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2017 F1 Season Review - Fantastic Fourth!

F1 turned over a new leaf in 2017. The ownership changed hands and Liberty Media added a freshness to the sport. Fan Interactions increased, Experiences were added and the future looks bright for a sport that aims at expanding its global footprint.

2017 also saw 3 rookies make it to the grid - Lance Stroll, Pierre Gasly & WEC Champion Brendan Hartley ( replaced Daniil Kvyat towards the end of the season )

20 races made up the 2017 Season and pre-season tests suggested that Ferrari would be a formidable challenger. Red Bull seemed to be off the pace while Mercedes had another reliable run into 2017. Was Ferrari able to dethrone Mercedes from their perch? How did Red Bull fare with their new Tag Heuer branded engine? Bottas vs Hamilton? Hamilton vs Vettel? Bottas vs Raikkonen? Who reigned supreme in 2017? Well lets have a quick recap of the season gone by.


Mercedes AMG F1 Team :

Mercedes, the most successful team and engine supplier in the turbo-era went into 2017 with a little bit of uncertainty. The W08, their 2017 challenger was fast but not the easiest to handle. Nico Rosberg the reigning World Champion retired from the sport and Mercedes had to hire Valtteri Bottas from Williams, so that wasn't ideal. Questions were raised about the worthiness of Valtteri Bottas. Doubts lingered about the kind of relation he would have with Lewis Hamilton. Ferrari seemed to have done their homework and the gap was considerably lower than in 2016. This was going to be one tough fight.

The season started off more as a boxing bout as the contenders to the crown traded punches taking victories in alternate rounds. Lewis Hamilton took the first win of the season for the team in China and Bottas responded with a win of his own in Russia. Hamilton then took victories in Spain ( a hard fought one ), Canada and Great Britain while Bottas notched up another win in Austria. The Finn kept his more experienced team-mate honest in the title fight. Hamilton went on a winning spree in Belgium, Italy and Singapore and became the Number 1 driver in the team. Japan and USA sealed the deal. P2 in Mexico saw him being crowned the Drivers' Champion for the 4th time! He also surpassed Michael Schumacher's record of the most pole positions in Italy and with the British Grand Prix win, he equalled the records of Alain Prost and Jim Clark, who also won the race five times each. Lewis made it happen when it mattered the most. He won the those little battles to win the war and a well deserved title it was. Kudos to the Englishman for his win. Hamilton had amassed 363 points with 9 wins and 4 podium finishes at the end of 2017. Bottas who played catchup with Vettel in the second half of the year eventually finished in P3 with 305 points, 3 race wins and 10 podium finishes under his belt.

Mercedes will still be the team to beat in 2018. Period.


Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

Ferrari, the most successful team in F1 - A name synonymous with winning. A lot of hopes were pinned on the Maranello based outfit to take the fight to the Mercs . Many believed this was the year that Ferrari would finally deliver; after all it had been 10 years since they last won a Drivers' Championship! Ferrari persisted with Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen a pair that gets along extremely well. The year started off on the right note for Vettel with 3 wins out of 6 and Lewis Hamilton having to play catchup. Going into the mid-season break, the German trailed by 3 points in the championship with 4 wins ( Australia, Bahrain, Monaco, Hungary ) & 6 podium finishes. His championship hopes seemed to be on track after Lewis struggled in qualifying in Mercedes' bogey track ( Singapore ) and Vettel put it on pole. However an uncharacteristic error on the Sunday ( on a wet track ) took the top 3 qualifiers Vettel, Verstappen and Raikkonen out of the race. Verstappen got sandwiched with Vettel cutting across and Raikkonen, who had a blistering start overtaking him resulting in a mighty shunt for the 3. Lewis took the win and it dealt a heavy blow to the championship. Retirement in Japan proved to be the final nail in the coffin and Lewis took the championship in Mexico. Vettel finished P2 ( albeit just ) with 317 points and 5 wins under his belt.

Kimi Raikkonen on the other hand had a slower start to the year. He put his car on pole in Monaco and could have won but for Vettel to come out on top thanks to a better strategy. Kimi played second fiddle throughout the year ( inspite of constant denial by the team ). He finished P4 in the Championship with 7 podium finishes, his best being 2nd in Monaco and Hungary. Once again, the Iceman didn't have reliability and circumstances going his way, robbing him of more podium finishes and possible victories. Kimi was praised for being a team player on many occasions and Belgium is one instance that comes to mind. On his final run in qualifying, Kimi made an error and had to abort the lap. He managed to give Vettel the tow towards the end of the lap, that helped the German end up on the front row to challenge for the win. One thing is certain though, he might be the oldest driver on the grid but he hasn't lost his racing edge. On his day, the Iceman is still untouchable. Will we see him win again? ever? Well that is one question no one can answer.

