It’s that time of the F1 season where hopes and dreams still exist, with no serious on-track running in place to determine a pecking order or title favourite.
What better time to make some predictions ready for the year of racing ahead?
Each member of the Badger GP team had 20 questions to answer in the build up to Melbourne, to be published and reviewed after the season finale in Abu Dhabi, where we can all laugh about how optimistic/pessimistic/foolish/clairvoyant we all were.
Adam Le Feurve: Vettel will claim it in Brazil. Joe Diamond: Lewis, surely? Laura Leslie: Sebastian Vettel by a whisker. Charlie Eustice: Sebastian Vettel. Jaap Grolleman: Sorry to be boring: Lewis Hamilton. Sarah Merritt: Rosberg. Just a gut feeling. Craig Norman: We need a new champion; Nico Rosberg. Rob Cureton: Hamilton. Rosberg and Vettel will lose out squabbling amongst themselves. Ben Briscoe: Rosberg, a just have a feeling Hamilton won’t be consistent enough this season.
ALF: Mercedes, wrapped up in Japan. JD: Mercedes, surely? LL: Mercedes quite comfortably. CE: Mercedes, but only by about 200 points. JG: Sorry to be boring: Mercedes. SM: Mercedes. CN: German efficiency rules. Mercedes. RC: Mercedes, inevitably. BB: Mercedes, by a mile. People will whinge.
Will McLaren reach the chequered flag in Australia?
ALF: Yes, but no points. JD: No, surely? LL: Yes with one car, in the points. CE: Yes, but only with one car. JG: Yes. SM: Eric [Boullier] talked about this with me. When pushed on goals and aims for the season he wouldn’t be drawn in anything other than getting two cars (to start) and finish! So I have to believe that’s realistic. CN: Both cars will finish, but both a lap down. RC: Yes, but only Button. BB: One of the two will.
Verstappen or Sainz?
ALF: Sainz, will surprise everyone. JD: Sainz to cause an upset (pending any more awful luck with reliability). LL: Verstappen eventually after tough start. CE: Verstappen. JG: Verstappen. SM: Max. He’s got balls! CN: It’s Sainz’s turn for all the luck this season. RC: Sainz. Verstappen won’t deal well with second season pressure to perform. BB: Verstappen, but not by much. He’ll try and over-reach.
Best grand prix of the season?
ALF: Belgium, rain showers cause mid-race chaos. JD: Austin, for when Lewis refers to Taylor Swift as his ‘little sister’ on Instagram. LL: Canada hopefully as I’m going! CE: Hmmm, hopefully Canada will bounce back to its sparkling best after last season’s snorefest. Can’t even remember what happened in ’15! Let’s go with Canada. JG: Brazil. SM: Let’s say Hungary. CN: Baku. Have you seen the track? Guaranteed bedlam. RC: USA, as tensions between Hamilton, Rosberg and Vettel mount towards the end of the season. BB: British (with mixed weather).
ALF: Hamilton vs Rosberg gets nasty after 3 races. JD: Lewis and Nico squabbling again. LL: Either tyres or engines. Probably engines if Mercedes dominate. CE: Rio Haryanto turns out to be Pastor Maldonado in a very well-made mask. I mean, another fake spat between Hamilton and Rosberg. JG: Hamilton crashing into Rosberg, sealing the WDC. SM: Taylor Swift dating an F1 driver immediately after the Austin GP! CN: Pirelli threaten to pull out after yet more criticism of their tyre construction. RC: Rosberg blocks Hamilton during Canada Q2 in order to see him knocked out. BB: 19th change in qualifying rules which actually prevents drivers with surnames starting with B, G, R and V competing.
Most welcome surprise?
ALF: Haas vs Manor creates great racing. JD: Force India ahead of the Red Bulls. LL: McLaren showing some form as the European season starts. CE: Renault’s mid-season resurgence. JG: Haas. SM: STR’s first half of the season. CN: The change in the qualifying session actually providing some excitement. RC: Haas marching up the order throughout the season to be scoring points consistently. BB: Manor and Haas adding something to the back of the grid.
Button or Alonso?
ALF: BUTTON. JD: Alonso. LL: Button. CE: Eyebrows (Alonso). JG: Alonso. SM: BUTTON! You had to ask me?! CN: Fernando. RC: Button. BB: Alonso, if the car improves enough.
Will a midfield team (Sauber, Force India, Toro Rosso, Williams) win a grand prix?
ALF: WILLIAMS. They’ll win at least one race. JD: Nah. LL: Williams will win one race. CE: Williams should win a race this year if they can nail strategies. I think Force India could be looking at a couple of podiums too. STR will be strong points finishers at first but get out-developed, and unfortunately for them, Sauber will end up near the back. JG: Sorry to be boring; no. SM: I’d love to say yes, but I think no. CN: Nope, not a chance. RC: Williams will win in the first half of the season. BB: No, sadly not.
Will Bernie Ecclestone still be F1 supremo come year end?
