It’s always a tough moment after the end of the last race of the F1 season, the wait till the next one shapes up in March. But now is the time to look back at some of the highlights of F1 2017.
1)Ferrari’s return to winning ways
Yes, Mercedes won the Constructors’ Title and yes their car was faster on the straights, but it had been too long since Ferrari had given the Silver Arrows a difficult time. But in the 2017 season with the new regulations regarding tyres and car dimensions, the Prancing Horse had caught up and even outpaced, starting with a win in Australia. Vettel and Hamilton were battling toe to toe, each besting the other in every other race, sometimes winning on pace and sometimes by strategy, at least up until the summer break. In total, Ferrari won 5 races this season with Vettel or Raikkonen on the podium often enough to take second place in the Constructors’ Championship. Both the team and the drivers though are already feeling confident of an even stronger performance in 2018, bolstered by the results of 2017 and knowing that they have a car that can compete and beat the Silver Arrows.
2) Red Bull’s reliability issues
Team Red Bull has one of the most promising young talents on the F1 grid but was unable to offer Max Verstappen a reliable car for most of the season. The young Dutch suffered seven DNFs in 2017. He has proved himself when the car did work, securing 2 wins and 2 podium finishes as well. Daniel Ricciardo faced his share of reliability troubles too with 6 DNFs this year but he also managed to add 8 podium finishes and a win to his season tally. The Red Bull still has some catching up to do with Ferrari and Mercedes but with these two behind the wheel, they were able to give the top four a run for their money often enough.
3) The Alonso-Honda relationship
It was the third year of McLaren and Honda’s partnered return to F1, with very poor results thus far and turned out to be a massive disappointment given the expectations. No one has been more vocal about the related frustrations than their lead driver, Fernando Alonso. The constant engine failures and the massive lack of power for straight line speed have been a constant nightmare for the Spaniard and his young teammate Stoffel Vandoorne. As a treat of sorts, Alonso was given the chance to skip the Monaco GP and race in the Indy 500 where Honda has performed much better but the curse caught up with him there as well when the engine gave out in the last quarter of the race. His radio messages have become part of F1’s best entertaining moments in the 2017 season and having crossed the finish line only 8 out 19 times.
4) Record breaker Lewis
44 is his lucky number, but this list isn’t that long so number four goes to the now 4-time F1 World Champion, Lewis Hamilton. The Brit had his hands full in the first half of this season, fighting hard against Vettel while also competing with new teammate Valtteri Bottas. He came back particularly stronger after the summer break, capitalising on Ferrari’s bad luck to build a gap in the Drivers’ Championship and finally reclaim the title with 2 races left. In his spectacular performance throughout the 2017 season (started from the pits and finished P4 in Brazil he did), Lewis has crossed certain milestones along the way. He surpassed both Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher’s tally of pole position starts, now holding the record at 72 and with still some seasons to go. Hamilton also surpassed Alain Prost’s record of 51 wins and has a tally of 62 wins, second only to Schumacher’s 91 victories.
5) Force India’s feisty duo
Teammate rivalries are great on-track entertainment but can be a nightmare for the team bosses. Esteban Ocon has had an impressive run in his first year with the Force India team but the chemistry between him and Sergio Perez has been less than ideal. Things got heated when the two began to bang wheels and hurt potential point tally, particularly after the incident at Spa. Perez and Ocon nearly took each other out, both suffering damage in the exchange and from thereon the two were no longer allowed to race freely. It’ll be interesting to see how the dynamic will function in their second season together.
6) Mid-season driver changes
An unexpected number of team changes occurred in the course of this Formula One season. We saw the unfortunate exit of Jolyon Palmer from Renault and his seat was immediately occupied by Carlos Sainz who had left Toro Rosso. The second Red Bull team ended the season with two completely different drivers than it started with, following the exit of Sainz and dropping Kvyat after. The opportunity gave their 2018 drivers to get some race experience as well, newcomer Pierre Gasly and WEC champion Brendon Hartley. The team ended the season on a low, being ousted from sixth place in the Constructors’ Championship by Renault because of which they missed a prize money worth more than USD 6.5 million. There were a few cameos too. Jenson Button came back for a stint at the Monaco GP to fill Alonso’s seat at McLaren-Honda while Paul di Resta was called at extremely short notice to fill the seat in Williams for an unwell Felipe Massa. Antonio Giovinazzi made an impressive start with the Sauber Ferrari team when filling the seat for an injured Pascal Wehrlein but has since been out of the news cycle.