It has been almost six months since the winter testing in Catalunya.
New regulations promised us bigger and faster cars and we are absolutely in love with these cars.
Supporters and pundits worldwide predicted a comfortable season for Mercedes with Red Bull following the Germans.
However the re-engineering at Ferrari has given us the major contender for the Mercedes’ crown.
Ferrari look as good as Mercedes and without rain they would have pipped Mercedes at Monza.
The McLarens continuing their form from 2016 were equally unreliable and Haas’s brakes were always on fire.
After 13 rounds and a trip to 4 continents, F1 is back in Asia after some very entertaining European rounds.
The scene is set for Mercedes to retain their crown. With back-to-back wins in Spa and Monza, Mercedes have won 8 races out of 13 and they look very strong to finish the season with a 4th Constructor’s crown.
The Drivers’ battle is close this year like last few season but surprisingly the drivers represent two different teams. Force India is clearly the best of the rest and McLaren should divorce the Honda after 3 highly unsuccessful years.
Here is my analysis of the season so far for each of the teams:
10. Sauber Ferrari
Chassis: C36 Power-unit: Ferrari 061
Drivers: #9 Marcus Ericson and # 94 Pascal Wehrlein
(Antonio Giovinazzi deputised for Pascal Wehrlein for Rounds 1&2)
Best Grid Position: 11th by Marcus Ericson
Points finish: Twice
Season so far: With only 2 points finish and zero Q3 entry this season, the Sauber season is certain to end at the bottom of the pile. Pascal Wehrlein, who was brought in January to replace Felipe Nasr, finished in the top 10 twice to gain 5 points. The tally after 13 races is highest than they achieved for the whole of 2016 season.
It is hard to spot any strength in this Sauber team but the rumoured Ferrari connection can turn the situation next season. The team seems uninterested to strengthen the car this season but the reports have emerged the engineers are preparing the car to fight for the next season.
The everlasting drivers’ contract issue has been the weak spot for the team.
Highlight of the season: During early May it was announced that the Sauber will run the Honda engines from 2018. However, later in July the deal was annulled and Sauber entered into a long term agreement with Ferrari.
My Prediction: Pascal Wehrlein is a promising driver and with a strong car I can see him fighting for places against the likes of Daniil Kvyat and Lance Strolls. Points-wise I don’t think there will be any change of fortune for the Saubers this term. Their only decent hope of finishing near to the points is in Singapore.
9. McLaren Honda
Chassis: MCL32 Power-unit: Honda RA617H
Drivers: #14 Fernando Alonso and # 2 Stoffel Vandoorne
(Jenson Button raced in place of Fernando Alonso in Monaco)
Best Grid Position: 7th Fernando Alonso
Points finish: 3 times
Season so far: The season started like 2016. The engine was still unreliable and the team notched up the lowest laps in the testing.
The retiring Jenson Button was replaced by Stoffel Vandoorne but the thing they really had to replace was Honda engine.
With more than half retirements this season, the McLarens have hit the lowest. Repeating 76 points from last year will be impossible. The car showed great promise at Hungary when Alonso pulled off the fastest lap and the team would be willing to repeat the feat at Singapore and Malaysia.
McLaren-Honda’s biggest strength is Fernando Alonso. They have the driver who is capable of wonders but the car has failed him many times this season.
The Honda engine has been the culprit for the fall of mighty McLaren. Should I write anything about the Honda engine? No, I have no power.
Highlight of the season: Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso’s epic radio communications in Monaco is my highlight of McLaren season. However the official news of the end of McLaren-Honda relationship will be hugely welcomed.
My Prediction: Fernando Alonso showed what he is capable of by pushing the slow car to fastest lap in Hungary. With Singapore being a similar circuit, I think both McLarens can finish in top 10. But I don’t think there will be any changes in their position. They will end up 9th.
