Formula 1 in 2016: Your pre-season warm-up

 

More races, new locations, new teams and noisier cars

Formula 1 moves up a gear when the 2016 season gets underway at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on Sunday.

There are a record 21 races on the F1 calendar this year, including a new race in Baku, Azerbaijan (it’s between Russia and Iran), and 2016 sees the entrance of new U.S. team Haas, the first American-led Formula 1 team in three decades.

When the action starts at Albert Park this weekend, it’ll be noisier too, thanks to an FIA rule change that modifies the cars’ exhaust systems, in a bid to create a deeper roar.

A clash of the titans?

Last year’s winner Lewis Hamilton, driving for Mercedes, is again favorite for the drivers’ championship, while teammate Nico Rosberg is rated the next-best bet. However, 2016 may see Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel go head-to-head with Hamilton and challenge the dominance of Mercedes. The pair has shared no less than seven of the last eight Formula 1 championships, Hamilton with three and Vettel with four, but barely battled directly for the honors.

Many parts of the Formula 1 world believe Ferrari has improved its competitiveness enough to give Mercedes a run for its money in 2016, and there has even been talk of a vintage season in prospect.

Haas positions itself for debut

It may not be starting off as a title challenger, but the presence of the Haas team on the grid provides another interesting dimension to the season. Founded by industrialist Gene Haas, the team already has roots in motorsport. It’s based in Kannapolis, NC, in the same facilities as Haas’ NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winning team, Stewart-Haas Racing. The outfit also has a base in Banbury, UK. Its cars, with Ferrari engines, will be driven by experienced French driver Romain Grosjean, and Esteban Gutierrez, of Mexico, while 17-year-old American Santino Ferrucci has recently been signed as the team’s development driver.

If you feel like taking a closer look at the all-new, all-action American team, the United States Grand Prix takes place at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, from Oct 21. to 23.

You can watch the start of the 2016 Formula 1 season when NBCS screens the Australian Grand Prix at 1:00 a.m. ET on Sunday.

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