The 2016 F1 Season Has Begun … Or Has It?

I have yet to hit the keyboard since the first free practice came to an end in Melbourne just over four weeks ago. What could be keeping me from the pages of Formula1blog.com, which covers the sport that I assure you I am still obsessing over day in and day out?

Maybe it is because our COO – chief opinion officer, one Negative Camber, has been on fire with his commentary and observation and does such a top-notch job that I have not seen a gap in coverage that needs addressing. Maybe it is because I have a new job that keeps me very busy and by the time I get home, take care of the kiddies, and make conversation with the wifey, there hasn’t been time or energy left to bang out a 1500 word post about the day’s headline grabbing news in F1.

Or maybe it’s something else. Maybe I just don’t feel like the season is really underway yet. We’re already two races in, but think about it, have any of us seen a race that allows us to come to any kind of real and genuine conclusion regarding Ferrari’s true pace? Have we seen Mercedes put the hammer down yet? Are McLaren truly back in the top ten and if they are, is it P10 or P7? Is Gene Haas’ F1 team, rookies in arguably the hardest racing discipline except perhaps Le Mans endurance racing, really as good as they look or are the other teams making them look a bit better than they are? No disrespect, I want nothing more than for Haas F1 to kill it this year, but I also want to make sure they don’t fall victim to beginner’s luck. On top of the F1 world today and then … somewhere in F1 purgatory tomorrow. You all know what I mean.

Let me play Johnnie L. Cohran, Jr. for a minute (famous U.S. defense attorney) and give you my opening argument as to why 2016 has not really and truly begun and why, after the first two races, I continue to seek answers to the questions raised during the off-season as teams signed drivers, unveiled cars and positioned their strategies. Questions, by the way, that would normally be mostly answered by this point in a season. But they’re not.

Melbourne

In no particular order, both Mercedes drivers completely botched the start of the race, and both Ferrari’s swept past them. Way to go Stuttgart. But then Sebastian Vettel, who looked to be on his way to a sure win, not only had that result taken away from him through no fault of his own, but to make matters worse was stuck with a tire strategy that would see him unable to challenge Lewis Hamilton for second in the later part of the race.

The other Ferrari driver, Kimi Raikkonen, who should have been able to claim a podium at the very least, retired with turbo issues in the form of fire spitting out of his airbox early on and that put an end to any real results from the stellar start by Ferrari.

What else did not go to plan? There was the missed opportunity by Toro Rosso and Max Verstappen to convert a top five qualifying into a top five finish due to the a change in pit stops for the drivers and then Max showing a bit of his [young] age and letting the situation get the best of him. Finally there was Fernando Alonso’s dramatic crash that unintentionally caused issues for everyone barring Nico Rosberg and Romain Grosjean who seemed to be the beneficiaries of the race’s red flag and what amounted to a free pit stop. It was a race with two halves and in those two halves there were winners and losers. But we definitely failed to see anything realistic regarding pace from either Ferrari or Mercedes. Let’s move on.

Bahrain

This time it is the Ferrari of Raikkonen that does not get away properly and then has to play catch up the entire race, although the Finn did salvage second place. However, due to the poor getaway, we never saw a real challenge to Rosberg who was in front from lights out to the checkers.

Sebastian Vettel did not even make it to the grid, so two races in the results for the Reds and the four-time champ are not as anyone predicted. By the way Hamilton botched his start for the second race in a row. Maybe the change last year in regards to bite point and start procedure really has made it harder for the drivers.

Williams showed all the other teams what tires not to use in Bahrain and Felipe Massa all but threw his team under the bus for their strategy call, possibly they deserved it but still. Jenson Button retired and the look on Alonso’s face was priceless … unfortunately not the kind of priceless in the Visa commercial where the hip thirty-something is being out of the ordinary on a whim with his or her date or family, leading us to believe that if we only had the right visa card we would be just as hip and by the way everywhere as well.

Lastly, the reason we could see even view Alonso’s disappointment with Button’s car pulling over to the side of the track was because he was sidelined by the FIA who did not sign off on his physical fitness to compete due to the recent crash. If it is not one thing it is another. First the crash in Melbourne then no racing in the desert, the luck, or lack of it, that the Spaniard and McLaren have had to endure, how do they do it? Fernando must do lots of meditation, I would be out of my mind with frustration by now.

Oh yeah, and as far as qualifying goes and who really has the fastest car/driver combination? How would we even know at this stage of the game when drivers such as Vettel are getting out of the car with two plus minutes left on the clock? Don’t get me started on that one folks, enough said. At least the sports decision-makers took a cue from the drivers and fans this time.

A couple of other teams that have not really shown their true potential are Force India and Renault. The prior had real pace last year and several top six finishes but this year nothing yet. The latter, while in a transitional year, still should be further up the grid in my opinion. I think we all know what is going on at Sauber so there is no surprise that the team is struggling and this might be the one area that my complaint does not hold up.

Williams is the enigma so far, they should be right at the front jockeying for big points and nipping at the heels of the big teams Merc, Ferrari and Toro Rosso but that has not happened and I am a bit confused as to why. Again, we need some clarity on where they are and when Williams puts together a complete weekend that will surely happen.

The defense rests. By the time you read this Friday practice will be in the books, Saturday’s qualifying and the race as well and I am hoping that after this weekend’s race we have a true appraisal of the state of play, as many in the F1 world like to say. Already Fernando Alonso has been cleared to race so that takes care of one issue, but in regards to everything else, well you and I will just have to wait until Sunday local race time 2pm – and if not well, then there is always Russia or Spain, or Mona…