The 2018 Formula 1 season is just around the corner and with pre-season testing done and dusted we take a look at how each team is shaping up as well as my season predictions.
After 4 years of dominance, Mercedes appears to show no signs of slowing down.
They may not have set the headline lap times in testing, they didn’t even bring the new hypersoft tyres to Barcelona, but that’s because they focused almost exclusively on race runs and it showed in their lap count, setting the most overall and being the only team to pass the 1000 mark.
They also set the fastest time on the medium tyre which whilst unlikely to be used much in races this year shows they are certainly still reliable and quick over longer runs.
Hamilton this year is going for his fifth world title and second doubleheader. After taking that fourth title with 2 races to spare in 2017 Hamilton will be in high spirits going into the new season.
Bottas, on the other hand, has a big challenge on his hands. He has only signed a one-year extension and so will be fighting for his seat which is much desired by both rookies and champions alike. As such he will need to perform again and again, perhaps even do better than he did in 2017 when he won 3 races and took 4 pole positions.
I hope that Mercedes at least face some challenges this year and if not constructors that we have a new champion.
It’s been over 10 years since Ferrari last won a championship, that being Raikkonen in 2007, and given how close they came last year they’ll be hungry to make it work this time around.
The Scuderia seemed to go in the opposite direction to Mercedes in testing, setting the headline times on the final two days with Vettel taking the Hypersoft tyres to an unofficial track record if 1:17.182 and Raikkonen’s best was just 4 hundredths slower.
How this difference will relate to the eventual performance is impossible to say although it does show that the SF71H is no slouch.
Another point to take from the Ferrari is that it may no longer have the same advantage over Mercedes at tracks like Monaco. This is because they have adopted the Mercedes style longer wheelbase which makes the car more difficult to drive on tighter tracks but has the advantage of greater aero efficiency in high-speed corners.
I hope and do believe that Ferrari will be right up their again not only because it made last year so great but will mean that we have the first ever 4-time world champion shootout in Hamilton an Vettel.
This a big year for Red Bull, it’s been 5 years since they last won a championship and with two of the fiercest and best drivers of their generation behind the wheel of the RB14 both will be desperate to claim that elusive first title.
Red Bull went fastest on two of the eight days of testing both with Ricciardo but didn’t show much else. Whether this is down to them simply keeping their true performance under wraps or they still have some issues to work out will soon become clear. Hamilton himself has said he believes Red Bull will be the team to beat come Australia but this again could be the Brit bluffing to downplay his own team’s performance.
This could also be Red Bull’s last year with longtime engine supplier Renault after their relationship broke down in 2015 the two stayed together purely out of necessity and with Honda or even Aston Martin on the cards in the near future they could be close to a big change.
Still, With the Renault engine they won 3 races in 2017 and with Adrian Newey still on board they could and will be hoping to be a force to be reckoned with.
2018 could be a difficult year for Force India. They have held the best of the rest title for two years now and with seriously limited resources compared to some teams like Mclaren and Renault.
However, I can’t see them keeping that up for much longer with the aforementioned Mclaren and Renault expected to improve dramatically it will be a very tough fight for that fourth spot.
The drivers though will not back down. Ocon and Perez are now free to race again, a privilege that was taken away from them last year after a series of collisions cost them some serious points. And with a potential Mercedes or Ferrari seat on the cards 2018 they will both want to show their worth but if they step out of line again it could all come crashing down. So it’ll be a fine balance between hard and fair racing they both need to learn.
Williams is in a bit of precarious situation this year.
For a start, their car hasn’t exactly shown much potential in testing having set the slowest overall time by teams despite this being a car designed completely under Paddy Lowe, although they were fastest on the soft tyres.
What’s more their driver line up leaves little to be desired. Lance Stroll had some highlights last year with a podium in Azerbaijan and a superb qualifying in Italy. But these performances were few and far between. It also means that he is now effectively the team leader being the most experienced driver since Robert Kubica was given a development role.
The other side of the garage isn’t much better, rookie Sergey Sirotkin will pilot the other FW41 despite having had little success in lower formulas. Although both come with a heavy sponsor package.
Honestly, depending on how Sauber does this year I wouldn’t be surprised if they are bottom of the table come the checkered flag in Abu Dhabi.
Toro Rosso could be the surprise of the season in 2018 as their 2018 spec Honda engine has proven to be much better than expected.
Given how Mclaren ended 2017 with Honda you could be forgiven for thinking Toro Rosso had shot themselves in the foot by deciding to take on Honda over Renault.
