Well it’s officially here, you can feel it in the air… Racing Season is back! Formula One kicked off its 2017 year down under at the Australian Grand Prix. While reviews may currently be mixed we are going to stay optimistic, looking forward to a hopeful rest of the year. Let’s touch on all the new and exciting details of this year’s Formula One season.
A lot has changed. Particularly when it comes to the cars of Formula One. If you didn’t hear about how drastically the cars have changed you either haven’t been listening or you live under a rock. Either way here’s the cliff notes; they are faster, A lot faster. At the pinnacle of racing the smallest changes can have huge impacts on performance. But the folks writing the rule books didn’t make small changes, they ripped out pages and re-wrote them entirely. And with that, we have cars that are up to 3.3 seconds a lap faster than last year’s cars. 3.3 seconds is a massive gap at club level racing, but in formula One it’s like light-years. For most people faster is better, or so you would think. Speed enthralls us all, yes I know. But speed can also affect racing, at a point it starts to become counter intuitive. So have they gone too far? Let us examine.
The Australian Grand Prix saw tactics taking place over physical passing, making for an interesting dynamic. Lewis Hamilton stole the holeshot from pole position with Sebastian Vettel hot on his tail, while Valtteri Bottas, Kimi Riakionnen, and Max Verstappen followed suit. Hamilton and his Mercedes ran into tire issues earlier on while Vettel was able to stay out on the track, taking the lead in the process. Hamilton found himself stuck behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, unable to make a move to get ahead. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel timed his pit stop perfectly, exiting just ahead of Verstappen and Hamilton in what would be the race deciding move. This was the nail in the coffin for Hamilton who had to then fend off a late charge from his teammate to secure his spot in second place, while Valtteri Bottas placed third on the podium.
Hometown favorite Daniel Ricardo had an atrocious weekend, suffering a crash in qualifying that set the tone for the rest of his weekend. Ricardo’s RB13 had just about every issue under the sun including a massive electrical issue the day of the race. This resulted in Ricardo starting two laps after the rest of the grid, and from pit lane none the less. While they did salvage some track time the RB13 wasn’t having it, giving up the ghost on lap 29 of the 58 lap race.
The race was either dreadful or spectacular depending on the crowd that you talk to. In my opinion, it was a great showcase of how divided F1 fans can be. Some fans are all about the racing, wanting to see a dual between drivers. And other seem to be more technical, more about the ingenuity of the cars and competition that favors strategy over a dog fight. Neither side is wrong, just different perspectives.
For the fans that are about ingenuity, it was a phenomenal event. We got to see the new cars in all their speedy glory. The inability for the drivers to pass wasn’t a lack of action because the cars going through each corner full clip was the action. 6.5 lateral G’s in some sections of the track? that’s a tech geeks dream. Overall being someone that loves seeing Formula One at its pinnacle, I was stoked to see how the new cars performed. I even liked the racing we did have, especially when Vettel came out of the pits just ahead of Verstappen and Hamilton. That’s just good technical racing!
With that said, I can also enjoy a good dogfight, something we didn’t even get close to seeing. Hell, there was hardly any passing at all. Now some of that comes down to the track and some comes down to the new cars. But if you watched closely enough there were a few glimmers to get us all excited. What I’m getting at is there were times it was really close, with the defensive driver coming out on top. As the season progresses I think we will see drivers becoming more comfortable with the new speed of the cars, leading to more aggressive driving. While I still am about technical Formula One racing, I am not opposed to seeing the drivers taking more risks and going deep down the inside for the pass. Here’s to hoping its an actual glimmer of what’s to come.
So truthfully there is no right or wrong answer, at least not yet. We simply do not have enough information. I truly believe it’s going to be a fantastic year of both racing and technical strategy. But maybe that’s just wishful thinking. For now though we are stuck with speculation, waiting for round two. The next stop for the Formula One Championship will be the Chinese Grand Prix. It is worth noting that Lewis Hamilton is the winningest driver to ever compete at the Grand Prix of China, something that could absolutely come into play in two weeks time. This could single handily electrify the championship between Ferrari and Mercedes. Can it be April 9th yet!?