Usually I make predictions for the forthcoming F1 season but, seeing as I am usually hilariously incorrect, I figured I’d approach it from a different perspective this year. Instead, let’s go with what I’m most looking forward to this season. There’s plenty of things I could gripe about but, seeing all the teams arrive in Melbourne and the energy and anticipation rise, I want to focus on the positives and get started on the right foot!
1. Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes
I’m certainly going to miss Nico a lot this year and it’s going to take a lot of getting used to but I’m very eager to see what Valtteri can do in that car. I very much hope that he can give Lewis a run for his money, especially as there will be less familiarity with driving style etc. between them and I certainly hope to see him on the top step at least a couple of times this year. It’s been too long since we’ve heard the Finnish national anthem on the podium, for starters.
2. Ferrari Making Strides
They were the fastest on every compound during testing but I think it’s far too optimistic to put them ahead of Mercedes. But I at least hope that they can translate that pace across race weekends. If I can have Ferrari vs. Mercedes on a regular basis, I think I would be OK with that. And I’m talking fighting for the lead, not scrapping over third place. Also, if they could sort out their strategies, that would be great.
3. The Colourful Grid
I don’t care all that much about aesthetics as far as racing is concerned. I find it ridiculous that we’re focusing so much on how the cars look and sound that we’re sacrificing the actual racing as a result. But I will always appreciate a colourful grid. And I am very much looking forward to seeing the array of different liveries we have this year. Force India were the big let down in testing with their dull grey paint job but now they’ve revealed their pink livery and I cannot wait to see it in action. Also, we finally get the orange back on the McLaren and we’ve got a nice blue/gold combo on the Sauber, the chrome Red Bull can livery of the Toro Rosso… It’s the best looking grid we’ve had in a while.
4. Liberty Media
I don’t imagine we’ll be seeing big differences so early in the sports’ takeover but I am still looking forward to see what Liberty Media’s plans are. I’m sure we’ll see some changes as far as fan interaction and social media are concerned which should be good and definitely well overdue.
5. The Mid-Field
I’m intrigued to see how the mid-field teams shake out over the course of the season. During testing, Williams certainly seemed to have the measure of the rest but they have proven to be one of the least predictable teams when going through their data collection. I really hope that Renault are going to be able to be more competitive this year and that Toro Rosso will have a better showing than they did in testing, pace wise. I suppose with Manor now out of the equation, the position of backmarker will fall to Sauber but I can’t help but feel that McLaren may struggle to fight with the teams they should be fighting at this point.
6. More Varied Podiums
Is it going to actually be the case? It’s hard to say at this stage. But I feel like they may at least be less predictable. You’d say that the last few years, having two Mercedes on the podium was almost a sure thing. With Nico leaving, it’s going to shake things up a bit and I don’t think Mercedes are going to be as far ahead of the rest of the field to guarantee them both podium positions. I’m hoping Ferrari will be fighting for podiums, as previously mentioned and I would imagine Red Bull will be up there too. I have my fingers crossed that Williams, Force India and maybe even Renault can get on the podium too.
7. The Triumphant Return of Felipe Massa
He’s been gone for a massive 3 months, almost the same as everyone else. Wait. Exactly the same as everyone else. It’s almost as if he didn’t really retire after all. But he did and I had been working through my feelings on that for much of the end of last year, what with him being my favourite driver and all. And I’d come to terms with it. I’d hit the final stage of grief: acceptance. And then Nico Rosberg went and retired and everything imploded. So here we are! Back for another year of anxiety and pre-start nausea! And while I was looking forward to being that much more neutral as a spectator this year, in the last few weeks I have come to realise that I really am happy to have him ‘back’. Seeing how weird it is to not have Nico there and feeling kind of sad about it makes me all too aware of how depressing it would have been to come into this season without Felipe on the grid. So here’s to hoping that he has a great year and that, as with all encores, he’s saved the best for last!
I am very ready to see what the 2017 season has in store for us and I just hope that, whatever happens this weekend in Australia, it doesn’t set the precedent for the rest of the season. May the team dominance fluctuate and may the new aerodynamic changes not ruin the racing as much as we are anticipating.
May everyone race hard, work hard and most of all stay safe!
You’ll find me over on @catherinebenham yelling about the races and bemoaning the unholy time of the AUS GP (non-Europeans, don’t @ me, please).