Just 90 days on from Nico Rosberg winning – and subsequently retiring from – the FIA Formula 1 Championship, the whole F1 circus arrives at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona later this month for the first test session of the 2017 season.
Changes to cars
Over the course of the next two/three weeks, most of the teams will be launching their “new for 2017” cars – this year will see the cars wider, heavier and with significantly bigger tyres. These changes, which are hoped will make over-taking easier (although some experts doubt this), will also make the cars a lot quicker – estimates of up to 3 seconds a lap for some circuits.
As well as new cars, there are new tyre compounds for the teams to choose from; and also new rules – for instance, after a Safety Car period, the race will re-start with a traditional standing start! Time will tell whether this improves the show or not – but as it was the idea of the newly “retired” F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, expect this rule to be reversed early in the season.
Who’s Driving For Who?
The main talking point however, is the number of changes at the teams for the start of the season – with 7 of the 10 teams changing their driver line-up. Unfortunately the grid is down one team from 2016. with the demise of the Manor Racing team, which went into Administration last month – the good news being however that the team’s 2016 young & talented drivers have found new homes at Force India (Esteban Ocon) and Sauber (Pascal Wehrlein). Also moving teams are Valtteri Bottas who replaces the retired Rosberg at champions, Mercedes AMG; Stoffel Vandoorne who replaces the retired Jenson Button at McLaren; Kevin Magnussen moves to Hass F1, and Nico Hulkenburg moves back to Renault F1.
Who is Lance Stroll?
But perhaps the most interesting changes are at Williams F1, where Felipe Massa returns after the quickest F1 retirement ever, and he will be joined by Lance Stroll – the son of one of the world’s richest man, who has personally financed his son’s progress to the top of the sport. With his son struggling to make an impact in the FIA Formula 3 Championship in 2014, Mr Stroll Snr then bought the F3 team and made his son go testing every day pre-season – as a result he won the Championship later that year. Then in 2016, they spent $80million buying & running a 2014 Williams F1 car and exclusively employing 20 Williams F1 staff and testing at every F1 circuit around the world –in preparation for 2017, no driver, ever, has spent so much time testing a F1 car!!
So with all of these changes, who will win the Championship this year? Red Bull & Ferrari retain their talented driver line-ups and as a result all four drivers will be at the sharp end, but Lewis Hamilton, now the designated No 1 driver at Mercedes AMG, will be odds on favourite to win his fourth Championship. There’s the small matter of 20 races to get through, and one thing is for sure – the best, most deserving driver will end up the worthy Champion!!
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