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2017 Formula One – Season Review

The 2017 Formula One season is almost upon us. To the ardent F1 fan it will feel like it’s been an eternity since the last race of 2016 in Abu Dhabi, where we witnessed Nico Rosberg’s first World Championship win, and now appears to be his only Formula One title after announcing his retirement from the sport, only a matter of days after his success. Why? you might ask. Well, my opinion, which is shared by others, is that he had a goal, ‘To become a Formula One World Champion’ and he did that. If he didn’t win in 2016, I’m sure he would have continued. However, the mental drain that was experienced from being teammates with Lewis Hamilton may have brought even that into question. A very classy thing to do.

So, what’s going to happen in 2017? Is the Mercedes dominance going to continue? If you look back over the last 66 years of the Formula One Championship you would have to say no. Most dominant eras come to an end due to a significant rewriting of the rule book. Indeed, the Mercedes success over the past 4 seasons was as a result of a seismic change to the engine regulations which in turn created a formula dependant on power: if you had it great, if you didn’t you were stuck with what you had because of the restriction on development.

This year sees a complete overhaul of chassis aerodynamics. It’s almost starting again. Some may argue it’s not quite as dramatic as that but the last 4 years has seen teams tweaking wings and bodywork because that’s all the regulations allowed. Merely redecorating the house rather than knocking it down and starting again.

In the past, teams have interpreted a significant regulation change in vastly different ways, which has led to the status quo being knocked. I think it’s fair to say that Mercedes aren’t going to go from hero to zero. However, there is every chance that they won’t have it their own way. It’s also fair to say that Red Bull’s Adrian Newey and his Team in Milton Keynes should be on point, straight out of the box.

No doubt the gurus at Renault, Honda and Ferrari have done some work to improve their engines but so will Mercedes.

 

Image_4 Image_3 Image_2 Image_1

Source: formula1.com

 

 

Teams and Drivers

Mercedes – W08

44 Lewis Hamilton |

77 Valtteri Bottas

Image_5_Mercedes
Source: f1fanatic.co.uk

Mercedes as the current champion, will be strong once again. They have the power; do they have the drivers? They have 3 time champion Hamilton, but was Bottas the right choice? For sure driver’s contracts and Lewis, himself would have had a say. Bottas has always shown potential so let’s see. Paddy Lowe my old karting partner from our McLaren days has left Mercedes and to join Williams…

 

Red Bull Renault – RB13

3 Daniel Ricciardo |

33 Max Verstappen |

Car launch due 27th February 2017

A strong year last year with an under powered engine. My old team, so I’m going be wishing them well but as mentioned earlier, this new rule change scenario is where they will excel. A fantastic driver line up along with a healthy team culture means they will do well. They will win races… the championship? Why not. Daniel or Max? Daniel. His maturity will come through across the course of the season.

 

Ferrari – SF70H

5 Sebastian Vettel |

7 Kimi Raikkonen

Image_5_Ferrari
Source: f1fanatic.co.uk

They need a good year. Politics has always got in the way of racing, which has led to the bright red cars not reaching their full potential in recent years. Two strong drivers who have a lot to prove. Yes, even Kimi in his twilight years. They lost James Allison last year, who has emerged after family tragedy back at UK based Mercedes. He was a calming influence in what is normally a fiery Italian environment.

 

Force India Mercedes –VJM10

11 Sergio Perez |

31 Esteban Ocon

Image_7_Force India Mercedes
Source: skysports.com

They had a really strong 2016 beating Williams and McLaren on a significantly lower budget. They have innovated and generally, thought simple to achieve. That budget might just be their Achilles heel this year. Development and aggressive development will be king and that costs.

 

Williams Mercedes – FW40

18 Lance Stroll |

19 Felipe Massa

Image_8_Williams Mercedes
Source: autoweek.com

These guys are on the verge of being great again. Yes, they lost Bottas and yes, for some strange reason they asked Massa to come back out of retirement. But now, they have Paddy Lowe, they have Mercedes power and they know what it takes to win…

Tipped for one of the surprise race winners for 2017.

