Insight: Thoughts as we board the plane to Melbourne for a new F1 season
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F1 Australia 2016
Posted By: James Allen  |  19 Mar 2017   |  2:45 pm GMT  |  181 comments

There are so many fascinating talking points as we board the planes taking us to Australia for the first Grand Prix, but this year we have the double whammy of a new set of regulations on the car designs and new owners of the sport, who will start to take F1 in a new direction.

I guess that shows the rate of change in the world today, that not one massive change, but two are happening at the same time. Many will hope that this also leads to a change in the competitive picture in F1 with more than one team able to win races and fight for the championship.

We’ve done some detailed work on what the F1 testing revealed and we’ve looked at a few characters and what their 2017 might look like, but here are some of my thoughts as I stare out of the window of the Etihad plane taking me to Australia.

Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton’s approach to 2017
We start with F1’s front runner. On paper he is already the world champion elect in the eyes of many. This is because of the level of domination Mercedes has enjoyed since 2014, but also the fact that Valtteri Bottas is not (yet) at the same performance level as Nico Rosberg, as testing demonstrated. If Bottas turns out to be a team mate more like Heikki Kovalainen was to Hamilton at McLaren in 2008, then that will be a major disappointment.

What will it do to Hamilton’s mindset? Well, he has his way of doing things and that works for him. He realised after Singapore and Japan last year that he could not to all the extra-curricular stuff he enjoys in LA and on the fashion and party scene and still hope to match Rosberg. If he has Bottas and other rivals pressurising him every week, then he might well carry the approach and performance through from the end of 2016.

Sebastian Vettel

Ferrari’s ability to develop a good car and to manage expectations inside the team
We’ve not heard much from Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne over the winter about his expectations for 2017. By his own admission it didn’t help last year when he said the team needed to win from the start. The new car looks really fast and works well with the new Pirelli wide tyres, but neither Marchionne nor anyone else at Ferrari is making any predictions about the season. Even if Mercedes was masking 0.6s of performance in testing through a turned-down engine and some extra weight in the car, as some team insiders believe, that still puts Ferrari very close on pace and able to challenge. If Mercedes was masking just 0.3s of pace, then they are evenly matched.

Ferrari didn’t cover themselves in glory on some strategy decisions last year and it’s a big season for Inaki Rueda, who runs the strategy side. He was a key James Allison guy, so he will need to feel strongly supported by the team as he makes the big calls in races. The signs are that there will be one pit stop fewer this year than in 2016, but strategists are also cautious to make that prediction until we have seen how the tyres act in China and Bahrain.

Incidentally, as in the last six seasons we will be producing the UBS Race Strategy Report on the Tuesday after every Grand Prix, with a deep dive into the key decisions that shaped the race with input and data from several F1 team strategists and from Pirelli.

Esteban Ocon

Spotlight on the youth

Esteban Ocon has looked really good in testing with Force India. I don’t know how he looks in pink, but the 20 year old Frenchman has a real chance to end up in a Mercedes in a year or two if he performs well now. He was talent spotted as a youngster by Eric Boullier, but Toto Wolff bought out his contract from Gravity Management and one gets the impression that the management of Mercedes in Brackley really rate this kid.

Ocon’s up against a good benchmark in Sergio Perez and will be in the midst of a very tight midfield battle involving drivers like Felipe Massa, Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg. This gives plenty of opportunities to stand out in 2017. I will be watching Ocon closely.

I will also have a close eye on Lance Stroll, the 18 year old Canadian. He has been on the radar for a few years and earned his F1 chance by winning the FIA F3 series last year. Some would argue that another year of development might have been beneficial before jumping into F1, particularly in the year when the regulations make the cars much more physical to drive. An F3 driver’s longest race is half an hour, no comparison with 100 minutes in an F1 car pulling 6g nowadaays laterally in corners and under braking.

Lance Stroll

Youth has been in vogue since Max Verstappen breezed in aged 17 and made it look easy. Stroll is not Verstappen, but observers say he is not Max Chilton either. I suspect he’ll have some crashes early doors, but I’ll be looking beyond the stereotype of the rich man’s son with a heavy right foot to see the F1 driver he might become. For Williams it puts greater emphasis on the other driver and Felipe Massa will be interesting to watch. He has been given an extra bonus year and as leaving F1 wasn’t really his idea anyway last September, more a result of circumstances, I’ll be watching carefully to see how ‘on it’ he is.

What are you looking out for in F1 2017? Leave your comments in the section below,

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181 comments

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1

2017 it'll be all about the engines again.
All the best to Lewis and Mercedes and of course the British Drivers.
Good luck to Mclaren hope Honda have a solid engine for Alonso and Stoffel.
Plus hope Max gets all the favouritism from the Red Bull owners. Let the daggers and arrows fly Max kick some DR rear 😄

2

All about the engines? I will assume you mean their HP, but I think their reliability will be the bigger story. Guaranteed one or more drivers will have to take extra engine parts, and start at the back, for some races. If everyone gets their turn, then fine. It could be a good differentiator if that's the case.

In the absence of a Best X of Y Results scoring system - which really is the answer to moderating the effect that excessive unreliability can have on the DRIVING championship - I hope that no title-challenging drivers have a lot more unreliability than others. Hopefully everyone is within plus/minus a single DNF of each other.

3

I dunno about the Ferrari engine but they seem to have the best chassis by far.

4

A BKF....'.Jeez you've started early BK Flamer, ramping up your Brit driver. So many Poms all over this thread......' Ring any bells?

5

Kenneth:

Priceless!!

6

What's the point of your last sentence? To irritate RIC fans or do you really believe a team would purposely throw points away by not giving both drivers a fair chance.

RIC has been a Redbull man longer than MAX (so he's no Webber, who was always an 'outsider' to VET), plus he's very talented. Many (incl Alonso) say best on grid. MAX will have to be mighty good over whole season to beat him.

7

Has BK Flamer got the right to a favourite driver? No? Do we all have to be fans of DR? I see no reason why BK Flamer shouldn't wish his man to kick some DR rear (to come top in the RedBull intra-team battle). That's not to say he has a problem with Ricciardo.

8

Whoaa....what's your problem with Ricciardo?
You sound like someone who got shot down by some hot little Aussie surfer girl back when you were younger & still haven't gotten over it.
Or maybe you just don't like really fast racecar drivers that are a bit goofy & smile a lot...

9

Very amusing that a poster takes a swipe at Ricciardo and all the Aussies come out of the woodwork to give him a good flaming, obviously there isn't a certain British driver that seems to inflame the Antipodean wrath every time he does or says anything, is there?

10

Well said TimW. A lot of hypocrisy going on here from some Aussies. They usually tear Hamilton to shreds for the slightest thing. Pot, kettle, black.

11

@A*....Strange how originality gets lost when you're on the back foot!

12

Hypocrisy from yes, but not all, and it's certainly not just Aussies that have had a go at Hamilton in the past. Personally I'm not a fan, but neither do I have a problem with him.

