2010, 100 points isn't even enough to crack the top five in the championship. Sixteen drivers have cracked 100 points on 58 occasions, 43 of those since 2010. I think Daniil Kvyat could crack 100 points (he fell five short in 2015) and perhaps one of the Force India drivers could continue on the rise of that team and score 100 points. Sergio Pérez scored 78 points last year and Nico Hülkenberg scored 58 points. They both would have to significantly improve but maybe Force India could be the surprise of 2016.
9. There Will Be At Least Two Driver Changes During The Season
I don't know where they will be but Manor will likely feature one and the other could come at McLaren if the team continues to be mired at the back of the field and Alonso and/or Button get sick of it, opening the door for the long awaited debut of Stoffel Vandoorne.
10. At Least One Driver Who Didn't Score in 2015 Scores At Least 21 Points
This is a stretch prediction. Drivers who didn't score in 2015 and have seats or are in running for seats in 2016 are Roberto Merhi, Alexander Rossi, Will Stevens, Kevin Magnussen, Esteban Gutiérrez, Jolyon Palmer, Pascal Wehrlein and Stoffel Vandoorne. I think the Merhi-era is over in Formula One. I think Rossi would be lucky to be back in 2016. I don't see Stevens doing it even if he does return. Magnussen's Formula One career is over at the ripe-old age of 23 years old. I think it would be a stretch for Gutiérrez to do it and I don't see Vandoorne competing in Formula One next year. That leaves us Palmer and Wehrlein. Last year, Lotus drivers Grosjean and Maldonado scored 51 points and 27 points respectively. It's not impossible but as I said above, with the ownership of that team uncertain, that could play heavily into the competitiveness of Lotus. Twenty-one points for Manor with Wehrlein would be truly remarkable but I think it would be a stretch for that pairing.
11. A Track On the 2016 Schedule Announces It Won't Be On the 2017 Schedule
The early favorite is Austin followed by Hockenheimring, Monza and Baku in that order... at least that is the way I have it in my book.
12. Formula One is Agreed to be Sold Before End of 2016
It has been rumored through out all of 2015. I am not sure if it is the American-Qatari group that features Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross or some other group but I think CVC Capital Partners will sell their controlling stakes in the series.
Yesterday, the 2016 sports car predictions were posted and don't forget to check out predictions for both NASCAR and many other motorsports series from around the world.