Insight: Who’s hot and who’s not? Notes on the new 2017 F1 cars revealed so far
Posted By: James Allen  |  26 Feb 2017   |  4:18 pm GMT  |  184 comments

We’ve seen most of the entries now for this year’s F1 world championship with teams unveiling their cars designed to the new rules.

Overall the cars are not perhaps as spectacular looking as we were led to believe, not as dramatically far removed from what went before, which is slightly disappointing. They look very large in the flesh and will clearly be much faster, which fans will certainly see at the track, but may not perhaps not carry across so much on TV.

The obvious details like wider chassis, wider tyres and lower rear wing are pleasing to look at but there is still plenty of scope for F1’s sporting MD Ross Brawn to work on over the coming years to specify a new generation of cars that look extreme and exciting.

A lot of the wings and basic bargeboards we’ve seen in the launch pics are just placeholders and over the next month before Melbourne you will see a lot of developments through testing on these areas.

We’ve seen already that the area around the bargeboards is going to be a real talking point and area of development focus this year. The front suspension is an area with several different ideas going on. But the part we cannot see, but which probably is the most critical, is the floor and the diffuser. This will do a lot more work than before and generate more of the downforce. Expect photographers to be briefed to get any shot of the underside of a car on a crane that they can.

There has been a lot of talk about the fins returning to the engine covers, which generally look ugly and are not popular with fans and many insiders. These could be dispensed with during 2017 as they play only a minor role in the aerodynamics, certainly less than they do on the aesthetic side.

A few things are clear already; Mercedes had a lot of time on its hands during 2016 to curate and develop its 2017 car; having had such an advantage over the field they could keep everyone at arms length with basic developments, but at the same time they devoted most of their time and resources to the new car. That is a luxurious position to be in and it’s probably the last year they could do that, as they’ll be in an arms race of development this year through to season’s end, one suspects.

The solutions on the Mercedes are very well developed – for example the front suspension, with the innovative top bracket and the highly curated side vane and bargeboards (below). This is an area of the car where the new rules allow some freedom to experiment and as it is a critical area in terms of shaping the air flow around the car and to the floor, it’s where we will see huge development this year.

Mercedes has lengthened the wheelbase of the car by 15cm compared to the 2016 model to maximise the potential of the floor. It has made conscious decisions, like not having a blown axle, which helps airflow around that car, because that entails a more complex wheel nut which can slow down pit stops.

And with what we know of the gains they have made on the engine side, they surely will start as favourites again this season.

Ferrari has had some stick since the Schumacher years for not being bold enough and not leading the way on innovation.

Well they have certainly gone out on a limb with the new car, with some very extreme ideas around the leading edge of the floor, the turning vanes and the side pods. There are complex and sinuous shapes and flow structures here.

This will either work brilliantly and lead some others to copy their ideas or they could lose some time chasing their tales to get the aero to work. Clearly they are banking on a heavy development programme in this area of the car and they obviously think they have found something.

In contrast to Mercedes, they have not lengthened the wheelbase.

Until the car covers some real mileage in Spain starting tomorrow, we will not know which is the true scenario.

Ferrari has worked very hard on its car, despite the fact that they also kept pushing on the 2016 car until quite late in the season. There is also the question of the upheaval in the technical department with a new head of aerodynamics who comes from outside F1.

The engine was the best part of the Ferrari the last two years and once again they are expected to have plenty of power from the new engine.

It’s the efficiency of downforce and driveability which will be the watch points for this new Ferrari car.

Red Bull revealed a beautiful looking car on Sunday and this is the one that most insiders expect to take the fight to Mercedes this season. There are some important things to note about the background story to this car. One is that the new 2017 rules, with their greater emphasis on aerodynamics, re-engaged the interest of Adrian Newey, who had got bored with the engine dominated F1 of 2014-16. This can only be a positive for the team and if one looks at the progress of the 2016 car aerodynamically, then the expectation is that this car will be at least the equal of the Mercedes. “Whether we have prioritised in the right areas or not, time will tell,” Newey said in an interview last week.

It’s not just about generating huge downforce; this car is likely to be very efficient aerodynamically, meaning it can run at many venues with less than maximum wing levels and can trim the car accordingly.

This is the opposite of the situation they had in the Vettel Red Bull V8 blown diffuser era, when they would tend to run maximum wing almost everywhere for cornering speed; get pole and then break the tow in the opening laps, winning the race, despite the fact that the car was one of the slowest on the straights because of the downforce levels.

“[This year] We get a lot more freedom from areas of the car that can deliver performance and we always like to have the ability to play around with these areas,” said Red Bull’s aero chief Dan Fallows.

