The 71st season of Formula One motor racing has begun. The sport’s ruler for the past 40 years, Bernie Ecclestone has gone, following the takeover by Liberty Media. Reigning champion Nico Rosberg has retired. Following the ‘shake up’ – Formula One has been taken by a mood of optimism.
Since 2014 when the new turbo hybrid regulations came into force – Mercedes’ power unit emerged as a benchmark. This created a gulf between the team and its rivals, as Mercedes enjoyed an almost unchallenged dominance in Formula One. Until now…
Ferrari (and to some extent Renault) have now made giant leaps forward to close this gap.
This season, Mercedes are talking about implementing team orders – something that they have had the luxury of not doing in the last few years. Or can Bottas prove that he is capable of fighting for the position of top dog at Mercedes?
They have made huge strides over the last year in terms of their car and their tactics. Ferrari’s upgraded power unit is now as good, if not better than Mercedes.
And although Mercedes are still the fastest in qualifying so far this season, Ferrari are faster during the races.
At this point, after 3 races, Vettel leads the World Drivers’ Championship with 68 points – ahead of Hamilton’s 61.
This British are still struggling with an uncompetitive car.
There are tied in to a very difficult position. To leave Honda in favour of a Mercedes power unit; when they are only in year 3 of a 10 year deal (worth £77 million to the team) would be expensive.
For a driver in the class of Alonso, the young star Vandoorne, the fans, the sport and of course the team – they need to be competitive again.
Jenson Button is to race i n place of Alonso at the Monaco GP – while Alonso takes part in the Indianapolis 500. A welcome break from current frustration for the Spaniard?
The team claim that they have a long awaited ‘major upgrade’ ready for the Spanish Grand Prix. Watch this space…
Valtteri Bottas’ move to Mercedes, brought Felipe Massa back from a very short retirement. He is now partnered by Canadian rookie Lance Stroll.
Williams haven’t been near a title race since 2003; but with an injection of young enthusiasm combined with the safe hands of Massa – they are hoping to be on the brink of a new era.
Have gone into the 2017 season as favourites to challenge Mercedes. But the simplistic design of the new car – although quick in a straight line, lacks a rear grip and Red Bull have so far failed to make the impact that they had hoped.
In the first 3 races, Verstappen and Ricciardo have both suffered a race retirement.
They are due a major chassis update in time for the Spanish Grand Prix.
“I hope for a bit of a bullet, something fast…we want to be in a three-way fight with Ferrari and Mercedes, that is what I would hope for.” Ricciardo
Expecting a major upgrade for the Spanish Grand Prix. The season up until now has been referred to by Deputy Team Manager Bob Fernley as ‘damage limitation’, as Force India suffered with an initial lack of speed. A particular problem area seems to be in slow/medium corners and they are hoping that a new aero package will solve this.
Despite this, Perez and Ocon have both finished all 3 Grand Prixs in the points; if this is damage limitation then things are not looking too bad.
With Renault’s vastly improved power unit, a competitive car and two exciting young drivers in Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz Jr – Toro Rosso’s season looks promising. But they are jostling in a midfield battle with Williams, Haas, Force India and Renault, so it will take something extra special to put them ahead of this group.
Team Principal Franz Tost discusses Carlos Sainz Jr’s crash in Bahrain:
“it was one moment of over-optimism – but that is part of our game! If you don’t risk anything you don’t get anywhere.”
Haas are already making progress since their debut last season. The car seems to be more competitive and the team are improving their race preparation. The fact that they are already competing in midfield is very promising.
“To challenge the big ones is a long way away but to be in the midfield and always trying to be in the top of midfield is already for us quite satisfying.” Team Principal Gunther Steiner.
The only team this season to use a year old power unit – this disadvantage can only worsen as the season progresses and rivals make improvements to their cars.
Wehrlein’s season started late (in Bahrain) due to injury and he will need to work hard to make an impact.
“Let’s see how the season goes, I will do my best, hopefully we can score a few points.”
The French manufacturer are planning to address problems with the balance of the RS17 with the addition of a new front wing.
“it’s pretty clear…we are currently qualifying better than we race and that’s a symptom of our current car performance. We believe the problems are aero related.” Technical officer Bob Bell.
Once the aerodynamics and suspension problems are solved, the drivers will have an effective car over a longer distance.
Despite these issues, Hulkenberg managed to finish in the points in Bahrain (9th place).