As for that comment by Flamer, I see a lot of "I hope Max wins" (which is absolutely fine) and a lot of "Verstappen is faster than Ricciardo" (which is also fine), but not too often do I see a comment like that.

13

"Plus hope Max gets all the favouritism from the Red Bull owners. Let the daggers and arrows fly Max kick some DR rear"

So...in your opinion Max needs favouritism to beat Dan?

If the kid really is that good he should be able to win on his own merit.

14

Flamers just trolling the RIC fans Random. I imagine if the rolls were reversed we would have certain posters here spitting their dummy's left right and centre calling on James to mod such childish posts.

15
Ricciardo Aficionado

Yeah, time to put the feather dusters down ladies...

16

I know Sarsippious, but that doesn't mean I can't call him on it 😉

17

@random
Yeps👏👍. Nr1 and 2 status goes against the essence of Motorsport. Let the battles commence and good luck to them all. But I'm of course hoping lewis kicks butt😉🏎🏁

18

I mean it as an added spice to the impending Red Bull soap opera 😆.
You know it's coming it'll start as a whimper and end in thunder and lightening as the season continues.
Happy team racing is not in the psychology of a young racer. It's win win. Exactly what happened with Lewis and Alonso.

19
Ricciardo Aficionado

That's what you meant? Something else? I don't think you meant it at all. Why would someone reveal their zeal for unsporting behaviour and rigged competition? What kind of spectator likes to watch a game with a finger on one side of the scales?
We'll anyway I guess you'll be looking for it, so do lets us know if your hope comes to fruition and RedBull do actually end up "favouriting" Verstappen. 'Cos that'll be a story!! One I'll be looking out for too. Everyone will after the Vettel/Webber partnership... If it's going to happen it won't happen undercover this time.
Can't see it myself. DR's too good to waste.

20

@BKF...That excuse doesn't seem to add up considering the number of like posts you've put up here over time?

21

I for once will want to see Honda pull a Brawn and fix the vibration issues! If honda can fix the engine, Stoff and Alonso are more than capable of a few upsets! Please please please...oh F1 gods... don't make this another 2014

22

While we're praying...

Alonso to win Monaco
Massa to win championship
Kate Upton to become my girlfriend

2 of the above more likely to happen than the other one. Not sure which one🤔

What a season that would be

Gentlemen start your engines!!!

23

Its entirely possible that Alonso could win Monaco... Kate might well be looking for a change after being left at home looking after the kids whilst hubby was off ski ing. I hope those were the two you thought were most likely as the Massa idea is pure fantasy!

24

The first and third options are the ones with some degree of likeliness to happen. The second one that sees Massa winning the championship has no chance whatsoever; not this season.

25

Well Pete, if Massa wins the championship best wishes for the wedding 🙂

26

do you mean "pull a Brawn" as in heave the Honda engine out and put in a Mercedes?

27

oh dear lord this wins the 'best post' competition hands down! 😉

28

James, keen to understand the life of someone like you, especially at the beginning of the season. Is the flight filled with People like you? What are everyone thinking? How is the energy level / buzz? How different is it to last year given the change? When would the drivers start coming in? Do they do anything differently for the season opener? It will be nice to have an article around this!!

29

A flight full of people like me? !!

Yes and no but I'll do more on the life sometime

30

Thanks James, that will be awesome, looking forward to it!!

Ps: We know that not (m)any can be like you!!

31

James, this week in Aus we have a dedicated F1 channel 24/7 through our pay per view provider running season reviews and old Australian GP races. Needless to say its something fans here are loving.
Are you aware if it's something that Liberty are considering doing year round, not just here but worldwide, now they have the rights to all the archival footage of the sport?
If not maybe its something you could ask about if you have time.

32

James, i don't have Sky F1, so any races that are not televised on free TV, i have to listen to on 5live radio. It's not the same since your departure. Jack Nicholl's commentary is not a patch on yours. Any chance you might come back to radio at some stage?

33

Doesn't Jennifer Aniston fly Etihad?

Also there is no one like your James, you're truly one of a kind man with one of a kind website 😀

34

She flies Emirates...

35

Nope. Jennifer Anniston flys Emirates. James has to put up with Nicole Kidman! 😄

36

James, a selfie of yours relaxing in the sky suit of Ethiad would have made this Article complete.

37

Kimi seemed to have the measure of Seb in the second half of 2016 so I'm looking forward to seeing if Ferrari have delivered a car that allows him to continue that into 2017. Expect more Mexico-esque tantrums from Vettle if it does!

38

Sebs frustration stems from Ferraris politics and incompetence more than anything

Also testing showed seb faster than kimi (kimi fan here)

39

If you had noticed, whenever Kimi was ahead Vettel gives up all caution at the start. He cannot see his team-mate ahead.

40

This season might possibly see the lowest number of debutants ever. There is only one Race One debutant (Stroll), but it doesn't look like there could be any mid-season debuts this year. The mid-season debuts by VAN and OCO last year have pushed down the number this year. One never knows though.

41

Are you expecting mid season changes due to under performance?Or maybe an Alonso dummy spit then Johnny goes back in.The only one would be Stroll but he is safe with daddys money.

42

I was just making an observation. The average looks somewhere around 4.5 debuts per season, but I can't see us getting anywhere near that this year. There have been lean years for debuts (2012 and 2008 with only 2), but this year could be the leanest.

43

20 cars in 2017 doesn't help your stat.

44

I think sparks will fly this year but it will be where we least expect.

I think the famous friendship that is Kimi and Vettel will be severely tested. Vettel will not like it when Kimi refuses to play the ageing second fiddle, which is the scenario that Sebby has written for Kimi. When Kimi shows him the way home a few times, it will be goodbye amigos and hello best enemies.

This is taking as given that the SF7OH will be a winner and suit Kimi: of course, that may or may not turn out to be the case. Let's see .....
Early signs are that the "Scuderia Ferrari 7 Oh!!" might just give Kimi something to work with

45

I know the clutch rules on starts change yet again BUT last year they did allow drivers talking to the pits at the end of the season. The fans like this. I don't think shark fins make the cars look any better unless maybe they use one off a real shark. They were before drs when the rear wing was higher. Now its much lower but the fin should not be any higher than he rear wing. This just looks terrible.

Ferraris low front suspension combined with raised side pods looks real cool head on. It just says downforce.

46

Seb coped with his frustration quite well when Ricci beat him, so why do you think Kimi's success will get the better of Seb?
Seb and Kimi are quite good friends so there is more credit for that, a different situation than Seb and Daniel (no friendship, just respect).
My bet is on Vettel beating Kimi.

47

Testing showed vet ahead of kimi

Well see!

