The Formula 1 2017 season started with the curtain-raiser in Australia on 26th March 2017 at Albert Park in Melbourne. F1 fans got their first glimpse of the exciting new challengers in race trim. New regulations which came into force for this season was expected to mix up the pecking order of the last few seasons. The fans wanted the Mercedes team and drivers, who had dominated from the start of the hybrid-engine era in 2014, to be challenged by the other teams.
Formula 1 2017 – Review of the Top 5 teams
Ferrari and Vettel set the stage
Sebastian Vettel’s win at the first race in Australia setup his battle with Lewis Hamilton for the drivers’ title. In 2016, the Ferrari team had been in turmoil with no wins and the departure of their Technical Director James Allison. But the team had turned up with a fast car in pre-season testing. The first race reinforced the belief of the long suffering Ferrari fans that they finally had a car and driver to end the title drought of the team since 2008.
Mercedes and Ferrari Battle
The races spanned across the continents as the Mercedes and Ferrari teams and Vettel and Hamilton were locked in an intense battle for both titles. The cars as promised were super-fast and smashed decades-long lap records at most of the races. Fortunes swung from race to race. It was clear that on the power tracks the Mercedes team and Hamilton had the edge. On the slower and more twisty tracks which demanded high downforce, the Ferrari team and Vettel were superior.
The Mercedes challenger, the W08, was dubbed “a diva” by Mercedes boss Toto Wolff. The unpredictable behavior of the car at different tracks spiced up the season. It was clear that both 4-time world champion Vettel and 3-time world champion Hamilton’s mettle would be fully tested in this title race.
The Azerbaijan GP at Baku was a perfect illustration of the intensity of the battle between the two teams and drivers. The Mercedes team made an uncharacteristic error by not fitting Hamilton’s headrest properly which cost him the race win. Vettel, in the heat of the battle, lost his head and ran into Hamilton’s car and was penalized. Daniel Ricciardo clinched a win as the main challengers faltered.
At the summer break, Vettel was on top after a dominant performance at the Hungarian GP. Both Hamilton and Vettel had four race wins apiece at the break. For both teams and drivers the summer break could not have come too soon in a torrid season.
Battle after the Summer Break
After the break, the first race at the historic Spa-Francorchamps circuit for the Belgian Grand Prix set the stage for an enthralling second-half of the season. On a track that Mercedes were supposed to dominate at, Vettel and the Ferrari team were too close for comfort. Even as Hamilton won narrowly at Spa, Ferrari laid the marker down.
As expected, Mercedes dominated at Ferrari’s home race in Monza. The low downforce, power circuit suited the Mercedes W08. Hamilton for the first time took the lead in the drivers’ championship. The teams moved on to the Asian-leg of the championship starting in Singapore. These tracks were well-suited for the Ferrari SF70H and Vettel took pole position. Hamilton started in fifth position and it was going to be about damage limitation.
Before the race started, Hamilton said he needed a miracle. And he got it! For the first time in ten years, there was rain at the start of a race in Singapore. Seconds after the start, the three frontrunners – Vettel, Verstappen and Raikkonen were involved in a spectacular shunt that ended their races. Hamilton, who has become a rain master, took over the lead and won the race.
The Challenge Evaporates
This race saw the beginning of a Ferrari implosion. Reliability issues scuppered the team and Vettel’s challenge over the next two races. Hamilton left Asia with two wins and a second place and a 59-point lead over Vettel. The Briton went on to clinch the WDC in Mexico.
Vettel had to wait until the penultimate race in Brazil to clinch his fifth win of the season. Hamilton and the consistent Valtteri Bottas also made sure the Silver Arrows won the constructors’ title for the fourth consecutive season. Hopefully, Ferrari and Vettel can renew their challenge in 2018.
The Other Teams
Red Bull Racing finished third in the championship. After a slow start to the season which was plagued by reliability issues, they performed strongly at the end of the season. There would be nothing better for F1 to see a three-way fight between Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull in 2018.
Force India was the surprise package of the season as they finished a strong fourth in the championship. The team in their distinctive pink colours was 104-points ahead of fifth-placed Williams team. Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon were locked in an acrimonious inter-team battle all season-long. But some sparkling and consistent performances from the two drivers saw their team shine.
