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This is your 2017 Formula 1 grid
Ten teams, 20 faster, lower and wider cars. Which is your favourite?
If there’s one way to grab headlines, it’s to go all out. Faster. Wider. Louder. Harder.
And it seems that the 2017 Formula 1 Championship wants some headlines. The cars will be faster, wider, louder and harder to drive, say the higher-ups at Formula 1, and it’s an assertion that’s been backed up by the teams and the drivers.
In case you missed it, the big changes aren’t engine-related; it’s all about mechanical and aerodynamic grip. In layman’s terms, the tyres are much wider, the cars are much wider and there’s a lot more downforce than last year as a result.
The rules are, predictably, quite stringent, but that hasn’t stopped the teams from coming up with unique designs that mean that, finally, you’ll be able to tell the cars apart from a distance.
But what do they look like in the metal? Well, let’s have a run through the grid.
As the team to beat since the V6 rule changes came into place in 2014, Mercedes has perhaps the most to lose and least to prove.
Their championship-dominating engine carries over from last year – likely with a litany of tweaks and tunes – and the bodywork flows according to the new 2017 regulations.
Valtteri Bottas takes over from departing champ Nico Rosberg, and while Mr Hamilton will return for his fifth season with Mercedes.
This is the team that basically defines Formula 1, and has taken 16 constructors’ championships over the past 70-odd years. So what they do matters, even if Mercedes and Red Bull have stolen their thunder of late.
Finding former champions Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen in the drivers’ seats comes as no real surprise, but seeing an ‘Alfa Romeo’ badge on the flanks is. It’s likely as close as Alfa will get to an F1 return in the short term – at least until the road car division starts making real money.
The familiar 1.6-litre V6 returns, likely with serious revisions over last year to keep up with the era-defining Mercedes engine.
The ‘shark fin’ that sits on the engine cowling is perhaps the most obvious change from the SF16-H, but the canted-back spoiler and horizontally scalloped front wing are equally important aero revisions.
It’s strange to think of McLaren as the perennial underdogs, but you can’t argue with facts. McLaren recorded just a tenth of the points of first-placed Mercedes last year, and only narrowly edged out Toro Rosso.
But 2017 is a whole new ball game for McLaren – no more MP4-badged cars, no more Ron Dennis and (hopefully) no more languishing with the backmarkers.
Two things to note about the final car – it looks more orange than it comes up in the photos, and it almost definitely won’t look like it crashed through a TV aerial.
Two other things to note are the drivers – veteran Fernando Alonso is now joined by Stoffel Vandoorne, after Jenson Button’s retirement from F1. That said, Vandoorne managed to out-qualify Button at Bahrain last year, as well as scoring a world championship point in the unfamiliar MP4-31
Renault’s had a pretty on-again-off-again relationship with F1 over the past few years, stepping back at the start of the decade, before the whole ‘We are Lotus.’ ‘No, we are Lotus’ debacle back in 2011.
In any case, they’re back in black (and a bit of yellow), rolling in a vastly different car to 2016. It seems, then, that Renault as a factory team is here for a while yet.
The engines are predictably from Renault, but they’re in a vastly different chassis to the R.S.16 of last year.
Jolyon Palmer returns for a second year behind the wheel, while Nico Hulkenberg has moved from Force India, replacing Kevin Magnussen.
If you keep abreast of William’s race car titles, you might be wondering why they skipped FW39. Well, there’s no real mystery – 2017 is William’s 40th year in Formula 1, and far from the first time that they’ve had a lot of ground to make up.
That said, let’s not forget nine constructors and seven drivers’ championships in the past 40 years, including a dominant period in the early 1990s.
For 2017, the gorgeous Martini livery remains, as does the Mercedes-AMG turbo V6, but the body has been extensively remodelled to better fit the new regulations.
The team at Williams are talking a lot about the physical demands that the new cars will exact on their drivers and pit crews. Much heavier tyres will make pit changes a test of strength, while increased cornering speeds and reduced braking distances will take a toll on the driver’s strength as well.