Chassis: R.S. 17 Power-unit: Renault R.E. 17
Drivers: #27 Nico Hulkenberg and #30 Jolyon Palmer
Best Grid Position: 5th Nico Hulkenberg
Points finish: 6 times
Season so far: One of the who-could-have-been-a-great-of-motorsport Nico Hulkenberg joined the team from Force India, but the major unreliability of the Renault’s engine has derailed any hopes of winning the mid table battle. Jolyon Palmer’s future has been in the balance throughout the season and by not finishing in points Palmer has not contributed anything for Renault F1 this season.
In qualifying Hulkenberg is 12-1 against his teammate this season. Hulkenberg made some great moves in Spain to claim the highest finish for Renault this season. Apart of that performance it has been quite a disappointing season for Renault.
My Prediction: If Jolyon Palmer gets replaced by Carlos Sainz, which Palmer denied at 14th September’s press conference, there is a great chance to overtake Haas Ferrari.
7. Haas Ferrari
Chassis: VF-17 Power unit: Ferrari 062
Drivers: Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen
Best Grid Position: 6th
Points finish: 9 times
Season so far: At the end of 2016 Kevin Magnussen joined the American Team from Renault. The season started great when Grosjean qualified 6th to repeat his superb start to 2016, but failed to quantify the same as he had to retire.
Best team performance came in Monaco as both the drivers finished inside top 10. The Ferrari engine is quite reliable and both drivers are maximizing their chances in circuits that do not demand much on the power-units.
Haas’s team performance is quite good and they have capitalised on the driver’s performances to rack up more points than the entire 2016 season. The strategy to change the Brake vendor heavily misfired and they have now moved back to Brembo and there have been only 2 retirements since.
Highlight of the season: Haas’s move back to Brembo after their brakes caught fire. The brakes on fire were surely eye-catching.
My Prediction: With Singapore and Malaysia relatively suiting Ferrari engine, I think they are well placed to get some valuable points. I hope the battle for 5th will reach the final stage of the race and with unsettlements in the Renault and Toro Rosso camps, I won’t be surprised if Haas finish 6th ahead of Renault and Toro Rosso.
6. Toro Rosso Renault
Chassis: STR12 Toro Rosso
Drivers: Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz Jr.
Best Grid Position: 6th
Points finish: 10 times
Season so far: Carlos Sainz has carried on his excellent form from 2016 but the Bahrain clash with Lance Stroll won’t be easily forgotten. Sainz has proved time and again that he is another big thing for Formula 1 but the decorated line up of Red Bull racing means he cannot move to the sister company any time soon.
Daniil Kvyat, the Torpedo has lived up to his nickname by taking out Carlos Sainz during the British GP. The team looks to be struggling and with unreliable and a weaker Renault engine they are in a battle with Haas Ferrari.
Highlight of the season: Toro Rosso is set to announce the deal with Honda to supply the engine for 3 years from 2018.
My Prediction: With the rumours of Sainz joining Renault very soon, this marks the sad times Toro Rosso is going through. I don’t think they can accumulate the 63 points like last season and bottom half of the table is where they will end up this season.
5. Williams Mercedes
Chassis: FW40 Mercedes M08 EQ Power+
Drivers: #18 Lance Stroll and #19 Felipe Massa
(Paul Di Resta started the race at Hungary)
Best Grid Position: 2nd
Points finish: 12 times
Season so far: Felipe Massa returned from retirement to join the line-ups with young Lance Stroll. Lance Stroll’s start to season had everyone criticising the young rookie. He had 3 retirements followed by 11th and 16th before retiring at Monaco again.
However, Stroll took the podium at Azerbaijan as Bottas nicked him by 0.105 seconds. Massa has racked 31 points so far with him failing to score points only at Canada and Azerbaijan. Paul di Resta deputised for Massa for the Hungarian GP.
My Prediction: The team is set to retain their spot from last year with both the drivers firing.
4. Force India Mercedes
Chassis: VJM10 Mercedes M08 EQ Power+
Drivers: #11 Sergio Perez and #31 Esteban Ocon
Best Grid Position: 3rd
Points finish: 22 times
Season so far: Esteban Ocon replaced Nico Hulkenberg and it is very easy to see why Esteban Ocon has caught the eyes of leading constructors. The Force India team has been reliable and has cemented their place as the best of the rest. “Never take down your team-mate” is the rule #1 of the sport but they seem to have forgotten the phrase time and again.
