The new Formula 1 season is nearly upon us. Soon we will be bathed in the roar of the engines, the screeching of the tires, and, if we’re lucky, the expletives of one Sebastian Vettel.
Trying to discover who has the upper hand in testing can be as difficult as changing an engine in time for qualifying after an almighty shunt in free practice 3. So, with that said, we are now going to try and predict who will be 2017 world champion, with just the data from testing to go on. Lucky us!
Right off the bat, we think it’s Hamilton’s title to lose. Mercedes were not only on the pace throughout testing, but they also did the most laps. Mercedes have been fast and reliable in testing in the past and then translated that to the season, suggesting that they will have no problems doing it again this season. However, it’s not all champagne and trophies for Hamilton. The biggest problem facing Hamilton this season is Hamilton himself. Over the past couple of years, his commitment to F1 has been called into question, with this lack of commitment being used as a stick to beat him with. Only Lewis knows himself where his commitment and mental state is, but, as the end of last season certainly shows,–he won the last 4 races to take the title to the final race– he still has the desire to fight, even for a lost cause. Regardless of his off the track activities, we feel that Lewis is the man to beat.
‘What about Vettel’, I hear you crow! Well, we have no doubt in Vettel’s abilities, our doubt is Ferrari themselves. Like Mercedes, Ferrari were very quick across testing and they clocked the fastest time overall. They also ran with very few reliability problems. But unlike the German team, Ferrari haven’t been able to translate testing form to season form. Last season they were also fast and reliable in testing but didn’t win a race. All culminating in Vettel well and truly losing his rag at a couple of points in the season. If Ferrari can deliver a quick, reliable car, then Vettel will be Hamilton’s nearest challenger, if not, then we worry for Sebastian’s psyche.
Best of the rest.
Red Bull can never be counted out. They have two of the best young drivers on the grid and the best aerodynamics experts back in Milton Keynes. They have been understated in testing, though; up with the pace, but down in laps completed. However, If there is anything we have learned over the last few years, it’s that Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo are incredible drivers and Red Bull always adapt well the aerodynamic rule changes. Look for them to spring an early season surprise.
If Hamilton and Vettel are favorites, then Bottas and Raikkonen can’t be far behind, surely? Well, unless Raikkonen can rediscover his form from before his time away from F1, then he may well be nothing more than a number 2 to Sebastian Vettel. Bottas not only has to contend with a new team and car but also the fastest man on the grid for a teammate. He is definitely more than good enough to put pressure on Hamilton, and if Lewis falters, then Bottas will certainly be there to pick up the pieces. We just hope they’re not pieces of each others carbon fiber!
It’s turning out to be a very interesting start to the season. As always with rule changes, we don’t really know anything for sure until qualifying and the race in Australia. With new F1 owners added to the mix, this could be the most interesting F1 season in years. On the other hand, the cars could struggle to overtake and Lewis could saunter, uncontested, to the title. Either way, there are always talking points from the world of Formula 1.
Oh, and the less said about McLaren Honda, the better.