48

by 10 or 12, I meant 2010 or 2012 🙂

49

depends a lot on the strategy team as well...Kimi was usually given inferior race strategies all year round...so we can't be certain still yet...
but ferrari needs to function as two number 1s rather than their normal style...favoring one driver has got them nothing look at alonso massa...if massa was at rosberg level then Alonso may have just been able to win either of 10 or 12 championship

50

Vettel Getting better strategy than Kimi LMFAO. Ferrari cost Vettel 3 race wins. Kimi as usual was the slower race driver. Just to put things into perspective for you in the 13 races both drivers finished. Vettel creamed Kimi 10 to 3. Considering Kimi qualified ahead of Vettel in some of those Races it doesn't a genius to figure who the quicker driver was. Another issue with Kimi is that can't overtake as well as Vettel. It's easy to claim Ferrari choose the wrong strategy than to admit your favourite driver was just slower than Vettel in the race

51

If they ever were close together on track, Ferrari gave the better strategy to Vettel. The only time it didn't pay off was Spain, where it was 50/50.

52

Does a better Strategy to Vettel include an undercut that would anyway let Vettel overtake Kimi on track??? If anything Ferrari have been more than fair with Kimi.

Strategy is always based on complex mathematical calculations on many data points and variables such as the pace of the driver on a certain set of tyres, expected tyre wear, real tyre wear based on driver's inputs, favorable gaps in traffic, possibility of a safety car, changing track condition, margins over other cars,if one of the driver is in the contention for the WDC and many other such considerations. There are no emotions and favoritism involved and its so dynamic that you cant predict how its going to change during a race. Driver status is not taken into consideration unless he is in contention for the WDC. 2014 Riccairdo vs Vettel proved that teams put their interest even before their no 1 drivers interest.

Last year the European GP was the only race Kimi was asked to move over for Vettel as Vettel had an opportunity to pressurize Rosberg for the win. Even if they dint ask Kimi to move over Vettel would still beat him as Kimi was on 11 lap older tyres which also helped Perez overtook Kimi at the end of the race. After spain their car's lack of aero updates made Ferrari the 3rd fastest team. Vettel would ask for or be put on a strategy running longer stints. This was done only because he was able to manage his tyres wear better than Kimi(you can check out the laptimes on fia's site or f1 fanatic of the races especially where you feel Kimi was given the inferior strategy and in some of the races you'll find Kimi on the radio complaining about his tyre wear) What is noticeable is that after Kimi pits, Vettel is able to significantly up his pace or maintain it to an extent where it clearly shows Vettel was being held back by Kimi. Even though this is known to the guys on the pit wall and the guy in charge of the strategy yet they never issued any team orders asking Kimi to let Vettel pass. And whenever Kimi is called to pit, its only because he leading Vettel in those races, hence gets first priority as the lead driver for pit stops or they are covering/responding to other cars around them pitting. Vettel's long run pace advantage is so profound that even If they changed the order of the strategy Vettel would still end up ahead of his teammate because of the undercut and because he is able to manage his tyre wear better than Kimi hence negating any advantage Kimi might have at the end of the race. Now imagine If they were to call Vettel in first instead of Kimi, a bunch of people on this site(the regular Kimi brigade) would be claiming that Ferrari used the undercut to favor Vettel when what they should have done is call Kimi in first and let Vettel out for a few laps longer(exactly what Ferrari did ironic isnt it?). You must remember Ferrari's goal is to maximize its points total especially when its not in contention for the WDC. For that they need both drivers to finish strongly. They cant screw Kimi strategy and expect to finish ahead of the Redbull in the standings(which was their goal after they realized the WDC was not for taking) Kimi has also struggled to overtake slower cars even on tracks where its easy to overtake. He has constant run ins with Bottas in 2015 and with Max in 2015. In the last 2 years Vettel has started at the back of the field 3 times (Singapore 2016, Abu Dhabi 2015 & Canada 2015) and yet managed to finish the race one position behind Kimi.. Compare that with Kimi who if he were to have a bad start (and I am not even considering starting last) will finish 2 to 4 positions behind Vettel. If you calculate the deficit of the driver over the 13 races they both finished you’ll find Vettel has an average advantage over Kimi of 11.80 seconds over a race distance. That gap would have been more had it not been for Vettel starting last in Singapore and also if he dint get a 10 second time penalty in Mexico. Plus every time there is a safety car it masks the advantage Vettel has over Kimi over a race distance. This gap isnt just about better strategy calls its purely about race pace. Thats 10 races out of 13 when both drivers finished going to Vettel and 4 races out of 6 non finishes also to Vettel. Bharain and Russia dont count because Vettel dint start in Bharain(but was faster in qualification and on the long runs in practice) and In also in Russia(qualified with a gap of over 5/10 to Kimi but Kyvat took him off in the first lap). Brazil is clearly given to Kimi even if he crashed out(aquaplaning) and also Malaysia as it was Vettel's fault( although he was the faster driver in qualification and practice i.e long runs)

I'll give it to you that Kimi is much more improved this year than he was in 2014 and 2015 and its to do with Ferrari ditching their pull rod front suspension. But to say he is a the faster driver or he beat Vettel last year, or Ferrari Favored Vettel is too far fetched. I may lie, you may lie but the data never lies. In 2016 Vettel was the faster Race driver even if Kimi was the better qualifier and at the end of the day its your performance on Sunday that matters.

53

Looks like a response you've used before, but haven't updated.

Never said that Kimi beat Vettel in the races. I said that it's clear that Ferrari is more concerned with Vettel's race than Kimi's. They will sacrifice Kimi's race to help Seb's.

54

Even if Mercedes was masking 0.6s of performance in testing through a turned-down engine and some extra weight in the car, as some team insiders believe, that still puts Ferrari very close on pace and able to challenge.

Can you clarify which team insiders these were? Your team, or the Mercedes team, or from other teams? Surely Mercedes team insiders should know, no?

Any chance of creating a JAonF1 league for the GP Predictor game?

https://gppredictor.com

55

Like the league idea - do you want to create one and share it with everyone?

56

May be he doesn't want to reveal the sources to keep his future communication channel intact. Are you suspecting it to be like a certain President's allegation that media use unnamed sources and get away by reporting anything?

57

I think the tooth fairy spied on Toto Wolf. You don't go by the speed but the mileage which is very close and the fact that Mercedes and Ferrari have totally diferent side pod and front suspension designes. Ferrari looks even on power and better on chassis with less oversteer.

58

Why don't you take the 'insiders' as a generalisation instead of trying to pin the tail on the donkey every time. Most cases we don't know the facts, but take what are educated guesses as to the situation after talking to other people for their opinion too. 'Facts at this level of sport are rarely given!

59

Well, it makes a big difference if those team insiders were from the JAonF1 team, or from one or more of the F1 teams. Which one they are, is something that JA would of course know.

60

If Merc comes out in Australia Q3 and just cranks up the engine to win pole by .3 secs, then I will be seriously SERIOUSLY deflated. Nothing matters until Q3 happens on Saturday in Australia. Speculation ends right THEN AND THERE.

61

what about if in the race Ferrari is faster than Mercedes and they fall back? Remember 2013 (or years before) where Merc used to qualify high and fall back in the race?

