LONDON Team by team prospects for the Formula One season starting in Melbourne on March 26, listed in 2016 championship order. The numbers are those the drivers have selected for the duration of their grand prix careers:
- - - -
44-Lewis Hamilton (Britain), 77-Valtteri Bottas (Finland)
Bottas has replaced world champion Nico Rosberg in the big move of the winter. The Finn did most laps in testing (628) and Mercedes the most kilometres (5,102). Triple champion Hamilton did 468 laps and was slightly slower. Mercedes have won 51 of the 59 races since the V6 turbo hybrid power units were introduced in 2014. Last season they were on pole in 20 of 21 races. Maintaining that domination will be tough, and new regulations have given rivals a chance to close the gap. Technical head Paddy Lowe has left and James Allison joined.
Likely outcome: Fourth successive constructors' title or runners-up. Hamilton is favourite for drivers' crown.
3-Daniel Ricciardo (Australia), 33-Max Verstappen (Netherlands)
The only drivers outside Mercedes to win races last year. Will the RB13 car be lucky for Red Bull? The initial signs are that Renault have made a step up with the Tag Heuer-branded power unit, even though there were reliability problems in testing. Red Bull may not have revealed their true pace yet but appear to be behind Mercedes and Ferrari. Verstappen and Ricciardo will be fighting each other as much as rivals.
Likely outcome: Top-three finish. Race wins possible.
5-Sebastian Vettel (Germany), 7-Kimi Raikkonen (Finland)
Raikkonen was fastest in pre-season testing and Ferrari, who failed to win a race last year and have kept a low media profile over the winter, appear to have raised their game. If that form translates into race results, and they can develop while avoiding the strategy blunders of old, that will be good news for those eager to see an end to three years of Mercedes domination. The SF70H car and new regulations seems to be much more to the liking of Vettel and Raikkonen.
Likely outcome: Championship contenders. Possible first constructors' title since 2008. Vettel challenging for his fifth crown. Raikkonen expected to retire at end of the season.
11-Sergio Perez (Mexico), 31-Esteban Ocon (France)
Last season was the team's best ever and they are now looking to crack into the top three with an eye-catching pink car. That looks a tall order for a privately-owned team already punching above its weight, but holding on to fourth is possible. Perez is now the effective team leader and will be hoping to build on two podiums last year. Ocon is a rising talent with Mercedes connections and will be pushing the Mexican hard.
Likely outcome: Depends on rivals' form, but fourth again.
19-Felipe Massa (Brazil), 18-Lance Stroll (Canada)
All change over the winter, with Bottas leaving for Mercedes and engineering head Pat Symonds departing among other technical shifts. Paddy Lowe has arrived from Mercedes as chief technical officer. Rookie Stroll is the youngest and least experienced driver on the grid, and has left his mark already with testing crashes. He faces a steep learning curve with the new regulations. The team will need Massa to bank solid points and play a leading role after bringing him back out of a "retirement" that he never wanted in the first place.
Likely outcome: If the car is as good as testing suggests and the drivers avoid trouble, in the mix to regain fourth.
14-Fernando Alonso (Spain), 2-Stoffel Vandoorne (Belgium)
Zak Brown is now running the show but the headlines have made depressing reading. Sixth last season after ninth the year before, once-mighty McLaren are in danger of slipping back down the order. Power-unit problems hampered testing, with far fewer laps than rivals, and the car was well down on straight-line speed. Alonso's frustration is growing while the chances of the double champion staying next season are shrinking. Vandoorne is a top talent but will struggle to shine without the car
Likely outcome: Downward spiral. Honda must act fast.
55-Carlos Sainz (Spain), 26-Daniil Kvyat (Russia)
Targeting a best-ever sixth for the second year in a row, and now using Renault engines rather than year-old Ferrari ones. Sainz is very highly regarded and in the sights of other teams while Kvyat has something to prove -- and a seat to keep -- after being demoted by Red Bull last season. The car is one of the best-looking and similar in some respects to the Mercedes.
Likely outcome: Capable of pulling off a surprise or two
8-Romain Grosjean (France), 20-Kevin Magnussen (Denmark)
The only U.S.-owned team is now competing in a U.S.-owned sport. The aim is to move up a place in the pecking order in season two and Haas have the drivers and engine (Ferrari) to do that. Magnussen has joined from Renault and will be an improvement on the departed Esteban Gutierrez.
Likely outcome: Moving up the grid.
27-Nico Hulkenberg (Germany), 30-Jolyon Palmer (Britain)
Le Mans winner Hulkenberg arrives from Force India, eager to stand on the podium for the first time. Palmer stays for a second season. Last year's car was essentially a Lotus in Renault colours but this year's should be a substantially better beast. The target is fifth place overall.
Likely outcome: Fifth at a pinch, but ambitious
9-Marcus Ericsson (Sweden), 94-Pascal Wehrlein (Germany)
Sauber scored points in just one race last season but that was enough to lift them ahead of Manor, for whom 11th place signalled the end of the road. The Swiss team are using year-old Ferrari engines this time. Reliability should be good but they will be down on speed and can expect to be lapped regularly.
Likely outcome: Last, occasional points.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Neville Dalton)