Ferrari were on track in the first half of the season, then they lost the plot altogether. It isn't going to be easy beating Mercedes over a season but the team can take encouragement from the fact that their competitors aren't invincible.


Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Red Bull Racing began their 2017 campaign with a Tag Heuer branded power unit. Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen renewed their partnership and things didn't seem too promising at the start of the season. However the duo gave the works team a run for their money notching a victory each under their belt. Ricciardo won in a power dominated circuit in Baku ( thanks to Vettel and Hamilton bickering and incidents galore around him ). Verstappen after a slew of retirements ( thanks to mechanical failures ) finally won in Malaysia. A coming together in Hungary brought Ricciardo grief but the Australian prevailed over the Dutchman, finishing 5th in the Drivers' Championship with 1 win and 8 podium places. 3 retirements towards the end of the season denied him the chance to retain 4th place ( eventually taken by Raikkonen ). Verstappen too suffered retirements at pivotal moments in the season and finished in 6th place with 2 wins ( Malaysia and Mexico ) and 2 podium finishes.

Red Bull must ensure that they lock down the duo for the future as they share a wonderful chemistry and have an abundance of talent. The chink in the armour was the reliability of the power units. The difference to Ferrari in 2nd seems big but it would have been a lot closer with more podiums and points finishes. They were perceived as the biggest threat towards the end of the season. Red Bull know how to win. They have been there, done that. Improving in 2018 is a given.


Sahara Force India F1 Team :

Force India continue to go from strength to strength in the Turbo Era. The Best Mercedes Customer Team tag remained with them in 2017. Sergio Perez & Esteban Ocon pushed each other throughout the year. The push became a shove and the team had to ban them from racing each other in order to protect their position in the championship. Perez finished on 100 points in P7, 13 ahead of his team-mate Ocon with points finishes in every race barring 3. His best finish was P4 in Spain. Ocon went on a record run of race finishes until his retirement in the Brazilian GP. The Frenchmen scored 87 points with his best finishes of P5 in Spain and Mexico.

Force India were truly a force to reckon with in 2017. Finishing P4 in the championship was no mean feat. They even made the Big 3 sweat on a few occasions. 2018 wont be easy sailing as those trailing behind will have more powerful units under them.


Williams Martini Racing F1 Team :

Williams fielded a mix of experience and youth in Felipe Massa and Rookie Lance Stroll. Massa called it a day at the end of the 2016 season but had to return after Bottas switched to Mercedes AMG F1. Williams finished 5th in the Constructors' Championship and amazingly managed to bag a podium with Lance Stroll in Baku! The team's struggle continued in 2017 after the initial successes of 2014. Felipe Massa outscored Stroll but only just ( 3 points ), 6th being his best finish in Australia and Bahrain. Paul di Resta stepped into Massa's Seat for one race ( Hungary ), the Brazilian having to sit it out due to illness. Lance Stroll struggled in the initial rounds of the season but the 3rd place finish in Baku sent many doubters into silence. Stroll finished in the points in 7 races and suffered 4 retirements. His performances are bound to approve in 2018. The 19 year old still has a lot to learn in the world of motor racing and the team has played a big gamble by having another rookie join their ranks in 2018.


Renault Sport F1 Team :

Renault Sport F1 finished the season in 6th in the Constructors' Championship, a marked improvement from their performances in 2016. They would not like to be where they are at but the only way forward is upwards and thankfully being a works team will ensure that funding never becomes an issue for R&D.

Nico Hulkenberg scored 43 points and finished 10th in the Drivers' Championship. He finished in the points in 8 races with 6th being his best finish on 4 occasions. Jolyon Palmer had a painful 2017 again, only 6th in Singapore being his finish in the points. He was eventually relieved of his services after Japan, a forgettable F1 Career for the former GP2 Champion. Carlos Sainz Jr. then joined the ranks and produced his best finish of 7th ( for the team ) in Austin, USA.

Renault will be a potent team in 2018. The dynamic duo of Hulkenberg and Sainz Jr. will be pushing each other and I see the team finishing at least P4 in 2018.


Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 Team :

Toro Rosso began the 2017 campaign with Daniil Kvyat & Carlos Sainz Jr. Kyvat was then replaced by Pierre Gasly for Malaysia & Japan and left the team after the US Grand Prix. Red Bull Loaned Carlos Sainz Jr. to Renault F1 for a year ( for 2018 ) but Renault relieved Jolyon Palmer of his services after Japan so Sainz had to effect the switch earlier. LMP1 Porsche Driver and WEC Champion Brendon Hartley took his place for the final 4 rounds of the season. This merry-go-round didn't create the ideal situation for the team since they had to fight hard to retain their place against a resurgent Haas towards the business end of the season. The team also suffered from misfiring Renault Units on many occasions.

