Preview: Formula1 in 2017, drivers and owners

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Formula1 has been my interest since 2004, the year when Michael Schumacher reigned in his 6th title. He was an ambassador for sport, with his 6 titles and going strong. It was a year when I did not read through much of what the formula was, and how deep the details were.

Access to information related to Formula1 was scarce at that time, but not today. I have been a regular reader after that, reading F1 news and blogs that I know a lot today. I am still not a expert, you can discount the comments that I make, but this post is a culmination of the things I have gained over years.

Formula1 Drivers in 2017

Nico Rosberg announced his sudden decision to quit F1, effectively meaning that there will be no champion on the grid. It is not the first time it has happened, and most of us will not remember the times it has happened in the past (5 times before Nico, 3 retired and two due to death).

The driver market that more or less looked settled had erupted again. Nico Hulkenberg, who moved to Renault from Sahara Force India, got the first call from the Merc bosses, however his new bosses weren’t ready to let him go. Few others met with the same fate, and then the only viable option for Merc was with Valtteri Bottas. Pascal Wehrlein, the Mercedes junior driver on rolls of Manor Racing, was considered to be too in-experienced to replace Rosberg.

After much deliberation, and a mouth watering discount on Merc Engines (rumored), Williams decided to call Filipe Massa out of retirement. Massa, who was replaced by Lance Stroll, agreed! Thus, also confirming Pascal’s ride at Sauber given that Manor may not be in for this season could not come out of the cash crunch and went bust.

With Jenson Button announcing his retirement, Stoffel Vandoorne took his seat, to partner with the two time champion, Fernando Alonso. Nico Hulkenberg will be teaming up with Jolyon Palmer to get his first chance at a manufacturer team, vacating the seat for Estaban Ocon who moved up from Manor to join Sergio Perez at Sahara Force India.

The other Esteban of Haas was not retained and in turn was replaced by Kevin Magnussen who joins Romain Grosjean. Kevin was not happy with Renault management, even made a pun by saying “I think at one point the Pope had an offer” to drive for Renault. Ferrari and RedBull retained their line up, so did Toro Rosso leaving only Manor to announce their line up.

Manor Crisis, again

The Manor F1 Team, erstwhile known as Marussia and Virgin, are in a limbo again due to lack of funds to continue their participation in Formula1. There is some news about new partners ready to taken on Manor, however at this time, there is no clear future for the team. The mechanics are employed till end of January after the company was placed in administration, who continue to build their 2017 challenger. They have their chance till Russian GP to field their car, before losing their entry license (a rare commodity in F1).

This is not new to the sport though, and we have seen privateer teams like Caterham, HRT etc. loosing their bids to continue and perform. These small teams often run in losses, and without much budget, cannot compete with bigger players. Even in the mid rig, both Force India and Sauber are financially crippled, with Williams able to stay aflot by selling engineering services to other racing and industrial sectors. Ferrari continues to receive substantial payments over and above their championship earnings from FOM. This unequal distribution has made many passionate start up racing teams go bust soon after.

Bye bye Bernie! Welcome Liberty Media!

Bernie Ecclestone, often seen by fans as the dictator of F1, is finally been asked to retire from active involvement of the sport, albeit indirectly. CVC Partners who owned the rights to F1 via Formula One Group (collection of companies) have sold a controlling interest to Liberty Media. With Chase Carey becoming CEO, giving Bernie an honorary position of Chairman Emeritus.

A lot of fans of his were sad, however a much higher number of people were relieved. The fact that he is still somewhere in the F1 cadre as Chairman Emeritus is an ear-sore for a lot of them. He did bring in a lot to this sport, but he could have made things much better and he did not.

Chase Carey has appointed a few known hands at fixing F1, including Ross Brown (ex-Ferrari and Mercedes team manager and an expert insider) as Manging Director for Motor sports.

What to look out for in 2017

Many things, but to start with the Car designs. Cars are getting wider this year with change in regulations (the formula) inviting for a more aerodynamics and down force oriented designs. Wider tires will make the cars look and behave different.

Change of driver roster will be the other action area. Valtteri Bottas will be watch closely and compared to Lewis Hamilton constantly. Jolyon Palmer will be under a similar lens with Hulk in the other car. So will be Esteban Ocon with Perez at Force India. Kevin and Romain will be an interesting pair to watch out for at Haas’s team.

Under the hood, Mercedes engines are expected to remain championship contenders with Renault redesigning their entire engine. Honda, having improved as much in 2016, are the dark horse with their hit or miss performance. That leaves us with Ferrari, whose management have been through many changes since 2014 and can still be expected to throw a surprise.

Let me know what you think about this in the comments below.

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