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2017 Season Preview – The Midfield Pack

The 2017 Season looks set to close up the midfield pack. Whether the cars will actually be able race each other is another matter, but I think we will definitely see close competition in the constructors’ standings if no where else.

With the eventual removal of the debilitating ‘engine credit’ rule, Formula One has a chance to reintroduce competition. Since 2014, Mercedes have held a substantial advantage over Ferrari, Renault and more recently Honda. However, due to the aforementioned regulation that effectively prevented teams from making any kind of relative progress over their rivals. And so, three years later, there had been virtually no change in the pecking order. I am making the prediction now however that thanks to the rules opening up, McLaren, and more importantly Honda, will have made some fairly significant steps with their car. I believe those steps will substantial enough that the Woking team will be making their way slowly towards the top three over the course of this year.

A New Challenge.

(1) It has been more than a decade since Renault won two World Championships with Fernando Alonso.

With the new rules comes a new challenge. If the latest updates from around the paddock are to be believed, everyone appears to have made progress with their engines, and so we won’t be hearing of how amateur-ish McLaren are this year. However, for the likes of Renault – who I have cautiously placed in this group – the engine wasn’t their only problem last season. They struggled with some pretty serious aerodynamic problems with their car for the majority of the year. They will need to have made a better job of this year’s car, because any aerodynamic problems are set to be multiplied by the new specifications.

Nico Hulkenberg will be a key factor in the French team’s fortunes this season. He is the closest thing to a top end racing driver they could have hoped for and they will be expecting results from their number one. Now in his eighth Formula One season, the days for potential are over. He needs to start making something of a career that started promisingly, and this is as good a chance as he is going to get to prove himself in a works team.

A Burst of Youth.

Looking at McLaren and their driver line-up, they must be expecting a substantial improvement over last season. While I am a fan of Jenson, the introduction of Stoffel Vandoorne can only be a good thing. I think the team has been in need of a fresh burst of youth to mix things up a little bit. I’m also interested to see the impact of new boss Zak Brown. Things already seem to have changed. Even the signing off of their “exciting” 2017 livery boosted my hype for the upcoming season. It had better be as exciting as they say. Unfortunately for McLaren, Ron Dennis’ idea of aggressive and exciting was to paint the cars black.

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(2) Sergio Perez has made this Force India team his own.

The seemingly endless battle between Williams and Force India can be expected to continue. Both teams remain in this limbo state within the second tier of Mercedes engined cars. With little chance of matching the works Mercedes for performance, they must simply do all they can to amass the points that remain.

I see Force India continuing their excellent record. With the new regulations coming in, and engine prices supposedly dropping, the biggest challenge they are going to face is the necessary development of their own car. That is going to be relentless.
With Sergio Perez, they have retained a vital asset, and I’m confident Esteban Ocon will be very quickly up to speed in his new team. Everything is in place to suggest Force India can continue to challenge for fourth place.

Psychological Upheaval.

Finally Williams. I worry for them a little. Should they lose Bottas, which seems increasingly likely, they are in trouble with their driver line up. Lance Stroll is young and inexperienced at all levels of racing. While he was very impressive during his Formula Three title win last year, the jump to Formula One is huge. I can see him needing time to get to grips with the pressure of Grand Prix racing.

(3) Felipe Massa has achieved everything in his Formula One career.

When I saw that Williams were talking to Felipe Massa regarding the solo to be vacant Bottas seat, my heart sank a little. Again, I am a fan of Felipe’s, but the guy has just said a hugely emotional fairwell to the sport. By the end of last season, his racing brain had been well and truly switched off. And now Williams have come running and asked him to turn it back on. You have to doubt whether that sort of psychological upheaval over such a short time will have an effect of his driving, if only at the first few races. Of course the Brazilian has endless experience, but it’s a bit too safe for my liking, especially when there are quick and talented drivers being shut out further down the grid.

 

So McLaren Honda and Renault are two teams who should be gaining an engine advantage over Williams and Force India, who look set to recommence their season long battle from last year. The points positions are definitely going to be fiercely competitive no matter what, and I see these four waiting to pounce on any mistakes from the top three.

(Featured image from JaffaPix CC BY-SA 2.0)

((2) Morio CC BY-SA 4.0)

((2) Morio CC BY-SA 4.0)

(Featured image from JaffaPix CC BY-SA 2.0)

((3) Jaffa The Cake CC BY 2.0)

((1) Dave Prior CC BY 2.0)

SiOstler

I am currently training to become a Journalist. I write best when my subject is something I enjoy.

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