With not more than a week left to the F1 pre-season test, a long off-season of changes has lead to a shuffled grid, one team less, new owners to the sport and shuffled team personnel across the paddock. Looking on to the season ahead here are few of the changes and their influences on the sport.
Longer and wider chassis designs, coupled with wider tyres and more powerful engines is the bigger change. In terms of power-train and engines, the cars will use the same V6 hybrid units that will deliver slightly more power than the last three seasons. The changes that will really affect the cars and count will be on the chassis and aerodynamic side.
Valterri Bottas shift to Mercedes and Felipe Massa returned, Nico Hulkenberg will be in the yellow Renault outfit and the new rookie on the grid will be Lance Stroll. Stroll’s entry into F1 has already drawn a paramount of criticism, but with Manor Racing going off the grid this year, he and Stoffel Vandoorne will remain the only rookies for the 2017 season. However, Vandoorne had debut last season at Bahrain after Alonso’s crash in Australia. After Pascal Wehrlein’s crash at the Race of Champions the GP2 Vice Champion and Ferrari reserve Antonio Giovanazzi will be seen in action in a Sauber outfit at the first pre-season test in Barcelona.
The Pecking order
With Nico Rosberg gone, will Bottas be able to give Lewis a run for his money? Well Mercedes will still have the better engine and car but one can expect the Red Bull’s to be closer and more determined to make it difficult for Lewis. Whether Bottas can step into Nico’s shoes effectively will always remain a doubt as he does remain untested in a good car after the years spent in a struggling Williams. The Ferraris might stay in third place, unless the new engine unit and car are better than last year, but it will be a make or break season for the future of the team. A team one can expect to be back in fourth or the upper mid-field grid would be the McLaren. With a lot of changes in the management at Woking and Ron Dennis’ exit, the team have decided to ditch the size zero chassis concept and embrace newer ways of executing their 2017 F1 car. Honda has promised a better engine than the previous seasons and the size zero restriction on the chassis development front opens more doors for aero development. Their return to the upper half of the grid might mean a different scenario for teams like Force India and Williams. However Williams have been seen fishing key personnel such as Paddy Lowe and other technical personnel for the 2018 season. But Paddy’s gardening leave will restrain him from aiding the team this year. Rosberg and Paddy’s exit will affect Mercedes but their slide down the order can only be predicted once the pre-season tests are over.
Those new owners and the changes
With Bernie Ecclestone bidding the sport goodbye Liberty Media’s takeover of the sport will mean working with Tata Communications and other digital partners to commence a new digital era for this sport. The newest addition is the OTT (over the top) broadcasts which means live streaming on the internet, rather than viewing it on paid channels on TV. The other change Ross Brawn’s return to the sport in a key role of sporting director. Brawn’s return is a delightful change as he has spent the adequate number of years outside the sport viewing it like a spectator and has decades of experience as a part of the sport with teams like Ferrari, Brawn GP and Mercedes. He has always been known to have the ‘midas touch’ when it comes to anything he’s been a part of and boy doesn’t this sport need a change at the moment. What will Mr. E’s role be? Well he wont be there at all the races but will be positioned as Chief Emiretus of the sport, a ceremonious advisory role to aide a smooth transition. Liberty Media’s challenge ahead is to make room for more teams, aide smaller teams, and not allow a ‘Manor Racing’ scenario ahead in the new future.
That EU investigation
Force India and Sauber F1 team had launched a complaint suit with the EU commission for an investigation into the equal distribution of revenue in the sport in 2015. With Manor going into administration after losing a point to Sauber in the 2016 Constructor’s title, it resulted in the team shutting down after failing to arrange for a new buyer by the deadline. The complaint lodged by the teams and the Manor scenario made the EU parliament lodge an investigation for unsporting trends int he unfair allocation of revenues and conflict of interests in the sale of the sport. What it means for the future of F1? If F1 is found guilty of an abuse of power and in the way affairs are handled, it would result in a fine of turning over 10% of the revenue (approximately £1 billion) and a restructuring of the management.
What have the drivers been upto off-season?
Well most have got back to physical training and team promotional activities as soon as the year started. As this year will be a new physical era in F1 with higher G-force levels affecting the driver bodies, they will have to train harder to prepare for the tests. Sergio Perez had pointed out last year that the first test is usually when their necks and backs are stiff after testing the car for hours, so several drivers have been flooding images on social media of their various training techniques. This year, the cars will be physically challenging, and the first test will show who trained the maximum and survived the drill. A recent chatter amongst the drivers has been the pitch between Bottas and Hamilton. While Hamilton doesn’t want any more ‘unfair intra-team data sharing’, Bottas feels he can match Lewis in 2017. Daniel Ricciardo has pointed out that Lewis won’t get away with wins easily, as he and Max are charged up for the game, while pundits agree and are asserting that Red Bull might me the team to go head-to-head with the Silver Arrows outfit.
For now thats all the gossip one can conclude, before Formula 1’s fashion week starts (Car launches).