Uncertainty rules as worried eyes look to 2016
F1 faces the biggest challenge next year with several teams struggling to cope with the huge costs.
Abu Dhabi: Nico Rosberg`s victory in Sunday`s season-closing Abu Dhabi Grand Prix may not install him as favourite to unseat his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton, but it has given the three-time champion much to ponder ahead of the 2016 season.
After three straight wins, the 30-year-old German has rebuilt his confidence and the confidence of the Mercedes team in him while Hamilton, who won his second successive title with Mercedes a month ago, appears to have struggled to find the motivation to resist his team-mate`s late-season vim.
But, as Formula One heads home for a winter of rest and reorganisation, it is the sport itself that faces the biggest challenge next year with several teams struggling to cope with the huge costs, uncertainty surrounding the number of entries and no clear sense of direction for the future.
Two-time champion Fernando Alonso`s post-race rant at the inconsistency -- and ineffectiveness -- of the sport`s ruling body, the International Motoring Federation (FIA), summed up his season and the views of many after a year in which his team McLaren-Honda endured endless failings and disappointments.
"It`s FIA things," said Alonso. "We see the grandstands half empty on this circuit -- and half empty on most circuits... And there are championships, which are overtaking us on the right, like WEC, MotoGP... And then we are trying to make the cars louder! I think we need a bit of common sense."
Embroiled in financial, political and technical problems, the season ended on Sunday with few signals that a brighter future lies ahead. Earlier in the week, former FIA president Max Mosley told the BBC that F1 was in serious trouble and nobody wanted to buy the business because it had become too expensive.
"There are only two or three teams that can really afford to spend the money that`s being spent now," said Mosley. "The others are either on the verge of having to stop, or at least greatly disadvantaged by not having enough money. I don`t really see how anyone can sell it until those problems have been resolved.
"The rich teams don`t want the less rich teams to become competitive."All of which means that Ferrari, and to a lesser degree Mercedes, call the shots, as they did when shooting down proposals for a cheaper budget engine for the smaller teams.
Renault have yet to announce their plans for next year, leaving a proposed take-over of Lotus in limbo, and Honda, after their chastening experience back in F1 with McLaren, are not yet in a position to challenge anyone.
Red Bull, four times champions before Mercedes took over at the top, have yet to identify their engine supplier for 2016 and have accepted already that in another season with the current hybrid turbo formula they are not likely to fight at the front again.
"Next year will be very much an interim year for us, but I believe we can make significant strides," said team chief Christian Horner.
"I suppose when you look at it, the teams have collectively been spectacularly incapable of coming up with solutions and sensible remedies to the problems.
"And I think the problem we face in F1 is you`ve got vested interest.
"Within your own team, you try to protect the elements that are your strengths, that offer you that competitiveness over your opponents. And I think this is where F1 has tripped over itself."
That may not be a note on which a season should end, but it signals more of the same for 2016.
In an enlarged calendar, with a new American team in Haas and races in virgin F1 territory, the show will go on led by a Mercedes team hoping to continue its current ascendancy and with a much-improved Sebastian Vettel-inspired Ferrari in closer pursuit.
But behind them, with Red Bull rebuilding, McLaren recovering and the rest battling to stay on top of their bills, it is difficult to predict how many teams will line up on the grid in Melbourne.