Carlos Sainz Jr. led the charge with a career best 4th in Singapore, who can forget the Radio Communication that night "Vamos Vamos Vamos!" Daniil Kvyat only managed 5 points, 9th being his best finish. Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley weren't able to open their accounts.

Toro Rosso won't have it easy in 2018 as they switch to Honda Power. Gasly and Hartley are supremely talented but will need a reliable car under them to help the team achieve the points that they need.


Haas F1 Team :

Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen led the charge for Haas F1 in 2017 and the relatively new team continue to impress in their 2nd year. Finishing P8 in the championship, they narrowly missed beating Scuderia Toro Rosso ( 6 points ) to P7. Romain Grosjean bagged 28 points in 2017 inspite of having brake troubles throughout the year. His best finish was 6th in Austria. Kevin Magnussen's best finish was P7 in Azerbaijan and he finished the season on 19 points.

F1 is a demanding sport and Haas will have to maintain a steep development curve to stay in touch with those in front. Nevertheless they can take pride in the fact that they have fielded a more reliable car in 2017.


McLaren Honda F1 Team :

McLaren's partnership with Honda has been one of its biggest fiascos. The Engine Manufacturer failed to make inroads even in 2017 and the team suffered massively from multiple engine penalties over different race weekends. There were silver linings but the news of a split developed through the year. The Team had both cars cross the chequered flag only on 7 occasions. They did reduce the deficit to Haas F1 towards the end but were unable to finish any better than P9 at the end of the year.

Fernando Alonso & Stoffel Vandoorne finished their season on 17 and 13 points respectively, their best finishes being 6th and 7th. Alonso also enjoyed the opportunity of racing in the Indy 500 in the US which coincided with the Monaco GP. Jenson Button was recalled out of retirement and got to race but had to retire after an incident with Wehrlein. There is no doubt in the ability of the duo and results will improve with a much faster and more reliable Renault power unit for 2018.


Sauber F1 Team :

Sauber F1 finishes last in the standings, financial constraints limiting their progress in 2017. The team already had a power deficit with a 2016 Ferrari engine and their problems were compounded when the team principal Monisha Kaltenborn left mid-season. Marcus Ericsson drew a blank again while Pascal Wehrlein's P8 in Spain & P10 in Azerbaijan brought home the team's points. Antonio Giovinazzi, Ferrari's Reserve Driver also got 2 weekends under his belt in Australia & China after Wehrlein injured himself in the Race of Champions earlier in the year and felt under-prepared for the start of the season.

Its been a disappointing year again for Sauber F1 but with Alfa Romeo investing in them for 2018, a lot can change.


I had the privilege of attending the Spanish Grand Prix and the Belgian Grand Prix in 2017. Planning to do 3 races in 2018, God Willing.

The 2018 season kicks off with pre-season testing in Barcelona in February. The much debated Halo makes its debut. The lineup for 2018 is complete and car launch dates are out too.

Mercedes won a hard fought battle in 2017. Ferrari were left wondering what could have been.

Truly
it was a Fantastic Fourth for the team from Brackley! Well Done Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team!

The Countdown to the 2018 season has begun. Can't wait!




2017 F1 Mid Season Review - There Can Only Be One..

2017 turned a page in the turbo era of F1. Bigger tyres, more downforce, faster lap times and the good emanating out of new ownership of the sport prove that F1 is slowly making its way back to the glory days. 2017 has brought a sense of freshness to the sport and the teams have embraced the challenges with aplomb. New Partnerships were created and New Rivalries were born. The Mid-Season Break is ongoing but the work carries on in the respective team factories. So how good have the contenders been up until the halfway point of the season?

Lets have a quick peek.


Mercedes AMG F1 Team :

Mercedes, the undisputed champions of the Turbo Era are tipped to retain the crown for both the Drivers' as well as the Constructors' but unlike the years gone by, the competitors have posed a bigger threat than they ever have before. Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas are having to play catch-up with Sebastian Vettel. Mercedes' lead in the Constructors' is a slender 39 points and they have been outclassed in a few races this year. Lewis Hamilton is P2 in the Championship, 14 points adrift with 4 wins and 2 podiums to his name. Valtteri Bottas is P3 with 169 points with 2 wins and 6 podiums.

Its advantage Lewis in the intra-team battle according to me. Lewis knows how the team functions and has shown time and again why he is a 3 time world champion. The Team will look to him to aid their defense of the world title. Valtteri Bottas on the other hand is a revelation and surprised one as he settled into his new team fairly quickly. Bottas is keeping Lewis honest in this title fight. The team must ensure that a healthy environment is maintained between the 2 garages. Mercedes maintained a fair fight on the track and delivered on their promise so far. They still have the fastest car on the grid but an unsettled one as well when stuck behind another car. 


Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

Ferrari persisted with Sebastian Vettel & Kimi Raikkonen for 2017 and they have upped their game this year. Sebastian Vettel has been leading the charge and is currently the leader in the Drivers' Championship with 202 points with 4 wins to his name ( Australia, Bahrain, Monaco & Hungary ) and four 2nd place finishes. Kimi Raikkonen was the slow starter again and had many issues hampering his progress, both on the mechanical and the strategic fronts. The Iceman's performances improved in the races going into the break. Kimi Raikkonen is P5 in the Championship with 4 podium finishes to his name.

The Gap between Mercedes and Ferrari is 39 points. Momentum is with the Prancing Horse. Mercedes are definitely looking nervously over their shoulders. I wish to quote Ferrari Team Principal Maurizio Arrivabene : At Ferrari, there is no holiday. We have to stay humble and keep pushing. Unquote.

Sebastian Vettel is the favourite for the driver's title. Kimi Raikkonen is providing the perfect support role. Mathematically Kimi isn't out of the title race but realises its best to not jeopardize team chances by unsettling his team-mate in races ( inspite of being faster ). Kimi had the chance to win 2 races, one in Monaco and the other in Hungary but the team chose otherwise. Once again the Finn has shown that he is a team man and a class act. Ferrari will always be indebted to him


Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Red Bull had a strong 2016 and had hopes to replicate it in 2017. However Ferrari arrived a lot stronger and currently maintain a healthy lead over them. Red Bull are unbeatable when it comes to chassis design and aerodynamics. However the Renault Power Tag Heuer branded Power Unit continues to be their Achilles' Heel. Daniel Ricciardo sits P4 in the Drivers' Standings with 117 Points and 1 victory to his name. ( Azerbaijan ). Max Verstappen has been very unfortunate with issues in his car causing him to retire from strong finishing positions in 4 Races. Verstappen's  best finish was P3 in China. Max is P6 in the championship with 67 points.

Red Bull must ensure that both cars reach the Chequered Flag. They don't face an immediate threat from Force India but if they plan to dethrone Ferrari by the end of the season reliability will be the key. Red Bull top brass will be thoroughly displeased if they are unable to bag P2 in the Championship. Realistically, its a far fetched dream. The Development curve must not stop and Red Bull must aim to carry their progress into 2018 to be closer to the fastest teams on the grid.


Sahara Force India F1 Team :

Force India continue to be a revelation in 2017. They are right up there with the big boys fighting wheel to wheel and causing some upsets along the way as well. An accomplished power unit in Mercedes alongwith a capable chassis has ensured that Force India is the strongest customer team on the grid. They are well ahead of Williams in the Constructors but considerably behind Red Bull so improving to P3 at the end of 2017 seems uncertain. Barring Monaco, the team has always scored points. Sergio Perez leads the team-mate battle with 56 points to his name and P4 being his best finish ( Spain ). Esteban Ocon isn't far behind with 45 points, Spain his best result ( 5th ). Team Livery also is a talking point - eye-catching pink coloured cars on the grid. Driver Race Suits were similar and this invited some healthy banter with other teams over social media.

P4 would be a great finish and for a team with financial constraints like Force India, they can be extremely proud of what they have achieved so far.


Williams Martini Racing F1 Team :

Williams started well in 2014 with the New Turbo Engines suiting their cars well. However they have gone backwards since and sit 5th in the standings in the mid season break. Felipe Massa returned from retirement to take up Valtteri Bottas' place who left for Mercedes AMG F1. Lance Stroll, the rookie joined forces with him. Williams have underachieved in the first half of 2017. Lance Stroll's 3rd Place in Baku Azerbaijan was a surprise but Massa has been the more consistent of the two. His experience has been vital in keeping the team in 5th, albeit just 2 points ahead of the fast charging Toro Rossos. Massa's best finishes came in Australia and Bahrain ( 6th ) alongwith points finishes in 4 other races. Stroll is on 18 points scoring in 2 other races barring his podium. Its early days for the Canadian but in a demanding sport like F1, its vital to find your feet quickly.

The biggest advantage for Williams is the Mercedes Power Unit and there are still some power circuits left on the calendar so holding onto P5 shouldn't be an issue for the team. 


Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 Team :

Toro Rosso, the final step before a Red Bull Driver Program protegee steps into the A Team prove time and again that a team operating on a small budget can still perform well with the right chassis and personnel. Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz Jr. continued their alliance going into 2017. The quest to impress the bosses has token a toll on Kvyat. Incidents, accidents, retirements have marred the Russian's performances and he must pray for a strong second half to retain his seat. Carlos Sainz Jr. is in a league of his own outclassing his team-mate and bringing home majority of the points. He sits 9th in the Drivers' Standings with 35 points while Kvyat has managed only 4 and is 17th currently.

