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2019 F1 Season Preview - Win the Battles, Win the War

2018 was a great year for Mercedes AMG F1 and Lewis Hamilton as they lifted the title for the 5th time. 2018 also saw Liberty Media, the new owners of F1 do a fabulous job, be it Fan Interaction and Access Trackside or coverage off it. 

2019 is upon us and the Pre-season tests have finished. The First Race is merely 10 days away and the excitement is already building. 2019 will see Sauber rebranded as Alfa Romeo, Sahara Force India as Racing Point F1. 

The sport will also have rookies like George Russell ( reigning F2 Champion ), Lando Norris, Alexander Albon while Daniel Kvyat and old gun Robert Kubica return from their sabbaticals!

2019 is also a teaser for the Technical Regulations overhaul in 2021. A lot has changed in terms of Front Wing Design, Barge boards, Brake Ducts design, Rear wing width which will affect downforce and promise to improve wheel-to-wheel racing and overtaking. 


Lets have a quick look at the Rule Changes for the Season ( source : www.formula1.com )

Technical Regulations :

1) The front wing endplates are reshaped to alter the airflow across the car and reduce the effects of aerodynamic turbulence. Winglets above the main plane of the front wing have been banned. 

2) The slot in the rear wing is wider, this will make DRS more powerful. Two additional rear lights, one on each endplate to improve visibility in poor weather conditions. These must be illuminated at all times when a driver is using intermediate or wet-weather tyres.

Pre-season tests also saw green coloured tail-lights on Albon's car; these indicated that the driver didn't have the required super-license points ( for a Grand Prix ).

    3) Smaller – and repositioned – barge boards to make them less powerful and less aerodynamically disruptive.This ultimately helps make the flow coming off the rear of the car less problematic for following drivers, meaning they should be able to get closer to the car in front. 

    4) Simplified Brake Ducts design to reduce the aerodynamic exploitation of brake ducts.

    5) Maximum fuel levels are raised from 105 kg to 110 kg so as to minimise the need for drivers to conserve fuel during a race.

    6) Driver weights are no longer considered when measuring the minimum weight of the car. Drivers who weigh less than 80 kg will have to make up this weight with ballast, located around the seat to minimise possible performance gains. This will aid Drivers who have a taller or larger frame, Nico Hulkenberg for example.

    7) New Standard for helmets and stricter crash helmet specifications

    8) Biometric Gloves for drivers so that their vitals can be monitored at all times and valuable information can be relayed in the event of a crash.

    A lot more is explained in this Video Link :



    Tyres :

    Pirelli complied with the FIA and FOM's request to simplify the naming conventions for Tyre compounds for race weekends. Dry Tyre Compounds will be termed as "Soft, Medium and Hard" besides the Intermediates and Full Wets. Now each Grand Prix will feature simply a white-marked hard tyre, a yellow-marked medium, and a red-marked soft. However, the actual compounds used for those three designations will change depending on the circuit, with Pirelli having five treads to choose from – C1 being the hardest, C5 the softest ( Tyre Treads and characteristics mirror the range from Hypersoft to Hard from 2018 to some extent ). 


    Marc Priestly has done a fabulous job at explaining the Tyre Changes ( Video Link ) :


     

    So how do the teams stack up and what are their chances for 2019? Here are my 2 cents..


    Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :

    Mercedes retain their lineup for 2019 with Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas. The Latter will have to prove his worth to warrant a seat in 2020. Lewis should be able to maintain the edge over his team-mate and I see him as a favourite for the title. Bottas will have a stronger 2019 and should aim to win races first to make a strong case for himself in the Title Fight. 

    Mercedes was not the fastest car on the grid for the major part of 2018. 2019 seems to be a similar story based on the results of the pre-season tests. However they were always there to capitalize on the mistakes made by their competitors. They managed the Drivers' Title Fight in a professional way, prioritizing results for Lewis who they believed could bring the trophy home and the 5 time World Champion didn't disappoint. They also need to improve results at street circuits and ensure optimum engine performance at higher altitudes, the Achilles' heel of their car. Mercedes cannot afford to be complacent in 2019. The Gap at the front is now non-existent.


    Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

    Ferrari the most successful team in the History of F1 is yet to lift the title in the "Turbo Era". The Talent has always been there, be it off the track or on it but they have come up second best. 2018 was their best shot at both titles and sadly they blew it with strategic blunders and some driver mistakes. Ferrari replace Kimi Raikkonen with Charles LeClerc for 2019. It is no secret that he is the next big thing and will eventually be champion...whether he will be able to beat a 4 time World Champion in Sebastian Vettel is a completely different story.  The Team has stated that they will favour Vettel in the opening few rounds, a logical decision considering LeClerc will need time to adjust to his new team. LeClerc posted some blistering laps during the tests and if he does manage to outdo his more experienced team-mate, things might get fiesty. The bosses have to be clear and precise in their decision making, we all know what unfolds when the team-mate battle heats up. Vettel must ensure that he doesn't repeat his mistakes on track, his greatest weapon will be his experience.

