2017 FORMULA ONE SEASON PREVIEW
The new F1 season is upon us and there have been more anticipation for this season than there have been for a long while. This is because the talk is of a “new dawn” in Formula One. With a multitude of changes to the rules and regulations which is designed to make the cars quicker, yet harder to drive, providing in theory, more excitement.
First thing’s first. There are new technical regulations making the car and tyres wider for what most say is a more powerful car. It’ been suggested that this year could be the fastest F1 cars ever. Also contributing to this, the wider tyres provides better grip and more durability. However, these regulations cause the car to be heavier, with more downforce which could make it harder to overtake.
There are various other rule and regulation changes to body work and aerodynamics. A 5% increase on fuel allowance. I’m happy the engine rule has gone, allowing teams to make changes to the engine throughout the season, with a four engine maximum rule over the season. There are also stringer rules on clutch control for the drivers.
In addition, there is a standing start after the appearance of the safety car for wet weather start situations. Which is great news. There are also harsher penalties for the drivers and some braking and DRS changes.
With the shock news of champion Nico Rosberg’s retirement now being overshadowed by all the new rules and regulations. It’s also important to point out that only three of the 10 teams have kept their same driver line up from last year.
The German based team have stormed the last three drivers constructors. Last season they had the most wins, poles, podiums, points and points margins (albeit by one point) of all their last three winning seasons. However, they had the least fastest laps of all their three seasons. Take from that what you like.
With the shock retirement of Roseberg. Many are suggestion Lewis Hamilton has a clear run at winning a fourth championship and only unreliability or overconfidence will hinder this. After a very poor start to the 2016 season, winning his first race at the sixth attempt. He won the last four races of the season to finish only four points behind Roseberg and must be determined this season.
Valtteri Bottas won the sweepstake to step into the Mercedes seat after 4 full seasons in F1, having never won a F1 race or been on pole. Last season he finished fifth with 78 points with one podium finish (3rd in Canada) one 4th and two 5th place finishes. The pressure will really be on and he will have to learn how to win races or at the very least, stay in races to get valuable podium finishes.
Prediction: Hamilton 1st. Bottas 5th.
RED BULL RACING
Although they finished second in the drivers constructors. They finished a whopping 297 points behind Mercedes. However, the only two races Mercedes did not claim, was won by each of their drivers. It seems since the changes, Red Bull have the most basic of cars, with fears of them not taking full advantage of the regulations to benefit the drivers.
Daniel Ricciardo finished the season in 3rd behind the two Mercedes drivers and 124 points adrift. His only pole came in the sixth race in Monaco but his only win came in 16th race in Malaysia. To add to that, he finished 2nd four times and 3rd three times. The talk is his talent and driving ability can really get him close to winning a championship this year, providing Red Bull produces a reliable car.
The youngest ever driver in F1 history to win a GP. Max Verstappen finished a respectable 5th, 8 points from 4th, in his second full season, after starting with Torro Roso then being promoted to Red Bull. His win was even more impressive as it was his first race for Red Bull in Spain. He then recorded 4 second place and 3 third place finishes. Still battling the petulance of youth and experience, there is no denying he could be a dark horse in these championships.
Predictions: Ricciardo 3rd. Verstappen 4th.
Many would suggest that Ferrari had a very good winter. Has a very good car and will really compete. If true, this would be long overdue. They finished 3rd in the drivers constructors, over 300 points behind Mercedes. Their last constructors title was in 2008. Their last driver to win a F1 title was in 2007. They have the same experienced drivers from last year, so a genuine push is expected.
Four time champion Sebastian Vettel finished 4th last year 44 points from 3rd place. He had a lot of frustrations with his car but did record 3 second place and 4 third place finishes. With his obvious talents on show, all he needs is Ferrari to get a reliable car at his disposal for this pursuit on the title.
Kimi Raikkonen finished 5th last year, 18 points from 4th place. He recorded two 2nd place and three 3rd place finishes. Questions have been raised as to how long the 37-year-old Finn can go on for? But as long as he’s competing, Ferrari will keep faith. His experience is now second to none on the circuit, not to mention his determination and competitiveness.
Predictions: Vettel 2nd. Raikkonen 6th
SAHARA FORCE INDIA
Finishing a very impressive fourth in the drivers constructors, recording their best ever finish and most points ever in their F1 history. Must bring them confidence going into 2017. They were 35 points ahead of the 5th placed team and this season, with their new bold pink car, to me is an indication of their confidence going into the 2017 season.
Sergio Perez finished last season in 7th place. He recorded two impressive 3rd place finishes in Russia & Austria. Last year he really established himself as reliable driver and strong points scorer. His driving ability and confidence from his performances last year will push him to record more podium finishes this year.
For me Esteban Ocan is a step up from Hulkenberg. The Frenchman only started 9 races last year for Manor Racing after replacing Rio Haryanto, and finished all 9. After a few last or second from last finishes, he put a good shift in the Brazilian GP and only dropped out the points on the last lap to finish 12th. He then finished 13th in the last race in Dubai to earn him an exciting move to Force India.
Predictions: Perez 7th. Ocan 13th
Finishing behind Force India was both surprising and disappointing for Williams. It seemed they really under performed last year, especially after a good 2014 in what everyone thought was the start of something. There is talk that this season they have been making strides to move in the right direction. But we have heard that all before.
