The new F1 season is just around the corner and there is definitely a buzz in the air. The new owners are in place, Ecclestone has been axed and current champion Nico Rosberg has retired. Will these changes leave a power vacuum that will allow a new king to pick up the F1 crown at the end of the year, or will it be same old come season end?
Mercedes have had two incredible back to back seasons, occupying 1st and 2nd with both drivers and are aiming for more of the same this year. New signing Valtteri Bottas will join Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes after signing from Williams. The 27 year old Finn has turned heads over the last four seasons and is tipped for further podium finishes this year. The real question on everyone’s lips at the moment though is whether Hamilton will be able to take another title, or if the newbie going to take all the glory. Hamilton will be hungry for the title after Rosberg hogged the limelight last year, so it’ll be interesting to see how he reacts to his new teammate and if there will be any falling out in the paddock.
Mercedes are favourites again, with probably the best engine, an incredible support and engineering team and two fantastic drivers. However, the new F1 owners want to scrap the current ‘preferential treatment’ model and open up the field, with less dominance from the bigger teams. New rule changes are expected and the way revenue is distributed to each team will also become more evenly split as F1 is shaped over time.
Ferrari and Red Bull are arguably the two teams that could challenge Mercedes’ dominance and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel will be looking for another taste of glory after 2011 and 2013 wins. He was one of the only drivers who looked like he could come close to Mercedes in 2016 and he will want to move on from last year’s fairly poor and frustrating season with some more wins this time out. Team Red Bull also looked good in 2016 with a 2nd place finish in the manufacturers championship and Daniel Ricciardo (who finished 3rd overall last season) and ‘Mad’ Max Verstappen will be looking to mount a challenge to both Mercedes and Ferrari.
There have been changes across other teams too, including Fernando Alonso to McLaren and Nico Hulkenberg to Force India, but the huge bit of news that emerged in the off season is the axing of self-billed ‘F1 supremo’ Bernie Ecclestone by the new U.S. Owners Liberty Media. Ecclestone was a controversial figure responsible for bringing Grand Prix racing into the limelight in the 1970s and has been a fixture ever since, so it is certainly one of the biggest changes that the sport has ever seen. The new owners will be looking shake things up in order to generate more TV revenue, but we will have to wait and see how ‘Americanised’ F1 could become.
All eyes will still be on Mercedes as the final driver lineups are revealed, as well as any rule changes brought in either before, during or after the coming season. Mercedes still look great, but there are plenty of others who could upset the bets at this stage, something that will only continue as the field continues to open up under new management.