The Ferrari Owners’ Club
of Great Britain

2017 Formula 1 Season Preview

24-03-2017

By Jack Target

This weekend sees the return of Formula 1 and, if you’re anything like me, you’ll also be trembling with anticipation, watching the opening few laps with one eye closed hoping that the rumours are true. That F1 will be exciting this year.

The off-season has seen much change in the sport from the very top, right to the drivers. Pre-season testing has also thrown up some excitement as the prospect of competitive racing and faster cars looms for the first time in a long time.

New rule changes, under the guise of new owners Liberty Media, the new Chairman Chase Carey (more about him and his glorious facial hair later) and the new Managing Director of Motorsports Ross Brawn, have revitalised the sport, bring hope to its loyal fans that this will be a good season. Love or hate Bernie Ecclestone (I imagine there are more of the latter) he had done an incredible job with Formula 1. The sport had moved from what seems like the dark ages when he first took over and made it the most luxurious brand of sport in the world. Commercially he has done a fantastic job but the last decade or so saw everything else take a back seat and everyone who loved it so suffered for it. But his time was up. His lack of enthusiasm to engage the audience at home and bring the sport in to the 21st Century with them as well as the daft rule changes with qualifying and points have sent Formula 1 back a few years. Much like a famous Frenchman in North London is finding out at the moment, Bernie must have known he had to step aside. 

It is very early days but I am quite confident about Liberty Media. The fact it is a media company will put off a few people but they will surely be able to make the viewing experience on everyone’s television a bit more interesting. The hire of Brawn has been one many people have craved. With his experience and expertise, he is the perfect man to stir the sport in the right direction. As for Carey, he has spoken enthusiastically and with real understanding of what has been wrong as well as what is right about F1. All of that would have assured me enough that he would be ok but then I saw a picture of him. Any man with a mustache quite as glorious as his will definitely get a job done and do it well. Bravo sir on your all empowering lip weasel! 

There have been a few changes in the paddock too. The driver merry-go-round was in full swing before the end of the 2016 season but it picked up another level once Nico Rosberg’s shock retirement after winning the title. By the way, I fully agree with the reasons why he did retire and think it was a great move for him. Anyway his successor was needed and they went for Valtteri Bottas. A pretty good move for the Finn and a decent replacement to hold the fort as the remaining teams caught up with Mercedes. I can’t see him challenging Lewis Hamilton too much though (journalist kiss of death right there). To my annoyance he has replaced by Felipe Massa. Now I was only annoyed by this for petty personal reasons. I love Massa. As a Ferrari fan who was left devastated by the conclusion of his 2008 season I was more than happy to wax lyrical about the great man as he bowed out of F1 in the perfect way after his standing ovation in Sao Paulo. All those lovely words only for him to un-retire. On the bright side I can copy and paste that bit at the end of this season!

Williams will be looking to make an improvement from last season and try and stay with the pack at the top which looks like it will be Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull. Once again it has been Ferrari who have been setting quick times again in testing with many people quietly suggesting they are the team to beat. We’ve not had a great deal of success of late so maybe this could be our year! The thing is this happened last year and Ferrari followed that up by winning a grand total of zero races that season. Let’s not get too carried away just yet. A final note of interest from the two Ferrari drivers might be the performance this year of Kimi Raikkonen. He has another year to hold on to his seat alongside Sebastian Vettel and many will assume the German will be the number one driver, challenging Hamilton for the championship. But as a good friend of mine pointed out in another F1 project I am involved with, the last aerodynamic heavy era which ended in 2009, saw Kimi and Massa both have very strong seasons. The return of this type of car has seen both of these drivers excel in testing. Coincidence? That is why my money is on Ferrari to win the Constructors Championship. They have been quick and both drivers will be a constant threat to Lewis, but I cannot see anyone getting in the way of a fifth title for the Brit.

Despite what is happening at the top of the food chain in F1, much has been discussed about the bottom end. We are back to ten teams on the grid this season and shamefully it looks like McLaren will be at the bottom. With Jenson Button stepping aside it has been left to Fernando Alonso and youngster Stoffel Vandoorne to pick up the pieces and try and make something out of what is, let’s face it, a rubbish car. It just isn’t working with Honda and testing proved difficult with seven engine failures. Yes seven, compared to Ferrari who had one and Mercedes who had none. Even the change to their original colours of orange has failed to rejuvenate the team. The reveal of the new livery was met with disappointment after the initial intrigue when it was teased that orange would be heavily featured on the new car, because simply, it wasn’t quite as nice as what we were hoping for. 

Speaking of liveries, well done to Ferrari (very hard to mess that one up!) and to Toro Rosso for their fine efforts. A commendable effort from Force India sees the colour pink on the grid. However it is an F for McLaren…on every level. 

One thing all the drivers have been in agreement about is how much better the cars are this year. Everyone wanted them to be more challenging for the driver and quicker for the fans. It looks like their wishes have been granted as record times are set to the broken this year. It has always baffled me that a sport that is the pinnacle of motorsport has had cars going round tracks that are slower than that of 10 years ago. Thankfully that will change. We are yet to see if the issue of overtaking has been solved though as the new cars are in fact slightly wider. Get ready for a thrill on the streets in Singapore, Azerbaijan and Monaco then!

All of that being said we won’t truly know what to expect until the lights go off on Sunday. The talk will stop for a brief moment, then hopefully it will start again as everyone rejoices in the return of a competitive Formula 1 season.