Felipe Massa recorded probably the quickest retirement u-turn in history. Following Roseberg’s shock retirement and then Bottas moving to Mercedes. Massa excepted the invitation back but to be their main man. To help Williams improve, he will have to be on top of his game and improve on his two 5th place finishes and even Bottas’ one third place from last year. Which I suspect will be tough going.
Canadian teenager Lance Stroll brings a lot to the Williams table and that’s not just his father’s billions. He won the European F3 championships last year with 14 wins from 30 races and 20 podium finishes. He won the last 5 races to take the championship by 187 points. He will obviously struggle early on but Williams will hope he adapts quickly.
Predictions: Massa 10th. Stroll 17th.
The once great team has been blighted with ongoing reliability issues and poor car performance over the past, recent years. They finished 6th, 62 points behind fifth and alarmingly only 76 points from the last placed team. Their partnership with Honda has not really gone to plan and unfortunately early indications say it maybe another hard season.
Former two-time champion Fernando Alonso will probably again cut a frustrating figure throughout the season as McLaren struggle for reliability and consistency. Last year he struggled to a 10th place finish, with only two 5th place finishes as his highlight. There is still no doubting he is one of the best drivers on the grid and his relationship with the team could turn volatile if there is no improvements this year.
Young Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne has replaced Jenson Button who couldn’t take anymore of McLaren’s under-performing. When Alonso was unfit to drive in Bahrain, he stepped in and stepped up to surprisingly out perform Button, to finish the race in 10th place. He and McLaren will hope to build on that this year.
Prediction: Alonso 11th. Vandoorne 15th
Red Bull’s other team has plodded along nicely in my opinion. It seems they have taken more advantage to the new regulations than Red Bull themselves and are optimistic for the season. It will be interesting to see if they improve on last years’ 7th place and their 63 points. They have moved from Ferrari to Renault so only time will tell how that will affect them.
Russian Daniil Kvyat must be determined to do well, especially after his early demotion after just four races for Red Bull. Especially after recording a podium finish (3rd) in the 3rd race in China. After his demotion, the best finish he could muster was 9th and he will hope to improve on that this year with the experience he now has.
Carlos Sanz finished last season in 12th with 46 points. He recorded three 6th place finishes and showed flashed of some real ability in second half of last season. His talent has somewhat been overlooked with the emergence of Verstappen but it will be a very interesting battle between him and his team mate both vying to be the next Red Bull prospect.
Prediction: Sanz 9th. Kvyat 12th.
Finishing above three other teams in your first season in F1 is commendable. The American team negotiated their first season well, finishing with 29 points and have given themselves a platform to improve on this year. Though the second year is generally harder. The challenge now is to improve and provide reliability for 2017.
I feel this is the time for Romain Grosjean to shine. He’s a much more mature driver now, with experience and pacy driving. First season out they way, improvements all around is a must. He started last season well and recorded a 5th place finish in the second race. But both he and his team didn’t have the staying power. however, that experience should leave them in good stead for this year. Hopefully.
Kevin Magnussen racing for Renault last year, won them 7 of their 8 points with a 7th & 10th place finishes. Now with his 3rd successive team, he really needs some stability and to put in some morale boosting performances. Still relatively young, his driving style will suit the American’s but he will need to start well to avoid feeling the pressure.
Prediction: Grosjean 8th. Magnussen 16th
2016 was always going to be a difficult one. They had to experience so many late changes, I feel they had to write off last season to prepare for this one. Now they are where they want to be, they can put last year behind them. The mere 8 points won last year would suggest this. Now with their bright and bold yellow car, they are really trying make big strides to stand out on and off the track, as they look to improve in all areas.
I must say I am not his biggest fan but Nico Hulkenberg’s finished a respectable 9th last year. Although he was outscored by his team-mate by 29 points. His experience will help Renault in their second year as they try to improve. But for me, the jury is still out on the 2015 Le Mans winner and he will be hard pressed to improve on the one 4th place finish last year and even his one 6th placed finish.
British driver Jolyon Palmer only recorded one point last year from a 10th place finish in Malaysia. After a difficult first half of the season, he had to somewhat rally in the second half and that could give him some confidence going into this year. I believe he could even give his team-mate a run for his money. I see improvement, but just how much compared to last year? I suspect will be minimal.
Predictions: Hulkenberg 14th. Palmer 20th
New investment saved Sauber last year, allowing them to compete this year. But they will be in the mist of a rebuilding process and will struggle again this season. So much so, that it will be touch and go to see if they improve on their solitary one point. This was won by Felipe Nasr in the penultimate race in Brazil with a very good drive.
Pascal Wehrlein won Manor racing their only point of last year with a 10th placed finished in Austria. Apart from that, his highest finish was 13th. That hard slog would have given him valuable experience with what should be a better car this year. The Mercedes junior will also have a good battle with his team-mate where many are saying he could possibly outshine.
Last year, Swede Marcus Ericsson record one 1th place finish and three 12th place finishes, driving for Sauber in what was a very hard season. Now, as well as trying to improve on last season, he has a young up start for a team-mate piling pressure on him and pushing him all the way. He could be in for another long hard season.
Predictions: Wehrlein 18th. Ericsson 19th.