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2018 F1 Season Review - It's not how you begin, It's how you finish!

2018 was the equal-longest season in the history of F1. It was also the year when HALO was introduced ( a safety feature added for open cockpit racing ) not just for F1 but also for the feeder series. 2018 also saw a new alliance between McLaren F1 and Renault ( as engine suppliers for the team ). Sergei Sirotkin, Charles LeClerc were the new kids on the block. 

How did the season pan out? Was a New driver and team crowned Champions at the end of 2018 or was status quo maintained?

Lets have a quick look.


Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team 

Mercedes AMG F1 are the best in the business since the Turbo Era. However the competitors are quickly catching up and creating a more level playing field. 2018 was a classic example of the same. Ferrari were the fastest in the Pre-season testing and had the upper hand in the first half of 2018. However uncharacteristic mistakes coupled with strategic errors allowed Mercedes to close in on them and eventually take the lead in both the Drivers' and the Constructors' Titles. The Team in Brackley worked round the clock to reduce the performance deficit over the season and their efforts did pay off. 

Lewis Hamilton's flawless drives got them the wins, his pole lap in Singapore ( the team's bogey track ) was one of the highlights of the season. Valtteri Bottas was presented with a couple of good opportunities for a victory but luck and team orders didn't go his way as he played 2nd fiddle for the majority of the season. Lewis Hamilton was playing catch up up until Germany, post which he simply moved into another gear. Hamilton won 11 races and 6 podiums on his way to the title. Bottas failed to win a race but finished on the podium in 8 races. Hamilton ended the season on a mammoth 408 points while Bottas finished in 5th with 247. Mercedes took home the Constructors' crown yet again! Lewis Hamilton was now a 5 Time World Champion!


Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

Ferrari was the team to beat in 2018. The year that promised a lot became yet another season of "what could have been". I have begun to think that the team has forgotten the way of winning championships, a drought that continues from 2007 ( Drivers' ) and 2008 ( Constructors' ). Incidents on track, Driver errors, Strategic howlers by the pit wall marred the performances and eventually cost the team top honours. Some updates introduced later in the year were a disaster, points were lost and this turned the tide in the Drivers' Title fight. 2018 revealed that Sebastian Vettel can also buckle under pressure and make mistakes. 

Vettel won 5 Races and bagged 7 podiums to finish P2 in the standings with 320 points. Kimi Raikkonen had a very strong 2018, as successful as his championship winning year in 2007. He finally won a race since Australia 2013 at the US GP in Austin in fine fashion. His 11 podiums helped him reach 251 points and P3 in the Championship. Scuderia Ferrari finished P2 in the Constructors' with 571 points. 

If Ferrari wants to pose a serious challenge to Mercedes in 2019 then they must ensure that everyone operates within their designated fields / professions and the decision making process must not be interfered with. The Power struggle within the team didn't help matters either. The passing away of the FCA CEO Mr. Sergio Marchionne was a big loss for the team as well. 

It was a much better year in terms of performances, however "yet so near..yet so far". Charles LeClerc steps in to partner Vettel in 2019. It will be interesting to see how they get along as team-mates and whether they can bring back the glory days or not.


Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Red Bull Racing finished P3 in the Standings with 419 Points. It was like a lonely season for them with no competitor to challenge for P3 and the Top 2 teams in a league of their own. Red Bull attributed a lot of blame to Renault power for their performance deficit in 2018. Will it change after their switch to Honda in 2019? Lets see. 

Max Verstappen missed P3 in the Championship by 2 points. The Dutchman was the recipient of a lot of bad luck in the first half of the season but he won in Austria, benefiting from the retirements suffered by the Mercedes duo. He drove flawlessly to win in Mexico the cooler temperatures and higher altitude allowed the Renault to perform better. He also finished on the podium 9 times, a fantastic feat nonetheless. Daniel Ricciardo struggled on the other hand, specially after the announcement of his decision to leave Red Bull for Renault in 2019. The Australian bagged 170 points with wins in China and Monaco, the latter redemption for the Pit Stop fiasco that robbed him victory in 2016. He didn't finish on the podium in the other races, something he will be looking to improve in 2019. P6 in the Standings does not justify the talent of the man.

