2017 F1 Season Preview

2017 Australian Grand Prix, Friday - Wolfgang Wilhelm

2017 Australian Grand Prix, Friday – Wolfgang Wilhelm

Well, that didn’t seem to take long. Last season ended and this season is starting, and I haven’t posted anything in between. Not that I haven’t been writing, I just tend to forget to post things… some times for extended periods of time.

Anyway, Nico Rosberg took the F1 title on the last lap of the last race in Abu Dhabi last year. It was a real nailbiter. Then he promptly retired, surprising pretty much everyone including his own team.

So Mercedes had to find a replacement after the season when all top drivers were already under contract. And what did they do? After much speculation of who the new driver would be, they signed Valtteri Bottas over rookie sensation Pascal Wehrlein. Felipe Massa came out of a very, very short F1 retirement (like, none at all) to go back to Williams to team up with his replacement (rookie Lance Stroll) and takeover Bottas’s vacated spot.

Mercedes made a safe bet in Bottas, signing him to a one year contract. He’ll have to deliver quickly to hang on to his place. I doubt he’ll beat teammate Lewis Hamilton. Shades of Kovalainen? Then again, Hamilton is really hard to beat so that’s not a slight against Bottas. Good thing Mercedes didn’t sign Wehrlein, who landed at Sauber. He’s not yet recovered from injuries sustained at the Race of Champions during the off season and had to pull out of the season opener.

Word is that both Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel have contracts that are up at the end of this year so… we could see one or both of them switching to Mercedes in 2018. If Hamilton stays then it would be more likely Vettel would go there since Mercedes won’t want to risk a repeat of the disastrous season McLaren endured with Alonso and Hamilton as teammates back in 2007. However, depending on Ferrari’s form this season, Vettel could just as well opt to stay at the Italian team next year.

Liberty Media Buys F1

The really big news with F1 since last season is the takeover by Liberty Media and Bernie Ecclestone‘s exit. Oh, he’ll still attend some races but the show is now run by a trio appointed by Liberty. Ross Brawn, he of innumerable championship winning teams, is now in charge of the technical side. His charter is to improve the racing action and cut costs by leveling the playing field.

Whatever he does, I hope that DRS is done away with for the silly gimmick that it is, and that real competition is unleashed. The 2017 cars are faster due to rule changes that were passed (forced?) through last season.

But I doubt the competitive pecking order will change much this year because the teams’ relative resources are probably still similar (well, except for Manor which went belly up). Rule changes are a poor precursor of improving competition. It’s keeping the team resources in balance and open rules that allow for innovation which count.

My prediction is that at the end of the season we’ll still see Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull, and their drivers taking the top three constructor and driver championships. My guess is Mercedes will prevail.

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