Toro Rosso will have the backing of Red Bull for the rest of the season but as much as they have to stay focused to hunt down Williams who are 2 points ahead they have to keep an eye out for those behind as well. Renault and McLaren will be forces to reckon with by the end of the year. Its imperative for the team to "make hay while the sun shines"


Haas F1 Team :

Haas F1 fielded Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen for 2017 and they deserve credit for the start provided in 2017. Haas impressed one and all since their arrival in F1 and at half-way point in 2017 they lead 2 works' teams! Grosjean has 18 points to Magnussen's 11 and unlike the teams below them, both drivers have scored points whenever presented with an opportunity. Haas is powered by Ferrari so the unit is potent enough for strong results. However the Chassis needs improvements and the team will improve with experience.

They are 10 points off Toro Rosso and it will be a close battle up until the end of the season. Toro Rosso wont be an easy team to beat but the mid-field battle is about to get fiesty in the second half of the season as Haas are no slouches.


Renault Sport F1 Team :

Renault returned as a factory team in 2016 with an elaborate road map. They made their intentions clear by acquiring the services of the talented Nico Hulkenberg and the German has been a great investment. He has scored all the points for the team this season, the tally of which stands at 26, seemingly safe from McLaren Honda. Nico's best results were 6th in Spain and Great Britain. Renault is improving the performance of its power unit and I predict P6 for them at the end of the year. Like McLaren the chassis is pretty competent and Renault have the privilege of pumping in more money unlike their immediate competitors. Another concern for the team is the performance of Jolyon Palmer. The Former GP2 Champion is yet to score a Championship Point and is fairly off the pace in comparison to Hulkenberg. He missed being in the points on 3 occasions and he must start bringing home the desired results to aid his own career as well as the team's chances in moving up the order.

Renault has the money, the tools, the personnel, the facilities to improve race by race and as a fan I definitely believe that they will soon be fighting at the sharp end of the grid. Priority though is to have a strong second half in 2017.


McLaren Honda F1 Team :

McLaren in the second year of its partnership with Honda still languishes in ninth in the Constructors' Standings. The Chassis has been brilliant but Power Unit Issues have cost them at many races. The past few rounds promise a change of fortune and as claimed by Honda, the unit should be powerful enough to beat a Renault. Will this turn out to be true? Highly doubt it. Fernando Alonso is ahead in the intra-team battle with 10 points on the board to Stoffel Vandoorne's one. Both achieved their best result in Hungary, a circuit where power isn't the deciding factor for a strong result.

Mclaren cannot afford to be P9 by the end of the season and Honda must get its act together to ensure they don't lose sponsors and vital financial benefits of finishing higher up in the pecking order. Fernando Alonso is another asset they cannot afford to lose. I believe he is the best driver on the grid with race craft second to none. Reliability with performance will lead to stronger results to make a strong case for the Spaniard to stay put.


Sauber F1 Team :

Sauber F1 currently stands 10th and last in the Constructors' Standings. They have managed only 5 points till now and are still adrift of McLaren by 6 points. Sauber went through a change of leadership with Monisha Kaltenborn leaving the team and Frederic Vasseur taking over the reins. Its hard to see them move up from the back of the grid ( due to cash constraints ). Pascal Wehrlein has impressed again bagging all the points for the team. Marcus Ericsson needs to pull his socks up and capitalize on finishing in the points whenever the opportunity arises. Antonio Giovinazzi stepped in for Wehrlein for the first 2 races after the German's preparations for 2017 were halted with a crash in the Race of Champions. He finished 12th and retired in the next race.

Its difficult to see Sauber finish higher at the end of 2017.


The final leg of the race will resume from Belgium.  A lot of action, drama awaits us in the second half of the season. The Second Half will also see many drivers suffering grid drops as components are changed on cars and exceed the permitted number by the FIA. The Teams must wait for the opportune time for such changes to ensure Damage Limitation. These could make or break the contest in the Drivers' Championship.

5 contenders to the Drivers' crown. 2 for the Constructors' but There Can Only Be One!

Bring on Spa - Francorchamps!

2016 F1 Season Review - Like Father, Like Son

2016 was the longest F1 Season with 21 Races on the Calendar. Baku became the European Grand Prix and the Season also saw the arrival of a new customer team in Haas F1 powered by Ferrari. Red Bull became Red Bull - Tag Heuer ( Renault engines branded as Tag Heuer ), Renault became a works team hiring the Services of Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer, Romain Grosjean joined Esteban Gutierrez in Haas F1 while Pascal Wehrlein & Rio Haryanto got drives in Manor ( formerly Marussia ) Racing F1 Team.


