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The Optimism that a New Season Brings ...

February 23, 2018

Even before the cars had stopped after the last race at Abu Dhabi on the evenning of the 26th of November, preparations had already begun on this year’s title contenders. It’s now the 5th year of Formula One’s hybrid regulations that allows for multiple energy recovery systems and sees the German Mercedes team firmly in control. For 2018 further regulations tied each driver, unless they drove for more than one team to the use of no more than three power units (Formula 1 cars no longer used engines) per championship season without incurring the much-hated grid penalties.

This year’s cars would also now be encumbered with an unfortunately named “halo”, a newly mandated driver protection device that Toto Wolf remarked, he would take a chainsaw to if he was ever to be allowed. Three-time World Champion Niki Lauda declared that, “The halo destroys the DNA of an F1 car”. A betting man may wish to place a small wager on how long this change may last after the first time there’s a roll-over and the driver is momentarily trapped under the car.

Each new season brings renewed optimism from team owners and their proud sponsors on how their new much improved car will challenge towards the front of the grid only to have that optimism destroyed as it was for McLaren last February. Their first practice ending with a disastrous debut of the Honda engine that had actually taken a step backwards over the already lamentable 2016 version.

Honda was now the problem of the Toro Rosso team with McLaren’s switch to Renault power. Sauber would be sporting the Alfa Romeo's iconic emblem having secured current Ferrari engines for the coming season. In fact the FIA has dictated that all customer teams should now have engine parity with their works counterparts.

Ferrari, who began last season as the early championship leader vowed to match Mercedes stride for stride if only to keep their volatile chairman at bay. Force India hopes to maintain a lid on driver conflict between the young Esteban Ocon and veteran Sergio Pérez as they hope to maintain their strong recent performance while under a slightly different moniker.

Williams with now two pay drivers were catching a bit of flack, perhaps unfairly. Critics seem to forget that in Formula One’s earlier years many future race winners if not champions were pay drivers, a certain Austrian amongst those unfairly labeled. This will last all of a few races if Sergey Sirotkin betters his teammate Lance Stroll and puts in a decent performance from the start of the season.

Other questions to be answered include:

  • How will Daniel Riccardo respond to the pressure put onto him by his Dutch teammate Verstappen?
  • Will the new Honda engine continue to be dogged by problems or did McLaren quit their Japanese partnership too early?
  • Does Valtteri Bottas have what it takes to mount a season long challenge for the championship?
  • How many races will the various protagonists win? Will Alonso break through?
  • Will this be Kimi Räikkönen's last season?

The answers to these questions and more can be found at

The best outcome that a fan of Formula 1 can hope for baring a major lapse from Mercedes would be to see some new teams on the podium if not challenging for outright race wins. Perhaps even a fan’s prize could be awarded for the best Renault powered team!