New Chemistry at Formula One
With barely two months to go for the start of the 2017 Formula One season, it promises to be a very different year for motor racing’s premier contest. The 2016 season was exciting, with the battle for the championship lasting until the final race in Abu Dhabi. Nico Rosberg won his first ever championship success but also his last, having announced his retirement at the end of last year.
Motorsport’s top championship is poised for big changes
But that was small change compared to news that the legendary Bernie Ecclestone, who built Formula One into the Godzilla of racing since he took charge in 1978, has been replaced as CEO of the Formula One Group by Chase Carey. This signaled Liberty Group’s first management shakeup since it took over Formula One last year
There has been a change in terms of the teams as well. Renault is back in the fray as a competing team for the first time since 2010, when they limited their participation to providing engines for other teams. Nico Hulkenberg was signed as their first driver, ending the German’s three-year stint at Force India.
We have eight months to find out when the new championship begins at Albert Park in Melbourne on the last Sunday of March.
The Vijay Mallya-owned Force India signed Mexican Esteban Ocon to replace Hulkenberg. But, the biggest shift took place at Mercedes. Lewis Hamilton has a new teammate in ValteriBottas, who has Rosberg’s giant shoes to fill, as the team look to win their fourth straight Constructors’ Championship.
Former world champion Jenson Button, too,took a break at the end of last year and his spot at McLaren has been taken by debutant Belgian Stefan Vandoorne, who will race along with veteran Fernando Alonso for the British team.
Red Bull Racing had a stormy second half last season and they have kept faith with Daniel Ricciardo and the teenage Dutch sensation, Max Verstappen. Verstappen became the youngest ever Grand Prix winner last year when he won the Spanish Grand Prix in April.
Like every year, what will really shape the season’s outcome are racing regulations. This time the changes areintended, it is said, to increase average lap times by four to five seconds. The width of the front-wing and position of the rear-wing of the cars will be also change this season. The rear-wing is now permitted to be 150mm lower than it was in 2016, while the width of the front-wing was increased to 1800mm.
The width of the tyres was also increased, to generate more grip, especially given the number of street circuits in the calendar. But perhaps the most important change is the minimum weight of cars which, along with the driver, must be at least 722kg. That change will also allow teams to use a maximum of 105kg of fuel.
There are certain changes to the Formula One calendar as well, with the German Grand Prix being struck off the agenda. That means there will be one less race than last year. The traditional season opener at Melbourne and finale at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi remain unchanged. There will be a debut for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, with the race at the Baku Street Circuit no more being part of the European Grand Prix.
The traditional powerhouses remain, the best drivers in the world stay but, with more pre-season testing coming up, it will be interesting to see if anyone can catch Mercedes this year. Ferrari will have to provide a much better car to Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen than they did last year, while the young guns, Ricciardo and Verstappen will look to prove that last year was no flash in the pan.
Will it be another year of Mercedes domination? Will the others get a look in? We will have eightmonths to find out when the new championship begins at Albert Park in Melbourne on the last Sunday of March.