62

Agree, and this is quite likely that Merc will be on pole by 0.3s. CHN &BAH will reveal the true gap in race trim, with FER likely quicker in the race.

63

I would be a bit disappointed. Let's hope Ferrari got everything right this year and at least one time can challenge Mercedes. Don't care who

64
Ricciardo Aficionado

"He realised after Singapore and Japan last year that he could not do all the extra-curricular stuff he enjoys in LA and on the fashion and party scene and still hope to match Rosberg."
People get accused of Ham bashing for a lot less than this! But I think he can still party and beat Bottass...
Also looking forward to the youth shining through. I remember when Alonso and Kimi were the new brigade biting at the heels of Schumacher. Is there one of those guys in this new batch? Verstappen will apparently FAR outshine the pair combined! Nothing to complain about this year with the talent coming along, should be exciting. Sainz Verstappen Vandoorne Ocon Gisbergen Stroll... in that order. What happened to Max Chilton? Wasn't he going to be the next Hamiltin? But that's enough of the Ham bashing thanks...

65

wow. Max would be far better than Alonso+Kimi combined? You must [Mod] to assert that. How many new drivers have really come close to the level of these two? just two: Hamilton and Vettel. So let's wait until we glorify Max - we never saw him in a poor car yet (anyone can appear good in a good car).

66
Ricciardo Aficionado

Calm yer wallabies down sport! In my opinion he isn't even as good as DR. It's the hype that's caused you to sail past the irony intended in that comment. Listen to Public Enemy mate, don't believe the hype.

67

Ricci, I think he still partied and beat Nico! i wouldn't say Max would outshine Kimi or Fernando, on a par perhaps, but lets not get carried away. Max Chilton the next Lewis? He wishes....

68
Ricciardo Aficionado

What a strange thing to say! Have you already successfully erased the memory of last year??

69

Ricci, are you referring to Max being the new Senna or Lewis beating Nico while still attending the odd party? I assume it's the latter and I also assume you mean the championship standings at the end of the season. I remember very well what the final score was, but I also remember Lewis winning ten races to Nico's nine and three of those nine for Rosberg coming at events when Lewis had to start either at the back or P10 because of car failures. I guess if we just look at the standings to judge the comparative performance between team mates we can say that Nico beat Lewis in 2016, just as we can say that Kvyat beat Ricciardo in 2015.....

70
Ricciardo Aficionado

Heard it all before. The only thing ur doing is scratching that asterisk harder and harder onto the page. Pretty soon your going to go through the paper.
As for 2015... DR vs DK? Guess what! It happened, make of it what you will, but seriously dude, who got demoted? Nobody's losing sleep over that one. Losing a Championship on the other hand??
Maybe it'll happen this year. MV is some seriously talented opposition... But so was DR after he trounced Vettel. Btw don't give me any excuses on that one. Ricciardo for the title mate! Anything less doesn't really matter. If not for the title (3rd best car and all) then hopefully it's a decent competition between the two 'Bull drivers. I think it will be... definitely entertaining anyway.

71

Ricciardo, and why did Kvyat get demoted despite his victory over DR? because the team knew full well that Ricciardo was the superior driver and they use a bit more analysis than a cursory glance at the championship standings to tell them this. I'm not losing sleep over the championship standings from last season, I know who the superior driver in that team was last year, and any impartial analysis would give the same result. The fact that a championship was on the line is a function of the capabilities of the team they both drove for, it hardly makes Nico beating Lewis more of an event than Danil beating Daniel in terms of judging the drivers comparative strengths. Ricciardo beat Vettel fair and square in 2014, I have said this on numerous occasions, no reliability issues for Seb to pin the blame on there.

72
Ricciardo Aficionado

Is there a point to this comment?

73

Ricciardo, the point is that the driver who scores the most points in a team is not always the better driver that year. The original point was that despite going to lots of parties Lewis was still the better driver at Mercedes last year, just as Ricciardo was the better driver at Red Bull in 2015. Got it now?

74

Hamilton may have been the better driver however he still was a loser by the fact that he lost the WDC to a supposedly lesser driver.
Ric was the better driver and wasn't demoted thus not losing anything.

75

I like Ricciardo, so I hope for his sake that when and if he gets a shot at the title, that it isn't scuppered because of uneven reliability. You never know how many shots you'll get. It sucks when you don't get the same crack of the whip as others. The biggest cases of it are Senna in '89, Kimi in '05, and Lewis in '16.

76

Sars, and by any measure Lewis out performed that lesser driver last year, just as he outperformed in the other three seasons they spent as team mates.

77
Ricciardo Aficionado

Not by ANY measure. Not by JAonF1's measure NOR Autosport and (for the record) NOR me. But hey if it makes you feel better to explain how Lewi was actually better than Nico last year so be it.

78

Ricciardo. Other peoples opinions are not measures, this is why I didn't bring up the team bosses voting Lewis as the driver of the year last season, as it is just their opinion. The drivers championship is a measure, but it is a combined measure of driver and car performance, to get a realistic view of the comparative performance of Lewis and Nico last year we need to look at the races that were unaffected by reliability, using this measure we get 10 wins and 341 points for Lewis and 6 wins and 283 for Nico. If you have another measure for driver performance then I would be happy to look at it.

79

I'm no Cordon Bleu chef, but I believe one "bastes" a ham.

80
Ricciardo Aficionado

Obviously no chef at all. A turkey is more likely "basted". Down this way we tend to "glaze" our hams, once done booing them. As a proud and upright Aussie I do apologise now for any such podium behaviour. Unfortunately we do quite enjoy our pantomime...

81

... that's after it matures !

82
Ricciardo Aficionado

A pantomime never matures...

83

Hope this is the beginning of a good trip for you and the staff, James. Looking forward to the revelations. Best luck to you and the crew.

Old sayings reflect the force of history, so perhaps the one which fits the opening rounds for this season and beyond might be: "The more things change, the more they stay the same" as one looks out the window on this sunny Sunday morning.

Let's see, we're without the 'big guns' of so many years with the matriculation out of the F-1 spotlight for Max, Monty, Ron and most recently Bernie. Am remembering that the "youth movement" was a topic of regular conversation as Seb was making his early marks as well, so that's not really a new issue with Max V., now holding some of the "youngest" records following the Hamster, and Seb.

It's also good to see in print that the Chairman at Fiat has reconsidered the 'motivational approach' from last year and decided to allow folks to do their work without public pronouncements. Perhaps one can learn new tricks?

One of the revelations which it seems many are still interested in relates to how the FIA are handling the "suspension clarification" details following Barcelona testing and how that will possibly affect competition down under and on into the European Season. Or will it require the filling of a protest to learn more ?

How the 'new management' for F-1 handles the actual show is also a topic of interest, am sure. More than enough to keep y'all busy and hold the interest of inquiring minds, eh?

Oh, and also of curiosity will be how Ross and the new guys work the crowd. New and different issues will also pop up, so no shortage of material for sure.