    The team has also gone through a Management Overhaul over the winter while some have left to move to greener pastures. Ferrari are the team to beat based on the results of the tests. They have the strongest driver pairing on the grid according to me. The Constructors should be well within their grasp. The people should be allowed to carry out their respective roles without any hindrance or interference, something that they failed to adhere to in the past year. Will they prevail in 2019 or will team politics be the cause of their undoing? Only time will tell.


    Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

    Red Bull had a tough time with Renault since 2014 and decided to switch to Honda Power for 2019. Daniel Ricciardo bid adieu to the team and Pierre Gasly was promoted to partner Max Verstappen. Max had a strong second half in 2018 and will be hoping to maintain the momentum. Gasly isn't expected to be as quick as Max ( the team believes so ) and might have to play second fiddle for the majority of the season. Max is another contender for the crown, the chink in his armour would be the reliability and performance of the Honda power unit. The car put on some decent mileage in the tests and both drivers agreed that there was a performance deficit to the cars in front. The team is capable of overcoming that with a better aerodynamic package and are they sandbagging? We shall know soon.

    Red Bull have always been there when the top two teams slipped up. They know how to win Championships and with 2 drivers hungry for the title, they can make it a reality. They are serious contenders for 2019. 


    Renault Sport F1 Team :

    Renault got the prize catch of Daniel Ricciardo from Red Bull for 2019, that in itself has been a huge morale booster. Nico Hulkenberg is the other driver for the Enstone based outfit while Carlos Sainz Jr left to join McLaren. Renault was P4 in the Championship and will aim to go one better in 2019. They have a race winner in Ricciardo and Hulkenberg is a consistent points scorer. Ricciardo knows that he has taken a challenging decision. He is in a place where he has to rear the team back to the top of the pile. Hulkenberg will have a good point of reference and his performances will improve too. The Pre-Season tests yielded decent results and initial reports suggest that the team will be a force to reckon with.

    Renault's goal should be to finish P3 in the Championship. Finishing on the podium will be as good as a win. Their rise to the top is about to get tougher now. They have the funds as a works team and I do hope they accomplish what they set out to achieve.


    Sportpesa Racing Point F1 Team :

    Sportpesa Racing Point F1, the new name for the Force India F1 team preserves the livery from 2018 ( well almost ). They have relieved Ocon of his services and roped in Lance Stroll to partner Sergio Perez. Stroll's appointment was no surprise since his father spearheaded the acquisition of the team and saved it from going into administration. It wasn't smooth sailing between Ocon and Perez in the last 2 seasons, hopefully things change in 2019 with a new entrant. The team must focus on maximizing finishes in the points if they want to be the best of the rest. The car isn't without flaws but Racing Point is known to come into its fore once the European leg kicks off. Perez will be the better performer according to me. It will be a steep learning curve for Stroll. 

    The team has a considerable number of sponsors ( funding ) and with the Mercedes engine at the back, they can be the fastest  customer team on the grid.


    McLaren F1 Team :

    McLaren a name that is synonymous with wins and titles. The last few years have been anything but that. Life in the Turbo Era has been an uphill struggle for them, first with Honda and then with Renault. The switch to the latter revealed the design flaws in the car and the team had to start afresh for 2019. Thankfully the signs look positive after pre-season testing. I still don't think they will be in the sharp end of the grid but more as a strong midfield team. McLaren sports a completely new driver lineup with Stoffel Vandoorne making way for Lando Norris and Fernando Alonso taking a sabbatical to be replaced by Carlos Sainz Jr. 

    McLaren won't have much in terms of Drivers' experience but with Alonso allowed to participate in some tests, they should get constructive feedback . Norris is the future and hopefully he can showcase his talent in 2019. Sainz Jr has been in the sport for sometime now and will know how to maximize results whenever the opportunity arises. A lot is riding for the team in 2019. They simply can't have another mediocre year.


    Haas F1 Team :

    Haas F1 is the only other team to retain its driver lineup in 2019. Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen had a decent 2018, the former still suffered from braking issues. Pre-season tests yielded productive results and Haas should be able to remain the fastest Ferrari customer team. The main challenge for Haas will be sporting a balanced chassis for the varied demands of races over the season. P7 seems like the best bet for Haas F1. They do need more financial influx and sponsorship deals to improve on the R&D front. Lets hope 2019 opens up new vistas for them.


    Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team :

    Alfa Romeo, the iconic Italian brand makes a return to the sport after a long hiatus. The Sauber F1 Team got officially rebranded as Alfa Romeo Racing. They have roped in the services of the Iceman Kimi Raikkonen, who swapped seats with Charles LeClerc and Antonio Giovinazzi. Life in F1 has come full circle for Kimi, returning to the team where his journey first began. Kimi will also have the freedom to race and express himself, a freedom he rarely experienced in Ferrari. The Team Factory is also pretty close to his home in Baar, Switzerland, so its a win win for both parties. For Antonio Giovinazzi its a make or break year. This is his chance to showcase his talent and convince the top bosses at Ferrari that he has it in him. He will be well trained under the watchful eyes of Kimi who is also a mentor in the team.

    The team ended 2018 on a good note and will have a strong base going into the 2019 season. There is work to be done but pre-season tests have given us a hint of the car's true potential. Hoping the best for the Iceman, who knows maybe a podium this year!


    Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 Team :

    Toro Rosso had a mediocre 2018 and they will be hoping to better things in 2019. Toro Rosso re-hire Daniil Kyvat alongwith rookie Alexander Albon for 2019. There is a lot of inexperience in the lineup but then Toro Rosso have always been the auditioning team for Red Bull. Kvyat has a second shot at F1 and will be hoping to justify his appointment. Albon was an accomplished racer in Formula 2 but F1 is a totally different ball game. However I do see him getting the better of Kvyat over the course of the year.

    Toro Rosso don't have the plethora of resources like their big brother. They will have a potent chassis as always and will be hoping for races of attrition to end up in points scoring positions. I don't see them go better than P9 in 2019.


    Rokit Williams Racing F1 Team :

    Williams Martini Racing got rechristened to Rokit Williams Racing F1. Rokit, their title sponsor is a global telecommunications company. They also showcased their new livery, a White and Blue combination. The car was launched on schedule but it wasn't ready in time for testing! Their challenger eventually made it to Barcelona on Wednesday, 2 days later than the rest, not to mention the valuable mileage lost. The First couple of days were essentially shakedowns before they actually got down to business. They seem destined to be backmarkers for the start of the season. The team lost a couple of sponsors to Racing Point ( after Lawrence Stroll acquired Racing Point ) A team that has so much history about it, its sad to see them devoid of finances, sponsorships and direction. Will the team be able to turn their fortunes around? I really hope! 

    Reigning Formula 2 Champion George Russell and the veteran Robert Kubica are the drivers hired for 2019. The Latter's selection came as a surprise since he has never been at the same level of racing after his horrific accident. He had to leave the sport and after a lot of hard work and dedication, he has made it back to the grid so kudos to him. He has a loyal fan base from Poland so I am sure that Liberty wouldn't be complaining.  It will be intriguing to see how he copes with the physical and mental strains of a full season. Russell beat Norris with some fabulous performances in F2 and will have an edge in the intra-team battle. 



    Lewis Hamilton faces one of the toughest tests in his F1 career. Sebastian Vettel is thirsty for his 5th Title. Charles LeClerc wants to join the elite club of Drivers to win the Championship in their maiden year with Ferrari ( Kimi Raikkonen was one of them ). Max Verstappen will leave no stone unturned in his challenge. Valtteri Bottas cannot play 2nd fiddle again, his ride is on the line. Ricciardo in a Renault and Raikkonen in an Alfa Romeo will make life tough for the true contenders. 

    F1 has always seen periods of dominance throughout its history. We had the McLarens and the Ferraris in the late 90s and early 2000s, Red Bull from 2010 to 2013 and then throne was usurped by Mercedes AMG F1 who are yet to be beaten. The battle in the front has gotten intense with each passing year but the three pointed star always found a way to prevail at the end. Ferrari seem to be the fastest ( like in 2018 ) but they need to win the smaller contests first to eventually win the war. The competitors must rally their troops and ensure minimal slip-ups else the status quo will remain. 

    2019 will be a spectacle to behold.

    The neutrals want a new king..Will it happen in 2019? Only time will tell.

    2018 F1 Season Preview - Halo, F1 is back!

    The 2017 F1 Season was a closely contested affair up until the Mid-Season Break. The season ended in style in Abu Dhabi and as the F1 fraternity headed into the winter break, the sport turned a page in the Chapter of the "Turbo Era". 

    Liberty Media, the new owners of F1 ensured the return of the French Grand Prix ( Paul Ricard Circuit ), German Grand Prix ( Hockenheimring ) thus making 2018 the longest season in F1 History.

    The iconic logo made way for another, "Grid Girls" make an exit from the sport and these garnered mixed reactions from fans but the concept of having "Grid Kids" was welcomed by one and all!


    A Summary of the Changes in the 2018 F1 Season ( source : www.formula1.com ) :


    Technical regulations:

    - T-wings and shark-fin style engine covers outlawed
    - halo cockpit protection device mandatory
    - suspension systems that could alter the car’s aero performance over a lap not allowed

    Sporting regulations:


    - drivers allowed three rather than four power units per season
    - simplified grid penalties for power unit changes
    - wider range of dry tyre compounds


    The greatest technical change is the addition of a new safety measure to closed cockpit racing - something which extends to the feeder series as well - The Halo!

    Incorporating the device into the monocoque has created many engineering problems and increased the mass of the car. Driver escape time has been adjusted to seven seconds to leave the cockpit and twelve seconds for escape and replacing the steering wheel. Frontal crash test standards will also be higher with the objective of improving the protection against carbon elements breaking through the chassis.


    Different iterations of the Halo were tested by teams throughout the 2017 season but we saw the final model at the pre-season tests :

    ( Pic credit : XPB Images )


    Tyres 

    Pirelli remain the official tyre suppliers for 2018 and have increased the available dry weather range from five to seven variants. They have also introduced a superhard and a hypersoft option.

    The side wall colour designations are as follows: Hypersoft – Pink Ultrasoft – Purple Supersoft – Red Soft – Yellow Medium – White Hard – Blue Superhard – Orange.