The key to their challenge will be Renault’s new engine. Our sources suggest that Renault has found around 40kW from the engine, which is worth more than the three tenths of a second Cyril Abiteboul spoke about at the Renault launch. It’s closer to four tenths/half a second.

Against that there was a concern with reliability this week when Red Bull’s junior team Toro Rosso suffered an engine problem at its shakedown/filming day test, which proved a showstopper. Clearly they are pushing to the limit.

Nevertheless the word on the industry grapevine is that Renault has done a very good job with this engine and so we would expect Red Bull to be able to be close on Mercedes from the outset of testing this week. The unknown is how much Mercedes had been holding back in reserve on the engine side last year and where the gains with the new engine therefore take them to.

McLaren we spoke about on Friday and despite having little in the way of serious sponsorship on the car, the team has a budget to compete from the shareholders and a stable aero group under Peter Prodromou that looks to have produced a good car, building on the detailed work of 2016. Honda says they will start the season at the level of engine performance Mercedes had last season, which is a challenging idea as Mercedes was holding back its true performance. But based on the performance which could be measured, Honda feels it will be there. There is inevitably a lack of refinement compared to Mercedes, because they are still playing catch up, but any slip ups from Ferrari and McLaren will be there.

Williams is very much a team in transition as it unveiled its car this weekend. The Grove squad slipped from 2014 to 2016 from third to fifth and it will take a big effort to finish higher than that this year.

As well as Pat Symonds, who oversaw this 2017 car’s development, the team has dispensed with heads of aerodynamics, production and is revamping the technical management. Dirk de Beer, who worked with James Allison at Ferrari, has come in as the new aero chief. Paddy Lowe will soon join the team. Meanwhile on the driver front they have a rookie in Lance Stroll and a ‘retired’ driver coming back in Felipe Massa, so it’s hard to see them scoring enough points to finish top four.

Haas has also revealed its car this weekend in some generic launch shots. More details on this as the testing starts next week, as with Toro Rosso, whose car was rolled out on Sunday night and which is striking in blue. Powered by a Renault engine and with some nice looking aerodynamic cues and two very good drivers, this car could be a bit of a dark horse in the midfield.

What do you think so far? What is your favourite car? Take our poll and leave your comment in the section below

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I still do not understand how the jacking effect under high lateral G forces of pronounced droop on most front suspension systems is dealt with. Basically with all these systems the front of the car is forced up in cornering by the droop on the front suspension. This is exactly the opposite of what you need the chassis to do under high cornering loads.


“…the highly curated side vane…” How exactly does one curate a side vane? The word “curated” has been popping up a lot lately, and I wonder if folks know the proper use of the word.


The Toro Roso and Haas are missing from the poll!
They would be my first and second favourites based on colour schemes (which for me is the main criteria this early in the testing process)


Well, no one asked for my opinion, but here it is; all the cars look terrific from the back, silly from the front, and as long as buses from the side. Next year, let’s have them 50cm shorter and 50kg lighter, and ban thumb noses and shark fins. No room for all the technical gubbins? Sure there is – all that wasted floor space is just waiting to be used properly. I’d be all for cars with bigger sidepods that are a foot and a half shorter.


Who’s Hot?
Clearly it’s McLaren, Torro Rosso and Red Bull that are hottest, the most smokin’…

…oh wait, that’s just their engines 🙁


Awesome paint jobs on the Sauber, Haas, and Toro.
But the best looking and most striking for me is the Ferrari. Those sidepods are brilliant.


Ah, I love this time of year…

“And the wheel,” said the Captain, “What about this wheel thingy? It sounds a terribly interesting project.”
“Ah,” said the marketing girl, “Well, we’re having a little difficulty there.”
“Difficulty?” exclaimed Ford. “Difficulty? What do you mean, difficulty? It’s the single simplest machine in the entire Universe!”
The marketing girl soured him with a look.
“Alright, Mr. Wiseguy,” she said, “if you’re so clever, you tell us what colour it should be.”

Douglas Adams, ‘The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe’


This doesn’t look like a Mercedes-beater to me. The Ferrari does more to suggest it may beat Merc than this in terms of design concept. This looks like a safe and not very radical design by comparison from RBR.


Why no Toro Rosso on the survey. it’s the only decent looking car out there.
And as for the claims that the 2017 cars would look ” aggressive” … well, maybe ugly would have been a better adjective.


