The 2014 and 2015 Formula One seasons were decidedly one-sided, with Mercedes AMG Petronas and Lewis Hamilton winning both championships by a significant margin. Although their biggest competitors, Scuderia Ferrari, set quick times at winter testing, the Maranello-based outfit have not had the start to the 2016 season that they would have wanted.
With reliability issues at both races so far and the team only managing to have one driver finish each race, they appear to be further from the title than last year, where they were the German outfit’s closest contenders.
However, given the talent they possess and the power the engine has otherwise shown, they could still be the most significant fighters for the title this year.
Mercedes look to be strong contenders to win the title a third year running, but it is still early days in the season. We explore 5 non-Mercedes drivers who could be title contenders this year:
The Australian Red Bull driver and teammate Daniil Kvyat were plagued by reliability issues in the 2015 season, with the team’s contentious relationship with engine manufacturers Renault played out publicly.
Despite this, both drivers managed a series of strong race finishes, with Kvyat even scoring his career-first podium at the Hungarian Grand Prix, where Red Bull had a 2-3 podium finish.
Ricciardo had high points finishes at the Grands Prix of Australia and Bahrain, finishing in 4th both times. Although teammate Kvyat had a DNF in Bahrain, his 7th place finish in Australia has contributed to the rebranded Red Bull – TAG Heuer (who are still on Renault power) at second in the standings, compounded by Ferrari‘s failure to fire on both cylinders.
He is currently at third in the drivers’ standings, and not a significant margin behind reigning champion Lewis Hamilton, who is currently in second. Ricciardo seriously taxed teammate four-time champion Sebastian Vettel in their time together at Red Bull, and if he can put in consistent, and even stronger performances, as he has shown himself to be capable of in the past, we could see the Australian take his first ever championship.