The driver and team line-ups are more or less finalised for the 2016 F1 season, which promises to be the longest ever with 20 races on the calendar spanning more than 9 months.
So, what should the prospective fantasy manager look out for?
Lewis Hamilton is the bookies favourite to retain his title, by some margin, with odds as short as 1-2 on. His nearest rival is team-mate Nico Rosberg who can be had for 7 to 2.
I would agree that Hamilton is favourite once again to win the WDC but the odds are crazily short and his value in the Fatasy-F1-League at £45M is a bit steep. Even if he does win the title again I expect it to be much closer with Rosberg winning more races and Ferrari mounting a more serious challenge this year round – Vettel will win more races in 2016 than he did in 2015 in my opinion. The canny fantasy manager may look elsewhere for value for money.
Don’t forget Rosberg has beaten Hamilton in both qualifying and the races on the last 3 occasions, a feat he has never accomplished before. Is this because he relaxed knowing the title was won? Did Hamilton relax and not quite perform at his best? Only time will tell, perhaps Mercedes may feel that 2016 belongs to Rosberg and it is time they put more effort behind their less successful driver?
If you thought Hamilton was an odds-on favourite, then Mercedes are absolutely nailed-on for the constructors title and I would agree this is another season that the silver arrows will dominate. But I don’t think they will dominate quite as much as they did in 2015, when they were beaten fair and square on a couple of occasions.
Having said that there aren’t enough teams who are likely to score big points so the fantasy manager will almost certainly pick Mercedes as one of their engine/chassis or aero picks.
Ferrari were the only team to consistently challenge Mercedes and they only really managed to beat them on a handful of occasions. I see the Scuderia as stepping up a level for 2016 though and winning a handful of races this time and pushing Mercedes for most of the races.
Ferrari are therefore good value for money this season and Vettel is probably the most likely driver not driving a Mercedes to win a few races.
However, Raikkonen is not likely to have as bad a season as he had in 2015 and so is also good value, expect him to up his game for 2016 and whilst he is probably still going to play second fiddle to his German team-mate, I expect him to beat Vettel at least now and then.
It’s hard to see anyone winning outside the top teams, Williams were the clear third placed team last time round but I think they may struggle to maintain this position in 2016. Bottas is probably their best driver now that Massa is getting close to retirement, but I don’t think either is particularly good value this time around.
Red Bull will also struggle as their well-publicised engine woes continue, which is a pity as they probably have the best chassis/aero combination on the grid. Indeed their package is good enough to let them challenge on occasions when the track allows, Monaco and Singapore being circuits that may favour them. They may also do well in the wet when engine power is less of a factor. Ricciardo and Kvyat may be worth picking for certain types of conditions and certain tracks but probably not good value over the course of the season.
Force India showed a few glimpses of their potential but there isn’t much to suggest 2016 will see a big improvement in their fortunes, expect solid points but not much more from them. Hulkenberg has the potential to be a race winner if given the car to do it but they don’t quite seem to have that ability.
It will be interesting to see if Renault can improve the Lotus team’s fortunes – their highlight for 2015 was the podium scored by Grosjean at Spa but the Frenchman has left to join the new Haas team so it is unclear what 2016 holds for the French team.
Sauber, Torro Rosso and Manor are all likely to struggle again in 2016, squabbling over the minor points and struggling to even do that in the case of Manor who I think will succumb to financial problems sometime during the season.
McLaren may be the surprise package for 2016 as they seemed to overcome some of their problems towards the end of the season – Alonso set a lap at Abu Dhabi within 2 tenths of the fastest lap so the car does have potential.
McLaren and either of their driver is probably worth a gamble due to their very cheap prices based on a disastrous 2015, surely they must improve? The question is by how much? I suspect we will see them in the midfield and possibly just off the podium at some races.
Finally we have the new Haas F1 team – a gamble if you are brave, new teams tend to struggle to score points and I see them as scoring the odd point here and there during the season ammassing a total around 20 or so over the season.
Grosjean is a decent driver with some experience but the jury is still out regards Esteban Gutiérrez who has only a little experience in F1 and a best of 7th place at Japan in 2013.
I don’t have a great record at this type of prediction so take it all with a pinch of salt and I reserve the right to change the above based on the testing sessions!
So, take your pick and let’s hope we have a good season of racing in 2016.
You can register for free and pick your team at http://www.fantasy-f1-league.com