Mercedes: I am normally not a fan and still, all those years later, find PETRONAS-green truly horrid. Still, the new car looks simply fantastic.
No stepped front, no mini-proboscis on the nose, no shark fin (OK, OK, I know it’s probably coming), impossibly slim at the back, simply great

Red Bull: Bulky front spoils everything on what would otherwise have been a tidy looking car

Ferrari: Looks very exciting and of course the Italians have found the best way, stylistically, to “hide” the shark fin. The mini proboscis on the nose is a spoiler, though

Renault: I have to say I like this a lot. The yellow/black combination is very nicely done, the car simply looks good.
Oh ! Did I mention I do not like the mini-proboscis already . . . 😉

Williams: Looks all right . . . . ish
The coke bottle area from the air box duct backwards seems very bloated compared to the Mercedes, though and I still think Williams are doing too little with the Martini stripes.
Mini-proboscis, again . . .

Maclaren: Of dear, oh dear . . .
I have for years wanted McLaren to go back to orange. That test car, from 2006 I think it was, looked brilliant.
Orange was THE McLaren colour “back in the day” and it is also a colour that is rare in F1 and as such McLaren could, in time, make it as much its own again as Ferrari have done with red.
What they have done now, though is a complete and utter disaster.
First off, the timing completely wrong. They should have waited a year, had some success with the completely new regime (easy, almost impossible to be worse than 2015/16) and then roll our the new colours.
Currently it looks as if they are trying too hard to “un-Ron” the team . . . which will backfire spectacularly should they still be struggling to pass the Toro Rossos again this year.
And then the colour scheme itself . . . . the idea of throwing some black in there is not bad but the way it has been implemented it looks as if the thing was decided upon by a committee
“We have to go orange”
“Are you sure ?”
“OK, maybe only orange is too bold . . . . let us combine with something dark like the current colours, but still different so it does not look like we are copying Ron”
“OK . . . . black ?”
“Yeah, black works with everything, right ?”
Hold on, what about HONDA ?”
“Sh….t ! I forgot about them . . .”
“OK, here it is. We will go orange but also with black and also white . . .”
Yes folks, that car is not orange/black, apparently, rather orange/black/white, with white being HONDA’s colour of course. HONDA gets to call AAAALLLL of those white stripes its own . . .
I like the gilled front wing-to-nose attachments but that is about it

Force India: I actually like the three-pronged nose . . . . but that is about it
The (very !) stepped front and huge silver slab that is the shark fin makes this the ugliest car of 2017, but it is close with the McLaren. It is also missing a trick by having less black on the paintjob than last year’s effort. If they just painted the shark fin black, that would improve the car’s looks no end . . . but still not enough to compensate for that stepped front

Toro Rosso: I have not properly seen those yet apart from one 2/3 shot showing a rather striking lighter shade of blue.

Haas: Seems to look better than last year’s car which, whilst not difficult, would be a welcome sign.

Sauber: An excellent effort for their anniversary, good, very individual colours combined thoughtfully. What a huge difference to the totally slapdash blue/yellow efforts of recent years. The car itself looks on the conservative side but maybe not as much as the Williams.

[Please keep comments shorter in the future – Mod]


Yep, MB for the win in 2017 guarenteed. I feel they will aniolate the competition this year they have the capacity to dominate both Engine and Aero. But I predict Bottas will beat Lewis in the inter-team rivalry this year; I just have a feeling. I kind of miss Rosberg being around, him and Lewis made a good odd couple, and he was no slouch it was a pleasure watching them fight it out for the 2016 crown. For 2017 there is plenty to look forward to this year so many interesting team battles this year. Hurry up Melbourne!


Having now, for the first time, seen full screen HD images of the new Red Bull on track i’m going to rank it the second No.1 in the looks dept alongside the mercedes. The ‘special’ nose inlet originally looked awful but having now seen it ‘in situ’ it looks cool.


i can see inspiration from whaletail and contours of hamiltons sixpack on that mercedes along with a few contours of shark gill covers.


‘contours of hamiltons sixpack’

We don’t want to know what you think of in your spare time!


i don’t read things i don’t want to read let alone think about it enough to write a response to..


“Overall the cars are not perhaps as spectacular looking as we were led to believe, not as dramatically far removed from what went before, which is slightly disappointing. They look very large in the flesh”

Bulls Eye. I have been pretty disappointed. There is not much difference visually, apart from looking BIG. and even then, the Mercedes looks fabulous and BIGGER than the rest …


To sum up 2017 cars so far:

Most teams now running trick suspension (2016 Mercedes style) by the looks of things with their vanity panels. Even Ferrari are, after they tried to get them banned …

Shark fins are horrific and should be punishable by disqualification. Immediately.