As noted above, best wishes and good luck. Keep up the good work, and Thank You in advance !

84

Well, whadaya know - here is another potential story line from the lead-in on another site's article: "Former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone says the sport's new owners, Liberty Media, want to remove him from the history books."

Bet that one's going to stir up a pot or two, eh?

85

I'm going to miss Jenson Button. One of my favourite F1 persons with Häkkinen and Räikkönen.

My gf actually said that Button would make a perfect James Bond actor. I had to agree.

86

There's only one thing to look out for, and that's how far ahead Mercedes are. It could make or break the season.

87

Laurence, if that does happen then the address to send letters of complaint is:
M Arrivabene.
Scuderia Ferrari,
Caselle Postale,
58941100,
Modena.

88

Agreed. It would be such a turn-off if Mercedes keeps dominating..

89

I think the 2017 F1 will be down to 3 main dynamics:

The first will be the Red Bull team fight. Daniel vs Max feels like it will escalate to a Hamilton vs Alonso kind of battle. We fans have poured so much hype into Max that he can only come into 2017 feeling like the king in waiting (plus face it, the kid does have that natural sports arrogance about himself). The cool politeness between the two RBR drivers will fade by mid-season and the fighting to be intense. RBR team management has never been good at hiding their biases so that fight could get real nasty real fast.

The second maybe Vettel's fight to dominate the Ferrari dynamic. Kimi is looking relaxed and that means he can drive the car in a way only Kimi is able to - with effortless speed and precision. In my opinion Kimi is one of the most underrated drivers in modern F1 because he cultivates that trademark "I don't care" attitude - but reading him this off season, I detect a 2007 confidence around him - he could steal a march on everyone if Mercedes slip or are caught napping. I also feel Marchionne will not anoint Vettel just to keep him focused, so I expect some real duels between the two on race day. Finally, Sebastian is an intelligent and cagey guy, so it must not be lost on him there could be a natural place at Mercedes for him in 2018, so if Ferrari look like they are behind, I expect him to let the Germans know they can count on him - and I suspect Stuttgart will want a counter weight to Lewis in their stable.

Finally, I think Mercedes has the potential to be the most boring team out there - which I am sure Toto is praying for. If the car is great, Lewis will cruise like he did in 2015, with Bottas picking up points here and there but pretty much on the back foot like Nico was for much of 2015. If the car is a struggle and Ferrari are close or slightly ahead, then Mercedes may have to prioritize around Lewis and the junior Bottas will suffer like Kovalainen in 2008.

There is also the possibility that if the Mercedes is not an arm and a leg ahead of the chasing pack, Lewis may feel the downside risk of moving to the red team is no longer outlandish. Everyone denies it publicly, but lets face it, every "real" F1 professional wants to drive the "Lady in Red". Especially if the difference is only a few tenths and the driver is the missing ingredient in restoring Scuderia championship glory. That would be the perfect capstone to the Lewis Hamilton F1 story. A perfect Hollywood ending.

90

Interesting post. Your last paragraph especially. Marchionne apparently rates Hamilton, but who knows whether that's just talk. To win with Ferrari (and 3 teams) would be something special indeed. I've always said that I'd like to see a strong British driver (no offense Eddie) in a Ferrari again, to rekindle that link. Hawthorn, Collins, Moss, Surtees, Mansell, ????

Plus it would of course be a big payday.

91

Didn't you post this exact one last year also?

92

Bon Voyage !!!
...
I fail to see where Lewis had a better Winter Testing season than Bottastic.
Bombastic did 3/5 of the teams mileage and overall scored better times with the same type of tires.
Better absolute times every day for sure, for sure.
...
Also, Mercedes to run a Spec2 engine due to problems in the cranckshaft is not good news.

93

Mercedes ran the Spec 2 engine in the 2nd test, and the crankshaft story is apparently BS.

https://f1metrics.wordpress.com/2017/03/14/2017-preseason-analysis/

94

Amazing to think that even in this age of composites and fancy metallics such as magnesium and titanium, a Formula 1 crankshaft is made out of, er...............steel. You know steel -made from coal and iron..............made in a foundry where a man with a cloth cap and a ladel pouring liquid metal into a casket where it cools for about a week until it's ready.....

I'm being flippant about the foundry of course (I think Mercedes have their own robot controlled foundry facility), but the point even in 2017 good old steel is still required to make a crankshaft as it is the only metal that can withstand the abuse of an ICE. Even some of the block and camshafts are machined from steel too. Good old steel - a Formula 1 car literally not move without it.

95

@james

The above link posted states that in the analysis on jamesallenonf1 site "the Mercedes race simulation is taken from day 3 of the FIRST test, whereas the Red Bull and Ferrari race simulations are taken from days 7 and 8 (days 2 and 3 of the SECOND test)"

is this true?

96

Lewis Hamilton would be well advised to give up on his hectic social life and settle down ...... at the Mercedes factory. That way he can keep a close eye on the assembly of his engines. He doesn't need a repeat of the 8 failures he had last year.

Off with the fancy togs and on with the overalls.

97

.. and leave the clear glass specs in the cupboard, together with the back to front trilby

98

Clear? Pretty sure i saw him scratching his eye through the frame...

99

@ Phil Glass.....Fashion trends are, in the main, quite laughable really and need to be seen for what they are, 'mere follies' that keep some people employed and just happen to make millions for those who employ them. However i draw the line at the wearing of 'clear glass' spectacles. That has to be the dumbest joke of all these wannabe manifestations of the 'look at me' tribes.

100

Does anyone look back at these pre-season predictions to see how accurate they were? F1 cyber experts can spend hours fiddling around with spreadsheets timing data from testing, but they all have to guess engine modes, fuel loads, sandbag weights, wing designs and setup, etc, etc.

I'm sure the teams have a good laugh when they read some of the nonsense written about them.

101

Thanks man. Very informative

102

a deeper reading of the lap times shows Hamilton was quite a bit faster in Week 1, Bottas closed up a bit in Week 2

103

I don't expect Bottas to oust Lewis from Mercedes like Senna did to Prost in 1990 after two years together, but IMO Lewis had to be head and shoulders faster than Bottas.
After all, Mercedes is Team Lewis now.

104
stephenctaylor123

James you mention how eyes will be on youth. Well my eyes will be on Kimi - the oldest man on the grid this season to if the old magic is still there . I think it might be you know.

105

Let's hope his foolish behavior in Monaco was a one off.

106

Well it came back last year...

107

I feel he was still compromised last year with how he had to set up the car leaving the back end skittish. These big fat tyres and high downforce could change all that and we are in for a treat if he can find the real magic of 10 years ago.

108

Amen to that NickH !!

109

How 2017 will go is anyone's guess. A lot depends on the big man in the sky - and not just about rain. How these fat slicks work on hot sweaty track temperatures is an unknown, as could be a blustery day for the super sensitive aero. Whoever has the best traction and stability under heavy braking on a rear limited circuit on a hot day is a big question mark. And engine development - 2017 could be the year a PU manufacturer could break the magic 1000 BHP in race trim figure - the first time in over 30 years that's been achieved.

