Category: Formula one

Lets get excited: Formula One 2017

There is always lots of talk in the months and weeks leading up to the start of the F1 Calendar and for the past 3 years, the talk always seemed to focus on Mercedes-F1 – will they dominate again and who can stop them?

Sadly for the sport, over the past few years this question was answered at the first weekend and resulted in another season of Mercedes’ domination.

In the build up to the 2017 season though, the same sort of questions floated around the media  but this time, they had a little more backbone. This was as a result of some major technical changes to the cars which meant that all teams had the same starting point, when it came to aerodynamics at least anyway.

A brief overview of the changes including much larger tyres – 25% percent larger to be correct. Added to this, the cars are wider, more aggressive and lower, changes which mean that the 2017 Formula One cars should be able to lap up to 4 seconds quicker.

Ferrari were very fast in testing prior to this season, but they were also very fast during testing in 2016 so we can never really get a full understanding of who is performing and who isn’t. The cars might be running lower power settings or higher fuel loads, perhaps even both, often in order to bluff their competitors.

 

Qualifying, however, is where we can start to see who is performing and as expected, Ferrari has really upped their game for the 2017 season. It seemed as though Mercedes still lead the way in terms of outright pace with the team taking two places on the grid, but Ferrari were not far behind, a 300th of a second behind to be exact.

This past Sunday’s race was a clear indication as to which manufacturers have improved and which have fallen behind, qualifying is one thing  but race pace is something totally different, something which the Melbourne GP demonstrated.

Ferrari’s woes of last season seemed long forgotten as Vettel followed hamilton around the Albert Park circuit for around 25 laps with a gap of less than 2 seconds, only then for Hamilton to try the undercut, but on his return to the track, he found himself stuck behind Max (the hooligan) Verstappen. Those few laps until Verstappen pitted proved vital as Vettel closed the gap, pitted and exited the pit lane a few car lengths ahead in front of both the Mercedes and Red Bull.

From then on it was pretty simple, Vettel cruised ahead in what looked a very comfortable car while hamilton struggled to generate enough pace from his soft tires and at one stage even had his new team mate clipping at his heels.

What happened this weekend may have just saved Formula One, I am a big fan of Lewis Hamilton, but I have to admit that watching that Ferrari cross the line in 1st place for first time since 2015 made me very happy for the sport. It seems once again that we have two legendary teams competing for the Driver’s and Team World Championships.

At times, the Mercedes seemed like it was less comfortable while driving in the turbulence of other vehicles, while the Ferrari seemed to make Vettel’s life very easy. So, we have a championship battle on our hands and four drivers with the chance of winning it. Red Bull Doesn’t seem like they are in a position to compete unless they make some drastic changes and bring big upgrades – they have a strong driver partnership and it would get fans frothing at the mouths to see 6 drivers all aiming for the world title. For now though, many seem excited with the prospect of a 4 time world champion in the shape of Sebastian Vettel and a three time world champion by the name of Lewis Hamilton battle it out with cars that seem on a very similar level. Lets not count Raikkonen and Bottas out though, they could cause a bit of a stir!

MAXterclass In The Brazilian Grand Prix.

The Brazilian GP has always provided a spicy race, so why would the 2016 Grand Prix in Sao Paulo be any different?

The Mercedes pair headed into this race knowing that Nico Rosberg could finish second at this event and in the final event at Abu Dhabi, and still win the world championship. All that Lewis could do is win, and hope for the best. Maybe a Red Bull thrown into the mix would help. It would certainly give the last race a bit more energy.

Because I can be rather stupid at times, I messed up the race start time and before I realised, the race was red flagged at 21 laps, which is when I started watching.  As always, I blamed the wife, a massive Rosberg fan. What I can tell you is that in the first period of racing, Raikkonen spun and ended his race, Along with his Ferrari teammate who luckily avoided the wall, Ricciardo was handed a 5-second penalty and a few others fell victim to the extremely wet racing conditions.   After a red flag, the race started again behind the safety car for a number of laps before it was red flagged, yet again. This was displeasing to not only a number of drivers, but also to the booing grandstands.

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Finally, the race was underway. Hamilton burst away from the start and being such a Ninja when it comes to wet racing, had no issues from the challengers behind. To the delight of Hamilton fans, young Max Verstappen passed Rosberg who seemed to be struggling in the rain, or maybe he was just playing it safe. Max then had a scary moment as he dropped his Redbull on the white line, sending the vehicle into a 90-degree slide, only for him to hold it, avoid the barrier and carry on in second place.Brilliant.  His second place didn’t last long though as Redbull pitted both their drivers onto Intermediate tyres, a brave move which resulted in1 fast lap, more rain, and a legend by the name of Felipa Massa hitting the wall and blocking the pit entrance, him also on the intermediate tyres.

This was Massa’s last ever home race and as the safety car removed the damage, Massa was given a Guard of honour by the Mercedes and Ferrari team as he walked down the pitlane, greeted halfway by his wife and young son resulted in a lot of tears. A touching moment amongst fierce competition.

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The MAXterclass

The safety car unified Hamilton’s advantage and allowed Ricciardo and Max to get back onto full wets, putting them both near the back of the grid, with 10 laps remaining.  This is when the magic happened. Verstappen caught his team mate with tremendous speed and passed him around the outside as he struggled to overtake the vehicle in front. But that was not an issue for Max, as he quickly discarded of him also. Max continued to shed up the track and fellow drivers with some wonderful outside overtaking moves using lines reminiscent of Karting in the wet. He soon approached his arch nemesis Vettel and after gaining the inside line, passing him Also. As always, Vettel was unhappy and claimed he was forced off the track, boohoo. Time was ticking as Max continued to pass with sublime driving. With 3 laps remaining, Max was hunting down Perez in 3rd place, and although Perez fought hard, there was nothing stopping the young man who has really spiced up F1 this season.

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The Red Bull has always been a fantastic car in the wet, but this was a driving masterclass by Verstappen, something which could not be replicated by his teammate. Many are calling it one of the best drives ever in Formula 1. Hamilton finished the race in 1st, winning by 11 seconds from Nico Rosberg.

Conclusion

Hamilton has brought this championship down to the wire, both drivers have now won 9 races each, with the mechanical failure to Lewis being his downfall this season. The last race in two weeks is at THE Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi. If Hamilton wins there, he will need Rosberg to finish 4th or lower, a massive ask.  The Brazil GP was defiantly Hamilton’s chance to gain a little more advantage, and with the Redbulls speed and Nicos slide, it nearly happened. If Rosberg wins the championship, I will be happy for him, he probably deserves one after trailing to Lewis his whole career. The fact remains, though, If Hamilton did not have the engine failure after leading the Malaysian GP with 15 laps to go, he would be in the driving seat. Rosberg has been graced with 100% reliability this season, which looks like it could decide the championship, for me, that’s not how it should go.

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Images Courtesy of F1.com