    Pirelli will supply three dry weather compounds per race and intermediates and full wet weather tyres when required.


    So how have the teams fared at the tests? What are their prospects for the season? Time to find out!


    Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :

    Mercedes retained Valtteri Bottas for 2018. Bottas played the perfect team-mate to Hamilton in 2017 and the decision to extend his contract was a no-brainer. The team flexed their muscles and were the fastest in the pre-season tests. They have a lot in reserve and will be the team to beat in 2018. 

    Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas have been raking up the miles and the car is very reliable. It will be interesting to see how Mercedes' latest challenger performs at circuits like Singapore which were unforgiving in the past. "Damage Limitation" is a rare occurrence for the fastest team in the Turbo Era and they seem to be favourites to lift the Constructors' Crown. Lewis' aim will be to become a 5 time World Champion but will Bottas pose a threat? I believe his challenge will fizzle out towards the business end of the season. Lewis remains my favourite to retain his championship crown.



    Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

    Ferrari had a strong 2017 and Sebastian Vettel was a contender for the crown until the coming together in Singapore derailed his chances. The results after the Mid-Season break hurt the team badly and it seemed that they had lost the plot. The Team has lost its Title sponsor for 2018. However the results from pre-season tests prove that the car is no slouch. It is more than capable of challenging for the title. 2017 was a solid base to build on, its time to go one better in 2018.

    Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen renew their partnership in 2018. Its no secret that they share the healthiest relationship between team-mates on the grid. Kimi is a team man and the team sees Vettel as their main challenger to the title. Kimi might be calling it a day at the end of the season and will be pushing all the way. Hope to see him win some races this year. Vettel's biggest challenger is Hamilton. The prospect of two 4 time World Champions facing off is too good to miss! Ferrari need to ensure that they don't repeat the tactical errors of 2017. They must remember that they have 2 cars racing and have competitive strategies for both. Its a long road ahead but it will be a start..



    Aston Martin Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

    Red Bull kicks off 2018 with Aston Martin becoming a major shareholder in the team. Its nice to see the presence of a new manufacturer on the grid ( although the team uses Tag Heuer branded Renault engines ). Red Bull had a strong second half in 2017 and will look to build from there. They seem to be the 3rd fastest from the pre-season tests but then the tests are just indicators of what is to unfold. There are certain tracks on the calendar where the car is far superior to its rivals and then there are tracks where the power deficit simply cannot be compensated for. Red Bull will be hoping that the power disparity isn't as much as it was in 2017. They will definitely have Ferrari nervously looking over their shoulders in 2018.

    Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, the dynamic duo drive for Red Bull in 2018. Daniel had a good outing in 2017 but Max's campaign was riddled with reliability issues. Red Bull wouldn't want a repeat of 2017 since its no secret that Max with his abilities and racing acumen, is hot property in the driver market. Ricciardo too is yet to clarify where his loyalties will lie beyond 2018. So its a make or break year for the car. Red Bull boast of a very potent lineup, 2 drivers who can pounce at the tiniest of slip-ups. Beating the Mercedes and Ferrari will be no walk in the park but they have the personnel and the power to make this a reality.



    Sahara Force India F1 Team :

    Force India F1 had quite an eventful winter break - first news of a name change and now news of a possible buyout. Pre-season tests yielded grim results and the team must address issues as soon as possible to minimize the damage that could happen in the first few races. McLaren, Renault will be stronger this year so retaining P4 in the Constructors will be a tough ask.

    The Relatively Volatile partnership of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon might damage the team's chances in 2018. The team must ensure that wheel to wheel racing between the team-mates is kept clean and incidents such as those in 2017 aren't repeated. Will Force India remain the fastest Mercedes Customer Team in 2018? I have serious doubts.



    Renault Sport F1 Team :

    Renault made their return as a works team in 2015 and since then its been an uphill task. Renault retains the services of Nico Hulkenberg along with the loanee Carlos Sainz Jr. from the Red Bull Driver Program. Renault's focus has been on improving reliability since 2017 and it seems to be paying dividends now. The Pre-Season tests yielded decent results and initial reports suggest that the team should be able to finish consistently in the points at the races. They must capitalise on any slip-ups by the front runners. I believe their battle with McLaren ( now a Renault customer team ) will be a closesly fought one and they should prevail at the end of the year.

    Hulkenberg and Sainz Jr. are an interesting duo. They will be pushing each other throughout the year. Both are clean racers. Its hard to put one's money on who could win the Intra-team battle. Renault should also explore the possibility of signing Sainz Jr. on a long term contract. It will help them in their quest to make it to the sharp end of the grid. I really hope the best for them!


    McLaren Renault F1 Team :

    McLaren Renault, 2 names that were never seen together in the lifespan of F1. McLaren had some amazing battles with the Renault works team in the early 2000s but after breaking off from Mercedes and joining forces with Honda ( returning as an engine supplier ) in 2015, McLaren went into a downward spiral. Their partnership with Honda was a disaster leading existing sponsors away from the brand and pushing them into making the big decision of becoming a Renault  customer team from 2018 ( for 3 years ). Reliability and lack of pace hurt the McLaren Honda assocation. McLaren has to rebuild itself from 2018 and strive to return to the glory days of old..