Canada, Baku and Hungary witnessed a clash before the dangerous events in Belgium. The team looks strong and would have won at Baku if not for the flares between the team-mates.
My Prediction: They have proved very reliable and fast too. I can’t see them pushing Red Bull out of 3rd, so I think Force India will end 4th in the Table.
3. Red Bull Tag Heuer
Chassis: RB13 Power unit: Tag Heuer
Drivers: #3 Daniel Ricciardo and #33 Max Verstappen
Best Grid Position: 4th
Points finish: 17 times
Season so far: Unreliability and consistency has been the tag for Tag Heuer powered cars. While Max’s car is breaking down more frequently, Ricciardo is consistently pulling himself to the podium.
Max gave us glimpses of his capabilities when earning driver of the day in Shanghai whereas Ricciardo’s win at Baku after stopping early inspires us to never give up.
My Prediction: Their races have been lonesome but not boring. Ricciardo has regularly guided the Red Bulls to the podium and a more reliable car for Max may lead to a late charge on the Ferraris.
Chassis: SF70H Power unit: Ferrari 062
Drivers: #5 Sebastian Vettel and #7 Kimi Raikkonen
Best Grid Position: 1st 3 times
Points finish: 24 times
Season so far: Ferrari led the constructor’s championship, although only for 1 round, after almost 5 years.
The prancing horses have regularly pushed the Mercedes to the limits. Their historic win in Monaco and equally dominant Hungaroring victory is the highlight so far.
The team struggled with punctures towards the end of Silverstone GP otherwise the gaps with Mercedes would have been smaller.
The SF70H is capable of operating tyres more efficiently and is also capable of generating greater down force which makes the Ferraris very strong going into Singapore this weekend. The team strategy which was heavily criticised earlier has been hands-on this season.
The Ferraris with a shorter wheel base has not been very effective in the long straights. The team looks to be helping Sebastian Vettel and Kimi is not capable of mirroring the results his team mate is producing.
Highlight: Ferraris have retained both their drivers for 2018.
My Prediction: They trail Mercedes by 62 points and it seems pretty unlikely they can catch them. However, Mercedes are poised to get some grid penalties soon and if Ferraris can capitalise it could be a very close battle for the constructor’s crown.
Chassis: F1 W08 EQ Power+ Power unit: Mercedes M08 EQ Power+
Drivers: #44 Lewis Hamilton and #77 Valtteri Bottas
Best Grid Position: 1st 10 times
Points finish: 25 times
Season so far: Replacing the world champion is always the tough task but by bringing in Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes has rightly balanced the team.
They are not as dominant as they used to be but the Mercedes are still the team to beat.
The three 1-2s they have secured this season coupled with 10 pole positions cements their place as the best team in Formula 1 this season.
They have dominated the power-hungry tracks like Belgium, Silverstone, Canada and Italy and with 5 of the next 7 tracks imitating the Silverstone, it looks certain Mercedes will retain their title.
The straight line speed of the Mercedes is the greatest strength they possess.
A long wheel base which has helped Mercedes in power-hungry circuits have regularly failed them on the twisty-curvy circuits.
They are also unable to take care of the tyres like the Ferraris which led to Vettel using tyre strategy to win at Bahrain and Australia.
Highlight: The Grand Chellams, the records for the most Poles are certainly the box office moments but one thing that stood out was Hamilton’s sacrifice of the 3rd place which was Bottas’ in Hungary.
My Prediction: With Valtteri Bottas signing the contract to remain with the team for 2018, this will certainly help the team focus on retaining the constructor’s crown. The upcoming circuits suit the Mercedes’ chassis and Ferraris could well take grid penalties soon (but then so are Mercedes). However, I still believe it is highly likely we will see Mercedes win their 4th crown.