Since 2014, Formula One has seen no more than four different race winners in each season. This is mostly thanks to the sheer dominance of the Mercedes team thus far in the hybrid era. But with a new order developing, more opportunities are presenting themselves for more drivers from more teams. With that in mind, Lights Out asks – how many different drivers will stand on the top step of the podium in 2017?
In 2014, only Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo sneaked in three Grand Prix wins when the Mercedes faltered. In 2015, it was a similar story, with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel taking the spoils in Malaysia, Hungary and Singapore. In 2016, both Ricciardo and his team-mate Max Verstappen were able to take a win – but only because the Mercedes pair were out of contention in Spain and Malaysia.
The last time we had more than four race winners in a season was in 2013. Though the second half of that season was dominated by Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull winning nine races on the bounce, the opening stages of the season saw races won by Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso, Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton.
Race Winners By Year
|2017||4 (Vettel, Hamilton, Bottas, Ricciardo)|
|2016||4 (Rosberg, Verstappen, Hamilton, Ricciardo)|
|2015||3 (Hamilton, Vettel, Rosberg)|
|2014||3 (Rosberg, Hamilton, Ricciardo)|
|2013||5 (Raikkonen, Vettel, Alonso, Rosberg, Hamilton)|
|2012||8 (Button, Alonso, Rosberg, Vettel, Maldonado, Webber, Hamilton, Raikkonen)|
|2011||5 (Vettel, Hamilton, Button, Alonso, Webber)|
|2010||5 (Alonso, Button, Vettel, Webber, Hamilton)|
|2009||6 (Button, Vettel, Webber, Hamilton, Barrichello, Raikkonen)|
|2008||7 (Hamilton, Raikkonen, Massa, Kubica, Kovalainen, Vettel, Alonso)|
|2007||4 (Raikkonen, Alonso, Massa, Hamilton)|
|2006||6 (Alonso, Fisichella, Schumacher, Alonso, Button, Massa)|
In 2017, we have a much more open title battle between two teams – Mercedes and Ferrari. We’ve already seen three of the four drivers from those two teams take victory. Sebastian Vettel took the opening win of the season in Australia, before snatching the 25 points again in Bahrain and Monaco. Lewis Hamilton won for the first time this season in China, before taking to the top step of the podium again in Spain and Canada. The two title rivals are equal on wins so far this year and Vettel currently leads the way in the Drivers’ Championship, having finished in the top two more frequently than Hamilton.
Behind them, Valtteri Bottas took his maiden win in Sochi, by being fairly ahead of the title contenders on raw pace. Luck came Daniel Ricciardo’s way as he became the fourth Grand Prix winner in 2017 at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, thanks to problems for the championship pair. While Vettel gained himself a ten-second stop/go penalty due to ‘potentially dangerous driving’ behind the Safety Car, Lewis Hamilton’s headrest came loose and he had to pit for safety reasons, putting himself out of contention for the victory.
No driver has won back-to-back races so far in 2017, which in itself is an interesting stat. Who are the other contenders for a race victory this year? To my reckoning there are two likely candidates.
Kimi has been back on form so far this season, with a pole position in Monaco being his highlight of the year. While he is on form, Monaco was an exception in him being able to fight for the victory, he still lacks that little bit extra that the likes of Vettel and Hamilton seem to be able to bring at the moment. Raikkonen could have won in Monaco but for being on the wrong pit strategy, which allowed his team-mate to win. If Kimi wants to win a race this year, he needs to do it soon before Ferrari put all their weight behind Vettel’s championship charge. It would be his first victory since Australia 2013.
Max Verstappen has had a challenging year so far. In the past six races, he’s retired four times. His other results this season have been three fifth place finishes in Australia, Russia and Monaco and he also scored a podium – Red Bulls’ first of the season – in Shanghai. If his engine hadn’t failed in Baku, it’s more than likely that he would have been the race victor in Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix instead of his team-mate. Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner believes that Max is on the verge of a ‘big result’, and the team definitely have the belief that their car is only going to become more competitive over the course of the season. Verstappen is obviously capable of taking his second victory in the sport, and it seems to be a case of ‘when’ and not ‘if’ for the young Dutchman.
The Other Contenders
A win from anyone but Mercedes, Ferrari or Red Bull in 2017 does look unlikely, but not impossible. The team who have the most potential in terms of scoring a shock victory are Force India. Sergio Perez feels that the contact with his team-mate in Baku cost him a shot at the win. To see the pink panthers stand on the top step of the podium for the first time would be quite remarkable, but it’s an achievable target should everything go their way. The last time that team won a race, they were in an equally striking yellow livery, when Giancarlo Fisichella took an unexpected victory for the then Jordan team at the Brazilian Grand Prix in 2003. For Perez, a race victory seems long overdue and his team-mate Esteban Ocon is proving himself as a worthy podium contender in his first full season in the sport.
Aside from Force India, you’d look to Williams as the next most likely candidates for a victory. Felipe Massa, like Perez, could have been in a position to take the win last weekend had it not been for a car failure; and Lance Stroll proved himself when it mattered by taking the team’s first podium since the 2016 Canadian Grand Prix.
OVER TO YOU: Cast your vote in our Twitter poll!
I think we’ll see five different race winners in 2017.
I believe that Kimi Raikkonen missed his opportunity for a race win this year in Monaco and Ferrari are already putting their strength behind Vettel’s championship opportunity. The only way that I can see Kimi taking a win is if Vettel is not in a place to challenge for the victory. I think a visit to the top step of the podium is a little bit out of reach for Force India. Races like Azerbaijan are rare, and it’d be silly to think that the opportunities will present themselves in that way for the rest of the season. Nonetheless, I expect to see them on the podium at least once before the season is over – I’d especially like to see Esteban Ocon take the honours of doing that, as his season so far has been very impressive.
I do think, however, that Max Verstappen is best placed to become the fifth and final different winner in 2017. He’s clearly determined to do well and has no reason to play second fiddle to Daniel Ricciardo, unlike Raikkonen to Vettel at Ferrari. Where will he take his victory? Somewhere later on in the year, suited to the RB13. I think somewhere such as Singapore would be the perfect opportunity for the Red Bull driver.