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Talking Points for 2016

On the eve of the Melbourne Grand Prix, there are a few major storylines going into the 2016 Formula 1 season. These are the key questions:

Can anybody stop Hamilton?

After securing his third World Championship in 2015, Lewis Hamilton followed up his stellar season with a dominant performance in qualifying today. The British driver finished fastest and will start tomorrow's race and in pole position, with his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg starting alongside him on the front row. 


In the past two seasons, Rosberg has seemed like the lone threat to Hamilton's title chances - as the German was in great form towards the end of 2015, taking six consecutive pole positions and winning the final three races. If Rosberg can maintain this kind of form in 2016, it could be him hoisting the World Title at the end of the year.

Rosberg Hamilton

Will we see more scenes like this in 2016? - Photo Credit: Mark Thompson/Getty Images


Who can challenge Mercedes?

For the past two seasons, Mercedes has dominated Formula 1 - with Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg finishing one-two in consecutive seasons and winning a staggering 35 of 38 races. The Mercedes duo also had a stranglehold on qualifying, securing the top spot on the grid for 18 of the 19 races in 2015.


The only other driver to secure a pole position or win a race last year was Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari, who finished the season in third place. There are high hopes for the four-time World Champion and the Ferrari team, as they ended pre-season testing with the fastest lap times of any team. Ferrari has positioned themselves well for 2016 and sit comfortably in third and fourth ahead of the Melbourne Grand Prix.


Who will be the best of the rest?


With many pundits predicting Mercedes and Ferrari to be the front-runners in 2016, there are a lot of wild cards in the rest of the pack. It will be interesting to see which team will emerge as the best of the rest. 


For the past two seasons, Williams has steadily held on to third place in the Constructor's championship. Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas is heralded as a future star, but the young Fin has yet to win his maiden F1 race. With continued improvement from Bottas and the veteran savvy of Felipe Massa, Williams is a safe choice to lock up third place.


However, it would be naive to rule out Red Bull who were plagued by engine troubles in 2015, as Renault could not keep up with the power of the Mercedes and Ferrari engines. Daniel Ricciardo is one of two non-Mercedes drivers to win a race in the past two seasons, and should the engine hold up, Red Bull will be one to watch.


Also, look out for the Ferrari-powered Toro Rosso, who will be looking to prove that they are more than a "sister car" to the Red Bull. Dutch teenager Max Verstappen turned a lot of heads in 2015 and could secure a few podiums this year

Ricciardo
Can Daniel Ricciardo re-discover his winning form? - Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images


Can McLaren's star-studded line-up improve in 2016?


Boasting one of the most decorated duos in Formula 1, Jenson Buton and Fernando Alonso have won a total of three World Championships and 49 Formula 1 races. You'd be hard-pressed to know this by looking at the 2015 Championship, with the duo languishing in 16th and 17th respectively. McLaren proved to be uncompetitive and failed to finish 12 races.


The message in 2015 was that the team was looking towards 2016 and with the duo finishing in 12th and 13th in qualifying, it signaled an improvement. While McLaren don't look likely to challenge for many podiums, it will be interesting to watch their progress throughout the season, as there will be question marks about whether the drivers are satisfied with these kinds of results.

Qualifying Results:

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
3. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)
4. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari)
5. Max Verstappen (Toro Rosso)
6. Felipe Massa (Williams)
7. Carlos Sainz (Toro Rosso)
8. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull)
9. Sergio Perez (Force India)
10. Nico Hulkenberg (Force India)
11. Valtteri Bottas (Williams)
12. Fernando Alonso (McLaren)
13. Jenson Button (McLaren)
14. Jolyon Palmer (Renault)
15. Kevin Magnussen (Renault)
16. Marcus Ericsso (Sauber)
17. Felipe Nasr (Sauber)
18. Daniil Kvyat (Red Bull)
19. Romain Grosjean (Haas)
20. Esteban Gutierrez (Haas)
21. Rio Haryanto (Manor)
22. Pascal Wehrlein (Manor)

Be sure to catch the all of the LIVE coverage of the 2016 Melbourne Grand Prix, for free in HD on TEN, TEN HD and tenplay - starting at 10am AEST