    McLaren have the perfect combination of experience and youth in Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne. Alonso is still one of the best and getting a competent car under him is long due. Alonso will be instrumental in improving the car throughout 2018. Vandoorne is an exciting prospect for the future and will bring home the results. Reliability still seems to be the challenge for the team but pace has improved drastically. The signs for 2018 are positive. Lets hope it stays that way!



    Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 Team :

    Toro Rosso broke away from Renault and signed a deal with Honda engines for 2018. Many questioned the thought behind such a decision. They also lost a sponsor to Renault Sport F1 ( after Sainz Jr's loan deal ). However the top brass in the team seem to know what they are doing. Ironically Toro Rosso was the team to clock the most number of miles in the pres-season tests while McLaren was riddled with mechanical failures and driver errors. The big question for the team : Can they sustain this kind of reliability through the year. I have my reservations.

    Brendan Hartley and Pierre Gasly will drive for Toro Rosso in 2018. Both are relatively inexperienced but how they fare would determine whether they can make it to the A team, should a spot open up in 2019. Hartley will be the man who will lead the charge according to me. Gasly will enter the fray eventually. Toro Rosso boast of a potent chassis. Consistent point finishes should be easy for them. 



    Williams Martini Racing F1 Team :

    Williams retain the services of Lance Stroll for 2018. Sergei Sirotkin, a rookie joins their ranks alongwith Robert Kubica who will take up the spot of Reserve Driver. The choice has been an interesting one considering the fact that Sirotkin has big financial backing. Williams has a strong car for 2018 but will the inexperience of their drivers cost them in the long run? The absence of Felipe Massa who called it a day ( this time for good ) means Stroll will be bearing the burden of scoring points while Sirotkin finds his feet in the sport. 

    Williams must fare better in 2018. They had 3 torrid years and a good 2018 is very important to ensure that they have a title sponsor for 2019 ( Martini leaves at the end of 2018 ).


    Haas F1 Team :

    Haas F1 continue their quest to become the best with Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen at the wheel. Grosjean will be the more reliable, Mangussen's performances were pretty mercurial in 2017. Grosjean will be hoping that the braking issues he suffered in 2017 wouldn't repeat itself. The main challenge for Haas will be sporting a balanced chassis for the varied demands of races over the season. P7 seems like the best bet for Haas F1. They do need more financial influx and sponsorship deals to improve on the R&D front. Lets hope 2018 opens up new vistas for them.


    Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team :

    Alfa Romeo a name that was associated with the sport for long, now makes a re-entry in 2018 alongwith Sauber. The Swiss team, which has struggled financially for a number of years, will be rebranded as Alfa Romeo Sauber from 2018 after a technical and commercial partnership was agreed. The Italian manufacturer will have their logo carried on the car, although it will still be powered by year-old Ferrari engines. Sauber released Pascal Wehrlein and aquired the services of GP2 Champion and rookie Charles LeClerc for 2018. LeClerc is an class act and I believe he will outperform Marcus Ericsson in 2018. The Swede retains his seat thanks to the sizeable sponsorship deals he brings to his employers. Ferrari will definitely have an influence and say in this team since Alfa Romeo belongs to FCA of which Ferrari is also a subsidary.


    The F1 Season kicks off this weekend in Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia! 

    Mercedes are still favourites to retain the crown but Ferrari are close on their heels. The results in Bahrain and China will tell the true story. Reliability will be the deciding factor again and it wont be a surprise to see drivers serving grid penalties in the latter half of the season.

    I am hoping to see Kimi Raikkonen on the top step of the podium in a few races!

    I am looking forward to being a guest of Scuderia Ferrari F1 in Silverstone, Belgium and Abu Dhabi.  

    Wishing all the teams and the drivers the best for the season...

    There are many contenders to the crown..however...There can only be One!

    2017 F1 Season Preview - Changes, Changes Everywhere!

    F1 starts a new chapter in 2017. The Ownership changes hands from Bernie Ecclestone to Liberty Media and Chase Carey, there is an overhaul of regulations and the winter break was full of speculations and theories about who would replace the Retiring Reigning World Champion Nico Rosberg.

    The calendar is truncated to 20 Races after Germany hosts no race this year. Manor unfortunately won't feature on the grid after the team folded up and had to withdraw their official entry for the season. As always, there is a lot of excitement about the season. The F1 Faithful have a lot of expectations from the new owners be it Fan interactions, Fan Access, Ticket Pricing and Race Weekend Events but first there is a season to look forward to!


    A Quick Look at the Regulation Changes for the season :

    1) Teams are restricted to 4 power units per season regardless of the number of Grands Prix in the season. Engines and power unit supply costs will be reduced by 1m Euros in 2017 and by a further 3m Euros in 2018. There will be a lot of unpredictability and unreliability might play a big role in the title fight. More importantly F1 are moving towards cost cutting, the very reason for the switch to smaller power units.

    2) The engine token system will be scrapped from 2017 onwards and a boost pressure constraint will be introduced.

    3) Any outfit who could not agree a power unit deal must be supplied by the manufacturer which supplies the least amount of teams, which is currently Honda, at a stipulated rate. Everyone have their suppliers locked down, so doesn't apply to anyone.