Felipe Massa will return for Williams after an exceptionally short retirement, joined for 2017 by rookie Lance Stroll. Both have been training to deal with the much more strenuous requirements of the FW40.
Force India VJM10
Like last year, Force India’s using the Mercedes-AMG engine, continuing a practice started with the 2.4-litre V8 in the VJM02 (the VJM01 still had a Ferrari V8, a layover from the short-lived Spyker F1 team).
New recruit Esteban Ocon takes over from Nico Hulkenberg, who moved to Renault, while Sergio Perez retains the spot he’s held since 2014. Ocon, you might remember, drove for the now-defunct Manor last year and is part of Mercedes’ driver development programme, so you might be hearing his name more in the future.
As with the other cars on the 2017 grid, the VJM10 adopts a large shark fin over the engine cowling, as well as a proboscis that’s now a familiar, if mostly unloved, feature in modern F1.
Haas actually had a pretty decent season last year, scoring an eighth-place finish – ahead of Manor, Sauber and Renault – and they’re looking to capitalise on the new order of wider, faster and (hopefully) wilder cars this year.
They’ll continue to use Ferrari engines, as per last year, with Romain Grosean and Kevin Magnussen behind the wheel. Esteban Gutierrez has moved on to Formula E, much like Nick Heidfeld, Nelson Piquet Jr, Jean-Eric Vergne and Sebastien Buemi.
Red Bull RB13
The 1.6-litre Renault V6 returns for another year, with TAG Heuer written on the side as per 2016. Adrian Newey – the same man responsible for the championship-winning chassis of 2010 to 2013 – has completely redesigned the RB13 to fit the 2017 regulations. He’s also festooned the front bar with a little snout, which doubtless has massive implications for airflow. The buzz is that there’ll be more winglets and other aero gear coming when Red Bull starts testing, but that remains to be seen.
Daniel Ricciardo returns to a Red Bull seat for the fourth time, after working his way up from a Toro Rosso drive at the end of 2013. Also coming up through the ranks is Max Verstappen – the youngest driver to ever win an F1 race – who took Kvyat’s seat at Red Bull last year.
Toro Rosso STR12
For 2017, Toro Rosso’s returning to Renault power, as opposed to the Ferrari unit from last year. That said, Toro Rosso has a bit of a history changing engines, but seem to build a pretty decent chassis around whatever they get their hands on.
Carlos Sainz Jr and Daniil Kvyat return, with Kvyat in his fourth year of Formula 1 and Sainz in his third. And if you didn’t feel the slow march of time before, you certainly do now.
Getting back to the car and, perhaps most noticeably, a brand-new livery adorns the totally redesigned car, better reflecting the colours of its principle benefactor, Red Bull. It’s now the colour of those promo-spec Minis, but likely much faster.
First things first: the engine is a 2016 unit from Ferrari, which is no bad thing. Really.
Obviously, the factory teams have had the winter (or summer, if you’re from upside-down land) to hone the 1.6-litre turbo V6s, but Ferrari was fielding a pretty decent engine by the end of last year.
Following the 2017 rule changes, the C36 is 20cm wider than the C35, with 25 per cent wider tyres and bigger wings. That said, Sauber’s technical director says that the team “put greater emphasis on aerodynamic stability as opposed to maximising downforce.” That’s a good thing, as Mark Webber (who’s discovered what happens when aero goes wrong) will tell you.
Behind the wheel this year are Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein, the latter coming over from Manor (nee: Marussia) after its drawn-out demise. Felipe Nasr is out, likely due to his personal sponsor (Banco de Brasil) pulling funding in late 2016.
Ericsson, on the other hand, debuted for the now-defunct Caterham team in 2014, but moved to Sauber in 2015.
So, which of these is your favourite? And which do you think will be competitive when the flag drops in Australia in March?
Words: Craig Jamieson