Williams had a disappointing season as they spent more time fending off the teams behind them. We review the team by team performance of the Top 5 teams of the 2017 season in Part 1 of this review. The team positions in the World Constructors Championship(WCC) and their drivers positions in the World Drivers’ Championship (WDC) is listed.
MercedesAMG F1: The dominant team of the last three seasons was finally challenged by another team. The Silver Arrows won the constructors’ and drivers’ title comfortably in the end. But the 12 wins in 20 races this season seemed like a dip in performance because of the complete dominance of the Brackley-based team since 2014. They had to work hard as they fended off the strong challenge from Ferrari.
Lewis Hamilton clinched his fourth world title after one of his best seasons in F1. The Briton also surpassed Michael Schumacher as the all-time leader in pole positions during the season. Valtteri Bottas in his first season with the Silver Arrows was consistent, though his performance dipped in the second-half of the season.
Best Race of the Season: Italian GP at Monza where the two drivers finished 1-2
|Lewis Hamilton #44||1||363||9||4|
|Valtteri Bottas #77||3||305||3||10|
Scuderia Ferrari: The oldest and most successful team in F1 is in the midst of a title drought since 2008. Under pressure from their Chairman Sergio Marchionne to deliver championships, the team had a resurgent season. The Maranello-based team had a consistently fast car which was easy to setup at all tracks. The team fell short as reliability issues in the second-half of the season damaged their chances. But the performance this season offers a lot of hope for the team for the future.
Sebastian Vettel their lead driver was consistent and delivered at most of the races. Brain fades like the one in Baku and some errors undermined his title chances. Kimi Raikkonen was reduced to a supporting role as the season progressed.
Best Race of the Season: Hungarian GP where Ferrari qualified and finished 1-2
|Sebastian Vettel #5
|Kimi Raikkonen #7
Red Bull Racing: The Milton Keynes-based team had a disappointing start to the season. Much was expected of them under the new regulations in 2017. The team is known for producing good chassis’ with superior aerodynamic performance. Though the team fell short in the earlier part of the season, they closed gap to the top 2 teams in the second-half of the season. Reliability issues plagued the team, with only one car finishing consistently.
Daniel Ricciardo was the model of consistency with a win and eight podiums. Max Verstappen has shown once again that he is the real deal and is by far the most exciting young talent in the sport. A combination of reliability issues and his own impetuosity saw the young Dutchman retire in seven races. But the two wins in Malaysia and Mexico promises much for the next season.
Best Race of the Season: Malaysian GP where the drivers finished 1-3
|Red Bull Racing||3||368||3||11|
|Daniel Ricciardo #3
|Max Verstappen #33
Force India: The Silverstone-based team finished a strong fourth in the constructors’ championship. Force India has a reputation of making the best use of its limited resources. The team’s performance this season has seen it consolidate fourth place. They have been by far the most consistent team in the midfield.
The team has two of the most talented drivers in F1, Sergio Perez and young Esteban Ocon. The two drivers had been the model of consistency and looked set for a podium finish until their unfortunate on-track clash in Baku.
Best Race of the Season: Spanish GP where the drivers finished 4th and 5th
|Sergio Perez #11
|Esteban Ocon #31
Williams: This marquee British team has struggled this season and though it has retained the fifth position from last season, it never looked like challenging for fourth place. The car and the drivers were inconsistent all season. The technical leadership under the new Technical Director Paddy Lowe has yet to yield tangible results on the track.
The driver pairing of Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll struggled to perform from race to race. This was Massa’s last season and he was more consistent with thirteen point finishes. The young rookie Stroll after a miserable start to the season showed surprising maturity in Baku to clinch a podium, as more experienced drivers around him fell apart.
Best Race of the Season: Azerbaijan GP where they clichéd their only podium of 2017
|Felipe Massa #19
|Lance Stroll #18
*Paul Di Resta drove in place of the sick Massa in Hungary and did not finish.
Review of the Bottom 5 teams in Part2 is here: http://lastwordonmotorsport.com/2018/01/14/formula-1-2017-review-of-the-bottom-5-teams/
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