2017 Formula 1 season preview
The new Formula 1 World Championship season kicks-off in the last weekend of March in Australia and there will be a plenty of new things to see.
Less number of cars on the grid and only one new face
The only thing that is sure is that Formula 1, from this year run and controlled by the new owner Liberty Media, will get a new champion. Nico Rosberg retired after winning the 2016 title and many expecting the interesting battle for the vacant throne. Another obvious thing is that there will be less number of cars on the grid after Manor team at the last moment withdrew from the competition due to a lack of financial backing.
There won’t be a lot of new faces. Actually, there is only one debutant – Lance Stroll. The talented Canadian and 2016 European Formula 3 champion arrived at Williams as a replacement for Valtteri Bottas who went to defending champion, Mercedes. There were a couple of more changes in the teams’ driver line-ups but more about that later.
Plenty of technical regulations changes
The main aim of the new technical regulations was to increase the speed of the cars, particularly in turns, what should improve the lap times by 4-5 seconds. That’s why all circuits had to undergo revisions to update safety standards.
The new cars are bigger, slightly heavier, faster, capable of producing more downforce and more grip thanks to almost 25% wider tires. At the same time, the new cars will probably be harder to tame. However, the FIA regulation bodies expecting more exciting and spectacular races.
The unpopular token engine development system has been canceled. The teams are now free to bring design enhancements during the season so long as they do not exceed their allowance of four engines per driver during the season.
Sports regulations have also undergone changes
Probably the most interesting change is that if a safety car is deemed to be required for the beginning of a race due to wet weather, the grid will follow normal starting procedures once conditions are declared satisfactory for racing. Laps completed behind the safety car will count towards the total race distance.
The FIA also wants to bring more control to the drivers’ hands instead of the engineers’. Now there are further limitations on clutch control and the movement and location of the paddles.
Whether all of these changes will make racing better it is still hard to say. The teams’ and drivers’ opinions after the winter tests are divided. Drivers surely will be exposed under strenuous physical demands.
Teams and drivers
After winning three consecutive doubles, Mercedes wants to continue a stream of excellent results. The new car proved to be good in the pre-season and with two experienced drivers, the German team is surely one of the favorites for the titles but many predicting that the competition could be tougher than in the previous years.
After Rosberg’s retirement, Lewis Hamilton is the undisputed leader of the team while Valtteri Bottas surely will need some more time to settle into the new environment. It also will be interesting to see how the Finn will cope with pressure which is much bigger than in it was in Williams.
The Austrian team had a relatively good season, probably a much better than it was expected. Indeed, Red Bull Racing was the only team able to occasionally compete with Mercedes. Many are thinking that Red Bull will be more competitive in 2017, thanks to the new Renault’s power unit.
In Ricciardo and Verstappen, Red Bull has probably the most talented pair of drivers. They are combative, cheeky and hungry for success, and with the proper cars in their hands, they will grab any opportunity to strike opponents.
The season of 2016 was disastrous for the most popular team. Ferrari failed to score a single win what surely was shocking and painful for former champions Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen. However, the situation could be completely reversed this season.
Ferrari was the fastest during the pre-season test and looked pretty convincing. Nevertheless, winter test is one thing and the races are something completely different. That’s why many ’prancing pony’ fans expecting to see what the new car is capable of.
The Indian team year after year continues to do more than everyone predicts. In 2016, Force India did very well, again living at the pretty tight budget, so many expecting more of the same in 2017. However, the team’s appetite grew and owner Vijay Mallya stated that the aim is to challenge for a top 3 position.
The pre-season test wasn’t perfect and there is still a plenty of things that should be done. Sergio Perez will try to lead the team closer to the top of the standings, while the new arrival Esteban Ocon will have a hard task to fill the shoes of Nico Hulkenberg.
The team celebrates the 40th season in Formula 1, so the expectations are high. Meanwhile, the situation is far from perfect and team during the off-season went through many changes. Bottas left the team but former McLaren and Mercedes engineer Paddy Lowe arrival should be a nice boost for the team.
The new car didn’t look persuasive during pre-season and its abilities are still unclear. Felipe Massa came out of retirement and his motivation could be somewhat questionable. The rookie driver Lance Stroll probably use his first season in the series to pick some experience and it is hard to expect fireworks from him at this stage.
The first year after its return to Formula 1 was pretty hard for the French team and the season of 2017 surely will be better. The new car is far better than the previous one and Renault should pick more points, especially after the arrival of Nico Hulkenberg.
The experienced German driver arrived as a replacement for Kevin Magnussen and he is projected to be a leader of the team’s progress in the following years. Jolyon Palmer in his second year with the team and in the series must prove that he deserves a place in the series.
The younger brother of Red Bull Racing never was too ambitious to achieve good results but still was able to make a surprise or two. The previous season was in line with expectations. The ambition for 2017 is to be in the middle of the grid what looks realistic.
The new car had to be something better thanks to a new Renault engine while the stay of the drivers which know team inside out should guarantee calmness and stability within the team. Kvyat and Sainz are now more mature and probably more patient what should bring the less number of errors on the track.
Two horrible years are behind the famous team and despite big expectations, the future is not looking promising. The pre-season tests were far from good for McLaren and again the reason is Honda engine that looked underpowered and hugely unreliable. New livery and the new prefix in the name of the car may not be sufficient for the push forward.
Former champion Fernando Alonso is already frustrated while Stoffel Vandoorne, who will drive his first full-time season after scoring a point on his debut last year, will hardly be able to fully express the talent that he has.
The American team had a somewhat satisfying first season in the Formula 1 but the sophomore year is always harder. Construction of the new car began early in 2016 so the results this year probably have to be a bit better.
Haas F1 Team has a good financial backing, solid driver line-up but lacks the experience that sometimes can be crucial for further progress. The pre-season tests showed many weaknesses that must be improved during the season.
Financial troubles pushed Sauber to the back of the grid during recent years. That can be changed in 2017 but don’t expect miracles from the Swiss team. The main ambition is to pick more points than in the previous campaign and if it is possible to avoid the last place in the Constructors’ championship.
Both drivers are eager to prove that they have enough qualities to race in Formula 1 and they are prepared and motivated to do everything in their power to help the team to begin climb to the middle of the grid.