It seems hard to believe that, after everything that has happened over the winter, we have finally made it to the opening weekend of the 2017 season. With all the dramatic events of the last few months, Formula 1 has arrived in Melbourne for what promises to be a fascinating start to the year.
In my opinion, there is no better venue for a Grand Prix. As the staple season opener, Melbourne has built up a fantastic reputation as an action magnet. Yes, as the first event of the year, the element of unknown along with 5 months of anticipation always adds to the spectacle. But I still think that if you were to place Melbourne in the middle of the calendar, it would remain a highlight of the year.
I’m excited to see just how much the teams have manged to develop their cars in the three weeks since testing. Red Bull are expected to bring what is basically a brand-new car to the circuit this weekend. They will no doubt be aiming to prove the true pace of their car.
McLaren-Honda appear likely to struggle this weekend. Progress has been made with the power unit, according to Honda. I think back to the build up to testing, where Honda were voicing their optimism that this could be the year where they could begin battling for victories. Unfortunately, I can’t see how they could have possibly salvaged what was a shocking fortnight of testing.
Force India will be debuting their new colour scheme. The pink cars will hit the track for the first time in free practice. It really is good to know that there will be some variety in the colours on the grid this year. Looking good means nothing if they struggle however.
Tension has been building around the Mercedes team over the last week. Valtteri Bottas is fired up and looks intent on proving himself this year. Lewis Hamilton has spoken about his confidence and I think this new partnership at the World Champions has serious potential.
Lewis has also reaffirmed his belief that Ferrari have the faster car at present. When questioned at the beginning of the week, he was adamant that the Italians would have the advantage at this weekend’s race. There was a strange sense of de ja vu though. This isn’t the first time Mercedes have made such a claim, only to destroy the competition at the first opportunity.
My Melbourne Predictions
I am ready to put my credibility on the line and have a bit of fun with some predictions for this weekend. It’s always entertaining introduce a bit of personal interest to a race weekend. I will no doubt be screaming at the TV as my attempts at divination prove horribly inaccurate.
I am going to put Sebastian Vettel on Pole. If the Ferrari is as fast as it was in testing, the German’s history as a prolific pole sitter stands him in good stead. I can see Sebastian producing some blistering pace to take pole by a comfortable margin. Hamilton will be second, with Kimi Raikkonen in third. Even as I write this, I am wondering what has possessed me. Only a fool would bet against Mercedes.
Having said that, I will back Lewis Hamilton to take the win. Looking at the relative performance during testing, the most striking lap times for me were the long runs that both Mercedes drivers completed throughout both tests. The consistency and speed that Hamilton in particular was able to achieve was astonishing. If the predictions of a one-stop race prove correct, it looks likely that the Mercedes is going to have too much pace for any of their rivals. Vettel will not be far behind, but Lewis will have enough to take the chequered flag.
Behind Lewis, I can see Vettel and Bottas joining Hamilton on the podium. Bottas will be quick, but not quite up to the speed of Hamilton. I am backing Vettel to produce the kind of performance that he was lacking last year, I think he will have enough to hold off the second Mercedes.
Bring on the action
It is very exciting to be able to talk about a Grand Prix again. No more speculation. It will be interesting to finally understand exactly how these new cars are going to perform. I am also looking forward to discovering the true relative performance of the teams and drivers. This weekend is going to have a multitude of talking points.
How do you see this weekend panning out? Will Ferrari continue where they left off? Or are Mercedes playing possum?
(Feature Image: LGEPR CC BY 2.0)
(Feature Image: LGEPR CC BY 2.0)