    4) Tyres are around 25 percent wider than in 2016, with rear width up from 325mm to 405, and front width raised from 245 to 305. Tyre diameter has also increased very slightly, though wheel rim size remains unchanged at 13 inches. ( Source : www.formula1.com ). This would mean better grip levels, extra downforce translating to faster lap times.

    5) In the event that a race is declared wet and must start behind the safety car, the grid will follow normal starting procedures and once conditions are declared satisfactory for racing, drivers will line up on the grid for a standing start once the safety car pulls into pit lane, although any laps completed behind the safety car will count towards the total race distance. Finally we can have a proper start in the wets. Just like the good old days!

    6) From 2017, teams will only be able to use one new component over their quota per race, with any additional components incurring further penalties. This change will prevent teams from "stockpiling" spare power unit components. Quite an interesting move considering the fact that everyone - from Mercedes to Honda took advantage of serving a combined penalty of all components in a single race.

    My understanding of the rule is this : The team can only replace one component on a weekend..should they choose multiple, the incurring penalties will have to be served in the following rounds. So the Teams have to choose what to replace and when.

    I am pretty intrigued to see how the FIA is going to enforce this rule ( specifically near the business end of the season )

    7)The minimum weight of the car including the driver being raised by 20 kg to 722 kg, with teams allowed to use 105 kg of fuel to account for the increase in minimum weight. More Fuel means less fuel saving periods and a greater chance for drivers to push at the races but knowing F1, most would take the cautious approach.

    8) There are multiple changes to the looks, dimensions of the cars. We have also seen Shark Fins, T Fins, New Barge Board designs at the tests. I choose not to get into the technicalities of it, but for those who do, here is a table which explains the transformation of the cars from 2016. ( Source : www.skysports.com/f1 )


    Proposed bodywork changes for 2017



    2016 2017
    Tyres Front 245mm wide thread 305mm wide thread

    Rear 325mm wide thread 405mm wide thread
    Suspension Track 1800mm 2000mm

    Legs +/- 5 degrees profile incidence +/- 10 degrees profile incidence
    Front Wing Wing 1650mm span 1800mm span, swept plan view shape

    Endplates
    Simplified endplate legality
    Rear Wing Top wing 750mm wide, 950mm high 950mm wide, 800mm high

    Endplates Rectangular endplate Swept endplate in side view and tucked in front view
    Floor Steep plane 1400 max width; 1300mm min width; Edge radii <50mm constant 1600 max width; 1400mm min width; Edge radii <100mm variable

    Reference plane Starts 330mm behind front axle Starts 430mm behind front axle

    Plank Homogeneous Plank Pocketed plank for weight saving

    Diffuser 125mm high, 1000mm wide, starts at rear axle 175mm high, 1050 mm wide, starts 175mm ahead of rear axle
    Bodywork Width 1400mm max width 1600mm max width

    Sidepods No constraint Swept leading edge in top view

    Bardgeboards Big exclusion zone behind front wheels Reduced exclusions zone allowing for larger bargeboards
    Weight
    702kg max weight 722kg max weight + tyres (est 5kg)


    The FIA claim substantial gains of over three seconds are expected in 2017 through the "aerodynamic rules evolution, wider tires and reduction of car weight". The 2017 cars are more difficult to drive and the drivers will need to be at their fittest to handle these machines. Overtaking might still be a concern ( according to Hamilton and Massa ) but we shall know once we get to the high speed circuits.


    So how have the teams fared at the tests? What are their prospects for the season? Time to find out!

    Mercedes AMG F1 Team :

    Mercedes, the undisputed kings of the Turbo Era marched to another title in 2016. Nico Rosberg came out on top to win his maiden Drivers' World Championship only to shock the world with his decision to retire a week later. Rosberg stated that he had achieved his dream and it was time to move on to more important things in life. The decision led to a big contest to grab the best seat in the sport for 2017. Alonso, Wehrlein, Bottas, Ricciardo were the contenders. Alonso would have been an interesting choice. He is the best driver on the grid according to me and we all know what conspired in 2007 between Lewis and Nando. Did Lewis have a say in this? Maybe. Bottas, the experts' favourite got the job, his close association to Toto Wolff ( his manager ) giving him the edge. The Team had to part ways with Paddy Lowe who went to Williams F1, a fair trade for both parties. James Allison who left Ferrari midseason following the death of his wife joins Mercedes as their Technical Director for 2017, a fantastic addition to the squad. Mercedes remain favourites to retain the crown in 2017 although Testing suggests that Ferrari will make it a very close affair. The Team is known to mask their true pace so the competition should be wary.

    Bottas is a very calm and composed racer under pressure. Lewis Hamilton will look to reclaim his lost crown and I believe his competition will come from another team. Bottas will be strong but not capable to fight Lewis for the title. Nonetheless both will have to be the top of their game to ensure competition is kept at bay.


    Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

    Ferrari have played second fiddle long enough. They have flattered to deceive in the Turbo Era. 2014 was a fiasco. 2015 saw some improvement. 2016 started off well only for Ferrari to lose the plot towards the end. 2017 Pre-season Tests portray an encouraging story - Ferrari are right up there with the best and might be able to beat the best in the business this year. Ferrari's pace at the Tests have been a revelation. Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel scorched the Circuit of Catalunya with record laptimes on supersofts which suggests the team has something in reserve. Kimi and Seb praised the efforts of the personnel at Maranello and both believe that the SF70H is much better than its predecessor. Neither chose to comment on the possibility of race wins but the initial vibes coming out of the camp are extremely positive. The Team looks ready and raring to go. Kimi Raikkonen beat Sebastian Vettel in the Qualifying faceoffs in 2016 and would look to better him in the Championship as well. Both the drivers will push each other to the limits and that will augur well for the team who know that the battle at the sharp end of the grid is no cakewalk. Ferrari did lose out on the services of James Allison but if this car brings about a change of fortunes, then they've done well without him.

    Ferrari needs to return to that winning mentality again. The aggression is there, the talent is there. They only need to plan and execute it well. They need to have confidence in their tactics and not react to what others around them are doing. As a Fan, I want to see Kimi Raikkonen have an exceptional season. 



    Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

    Red Bull one of the most successful teams in F1 made a strong resurgence in 2016 and snapped up 2 wins and P2 in the Constructors' Championship. They were pretty close to Mercedes AMG F1 at the end of the season. Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen made for a fantastic pairing and retaining them for 2017 was absolutely paramount for the team. Ricciardo had the temptation of switching to Mercedes but the Australian chose to stick with the boys from Milton Keynes. Max and Dan are the best pairing in F1 according to me and their positive approach at the races will definitely throw up many surprises in 2017. Red Bull might not be at the level of Mercedes or Ferrari based on whats been seen at the Tests but wasn't the start of 2016 the same? I really believe they are hiding their true pace and even if they aren't, they have all the resources and the personnel to upgrade and field an aerodynamically efficient and quick RB13 at the races. Would they be able to beat Mercedes while keeping Ferrari at bay? I highly doubt it. One thing is for certain though..P3 is the least that Red Bull should manage at the Constructors.



    Williams Martini Racing F1 Team :

    Williams had a poor 2016. Massa retired at the end of the season only to return for another year after Valtteri Bottas moved up to Mercedes AMG F1 to replace Rosberg. Lance Stroll, the 18 year old F3 Champion joins Massa making him the newest entrant into the world of F1. Williams finished P5 in 2016 and they lost their way in their battle against Force India. However with the New Regulations and Changes in place, its status quo for everyone but will Williams be able to mount a strong challenge? There is a lot of uncertainty about them from the pre-season tests. I quote Formula1.com "The FW40 shouted ‘hidden potential’ to many seasoned observers. The big question is whether their testing pace was for real, and if so, will it put them at the head of the midfield pack or make them true podium contenders? Only Melbourne will tell."

    Massa's experience will be invaluable in the fight this year. Stroll has been raking up the miles but his inexperience could be the weak-link this year. Williams boast of a glorious history in F1 and their personnel are capable of turning things around. Financially, they are secure too. I would like to see them fighting at the sharp end of the grid in 2017.

    Paddy Lowe joins Williams F1 for 2017 as Chief Technical Director, a move that was on the cards if the Bottas switch to Mercedes came through. Williams will be more than happy to have a man with Paddy Lowe's experience. He has all the expertise of improving the car and if the drivers can deliver the expected results, then they are back in contention.



    Force India F1 Team :

    Force India were a revelation in 2016. Finishing P4 in the Championship the team underlined the fact if one works hard, then the sky is the limit. Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg delivered consistently strong finishes to keep competitors at bay. Esteban Ocon is the new member of the team replacing Hulkenberg who switched to Renault. Force India also sport a new livery..some like it, some don't. Its a Strawberry coloured VJM10 for 2017 and I am sure its gonna stand out amongst the field. Initial impressions show that the car is fairly quick and most importantly reliable. Perez will go from strength to strength..maybe auditioning for a seat higher up. Ocon showed a lot of promise in Manor. This is his "Baptism by Fire". His finishes will be pivotal in deciding Force India's fortunes for 2017.

    Force India will find it hard to better what they achieved in 2016. The likes of Renault, Williams will be vying for P4 so its going to be an uphill battle for the Silverstone based outfit. Lets hope they handle the pressure with aplomb. 



    McLaren Honda F1 Team :

    McLaren and Honda...Prost and Senna...the Golden era..The Partnership was renewed in 2016 and the alliance has been a massive embarrassment. Honda's powertrains have been highly unreliable and the story might not change if one looks towards the pre-season tests. The MCL32 struggled to post a decent mileage..both drivers drove out of the pits only to stop at random times of their runs. Alonso, assessing the situation has reiterated that this might be the only chance that Honda has to turn things around..maybe hinting at greener pastures in WEC with Porsche ( an option hes been eyeing for sometime ). Stoeffel Vandoorne finally got a drive after Jenson Button left the sport ( to take on the role of a "mentor" for McLaren). Mika Hakkinen also joined them as an ambassador but would they be influential in bringing in more sponsorship for a team that is bound to struggle on the field? Tough ask this. Vandoorne and Alonso seem to have a long and arduous season ahead of them. Alonso will eek out every bit of performance. Vandoorne must follow suit.