Here's a replacement Safety Car driver if Bernd Maylander falls ill this year.......

A few years ago Hamster drove Alonso's Renault R25 V10............maybe for the new season of 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘎𝘳𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘛𝘰𝘶𝘳 Renault could extend The Hulk's footwell by a few inches and let The Big Ape have a few laps around the Ebola drome in this year's model?

110

Top caricature GazBoy 😄

111

Yeah...Clarkson as the safety car driver:

"You need to slow down a bit Jeremy."
"POWERRRRRRRRR!"
"No seriously, you need to slow down Jeremy."
"POWERRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!"

112

Random, the safety car is pretty much flat out whenever it is on track, I doubt Jezza would have the skills to keep the F1 cars up to temps.

113

Of course Tim, but don't let facts ruin a good image 🙂

114

Yes, it's always an exciting time at the dawn of a new F1 season more so, when there have been new regulation changes

Now, what I will be looking forward to in 2017 is new lap records plus unique looking thoroughbred cars

Also what I will be looking forward to is a close battle for wins and podiums thus giving the fans many great memories.

Regards Lewis' it's quite peculiar that each time he has become champion, it has been with a Finnish teammate or a teammate with some Finnish roots

However, we saw at the tail end of 2016 when Lewis had a big challenge on his hands that he cut back on the partying/travelling and instead spent more time in the factory

As for Ferrari, it will be interesting to gauge how their season pans out considering the team has never won the constructor's with Pirelli tyres and thus an all Italian car

Likewise, I will be keen to see how the battle between Vettel/Kimi fairs because Lewis and Vettel have never finished first and second in the standings.

On the topic of young drivers, both Lance and Esteban have a great chance to show their skills and put their names on the map because Williams and Force India showed decent speed during testing

However, this is a double edged sword because a good car is a good indicator if a driver has no talent

115

I predict mercedes on pole by .6 sec . Mclaren honda out in q1 and both outside 107% rule.
Mercedes 1st and 2nd comfortably from vetted.

116

The fairytale would have Massa winning the WDC...

117

Why?

118

If Disney did F1, this would happen. What a feel good story this would be!!

119

That would make a great story.

120

I think Alonso is getting what he deserves. He's done so many bad things over the years, I think it's fitting.

121

You mean hes acted like a selfish focussed F1 driver determined to win?

122

Like all other drivers do?

123

I realise I'm in a minority of one, but I will miss seeing Bernie on parade. I hope he turns up from time to time this season. As to the new cars - lets be optimistic and hope we get some good close racing at the front!

124
Torchwood Mobile

@sej

Minority of two.

125

I will be looking at Kimi's performances and see how well they match up with Vettel, especially with the new regs in place. Some people have predicted, like Villeneuve that Vettel will be much stronger as a result of those changes. But If Raikkonen matches Vettel generally on pace, I do not see why Ferrari should keep Vettel and let go of the Kimsta once his contract expires. Vettel would be more expensive to keep, and should let him sign with Mercedes, assuming Bottas performs below than what was expected of him. I find Kimi one of the most underrated drivers in F1- he may not be on par with Lewis on outright speed, but a brilliant racer he still is- a guy who feels the car rather than wrestles with it. Needs a perfectly balanced or slightly oversteering car in order to perform, not one that was understeering like the car he had when he partnered with Alonso

126

As a Kimi fan, I know sometimes he is not at his 100% potential in a race: boredom or fatigue due to old-age - either way not good traits for WDC.

127

What do you write about the drivers you don't rate? Lewis, Kimi, Seb & Fernando (in no special order) are all capable of beating anyone, on any circuit, under massive pressure - as already proved.

128

It's along flight James, hope you squeeze in a beer or three?!

Very much looking forwards to next week. It'll be a Ferrari front row but due to an incredible turn of events, Alonso will win from Stroll and one of the pink ones.

129

Quali:
P1 - Seb
P2 - Lewis
P3 - Kimi
P4 - Bottas
P5 - Max
P6 - Felipe
P7 - Daniel
P8 - Checo

Whoever leads the race at the first corner wins the race!

130

No, I reckon Hamilton and Vettel front row. Start will be critical to the outcome with the new procedures

131

Love the article James; hopefully, by now, you've had a chance to take a stroll along the water by St. Kilda, to recover from the long flight and change of daylight.
Since Kimi's return to Ferrari, Vettel has clearly had the edge on Kimi for the single lap.
As one of the Team 7 Optimists, I should hope that Vettel's extraordinary capability to manage imperfect cars (much like Alonso) and the noticeable favouritism from Ferrari (potentially ensconced in his contract), were main contributing reasons that Vettel qualified so well; but we mustn't discount Vettel's extraordinary single lap capability!
Despite all this, one (our team) has the feeling that with the feel of the Ferrari close to his sweet spot, Kimi can nail it, and dramatically overperform his trend since rejoining Ferrari.

132

Hamiltons achillies heel

133

I'll double down on that James....
Looking forward to seeing you on the local channel 10 coverage and maybe in the paddock.

134

I'll double down on that James...
Looking forward to seeing you on the Channel 10 coverage and hopefully in the paddock.

135

Hope you are right with that prediction. What a better way to start the season. This week is going to go by very slowing for us fans not in Australia. Marc

136

"I reckon Hamilton and Vettel front row" Now there is a wish that so many of us want!
And in your spare time could u give Honda a few tips so we could get Alo up near there as well fight with RBR and Id start to get excited about F1 again.

137

@ James...when are we going to get an update on the 'suspension' dramas?

138

I'll settle for a Hamilton/ Vettel front row. F1 desperately needs some big competition and Vettel is a big name...somehow, I always felt that Rosberg was a bit part player, despite his success.

139

Hope your right James! The excitement builds and it's gonna be great. Ferrari and Mercedes on the front row would be "awesome" as some might say.

140

Lots of wheelspin this year?

141

McLaren on board, James? Best wishes for a safe landing!

142

There is a great analysis by Sergey Sirotkin on Barcelona test... and on his point of view Merc is behind Ferrari - PU tuned down or not. Merc drivers had to fight oversteer and were unable to get V corners (paramount indication of a racing car perfectly stable) Ferrari drivers instead were able too... RB sort of it but not like Ferrari. I think the very long wheelbase of this year Merc car will make them quick on high speed corners but they will have hard time balancing on medium and slow... unless they pull some magic they over did it. They need to work then at the rear suspension to fix it and probably they knew that before Barcelona (hence Ferrari FIA clarification?) ... anyway it looks like this season will be not a boring one...

143

Hope Mercedes have taken Baku into account when doing their long wheelbase. Not a whole lot of room for retrieving cars in some places, if one gets stuck.

