It’s a new year, and seeing as though every other sports writer seems to be doing a look back at what was, I’ve gazed into the crystal ball (recently re-serviced, shod with brand-new Pirelli ultrasofts and running a TAG-Heuer engine) to come up with 16 things that will be (or might be, we can assess them this time next year) in F1 and MotoGP for 2016.
Feedback, good and bad, is always welcome. In no particular order, here goes.
1. Two wheels first. Jack Miller is going to finish in the top 10 in the world championship this year. He’ll be fitter than ever (and needs to be, apparently), the new bike is the best he’s ever ridden, and the new Michelins will marry nicely with his style. We’ll find out this year if his stay in the top flight will be a long one or not.
2. Kimi Raikkonen’s replacement at Ferrari in 2017 will be either Daniel Ricciardo, Romain Grosjean or Max Verstappen. Valtteri Bottas is out. I know who my money is on.
3. Mercedes will romp to both the F1 drivers’ and constructors’ titles again. Ferrari (well, Sebastian Vettel) will give them more of a fight, but as Christian Horner rightly asserts, their advantage is so huge that stability on the rules front means more of the same, sadly for the spectacle.
4. Casey Stoner will make a wildcard appearance on a Ducati this year. Maybe even two. Watching ‘Hitting The Apex’ over Christmas reminded me of his genius. I still can’t see him ever wanting a full-time comeback though. Imagine how much he’ll hate the attention that comes with him doing even one race if his arm gets twisted hard enough to line up again?
5. There’ll be plenty of talk about Mercedes splitting Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg for 2017, but it won’t happen. Rosberg is bright enough that he’ll stay where he is, drive a great car that he can win 3-4 races a season in, collect a decent salary and unofficially become his team’s number two while setting up his post-F1 career. It’s not a bad life. Filed under Webber, M.
6. McLaren will finish in the top five in the constructors’ championship next year and both drivers will finish on the podium at some stage. And not like this.
7. Much as I hate to say it (and he denies it), Valentino Rossi will never have a better chance than last year to win the MotoGP title again. For the sake of the sport, let’s hope he has another strong campaign in 2016.
8. Haas won’t embarrass themselves in their first F1 season. Wouldn’t surprise me at all if Grosjean is a regular points-scorer in the second half of the season.
9. For all the talk that 21 F1 races in 2016 is too many, we won’t have had 21 races by the end of the season.
10. The F1 champion will be Lewis Hamilton.
11. Hamilton’s third straight world title will cause me to reach for the mute button on Sky’s cheerleading/commentary more than once. Raise a glass at home every time he’s perceived to be “robbed” across the season.
12. The lead-up to the Australian Grand Prix will feature a photo/vision opportunity featuring bewildered local AFL players with equally bewildered international F1 drivers, with the attempted small talk some of the most awkward of the year. I hope nobody hurts themselves. This time.
13. More media will complain about having to go to Azerbaijan than any race in F1 history. Especially the ones who complain about going to most races anyway.
14. The MotoGP champion will be Marc Marquez, and I suspect it won’t be close.
15. For four drivers on the F1 grid, 2016 will be their final season. Not counting the Manor drivers in this, as there’s always someone with a bigger pile of money than the people with the big piles of money out there who drive for them, if anyone is paying attention.
16. I will make 17 fearless predictions for 2017 at this time next year (at least that’s guaranteed to happen).