F1 Season 2017 – What to expect

“You never know how good a driver you are until you get into F1”

Formula 1 is truly the pinnacle of motorsport. Each race is a marvellous spectacle of a combination of astute driving, state-of-the-art technology and stunning scenery. The 2017 F1 Calendar season kicks off at Albert Park in Melbourne, Australia, on 26th of March and promises to be full of twists and turns. Here is the lowdown on what to expect from this season.

The Favourite

Most of you probably know that Nico Rosberg won the Driver’s Championship last season, and yet he wouldn’t be the favourite heading into this season if he was still competing. Such is the skill of Lewis Hamilton, on whom people would be wise to place their bets. But if practice lap times are anything to go by, Valtteri Bottas, Nico Rosberg’s replacement at Mercedes-AMG Petronas, will prove to be a thorn in Hamilton’s side as he’d clocked seriously quick lap times, looking faster than even Hamilton. Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Ferrari cannot be counted out though, with two hugely promising talents and two former World Champions in their teams respectively.

About the drivers

The Driver Field has seen a huge shake-up since last season, with legends like Jenson Button and Felipe Massa retiring from the sport (Massa has since re-emerged from retirement to continue racing with Williams Martini Racing), drivers switching teams, and new names arriving on the scene. The most notable retiree is defending champion Nico Rosberg, whose absence will be more than compensated for by fresh incoming talent. Stoffel Vandoorne, previously a development driver at McLaren Honda, replaces Jenson Button and Lance Stroll occupies the vacancy left by Valtteri Bottas at Williams Martini. All in all, there seems to be wholesome mix of young talent and veteran former World Champion stature drivers.

On a side note, if you’ve ever felt bad about yourself, feeling like you aren’t accomplishing anything in life, that you’ll do nothing worthwhile, look up these drivers; Esteban Ocon, Max Verstappen and Lance Stroll, whose ages are 20, 19 and 18 respectively.

Feel any better? I didn’t think so.

Rivalries to look out for

From a Constructor’s Championship point of view, the F1 Paddock anticipates an exciting contest between Mercedes-AMG Petronas, Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Ferrari. Scuderia Ferrari struggled to keep pace with the other two last season due to technical issues (much to my chagrin) and relied solely on the drivers’ sheer skill to place a mediocre third in the standings.

The two top tier rivalries to look forward to are Hamilton-Vettel-Verstappen and Bottas-Raikkonen-Ricciardo. There is no love lost between Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen, who have had their fair share of back and forth last season. But because of engine and chassis technology improvement,   the two of them will now be in direct contention with Hamilton, setting up a possibly high drama 3-way contest.

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Clockwise from top: Verstappen, Hamilton, and Vettel share a light moment

On the other hand, Raikkonen with his rather short temper, Ricciardo with his cheeky demeanour, and an almost stoic Bottas ,makes for an interesting clash of the personalities, but make no mistake, these three are no slower than the three before them, and the prospect of a six-way finish is mouth-watering.

As for the mid-table, Williams Martini and Sahara Force India look evenly poised, both technology and driver wise, so it’s only a matter of who drives better on the day that can separate them. It’s a great opportunity for Lance Stroll and Esteban Ocon to prove their mettle, and their rivalry will be keenly watched by the big three.

The Scenery

F1 races are contested all over the world. The inaugural race takes place in Melbourne, Australia and comes to a close in Abu Dhabi, UAE, and there are races everywhere in between. Singapore, Malaysia, The United States, Mexico, Italy, Brazil and even Azerbaijan host F1 races. The tracks are of three types; Race, Street and Road circuits. Race and Road circuits are generally high speed circuits with long straights. Street circuits have more tight bends and are typically slower and narrower, and overtaking is generally tough. Circuit de Monaco in Monte Carlo, Monaco is notoriously difficult to overtake at, but it has witnessed some of the most spectacularly skillful passes.

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Aerial View of the iconic Circuit de Spa Francorchamps in Belgium
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The Yas Marina grandstand lit up at night

It is no co-incidence that the cities chosen for F1 races also happen to be on most people’s holiday list of places to visit. The view of these circuits from the stands is mesmerizing. Coupled with the soulful exhaust note of the F1 cars, the experience of witnessing an F1 race, I imagine, is cathartic.

Some statistics and what they mean

During pre-season testing, Kimi Raikkonen set a lightning fast lap time of 1:18.634, a full 3 odd seconds quicker than Lewis Hamilton’s pole position clinching lap last year. Additionally, there are claims that Ferrari are deliberately driving slow to ward off speculation based on inconsequential pre-season testing.

Dutch prodigy Max Verstappen completed 78 overtakes last season, most in a calendar year by any driver since such data was first collected in 1983. Lewis Hamilton made the most overtakes in a single race, 18 in China, where he started at the back of the grid.

These stats provide no clear picture of how the season will turn out, which is all the more reason to tune in to the races. 2017 will most likely not be a good year for the bandwagoners, but at the same time will appeal to both casual fans and hardcore petrolheads. Come 26th of March, it’s time to pick a favourite and sit back and behold the motorsport extravaganza that is F1. If not for its competitive nature, then at least to experience vicariously the breakneck speed of these monstrously powerful cars and the adrenaline rush accompanying it.

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