144

Yes I read Sirotkin's firsthand report on the testing, a very insightful and interesting read from a driver's POV, on how the different cars are handling in corners. For me it's the kind of rare insight we usually only get from James.

145

An all red front row.Go ferrari

146

“If Bottas turns out to be a team mate more like Heikki Kovalainen was to Hamilton at McLaren in 2008, then that will be a major disappointment.” Who will be disappointed? Certainly, not LH’s fans. They already had one year when they wished NR would suddenly turn into HK. I on the other hand would be very disappointed. So, you refer to me and likeminded readers. The real question is how would LH react if VB proves to be more of a NR in 2017 than HK in 2008? Quit F1 alltogether?

147

The real question is how would LH react if VB proves to be more of a NR in 2017 than HK in 2008?

As long as his car stays in one piece, I'm sure he'll easily be able to handle it!

148

I agree for Massa giving the big surprise... But looks more like Kimi will be that...
I think Verstapen will need to prove that he is who suppose to be, the big next champion some year ahead, I dont think is ready yet, him nor redbull, even when I'm a Ricciardo fan I suspect he will crack under pressure of no results :S hope only the best for him... And finally Im looking forward Perez have a good season and get in a Ferrari 2018.

149

I prediction is, in the first 4 races it would be 1 and 2 for Ferrari and after that Merc and Red-Bull will win some races, but the overall winner will be Ferrari

150

From memory Merc have typically "sand-bagged" anywhere around the 0.7 mark - when they open up a surprise margin between sessions. Also with their reliability issues they may have had to stay back a bit. Reckon Ferrari will have clawed back half that gap, they look better around the corners at speed. So it should be thight but still Merc ahead as they dial in their package for Melb. Assume also that Merc would have fixed their race start issues, so fewer freebies for other cars. Chn & Bah will reveal the true gaps - expect Ferrari to be stronger there in race trim.

151

the biggest battle of 2017 is will bewho drives for mercedes in 2018 ? alonso, hamilton and vettel could be looking at a big pay cut. 3 into 2 won't go.
allison is a big vettel fan, benz may have had enough of the hamsters distractions and paranoia. alonso will work cheap to get a competetive drive. vettel and alonso for less money than hamilton/bottas. it's a no brainer.

152

Except for the fact that Hamilton is already contracted to race for Mercedes in 2018, at 20m plus bonuses.

153

First race without Bernie. It will be interesting to see how the sport as a whole operates without his influence
Also with the Australian GP looming , I wonder if these new harder more physical cars would produce a better spectacle at Adelaide

154

Vettel vs Raikkonen and Ricciardo vs Verstappen. Especially the latter combination will produce some major fire works. If Kimi runs Seb like he did at the end of last season we might be treated to some more fabulous outbursts from Seb 🙂

155
The Grape Unwashed

I'm really excited this year, it looks like Hamilton is going to be challenged by one or both Ferraris from the start - particularly as the red team has been strong historically in Melbourne. We'll also see a development race throughout the season so I expect to see Red Bull and Renault getting into the mix before the halfway point. This could be the most exciting season for several years.

156

Probably think race pace would be evenly matched between Ferrari and Mercedes, but with the qualifying mode Mercedes will edge pole position, but the races should be fun especially if Vettel can get between to the two Mercedes!

157

I'm backing Red Bull this year and dream of D Ric drinking from his shoe every weekend until he is WC....
But if I glance into my crystal ball for round one I'd probably see the following...

Australia Grid P1 - 6
Vettel, Kimi, Hamilton, Ric, Ves, Bottas.
Podium:
Kimi, Ric, Ham

Ferrari seem to always bring hope to winter testing and then it all falls apart (well, they seem to sit at the back end of the top 6) once they get to the season proper.
This year feels a little different and I'd expect to see them in a nice three way battle with the Red Bulls and Merc. Obviously Merc are favourites, they are still looking strong but I think that the gap has narrowed and they will be under a lot more pressure. Bottas will take a few races to get comfortable at Merc but will then hopefully be as strong as he showed a couple of seasons back with Williams. Kimi is my wildcard, I think if the Ferrari really is competitive the Finn will come to the party to revive some of the magic from his WC season ten years ago.
Hamilton will be quick as ever, but if he is in the battlezone with either redbull I think he will struggle. I think we will see plenty of rubber on the sidepods of the RB and the Merc as they dual it out in what I hope will be a wheel banging bonanza.
Vettel will wave his arms around a lot and cry on the radio while saying a few funny truths, stirring the pot and probably winning a few races.
Max and Daniel (to many peoples disappointment) will not have a falling out but will definitely tangle at some point and ignore team orders at every opportunity, but ultimately will be a very strong duo (RBR for Constructors champs?)
McLaren will do much better than anything I have read during the offseason and finish as high as 5th.
Massa will win the Brazilian grand prix (just teasing, I think my McLaren prediction might already have you questioning how high I am...)
Whatever happens, the changing dynamics of the whole sport are exciting - I don't think I have felt this positive about the direction of the sport since they got rid of grooved tyres. Here's to a great season of motor racing everyone!

158

Good job … Nostradamus. Now if you can get a bit more specific, I will not have to watch the whole season. Can you work it out race by race up to P10? Thanks!

159

Feels like an unfinished article. I thought you were going to cover all the teams and a bit more on Liberty and what changes we should expect early on from them.

160

The "article", if this what you want to call it, feels OK for me, but I am taking it as an intimate view in James's thoughts, while on the way to first GP of a new chapter in F1 history.
There are other articles on this site where he adresses the points you mentioned.

161

I seem to have been looking forward to the start of this season forever! I can't wait to see this new cars charging towards to the first corner on Sunday, and see what kind of lap times they are capable of. I predicted prior to testing that the Bottas/Hamilton rivalry will be a bit of a none event and I have seen nothing since then to make me change my mind. The real spice will be down amongst the RB boys, expect "friendly rivalry" to be replaced with "open warfare" if there are wins and a championship battle involved. I would seriously love Kimi to go out in a blaze of glory by beating Seb, but I think Vettel will step up his performance level from last year with a decent car under him. Lewis giving up the parties to match Nico? No doubt some will have a field day with that one, but I don't recall seeing any reduction in the number of pics from exotic places over the last four races of 2016, or indeed prior to any of the other numerous races where he comfortably beat Nico last year....

162

Tim, re: charging to the first corner...there must be very low odds that there will be contact and carnage at either T1 or T3.
Wider cars, later braking...time trialling around Barcelona wouldn't be giving the drivers the spatial awareness they'll need for combat in these new beasties.
I was thinking the other day just how much Stroll must be pooping his pants thinking about the run down to the first turn -having never turned a wheel in an F1 car in combat. I bet he's waking up in a cold sweat every night!
I've got a GA ticket so i can go free-range on Sunday, but i think I'll have to start at either T1 or T3.
Hopefully it stays clean, but I highly doubt it!!

163

LKFE, P.S, enjoy the race, you will have to get up early to bag a spot at T1 on Sunday!