I had the privilege of attending the Spanish GP and the Hungarian GP this year and both were amazing venues to watch a race. Spain was special since Ferrari achieved a double podium with Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel.


Experts predicted a close fight for supremacy in 2016. Lets do a quick recap of how it all unfolded in 2016.


Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :

The Undisputed Kings of the new Turbo era continued their dominance winning 19 races in the season. Nico Rosberg continued where he left off in 2015, winning the first 4 races until a coming together in Spain ( with Lewis ). Lewis Hamilton rose up to the challenge after Spain winning the next 6 out of 7 races. Austria witnessed another incident between the two. Belgium, Italy, Singapore - Rosberg reigned supreme. The Big Twist in the tale came in Malaysia when Hamilton was comfortably leading only to see his engine blow up and hand the lead to RosbergThe difference stood at 23 points now! Rosberg won in Japan and the difference rose to 30 points. The victory meant that he had to only finish 2nd in the final 4 races ( should Hamilton win each of them ). Easier said than done. Lewis won in US & Mexico, Nico was 2nd. The Big Test came in Brazil. Hamilton was the master of Racing in Rain and was virtually untouched. Max Verstappen got the measure of Rosberg and passed him into P2. There were multiple stoppages, multiple crashes, treacherous conditions yet the Mercedes' strategists pulled off a master stroke to help Rosberg achieve P2. Then came the final round in Abu Dhabi! Lewis Hamilton pulled away from pole with Nico P2. Max pointed the wrong way at T1 but made up to P3 with a long stint on Medium Tyres. Nico was P4 after his pit stop and needed to pass Max to keep his championship hopes alive. The pass was 'critical'. Sebastian Vettel who led the race for a long time made up places in his final stint and was P3 with 6 laps left. Lewis, who regained the lead, went against team instructions and slowed down to back Nico into Vettel and Verstappen. He tried his best and by the time the race ended, the top 4 were separated by less than a second! Nico had done it. He was the 2016 F1 World Champion! Nico had been the more consistent of the two ( one retirement vs two of Lewis' ) although Lewis had won one more race. However the outgoing Champion can be proud of his season. One might say his tactics in the final race were unsporting but he did everything he could ( in his capacity ) to win the championship and its not easy to back anyone up into a chasing pack. It requires a lot of skill. Credit where credit is due, Hamilton is a born racer and there are very few like him in F1. There were a lot of conspiracy theories doing the rounds that Lewis' car was sabotaged to help Nico win the championship - a German champ for a German team. Its unfortunate to have mechanical issues which rob you of victories or precious points at pivotal moments in the championship. Kimi Raikkonen was robbed like this in 2003 and 2005 but that is how motorsport is. It can be pretty unforgiving.

Nico has announced his retirement from the sport as well. We won't see him defending his World Championship which is a shame but his priorities are different and we must respect that.

Mercedes will have a strong package and a strong pairing in 2017. Pace is not an issue, reliability still is and that will be focused upon in the 2017 development. What Mercedes would not want is to see Reliability dictate who wins and who loses. 

It will be difficult to beat them to the title!



Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Red Bull parted ways with Renault at the end of 2015 but continued to use their power units, albeit with Tag Heuer branding. Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat started the season together and the latter bagged 3rd place in China. However a mistake in Russia caused a crash and costed Kvyat his seat for the rest of the season. There was a lot of furore but experts believed that the Russian was already on borrowed time. Max Verstappen got promoted to the A team in Spain and won the race on debut for his new team! He also became the youngest F1 Race Winner silencing all critics and justifying Red Bull's decision. Ricciardo stepped up his performances too and a shambolic pit stop costed him victory at Monaco. He finally won in Malaysia, making it 2 wins in the season for the team, a marked improvement from their previous year. Red Bull brought in a lot of aero upgrades throughout the season and they eventually overtook Ferrari. Daniel Ricciardo finished P3 in the standings with 256 points with 1 win & 7 podiums. Max Verstappen finished in P5 with 204 points with 1 win and 6 podiums, an incredible achievement considering that he raced for Toro Rosso in first 4 races. Max proved his worth again with a stellar drive in treacherous and rainy conditions in Brazil finishing P3 behind Lewis and Nico.

Red Bull should be extremely pleased with their season. They can gain a lot of encouragement from the fact that they have 2 young but incredibly talented drivers in a potent car for 2017. The added downforce might tip the advantage in their favour in the Constructors' battle. They will definitely have a more enjoyable winter compared to 2015. Onwards and Upwards for the team!



Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

Ferrari flattered to deceive, that is how I sum up their season. They had a strong start to the season but the challenge petered out over the course of the year. Strategic howlers robbed them of potential podiums and the car struggled to stay in touch with the top even after liberally using the upgrade tokens throughout the season. Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen were delegated with the task of keeping the tifosi happy and they did it to the best of their abilities. Kimi Raikkonen outqualified his team-mate ( 11-10 ) over the course of the season which was a pleasant surprise. The Iceman also managed to get 4 podiums finishing 6th in the Championship with 186 points. Sebastian achieved 6 podiums and P4 in the standings with 212 points.

The team failed to win a race this year, their main target at the start of 2016. Overall its been a disappointing performance. The Power Deficit couple with Aerodynamic deficiency hampered progress. The car was also slow in getting the tyres upto temperature. They also need to have more faith in their strategies and not react to what others are doing during a race.

The Result? Red Bull eventually caught up and overtook them, outscoring Ferrari by 70 points.

Kimi had a decent year but it could have been a lot better if Ferrari had not made strategic errors in a few races. He could have achieved some more podiums. Kimi should be strong in 2017.

Ferrari need a major overhaul if they need to challenge for the title in 2017. The learning curve is going to be steep but with the Financial Resources they have, progress should be faster.



Sahara Force India F1 Team :

Force India ended 2016 as the strongest Mercedes Customer Team. The team went from strength to strength each year and they are reaping the fruits of their hard work now. Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg produced the goods again as the team clinched 4th place in the Constructors enabling them a strong base to start from in 2017.

Sergio Perez achieved 2 podiums in Monaco and Canada and finished in the points on 14 occasions. Hulkenberg's best finish came in Belgium ( 4th ) with 14 points finishes as well. Perez finished the season on 101 points with Hulkenberg scoring 72.

Force India should be proud of what they have achieved this year with the limited resources they had. The Drivers were consistent in bringing home results and although P3 will be a tough ask, finishing P4 again is achievable.



Williams Martini Racing F1 Team :

Williams had a strong 2014 and 2015. However 2016 saw a sharp drop in performances and results. Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas teamed up for 2016. Bottas got a podium ( 3rd ) finish in Canada while Massa's best finish was 5th in Australia & Russia.

Bottas amassed 85 points while Massa finished 11th in the standings with 53 points. The team was overshadowed by Force India though. The Silverstone based outfit prevailed against them in a hard fought battle.

Felipe Massa announced his retirement from the sport and was given a fitting farewell by one and all in F1.

The Team dropped to 5th in the Constructors' standing as against 3rd last year. They never looked like challenging the works team in the 2nd half of the season. The team would be very displeased to lose another position to Force India, a team operating with a smaller budget than theirs. The saving grace for them was the power advantage of their Mercedes unit, else P5 would be a tough ask too.

Williams have work to do for 2017.



McLaren Honda F1 Team :

McLaren continued with Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button for 2016. Alonso suffered a bad accident with Gutierrez in Australia and had to skip Bahrain GP. Stoffel Vandoorne, the reserve driver, finished 10th in Bahrain grabbing the first point of the season for McLaren. Alonso won the team-mate battle finishing 10th in the overall standings with 54 points. His best finish was 5th in Monaco and USA. Jenson Button who announced his retirement from the sport at the end of the season finished 15th with Austria yielding his best race finish ( 6th ).

McLaren improved considerably in their 2nd year with the Honda engine. They managed to put in a fair number of miles throughout the season. Results improved considerably but still they are nowhere near the performance levels that they should be. 2017 will be an interesting year. Hopefully Honda can concentrate on power rather than reliability over the winter break.



Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 Team :

Toro Rosso had a torrid time with Renault powered engines in 2015 and reverted to Ferrari powertrains, albeit the 2015 one. Toro Rosso continued with Carlos Sainz Jr. and Max Verstappen for 2016 but the lineup changed post Russia after Kvyat caused a collision and was demoted to Toro Rosso, Verstappen moving up the order. Many questioned this move mid-season but Red Bull reiterated that this was necessary to help Kvyat develop into a better racer.

Toro Rosso had a very capable chassis and produced strong results throughout the season - 63 Points and 7th in the Constructors' Championship. Carlos Sainz Jr. finished 8th in the Drivers' Championship with 46 points, Max scored in 3 races ( till Russia ) while Kvyat managed to score in only 3 races after his demotion. Sainz showcased his class again with 6th place finishes in 3 races and being consistent throughout the season. One has to feel for Kvyat, first the demotion, then the struggles and problems he faced during the season. He has another year to make things right but with Gasly breathing down his neck, I have my reservations.

Toro Rosso can take pride in the fact that they have given F1 world class drivers and Max ensured the tradition continues. Carlos too is waiting in the wings. Red Bull have their hands full.