ALF: YES, it’s inevitable. JD: He’s taking that mantle to his grave, so yes. LL: Do bears poop in the woods? CE: Yup. Bernie 4 lyf. (That’s not an endorsement). JG: No. SM: Yes. CN: Yep. RC: Or one of his clones, yes. BB: Yes, there is no Sepp Blatter moment on his horizon.
How soon until Manor and Haas score points?
ALF: Both will score by the chequered flag in Monaco. JD: Haas will, Manor won’t. LL: Manor won’t. Haas might if attrition plays a part in a race. CE: Toward the end of the European Season, Hungary maybe. JG: Sorry, no. SM: By Monaco. CN: By the end of the European season. RC: Monaco after a chaotic race. BB: Inside the first 6 races.
Will Renault finish in the Top 5 constructors?
ALF: No. JD: Nope. LL: No chance. CE: Only as Red Bull’s hidden engine supplier. (No basically). JG: No. SM: Nope, I think not. CN: Not unless they’ve spent £600m already. RC: Not this season, too many teething problems. BB: No, Force India and Toro Rosso to squeeze them out.
Will there be a major rule revision through the course of the season?
ALF: Of course, this is F1! JD: Another tweak to qualifying, ‘for sure’. LL: Yes. Qualifying.
CE: This is what F1 does best! They’ll probably outlaw pets in the paddock so Roscoe and Coco won’t be allowed. More likely, they might change qualy rules again. JG: No. SM: Yes. I think so. CN: Not a major one, but Pirelli will be forced to alter their compounds after a rash of incidents. RC: Qualifying will be re-thought after complaints from drivers and technical issues, probably by Spain. BB: Does a bear s**t in the woods?
Best rookie (from Wehrlein, Haryanto or Palmer)?
ALF: Palmer. Haryanto will struggle and be replaced. JD: Palmer, who will prove more than a match for K-Mag. LL: Palmer. CE: The one what won DTM. Wehrlein. JG: Wehrlein. SM: Pascal. CN: Wehrlein. RC: Palmer. BB: Wehrlein, based on absolutely nothing.
Hulkenberg or Perez?
ALF: PEREZ. Quietly gets on with it and gets the job done. JD: The Hulk. LL: Perez. CE: Perez by a whisker (Sorry Nico, you’re still my fave). JG: Perez. SM: Hulk. With that new lid, he’s green and mean! CN: Perez, probably due to a podium or two. RC: Perez. BB: Perez, though I like both, he is growing into a more mature driver over time.
The ‘Drive of the Season’ will come from which driver?
ALF: Verstappen. He’ll have at least one epic race (but Sainz will do better over the course of the season). JD: Alonso in a wet race at some point, somewhere. LL: Button on a wet day. CE: Carlos Sainz on his way to fourth place somewhere for some reason allegedly. JG: Verstappen. SM: KMag. CN: Romain Grosjean. RC: Vettel scoring a podium after a technical issue in qualifying. BB: Verstappen, predictably.
Can Force India finish 5th again?
ALF: Yes they can and will be at least 5th. JD: Yes. Maybe 4th? 3rd?! LL: No. They’ll finish 4th. CE: I think they’re looking good for fourth this season, with an epic battle between themselves and Toro Rosso. JG: Yes! SM: Yes. CN: No. RC: Definitely. BB: Yes, potentially 4th if they can hook it up for an entire season!
Bottas or Massa?
ALF: Bottas. Massa won’t be far behind though. JD: Bottas to sit Massa on his ass. LL: Bottas. CE: Valtteri for me. Massa’s racecraft is still good considering his age (I went there) but Bottas is in the Goldilocks zone of just young enough and just experienced enough to come into amazing form and with any luck, win his first race. JG: Bottas, Massa to retire. SM: Hmmmmmmm. Bottas. CN: Bottas. Had the edge for two years and that will just continue. RC: Bottas. BB: Bottas but he’ll need to find his mojo again.
Will Red Bull announce a switch to another engine manufacturer for 2017?
ALF: Probably, or at least another name for the Renault. JD: Mmmmmm no. LL: Yes. Honda. CE: I literally don’t think there’s anyone left. With a works team I think Renault should get stronger – not sure how much data they’re sharing with ‘TAG Heuer’ but it can’t be a bad thing for RBR, right? JG: No. SM: Nope. CN: Doubt it. They’ll threaten to pull out more than anything else. RC: No, as no one else will work with them. BB: I hope so but I have my doubts. Horner does himself no favours.
Will we get a GP with under 10 cars finishing?
ALF: No chance. JD: No. LL: No. CE: Maybe in Monaco, but the V6s are too reliable for too many races with more than a handful out. JG: No. SM: Only if there’s weather at play. The cars are more reliable now. CN: Not unless Mercedes and Ferrari have taken a page out of Honda’s 2015 playbook, which they won’t. RC: Not a chance! BB: No, sadly not, reliability of these cars seems to get better and better unless you are McLaren.