164

LKFE, I think that flying carbon fibre is pretty much guaranteed at turn one, the extra width will make those split second gap judgements that much more likely to be wrong. I don't envy Stroll at all, he is under a lot of pressure making his debut in a team as strong as Williams, plus these new cars are much harder to drive than their predecessors, and frankly I don't think he has the talent level to carry him through. it will be interesting to see if he is still in that car at the end of the season.

165

I am just interested to see whether lewis Hamilton is beaten by his team mate again

166

Isha, just Lewis? You aren't interested in seeing if Alonso, Vettel, Ricciardo or Verstappen will be beaten by their team mates again?

167

So TimW you old quantum physicist you......you are saying both RIC and VES were besten by their team mates last season. I am only referring to this universe, i make no rererence to any other parallel universe's you may be referring to......or is this the alternate universe?? Who knows??

168

Isha, O think it's pretty obvious that I meant that those drivers have all been beaten by their team mates in the past, not just looking at last year. The only driver with more than three seasons under his belt to have never lost out to his team mate is Valterri Bottas.

169

WOW. You touched a raw nerve of many of his fans here.

170

2017...
The first year of a century without a Mercedes win?
because
The last F1 races with real cars before races are only on simulators to find the real fastest drivers with billions possible racers and payers?
The first year the F1 Management shows 99% interests in making Money and only 1% into if its still racing ?

171

James, I assume Pirelli will dictate maximum camber and minimum tyre pressure again this year. Do you expect them to be conservative and do we know if they enforced that at testing or did the teams have freedom.

Also do we know the gear ration selections for the teams and if so is anyone particularly different from the others.

172
@Damien_Marquez

There will be so much to watch out for this year again James.

Personally, I'm looking to a Renault resurgence, paired with that of Hulkenberg. Both need to prove they have a worthy future together.

I'll also be watching the progress of Carlos Sainz who's impressed me on his very first race back in 2015. Will he be able to get out of his Red Bull contract for next year? Surely, that's his last year at STR.

I'm also looking towards the intra team rivalry between Ricciardo and Verstappen. Testing hasn't given us a final verdict on the team's 2017 form, so who knows how close they are on performance.

Also, how Honda progress over the course of the season is going to be interesting. There's no way they'll embarrass themselves in the same way they did two years ago. With the token system gone, I'd expect McLaren to have a bit more representative lap times come Barcelona.

And finally, the driver market. Will it be Kimi's last year? Will Vettel switch team? Does Alonso stick with McLaren. Who'll be racing at Williams alongside Stroll in 2018. Where will Wherlein end up? The silly season is bound to be gold.

173

Indeed, there are so many things this year to follow, on the track and around it, all over the grid.
Besides the obvious talking points, presented by James, I'll be looking forward to the developments in Honda's struggle to get the P.U. working (as it will provide a hint on the path Liberty Media will follow with the new engine specs) and seeing how well the old folks will do (secretly hoping for a swan song from both Kimi and Felipe).
Thanks again for this type of insight, reading it is a joy.

174

I'd like to how Mercedes found enough room onboard to add extra weight !

175

I'm hoping for minimal whining from Dr Marko, very few safety cars, no silly barging at the first corner and a return to form for McHonda.

I'm expecting competitive driver battles at Ferrari & Red Bull, shouting from Max, pouting from Lewis, massive development race throughout the season, and a groundhog day style retirement from Massa again in Brazil,

But close racing will do, and may the best man win.

176

i hope/wish
Competition during the whole season
Strong Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull and a fighting midfield.
Less rules

177

I hope that DR has a cracking season, my guts is telling me that the Mercs will be the yard sticks again, Lewis could win with a wheelbarra, he's just a gun and loook out for the Mclearens in the back half of the season, they are way to good of a team to be were they are and they can turn it around as Honda can to. Good luck to all and can't wait to get going.

178

Here's food for thought.

The last time a WDC did not finish in the Top 5 of their title winning campaign was 1999, where Mika Hakkinen retired from the Australian GP.

I'm being optimistic here but even if Seb or Lewis DNF in Australia (entirely plausible but also highly unlikely), both are still hot favourites for the title, assuming testing form carries over to the actual season.

Being patriotic, I would like to put Daniel in the mix but I feel he will finish 3rd in the title at best this year, unless RBR have a silver bullet that puts them 1-2 tenths behind the top 2 cars.

Here are some cool figures also.

Renault, as a constructor and engine supplier, have won 13 Constructors titles, and 12 Driver's titles. Most of their success has come via customer teams such as Williams, Benetton and Red Bull. However, they have been more successful as a customer.

Ferrari has only won titles as a constructor. As JA pointed out, the only time a customer team has won a race was Toro Rosso in 2008. For the record, they have won 16 Constructors titles and 15 Drivers titles.

Honda have never won a championship as a constructor, only as an engine supplier. They did win 1 race as a constructor: Hungary 2006. Their record shows 6 Constructors titles and 5 Drivers titles, with Williams then McLaren.

Mercedes is the only other current engine supplier to have won titles in both works and customer form. They have officially won 4 Constructors titles (they didn't have it in the mid 50s), plus 8 Drivers titles. Tellingly, they have been more successful as a works team.

So what does this indicate? Absolutely nothing, it's just for fun! Though I am slightly wrong. It shows to an extent that McHonda fans (me included) should get excited at the prospect of potential race wins but don't expect championships anytime soon. It also shows Renault may be better off supplying teams, and that Mercedes should focus on their works team (as they are rightly doing so now). Just a bit of banter here folks! As for Ferrari, don't expect any race wins from their customers anytime also.

Vettel is in good shape. He looks much more relaxed and calmer. The Ferrari was fairly reliable and looked superb on the track. Ironically, given Ferrari finished 3rd in 2016, under the old numbering system, Seb would've raced #5 anyway. And the last time he raced #5 under the old system was the year he took his first title. Plus Schumacher also won his first title carrying #5, and retired from Ferrari carrying #5. The next year, with #5&6, Ferrari took both titles.

- The last time a driver carrying #3 won the championship was in 2000. So Daniel mate, I know you have a contract but Red 3 next year might give you that title, provided the Reds are quick this year also.

- Kimi and Fernando are the only drivers on the grid to have won with 3 different engines: Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault.

Feel free to add more nonsense and superfluous facts!

179

"The last time a WDC did not finish in the Top 5 of their title winning campaign was 1999, where Mika Hakkinen retired from the Australian GP."

Can you clarify what you mean here? If you meant top 5 in the first race, then you only need to look to 2014 where Lewis DNF'd from the first race, but went on to win the title.

180

They've not been talked about a lot but I'm intrigued to see how the Renault team develops from this season on. No one can deny that the Hulk is the step up in driver level that they needed and if they can progress this season then maybe they might just get back to where they were over a decade ago.

181

@KRB

Mate, my Reply function isn't working.

But yes, 2014 slipped my mind. Thank you for the correction. Well, another food for thought for Hamilton fans 🙂

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