Haas F1 Team :

Haas, the new boys in F1 garnered a lot of attention both in pre-season and through the season. Romain Grosjean left Lotus to join Haas with the plan of eventually stepping up into the Ferrari Works team ( should an opportunity arise ) while Esteban Gutierrez landed the 2nd seat, courtesy of Ferrari, the engine suppliers for the team. Gene Haas always had a presence in F1 but coming in as a full fledged team would pose a different challenge altogether.

Romain Grosjean scored all the points for the team. The Frenchman amassed 29 points which helped Haas finish 8th in the standings. His best finish was 5th in Bahrain. Esteban Gutierrez drew a blank but missed out on points on a few occasions. It was quite evident that having a more experienced driver helped the team considerably. Romain was retained for 2017 while Gutierrez has lost his seat to Magnussen. One does feel sympathy for Esteban but he was so comprehensively beaten by his team-mate that there would be very few people who would justify giving him another year.

It was a fantastic maiden year for Haas F1. Very few would predict an 8th place finish, one ahead of a works team. They have a strong platform to build from for 2017. I believe the teething issues of their maiden year will be addressed and Haas will be a force to contend with.



Renault Sport F1 Team :

Renault broke off from Red Bull and purchased Lotus F1 to become a full-time Works Team in F1. It was a tough ask to turn it all around in 2016. Lotus had a better outing in 2015, even grabbing a podium but one must not forget that it was a Mercedes powered chassis. As informed to me by my friend, the 2016 Challenger was essentially a 2015 car with a lot of upgrades. The Delay in the takeover left little time in developing a new car. Renault however was here to stay and a roadmap to supremacy was laid up. Renault hired the services of Jolyon Palmer and Kevin Magnussen after Grosjean left for Haas and Maldonado was relieved of his duties.

Progress, as expected was tough and Renault had to address issues throughout the season. Nevertheless, Kevin Magnussen managed to fetch 7 points for the team, finishing in the Points in Russia and Singapore. Jolyon Palmer on the other hand had a poor debut season with a solitary point in Malaysia. However he was also the victim of reliability issues and unfortunate incidents. His performances did improve in the latter half of the season which was enough to warrant him a seat for 2017. Renault finished the season in 9th with 8 points.

Renault will be working over the winter break. They were finding their feet in 2016. 2017 must produce a big step up in terms of results.



Sauber F1 Team :

Sauber had a horrid 2014, 2015 and 2016 was destined to be the same until Nasr clinched 9th place in Brazil. These 2 points elevated them to 10th place in the Constructors' Standings, the final place in receiving a financial bonus. Marcus Ericsson finished the season pointless, his best finish 11th in Mexico. The Chassis has been the main challenge for the team. The 2015 Ferrari powered unit was strong enough but poor chassis design and lack of aerodynamics hampered progress.

Sauber is a cash strapped team and one can empathize with where they are now. Hopefully they have a more decent outing next year and with a potential take-over doing the rounds, money might pour in to help them stay afloat and develop a stronger car.


Manor Racing F1 Team :

Manor, formerly Marussia hired the services of Rio Haryanto & Mercedes Protegee Pascal Wehrlein for 2016. However Haryanto lost his race seat ( after Germany ) after the sponsors failed to meet the financial obligations to the team. His best finish was 15th in Monaco.

Esteban Ocon replaced Rio for the second half of the season and was very impressive in his performances. His best finish was 12th in Brazil and his performances were good enough to land him a seat in Force India in 2017.

Pascal Wehrlein
had a fantastic debut year in F1. He Secured the team's solitary point in Austria, a Result that almost won them 10th place in the Constructors but for what conspired in Brazil.

Manor had a decent 2016 and should be proud of their performances. There is news of a takeover as well. Can they move up from where they are now? Time will tell.





Felipe Massa
said goodbye to F1 and its sad to see such a fantastic racer and human being leave the sport. Jenson Button, another gentleman and a former World Champion takes a one year sabbatical ( but I do feel he is retiring ). There will be a change of guard in 2017. Hope to see the new boys do well in 2017.

Nico Rosberg won the Championship. Mercedes retained the Constructors' title. Mercedes again exhibited their prowess in the new turbo era. Their Engine has been pretty reliable, their upgrades effective and both their drivers just flattened the opposition.

True Nico Rosberg has left the sport after fulfilling his childhood dream and we wont see him defend his title. However we must cherish the performances the man has produced to the title and we wish him all the best for the future. Keke Rosberg won it in 1982, Nico Rosberg wins it in 2016!

I wrote a short tribute on my blog a few days back :http://tech-know-crat.posthaven.com/nico-rosberg-racer-champion-legend



Well, Like Father, Like Son!