Red Bull will be backing Verstappen in 2019 as Gasly ( Ricciardo's replacement ) finds his feet. Hopefully we will have a great contest!


Renault Sport F1 Team :

Renault Sport F1 was P4 in the Standings at the mid season break and they maintained their momentum till the end of the year. It wasn't smooth sailing with Haas F1 breathing down their necks but the Enstone based team prevailed.The disparity with the Top 3 Runners was huge but their ability to beat customer teams with faster engines will serve as good encouragement in 2019. 

Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz Jr. finished P7 and P10 respectively. Hulkenberg finished in the points in 11 races, P5 in Germany being his best result. Sainz finished in the points on 13 occasions with P5 in Baku being his best result. Hulkenberg was the best of the rest or as the media terms it the B Championship. A Podium still eludes him. Sainz switches to McLaren with Renault roping in the services of Ricciardo. Renault has the funding as a works team and are expanding their R&D on war footing. 2019 will be fun. Go Renault!!


Haas F1 Team :

Haas F1 once again proved to be the strongest Ferrari customer team. Achieving P5 in the Constructors' standings is a big achievement; a potent chassis coupled with a fantastic powertrain the main reasons. Gene Haas will be hoping to go one better next year. The Team finished on 93 points. The Team also have the FIA to thank who stripped Racing Point of their points up until the Hungarian GP, else they would have been leapfrogged. ( Elaborated later )

Kevin Magnussen scored the majority of the points for the team, finishing in the points in 11 races with P5 in Bahrain and Austria being his best results. He was P9 in the Championship with 56 points. Romain Grosjean's travails with the braking system didn't seem to end as he suffered from many non - finishes and struggled to find the right setups at most of the races. He only had 7 finishes in the points with P4 being his best effort at the Austrian Grand Prix. The Frenchmen scored a total of 37 points in P14, an underachiever in all honesty. A lot will be expected of him in 2019 considering the amount of experience he has racing in F1. 

The battle in the midfield is always a case of fine margins, the team has to iron out the issues and ensure both drivers finish well to bridge the gap above.


McLaren Renault F1 Team :

McLaren began 2018 with a lot of hope..a hope that their switch to Renault power would address their performance issues and put them on the road to recovery. Sadly it was anything but that. Renault power was the saving grace wherever it could be but the design flaws in the car were magnified on most tracks. McLaren were left red faced on most occasions as the car suffered from reliability and performance issues and failed to bring home the expected results. It became quite evident to the world that it wasn't Honda to blame entirely for McLaren's miseries but their chassis design. 

Fernando Alonso did what Fernando Alonso does best, extracting every ounce of performance out of the car. His best finish was P5 in the opening round in Australia. He finished in the points at 8 other races and P11 in the Championship with 50 points. The Spaniard made no secret of the criticism of the car over the course of the year. It also led him to the decision of taking a sabbatical from the sport. The Double World Champion had not seen a race victory since 2013 and a podium since 2014. We wish him the best in his future endeavours and hope to see him on the grid again! Stoffel Vandoorne had a mediocre 2018. He was unable to beat his team-mate in Qualifying and finished in the points in only 4 races. P16 with 12 points, a horrendous year for the Belgian

The team ended the season in P6 on 62 Points, better than where they were in 2017 but not where they hoped to be. 

They have a lot of work to do in 2019.


Racing Point Force India F1 Team :

Racing Point Force India, ( now Racing Point F1 saw a change in ownership over the mid-season break. The Team name changed from Sahara Force India to Racing Point with Vijay Mallya and the Sahara group selling their team assets to a consortium of businessmen lead by Lawrence Stroll, Lance Stroll's father. Perez even sued Force India, sending the team into administration before they were acquired by the investors. The consequence of the acquisition was that the team lost all the points scored up until the mid-season break i.e. up until Hungarian GP and had to enter the season as a new entrant. The team scored a total of 52 points from the Belgian Grand Prix and had their points been retained, they would have finished P5 in the Championship with 111 points ahead of Haas F1. The Drivers were allowed to retain their points. 

Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon weren't the best of mates and there was a fair bit of rivalry between the two. Incidents between the duo on track also cost the team some valuable points, specially vs McLaren F1. There was even news about Ocon being replaced in season by Lance Stroll from Williams but better sense prevailed and the Frenchman was allowed to continue racing. Sergio Perez was P8 in the Championship with 62 points grabbing a P3 once again at Baku, Racing Point's favourite track. Esteban Ocon had 10 finishes in the Points with P6 being his best finish in Monaco, Austria, Belgium and Italy. He finished P12 in the Championship with 49 points. 

2019 promises a lot, will the investors be repaid for their efforts? We shall see.



Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team :

Sauber F1 Team was on the rise since the start of 2018. Their results improved with each passing race and they finished on 48 points and P8 in the Constructors' at the end of the year. The Team has also benefited from a faster Ferrari engine in 2018. Charles LeClerc spearheaded their challenge with points finishes in 14 races and P6 was his best finish ( Baku ). He had 39 points to his name at the end of the year. Marcus Ericsson in comparison massively under-performed and finished in the points in only 6 races, P9 being his best finish. Sauber F1 will be thankful for LeClerc and for what he achieved since a better finish means more money to use for next year. 

Sauber is now Alfa Romeo F1, so hopefully they wont be as cash strapped as they were at the end of 2017.


Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 Team :

Toro Rosso had a very mediocre 2018. Honda power and its reliability issues are to blame ( to some extent ). The team scored only 33 points in 2018 and finished P9 in the Championship, losing P8 to Sauber post the mid season break. The Red Bull B Team will have to pull up their socks if they want to bring any respectability to their tally in 2019. Pierre Gasly performed well enough to warrant a seat in the A Team for 2019. Brendon Hartley not so. The Frechman scored in 5 races and P4 was his best finish ( Bahrain ). Brendon Hartley struggled all year round with mechanical failures, incidents and setup issues. He only managed 4 points in 2018, 9th in the US GP and 10th in Baku and Germany. 

Toro Rosso will be hoping for a better outing in 2019.


Williams Martini Racing F1 Team :

Williams, a name that is well known in the annals of F1. The team is now a mere shadow of its former glory days. Its truly a sad situation within the team, be it the lack of finances, sponsors or direction in terms of development. The progress curve stagnated for the team in 2018. The results were poor, even though a top man like Paddy Lowe was added to the management. The team also said goodbye to Rob Smedley who decided to call it a day on his career and spend time with his young family ( for now at least ). Sergei Sirotkin and Lance Stroll were the drivers hired for 2018 ( pay drivers purely ) and the funding they carried helped the team last the year. 7 points was all they could conjure, best being 8th for Lance Stroll in Baku. 

Williams need a revamp for 2019. They need to become appealing again and ensure their driver portfolio boasts of that too. We wish them well.



A lot has happened over the course of 2018.  

I had the opportunity of attending 3 races - Germany, Belgium and Abu Dhabi and I must say that Liberty Media should be commended for revitalizing F1 as a sport and modernizing it. They also improved Fan interaction and involvement.


We said goodbye to Fernando Alonso, a legend of the sport, his absence will definitely leave a void. Esteban Ocon, Stoffel Vandoorne, Brendon Hartley, Sergei Sirotkin and Marcus Ericsson will not be on the grid in 2019. Charles LeClerc was a revelation and the Tifosi will hope to see a new champion in Scarlet Red in 2019. 

Kimi Raikkonen finally won a race again and can bow out of Ferrari with his head held high! 


McLaren started strong hoping the trend would continue into the season..sadly it didn't, Sahara Force India were already in the red ( financially ) and hoped to weather the storm..the management couldn't; Ferrari was the fastest car on the grid and they hoped this would be the year of top honours..sadly it wasn't.


This season served as a good reminder for us, be it in life or Motorsport..it doesn't matter how you begin, what matters is how you finish! Mercedes AMG F1 and Lewis Hamilton ran the race well and deserved to be on the top step. 

Other contenders have a lot to learn..still...

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!




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!