The 2017 F1 season is in full swing, with four largely enjoyable and intriguing races down and 16 still left to go.
It’s been an interesting start so far, not only proving some of the unanswered pre-season questions but also giving us a nod at what could be coming later in the year.
Let’s dive straight into some of the things we’ve learned after 222 (yes, really) laps of racing:
The first couple of races have definitely indicated we’re in for a tight battle this season between Mercedes and Ferrari. The Silver Arrows has perhaps looked a little quicker on qualifying trim, with the Ferrari having the edge in terms of race pace and tyre wear.
They’ve each got two wins apiece after four races and are separated by just one point in the constructors’ standings. After a few seasons of Mercedes domination, that’s encouraging to see. It looks set to be Sebastian Vettel vs Lewis Hamilton for the title in 2017.
However, other drivers could definitely enjoy successful seasons and shake things up. Of course, Valtteri Bottas joined the fray with victory at the Russian Grand Prix. It was a beautiful drive and proved many doubters wrong, so expect him to be in the mix for victories.
Kimi Raikkonen has consistently been a few tenths off Vettel but don’t count him out just yet, if things go wrong at the front, the Iceman will likely be there to pick up the pieces. Red Bull are set for major upgrades and some of the up-coming tracks should suit the RB13 better, so we’ll have to keep an eye on them.
While it could well be a two-way title fight between Vettel and Hamilton, it won’t just be those two doing the winning and that’s already been proved.
What more can we say? It gets tiring just writing about McLaren’s problems and reliability woes each weekend, so we imagine the atmosphere at Woking is a little tense right now. Honda’s vastly different power unit seems to be as unreliable as ever and both drivers have become frustrated at times with the lack of power and reliability issues. How much longer can this go on for?
It’s been a tough start to Lance Stroll’s F1 career but that was always going to be the case. These new F1 cars are trickier to handle than their predecessors and the 18-year-old had only done testing with a 2014 Williams.
He’s made some mistakes, which is to be expected for a rookie, and looks incredibly ragged behind the wheel. But these things can be ironed out and he’s got a good teacher in Felipe Massa to help him improve. So, don’t be too harsh on him, even if him spinning or crashing has become a rather regular occurrence recently…
Force India has emerged as the ‘best of the rest’ behind the leading two and Red Bull. This follows on from its best-ever season last year, so things are looking pretty rosy for the Silverstone-based squad. Sergio Perez has now had 14 consecutive races in the points and Esteban Ocon is doing a great job too, with three 10th places and a seventh. Considering Force India is set to bring in a major upgrade for Spain, things are looking bright for the plucky underdog.
This season we’ve learned that a bad F1 car can shatter the allure of the Monaco Grand Prix and lead a top driver to ditch the race and try something different. Fernando Alonso’s decision to run the Indianapolis 500 this year was clearly helped by the MCL32’s poor form and reliability, and he’s long said the race is one he wants to try.
The news came as quite a surprise, as the deal was completed very quickly, but it’s great to see Alonso giving another series a go. IndyCar and the Indy 500 will get a huge boost and F1 gets Jenson Button back in the car for Monaco. It’s rare we see a driver decide to miss a F1 race but this occasion is pretty damn special.
The Haas team continue to struggle with the brakes, especially Romain Grosjean. His radio messages are almost like a broken record, complaint after complaint. It’s something we heard a lot last year too. Haas even switched brake suppliers for Russia but had to do a U-turn mid-way through the weekend. It’s the main reason why the team has yet to show its full potential this season.
2017 hasn’t featured much overtaking, in fact the figures have been worryingly low. But, we’re not too disheartened by it. That’s because you don’t need constant overtakes to make a race exciting. It’s about the battle and the chase too, which is what has made the racing this season so good. The drivers are working harder behind the wheel and having to push more to make a move. The final few laps of the Russian GP present the perfect example.
This new breed of F1 machinery is incredibly quick. Matching powerful hybrid engines with aggressive new aero and fatter tyres has transformed these cars into amazingly speedy racing machines several seconds faster than their predecessors. They’re so fast, lap records have already been broken.
Season after season, no matter the cars, drivers or on-track action, you can guarantee a few things: Kimi Raikkonen won’t know what’s going on, he’ll ‘bwoah’ constantly and show very little emotion. In Russia, he was confused as to why Bottas was ahead of him, not realising his fellow Finn was leading, and he’s said some incredible bwoahs recently. Considering there’s a chance this could be Raikkonen’s last F1 season, we better make the most of it.
What else have we learned? Let us know in the comments.