After Formula 1's long winter hibernation, the sport will have burst back in to life at Barcelona this time next week when the first of two pre-season tests begins.

By: Jonathan Noble, Formula 1 Editor

After Formula 1's long winter hibernation, the sport will have burst back in to life at Barcelona this time next week when the first of two pre-season tests begins.

It marks the start of the formal countdown at the F1 opener in Melbourne as teams face just eight days of running to get their new cars in shape before the real battle commences.

Fans and media are already excited about seeing 2016 cars in action, and it should not take long for some key answers to be delivered, even though some questions may not be resolved.

Here, looks at five key answers that we cannot wait to get from the first Barcelona test.

Will the new cars be louder?

Formula 1's technical regulations are pretty much unchanged from 2015, but one key area where designs have had to change is in the exhausts.

For 2016, teams are forced to run an extra tail pipe directly from the waste-gate, with the aim being to deliver more noise for spectators.

There has been some optimism from early dyno testing and factory fire-ups that the cars do sound better – and could be around 25 percent louder – but it is only when the cars get out in the open air will be know for sure.

The answer to this question should take just seconds to find out.

Has Mercedes gone revolutionary or evolutionary?

As soon as Mercedes had wrapped up the world championships last year, it wasted little time in using the remainder of the season to try out some 2016 developments.

Most intriguing of all those was revised suspension and components for an S-duct that were trialled during opening practice for the Brazilian Grand Prix.

They came amid talk that Mercedes felt it needed to make some solid progress on the aerodynamic/mechanical front if it was going to stave off the threat of Ferrari.

But with whispers coming out of Brackley that there have been some decent engine gains, has the team pulled back on going too radical with its W07, or will it surprise us when the car is run in public for the first time?

Is Ferrari in the game?

Pre-season testing may not be able to deliver any definitive answers as to who is quickest (if it did, why would anyone tune in to watch the racing?), but it invariably it does deliver some pretty good clues about trends.

For those wishing that F1 in 2016 delivers a much closer fight than last year, hopes rest on Ferrari's bold steps on the engine front and improvements on the aero front having helped edge it closer to Mercedes.

Headline end-of-day times may ultimately grab attention, but we have seen in the past that a team in trouble can often do a low-fuel glory run at the end of the day to disguise their issues.

So instead it will take some decent poring over the data – which will include long-run pace, speed trap figures and tyre degradation – to get some answers about whether or not Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen have a real sniff of the title in 2016.

And that answer will be there amongst that paperwork somewhere.

Has anyone screwed it up?

First tests will never give a clear answer about who has got it right, but they can often expose those who have got it wrong.

And with the battle behind Mercedes and Ferrari looking incredibly close this year, there is an increased chance that one of the expected heavy hitters may have slipped up.

Plus, with Manor having grabbed Mercedes engines and a host of top-line staff, and new boys Haas enjoying a close technical collaboration with Ferrari, you would be hard pressed to say for definite that either of them will be at the back.

Indeed, with Renault admitting it is going to face a hard time amid its restructuring, and Sauber's new car coming late, there is every chance that there could be some fascinating battles further down the order in 2016.

The first indication of who is going to face the toughest time could come pretty early, for often it is the body language of team members and drivers at the end of the first few days' running that says everything you need to know about how tough a season they are already bracing themselves for.

Is McLaren's worst behind it?

The McLaren and Honda partnership would be hard pressed to endure as miserable a pre-season testing programme as it did 12 months ago when reliability woes severally hampered it.

However, the Anglo-Japanese partnership is well aware that it's not just more running it needs to do this time around, for its drivers are impatient for performance too.

Honda has spoken boldly about tweaks to the compressor/turbine design – albeit while keeping its size-zero concept in play. And Barcelona should show us if these changes have addressed the main problems it encountered in 2015.

But it will not be laptimes, or even top speed through the speed traps that will show us if Honda's progress has been good enough.

For it will only be watching trackside at the end of main straight, for an indication of if Button and Alonso's energy recovery deployments last as long as the other engines, that will show us if the real progress has come in the area most needed.

Haas – headaches or hit?

F1's newest team Haas has already attracted a great deal of interest, and there has been plenty of talks that the outfit will not endure the troubles that grand prix racing's recent rookie outfits faced.

Its technical partnership with Ferrari, allied to the fact it has taken its time in getting ready for its debut, has left many convinced that it could be set to surprise the establishment in 2016.

But equally, Barcelona will mark the first time that the new operation will have worked together in a track environment.

It will be fascinating to see just how quickly up to speed the operation can get when there is finally some time pressure to deliver – as even the team management has said that its Achilles Heel early on may well be operational matters.

But if it can come through Barcelona with some decent running, and a solid platform, then that lays some pretty good foundations for a strong campaign to come.

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