    McLaren will be fortunate to finish in the points at Australia but a team of their stature have to turn things around asap. Honda claims that all their troubles will be addressed before the start of the full season. Applaud their optimism but lets hope they silence a critic like me. The latest news coming out of the UK is that McLaren are considering their "options" with Honda. Could a shock switch to another engine supplier be on the cards? Time will tell..


    Renault Sport F1 Team :

    Renault, in its 2nd year as a Works Team would look to improve their performances and results from last year. The team ( after a lot of debate ) persisted with Jolyon Palmer while Kevin Magnussen was released to join Haas F1. The team bagged the services of Nico Hulkenberg from Force India and both will look to benefit from the other - Hulkenberg being with a works team and Renault having the luxury of a consistent finisher / performer in their ranks. For Jolyon Palmer, its a make or break year. His performances must improve to justify the team's decision to retain him..else it won't be difficult to find a replacement. Hulkenberg would be hoping for a reliably fast car for 2017 and if they do manage this for the first half, a podium finish shouldn't be a long shot.

    The Team aims to finish P5 in this championship ( based on the "roadmap to success" charted out by Renault ). Testing results suggest a positive outcome for the season. Issues remain to be resolved but the team can gain confidence from all that they learned from testing. I do hope to see them return to success and hopefully to the top step..after all I consider them as family!


    Haas F1 Team :

    Haas F1 had a decent debut year. Romain Grosjean scored all the points for the team while Gutierrez had a torrid return to F1. He was close to scoring points on a few occasions but his performances didn't warrant him a place in 2017. Subsequently he switched to Formula E while Kevin Magnussen took up his vacant seat. Haas has a capable driver in Romain Grosjean, his experience being helpful in the development and improvement of the car. Magnussen is a quick driver but will need time to settle.

    Pre-season tests show that the car is fairly quick and should be a regularly feature in the midfield battle. Haas' close association with Ferrari might turn out to be helpful. Their main challenge will be sporting a balanced chassis for the varied demands of races over the season. P7 seems like the best bet for Haas F1.



    Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 Team :

    Toro Rosso renew their partnership with Renault for 2017. I must say they have the best livery for 2017. It should be a lot easier to differentiate between the A Team and the B Team. Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz Jr. keep their seats for 2017. However Kvyat must perform as the extremely talented Pierre Gasly is waiting in the wings. Carlos had a strong 2016 but I believe he should leave Red Bull's Driver Program for 2018 if he wishes to move up the grid. Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo might not leave the A Team if they have a successful 2017. Toro Rosso return to Renault power for 2017 and the initial impressions are a bit mixed. Reliability was an issue but the team seemed to find some pace near the end of the Pre-Season Tests.

    Toro Rosso, under the leadership of Mr. Franz Tost will continue to be a strong midfield team in 2017 and it won't be surprising if they spring up a few surprise results at certain tracks. Lets hope they have a good outing..



    Sauber F1 Team :

    Sauber finished 9th in the Constructors' thanks to an eventful Brazilian Grand Prix. The cash-strapped team had been pushing for a takeover over the business end of last year and the winter. However with nothing concrete coming their way, the best way forward was to have drivers with strong financial backing. Felipe Nasr was relieved of his services while Mercedes bagged the seat for Pascal Wehrlein. This was quite an interesting move since Sauber run the Ferrari powertrains...but then Sauber operate independent of Ferrari. It will be interesting to see how the new team-mates pair up. My money is on Wehrlein. The German through his performances at Manor proved there was little to stop him from coming out on top. Ericsson has a long season ahead of him. The time is ticking for him too.

    Sauber must score points whenever the opportunity arises. It would be difficult for them to keep upgrading the car throughout the season but they must ensure that they don't finish last in the Constructors' to keep their F1 legacy alive.



    The Demise of Manor :

    2017 began with some grim news. Manor F1 Team went into administration after they failed to get an investor. Eventually the team had to shut down and withdraw their name from the 2017 Official Entry List. This explains the logic of moving both Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon to Sauber and Force India respectively; as I had mentioned earlier, Mercedes knew about this well before time and ensured that their protegees don't go without a drive in 2017.


    The Season is less than a week away. Albert Park is ready to kickstart the 2017 season. I would love to repeat my favourite line : F1 Returns and so does Sanity!

    God willing, I hope to attend the Spanish, Belgian and the Abu Dhabi GP.

    Can Mercedes win it all again? Can Red Bull and Ferrari dethrone Mercedes? Will Force India be as good as 2016? Can Renault meet their expectations for 2017? Can McLaren and Honda sort out their issues and move up the pecking order?

    All these questions will be answered over the course of the season.

    Who has the fastest car? I believe we shall know by the Bahrain GP.

    Kimi Raikkonen
    was amazing at the Tests. I hope to see him do the same in-season! Kimi has all my support for the title!

    I wish all teams and all drivers the best for 2017. May the Best Man and the Best Team win!


    Once again thank you all for your support for this blog and I apologize for being away for 3 months from the blog. God Bless you all!