But It appears as though Honda has had a breakthrough, the reliability (something that caused serious frustrations for McLaren in 2017) is pretty good as the Toro Rosso completed the most laps on multiple days of testing and the third most overall. And the performance isn’t too shabby either with Pierre Gasly setting the team’s fastest lap of testing just 1.2 seconds slower than Vettel’s Ferrari on the same tyres.
This an incredible feat given that Mclaren was more or less the slowest team on quick tracks like Barcelona last season.
They also have two credible drivers in 2016 GP2 champion Pierre Gasly and former Red Bull junior and 2-time WEC champion Bredon Hartley. Both are great drivers with Great potential who given a decently powerful car can do wonders for the junior Red Bull team.
Now Mclaren is a difficult one. On the one hand, they look much more positive and happy than 12 months ago with the new Renault engine, but on the other hand, they still have had issues that have limited running ranging from a wheel nut failure on day one to an exhaust clip falling off and causing the rear electronics to overheat.
Small things like this perhaps indicate that not all of Mclaren’s issues were down to the Honda Power Unit.
Fernando Alonso sticks around as he continues to fight for that third world title as does Stoffel Vandoorne who put in a solid rookie season despite the lack of performance from the MCL32.
I think Mclaren will iron out these small issues that seem to plague them and they still have what was dubbed a substantial update coming for the season opener, so there should be more to come from the Mclaren. It won’t likely be a title contender but should at least get a few wins and be a podium contender at most races.
Renault is another team expecting big improvements for 2018.
Not to the extent of being in the title fight themselves but their two engine customer teams (Red Bull and Mclaren) do expect to be in the running or at least very close to it.
This shows in the testing results as Carlos Sainz set the fifth fastest time overall right behind Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and Mclaren’s Fernando Alonso. However, they set the most laps of the Renault engined cars.
The launch of the RS-18 was merely a livery launch as the chassis shown was the same as the 2017 model. However, they did make improvements such as the somewhat controversial blown rear wing with the central exhaust pipe being raised the max 5 degrees allowed. This is designed to assist the air flowing under the rear wing making it more efficient.
The Renault driver line up is also one of the strongest we’ve seen in a while with Nico Hulkenberg, still looking for that first podium which came so close at Azerbaijan last year, and Spaniard Carlos Sainz on loan from Red Bull. Together the two could be a serious force to be reckoned with.
Into their third year as an F1 team, Haas have seemingly avoided the fall from grace most new teams do after their first year. They maintained eighth from 2016 to 17 while managing to nearly double their total points haul.
This year they may go one or more better after being dubbed the ‘Dark Horse’ of the 2018 grid and some even putting them in the coveted fourth place in the standings.
They keep the current spec Ferrari engine supply and to be honest overall supply, the car copies several design cues from the Ferrari such as the shaped sidepod inlets.
They certainly have potential but I need to see a bit more to be convinced they are as good a people suggest.
The driver lineup is also solid if not the best in the world, with Grosjean and Magnussen onboard again for 2018 the former of which has been linked to a Ferrari seat for a number of years. Both are consistent good points scorers so should certainly keep them near the top of the midfield.
And finally, we come to what is now Alfa Romeo-Sauber as the Swiss outfit ties up with the Italian manufacturer as title sponsor. It marks the first time Alfa has been involved with F1 since the 80’s.
The deal also puts Sauber even closer to Ferrari with the team being upgraded to a current spec engine supply meaning they’ll get all the updates Ferrari and Haas do which already gives them a massive boost.
The chassis, however, may not be up to the same level. While it did complete more laps than Red Bull, Force India, Haas and Mclaren the C37 seemed to spend more time in the gravel than on the track in testing.
Although Sauber didn’t become the full Ferrari B-team we expected they did still take on reigning GP2 champion and Ferrari protege Charles Leclerc, a very good singing as the Monaco born youngster completely dominated his debut GP2 season winning the title with three races to go. Although he has been known to be difficult in terms of set up work which could hamper him on some of the more technical circuits.
They also keep Ericsson for a fourth season who at least brings a lot of experience to the team.
I would like to see Sauber get off the bottom spot and back to their glory days of the midfield. and while that isn’t likely to happen this year they are definitely on the right track.
So with that said here are my championship predictions for season to come
Drivers champion- SEBASTIAN VETTEL
- Red Bull
- Force India
- Toro Rosso
What do you think of the season to come let me know and please share.