Mercedes have shown much more of a hand than their rivals with launch spec (bargeboards, etc). This either means they are arrogant about their position or they have so much in the pipeline for development they just don’t care what rivals see prior to testing / Melbourne.

Red Bull may as well have put some new wings on last years car and shown that for the launch. Nothing of notable interest on the car at this stage, except their nose design. Expect teams to cry to the FIA about that before Melbourne.

Ferrari looks interesting, doubt it will work though. They will still end up 3rd in constructors.


Interesting that STR seems to be getting as much if not more press than RBR this year.
And to boot I think Sainz is looking like one of the better prepared drivers.

Given their chassis/Aero performance last year, and their design philosophy this year, for me, they are the team to watch. Only caveat is the Renault engine!


Hi James
Do you think with the extra width of the cars will be an issue exiting pit lane especially when two cars are fighting for the same piece of tarmac?

I do like the look of the Red Bull too…here’s hoping they can make it a contest and not a Mercedes whitewash


I’m just not a fan of F1 cars getting bigger, heavier and uglier. I loved the simpler, lighter and more nimble machines we used to have, which I always thought was the essence of F1.


I know what does look ugly, those big cameras on the air boxes! Hanging out like an example of trigonal bipyramidal molecular geometry. I know they have to have cameras with lens cleaning facility but surely with current technology they don’t have to be so big.


James, what is the thinking behind such massive floors? All of these elegantly designed, beautifully sculpted engine covers taper-back into a tightly-packaged coke-bottle shape from behind the driver to the rear wing. All ruined by what looks like a full garage door stuck underneath the car. Thanks.


well they made the cars wider, so of course the floor is going to be bigger.
If you look at the plan view photo in Tornillo Amarillo’s comment above of the Mercedes you can see how they have tried to suck all the body work as close to the engine and transmission to allow more airflow between the bodywork and the rear wheels. This allows more air to go over the rear wing and over the top of the diffuser which ‘sucks’ the back of the car down.. which makes the rear tyres grip more.
The exposed floor isn’t what they are trying to achieve… it’s more that they’re trying to slim down the bodywork which exposes more of the top of the floor.
(yes, i know – but let’s see all you aerodynamicists out there explain it in layman terms any better)


Why cast a vote on our favorite 2017 car and only give us 8 of them to choose from? I would have voted Torro Rosso if I could, it looks the best by miles, seeing as looks is all we have to go by at present. Mercedes are a close second though.


that rb13 has one tight rear end!!! nice packaging.


Torro Rosso looks great!


6 + despite the shark fin. Interesting. Also, where would they put the Bull’s tail if there was no shark fin?

To me this looks stunning just the way it is.


I saw a picture of the RB yesterday without the Fin and it was missing its Tail !!


Luke, it’s a good example of what a great livery can do. The fins were a bit of a shock at first, but they are growing on me now. That car will look amazing under the lights at Singapore!


TimW; I really hope they don’t start banning bits and pieces now because of something some people have said on a website somewhere.

These are the most remarkable cars we’ve had in F1 for a long time. I also can’t remember the last time we had so much variety and innovation in F1. And now people want to start banning everything and making the rules more prescriptive so that we will end up with cars that all look the same and there’s absolutely nothing distinctive and remarkable about them.

In other words we will go back to what we had over the last 3 years: boring.


Best looking car for me. Looks brilliant on the track and does actually look aggressive!


@ Nick H taking nothing away fro TR but is it the livery or the design ? If this car was, say, in yellow or black, would you still think the same. For me it is simply the livery which is impressive.


Nick, fantastic livery, I even like the fin on this one!


Red Bull have brought out the worst looking car ever! Mercedes is head and horse’s mane above the rest. Toro Rosso has the best paint job. If they got rid of the fin they’d be neck and neck with the Merc.


Having awoken this morning to see the last three reveals i must admit that i am not sure which appeals most? I was rather sceptical from early on about just what we would finally get to see and apart from some livery changes the end result is not too exciting at all. The only comments that are meaningful at this stage are the ‘
colour combinations and the design profiles. Without any decent images of the Red Bull it is impossible to define suitable elements for comparison. ATM…mercedes are the top of the pack designwise. That car is both sleek and slick. All the others ATM enjoy good and not so good liveries but most of them are an improvement over last year. I would be hard pressed to appoint any one of them as a standout. The finned engine covers are a bit of a turnoff but after a while they sort of blend in overall. Williams, i think, have got it wrong with the colour treatment which emphasises the ‘blockish’ effect. Whereas Haas have done a great job with the visual cues.

Hopefully we’ll get to see better images once the track action begins.

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