I look forward to three teams battling it out for glory this season, with more overtaking at the sharp end, a better, more equable division of money to prevent half the paddock being permanently broke and a vision for the future that extends beyond the selfishly short term. Oh, yes – and I believe in the tooth fairy too.
Alas, none of the above will happen. Formula One will continue to be mired in politics, Mercedes will dominate once again and half the teams in the world’s most glamorous sport will still be raggedy-ass skint.
Yet doggedly – perhaps stupidly – I am looking forward to the new season. While it is difficult to see either Red Bull or Williams raising their game to confront the Silver Arrows, there is optimism that Ferrari may do just that, and win more than the three races they took off the Lewis Hamilton/Nico Rosberg power axis last year.
The expectation is the Mercedes hegemony will continue. They were so commanding last year they were able to down tools on their 2015 car early on and concentrate on developing a new model. But Ferrari’s technical director, Britain’s impressive James Allison, should maintain the improvement the Scuderia made last year, after they failed to win a race in 2014, the first time that had happened for 21 years. Ferrari are the biggest, most famous team in F1. If they can compete strongly it would reinvigorate the sport.
The reality is the championship is likely to be fought out between Hamilton and Rosberg, just as it has been for the past two seasons. Last year Hamilton was more dominant than he had been in 2014 but the final race of the season, in Abu Dhabi at the end of November, gave us something to ponder.
Hamilton had won the championship with his victory in Austin in October, with three races remaining. Rosberg had the better of him in the next two grands prix, in Mexico and Brazil. By the time the circus arrived at the Yas Marina circuit, where the British driver had won twice before, he was desperate to reassert his supremacy but he could not.
Yet Hamilton could not be accused of not trying. He cut swathes of time into Rosberg’s lead after his second tyre change and argued with his team over strategy. Rosberg, who had qualified for pole with a stunning lap, still romped home by 8.2sec. Hamilton won 11 of the first 12 poles last year, as well as 10 of the 16 races it took to clinch the title, but Rosberg finished with three straight wins and a run of six poles.
Hamilton is the most natural and fastest driver in F1 but suddenly he was the second quickest of the Mercedes drivers and there were signs he was taking his superiority over Rosberg for granted.
An important figure at Mercedes said recently: “Lewis believes he is three-tenths quicker than Nico but if he isn’t he automatically thinks there is something wrong with his car.”
Rosberg is famously assiduous in the work he does with his team. That is not to say Hamilton is lazy but like Ian Botham, who also relied on natural talent, he does not spend too much time in the nets.
There are still plenty of things wrong with F1. There is not enough competition between the leading teams and not enough overtaking. Everything is too technical and too expensive and TV viewers are tuning off. But F1, despite itself, just may improve on a disappointing 2015.
This article was written by Paul Weaver, for theguardian.com on Thursday 7th January 2016 10.00 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010