 

McLaren Honda – MCL32

2 Stoffel Vandoorne |

14 Fernando Alonso

Image_9_McLaren Honda
Source: telegraph.co.uk

I was at McLaren for 15 years so they hold a special place in my heart. Honda have taken the majority of the blame for a few shocking seasons, However, I also don’t think the chassis is as good as it could have been. This year will be Peter Prodromou’s first full year after leaving Adrian Newey’s side at Red Bull and you can already see some cool aero bits on the car. Fernando Alonso, a very quick Stoffel Vandoorne along with what should be a stronger Honda engine and stronger aero could just give them a season with race victories.

The new McLaren film based on the life of Bruce McLaren looks fantastic just for the record.

 

Toro Rossa Ferrari – STR12

26 Daniil Kvyat |

55 Carlos Sainz JR |

Car launch due 27th February 2017

The same driver line-up as they finished in 2016, which is strange for the team that acts as a feeder team for new young talent. In 2016 they had some really strong weekends, but really lacked any consistency, which suggests they lack any depth with their engineering team. Regular 10 finishes will probably be a more realistic target.

 

Haas Ferrari – VF17

8 Romain Grosjean |

20 Kevin Magnussen |

Car launch due 27th February 2017

They really had an amazingly strong start to what was their first season last year. Haas certainly lasted as the season progressed. Romain Grosjean remains for season two and is now regarded as a really solid racer. Kevin Magnussen moved from Renault after his season in F1. Don’t expect miracles.

 

Renault – RS17

27 Nico Hulkenberg |

30 Jolyon Palmer

Image_10_Renault
Source: f1fanatic.co.uk

It was clear for all to see in 2016 that being up against Red Bull who had the same engine as Renault, the factory team struggled with an inferior chassis. They will need to start strong as I can’t see them having a budget to aggressively develop throughout the season.

 

Sauber Ferrari – C36

9 Marcus Ericsson |

94 Pascal Wehrlein

Image_11_Sauber Ferrari
Source: sauberf1team.com

We sadly lost the Manor Team during the closed season due to a lack of money. I’m surprised Sauber haven’t gone the same way. Their focus in 2017 will be survival and just turning up rather than performance. Expect to see them at the back of the grid… consistently.

Pre-season testing is always inconclusive in finding out who will be the winners and losers. It won’t be until qualifying in Melbourne when everyone’s true potential is realised.

Will we see any significant change as a result of Liberty Media taking control of the business that is Formula One? I don’t think so, there is so much potential that can be unlocked, but it won’t happen overnight. It will be strange not having Bernie Ecclestone in charge as he will still be at each race making his presence known.

I think 2017 will be down to the wire between both Mercedes and Red Bull, Hamilton and Ricciardo, with McLaren’s Vandoorne being the surprise, even beating Alonso. Ferrari will have the odd race where Vettel will shine, but overall they will disappoint once again. I can’t wait!

 

Pre-Season Testing

Barcelona 27 Feb – 2 March
Barcelona 7 – 10 March

 

2017 Grand Prix Season

Australian Grand Prix Melbourne 24-26 March
Chinese Grand Prix Shanghai 7-9 April
Bahrain Grand Prix Bahrain 14-16 April
Russian Grand Prix Sochi 28-30 April
Spanish Grand Prix Barcelona 12-14 May
Monaco Grand Prix Monte Carlo 26-28 May
Canadian Grand Prix Montreal 9-11 June
Azerbaijan Grand Prix Baku 23-25 June
Austrian Grand Prix Spielberg 7-9 July
British Grand Prix Silverstone 14-16 July
Hungarian Grand Prix Budapest 28-30 July
Belgium Grand Prix Spa 25-27 August
Italian Grand Prix Monza 1-3 September
Singapore Grand Prix Singapore 15-17 September
Malaysian Grand Prix Kuala Lumpur 29 Sept – 1 Oct
Japanese Grand Prix Suzuka 6-8 October
United States Grand Prix Austin 20-22 October
Mexican Grand Prix Mexico City 27-29 October
Brazilian Grand Prix Sao Paulo 10-12 November
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Abu Dhabi 24-26 November
Posted by Richard Hopkins - Brand Ambassador

Richard Hopkins is the former Head of Operations for the Red Bull Formula One Team. He played an influential role in changing the Red Bull Formula One team from having never won a Grand Prix, into multiple winners and World Champions. Richard has 28 years’ experience in the Formula One motor racing industry and was significantly involved in winning 11 Formula One World Championships.

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