The 2017 Formula 1 season in one word

2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Friday – Wolfgang Wilhelm

It’s the off-season, yes, but this is also the time for the list of best, worst, happy, sad and all sorts of moments. We actually did this test a few episodes ago on the Inside Line F1 Podcast – can you describe the 2017 Formula 1 Season in one word?

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“Anti-climax” and “quadruple” were our choices to describe the whole season. Well, there are two of us, so we get to have two words. But will the 2017 Formula 1 season be remembered for the Ferrari vs Mercedes battle in which the Ferrari challenge faded away quite dramatically? Or will it be remembered as the year Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton became quadruple World Champions? It definitely shouldn’t be remembered for the McLaren-Honda partnership and their troubles.

We get this feeling that the 2017 season will become the last season in Formula 1 history that ran without the halo. Yes, the unpopular safety device is mandatory for all cars next season and even though the sport’s administrators have publicly and charmingly claimed that “fans will get used to it”, we have our doubts. But the halo is a good indication of where Formula 1 could be headed in the future – closed cockpit for full frontal protection?

The sport is busy putting together a revamped set of rules and regulations for the future. The legal documents will be signed much before 2020 (when the end of the contract) and let’s see if Chase Carey will go the Bernie Ecclestone way – divide and rule, while signing up the bigwigs and the minnows of the sport separately and on different terms. Ideally, a more equitable payment structure will only benefit the business of Formula 1 teams, so let’s hope that Carey has the guts to do that. He’ll probably piss off the bigwigs in the short term, but stabilise the sport in the long term.

Payments aside, Formula 1 is busy trying to figure what the best engine regulations for the sport could be. Basically, they’re trying to see how much more complex they can get before driving the fans away completely. Unfortunately, it seems that these complex regulations are what will attract more manufacturers towards the sport! However, given how manufacturers have thronged the all-electric Formula E, how much time before Formula 1 goes all-electric? Yes, this equation could be a possibility:

Formula 1(Single-seater + HAM + VET + VER + Ferrari + Mercedes + Red Bull + others) = WEC(closed cockpit) + Formula E(electric motor)

Either way, the future of Formula 1 seems interesting. At least the driving part definitely seems to be in good hands. In 2018, barring Marcus Ericsson and maybe to an extent Lance Stroll, the grid will have the most talented drivers across series racing in Formula 1. Charles Leclerc – Formula 2 Champion, Brendon Hartley – World Endurance Champion, Pierre Gasly – 2016 GP2 and almost the 2017-Super Formula champion will all be running their first full-seasons. The grid is enchanted by Max Verstappen’s exploits and among these racers (okay, including Esteban Ocon) lies the future of Formula 1. Let’s hope that the administrators are able to offer these talented drivers really fast and sexy-looking cars that are able to race each other in close quarters by the time they turn championship rivals. Else, we (and they) would definitely be wasting the opportunity to see their talent entertain us.

We’re keenly waiting to see how Ross Brawn – an eight-time World Champion in his own right – can work with his team to improve the racing spectacle. For now, the changes in marketing strategy have been well accepted – the social media embracement and the F1 Live in London with fans hoping for more next season. But the marketing is always an easier fix as compared to the actual product of racing where there a few hundred egos to please! Maybe that’s the crux of the problem in Formula 1 – having the competitors agree on the rules and regulations of the sport.

As we sign off, here’s a special mention of Lewis Hamilton’s unexpected gesture towards Valtteri Bottas in Hungary where the Briton gave back third place to his Finnish teammate metres before the finish line. In the cut-throat world of Formula 1 racing, it isn’t often that such an act of kindness occurs. Ask Daniil Kvyat! The expectations are high for 2018 and whether Formula 1 lives up to it or not, the silly season for 2019 definitely will. Esteban Ocon to partner Lewis Hamilton in Mercedes in 2019, we’ve already made our first prediction. Let’s see how it goes.

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