Formula One is almost back. It’s time to get to know the teams and drivers who make up the 2018 grid a little better. Read all about how the stars of F1 got on in 2017, and how the drivers compared to their team-mates in 2017.
Slow off the mark when they rejoined as a works team in 2010, behind the scenes the team were hard at work on the new hybrid power unit, which has dominated the sport and led the team to four title victories over the last four seasons at the hands of Lewis Hamilton in 2014, 2015 and 2017, and Nico Rosberg in 2016. Can they continue their dominant ways in 2018?
It was a fourth straight Constructors’ Championship win for Mercedes in 2017, but they were challenged more regularly than they had been over their previous three dominant seasons, scoring almost 100 less points in total over the year. The team dynamic changed in 2017 as Nico Rosberg left and Valtteri Bottas arrived, seemingly making for a more harmonious working environment for their champion driver, Lewis Hamilton. Mercedes’ reliability in 2017 was almost bulletproof, with both cars finishing in the points at every race bar the Spanish Grand Prix where Bottas’ engine expired.
Four years is a long time for a championship streak to last, and, based on historical data, and with Ferrari and Red Bull edging ever close over the last season, Mercedes will undoubtedly come under increasing pressure this season. Keeping both their drivers happy, and keeping Bottas on his A-game throughout the year will be pivotal to further championship success in 2018.
MERCEDES IN 2017
|Points Scoring Rounds||39/40|
|Double Points Scoring Rounds||19/20|
#44 LEWIS HAMILTON
Lewis Hamilton was making headlines as soon as he stepped into Formula One with the McLaren team. Four World Championships later, the British driver is still making headlines as he sits in the dominant Mercedes car, working towards a fifth title.
In 2017, with a new team-mate, Lewis Hamilton became the sport’s most successful British driver as he took his fourth World Championship and relished in a battle with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. Though he trailed his championship rival for the first twelve rounds, the Brit bounced back after the summer break and was unstoppable while Ferrari faltered. It was a season with little mistakes – other than an embarrassing crash in the first part of qualifying in Brazil. Over the course of the season, Hamilton became the sport’s most prolific polesitter, beating Michael Schumacher’s record of 68 poles.
Seemingly driving at his best, and in a happy camp as the team’s lead driver, Hamilton has all the ingredients he needs to put himself at the forefront of F1 once again in 2018.
LEWIS HAMILTON IN 2017
#77 VALTTERI BOTTAS
After four strong seasons at Williams, Valtteri Bottas stepped up to the championship winning Mercedes team in 2017. His début season at the top tier brought him three wins and a plethora of podiums, but the final link was missing and the Finn was unable to challenge for the title. Will he up his game in 2018?
2017 was set to be Bottas’ fifth season with Williams, until Nico Rosberg announced his retirement and Valtteri was called upon to fill the vacancy at Mercedes. He wasn’t quite a match for his multiple World Champion team-mate, but did put in some great performances along the way. He took his first pole in only his third race at the team, and took victory in his fourth – the Russian Grand Prix – where he came under immense pressure from Sebastian Vettel. After a fine drive in Azerbaijan from a lap down to second place, another win would follow in Austria before a mid-season slump. The Finn was back at his best by the end of the season though, taking two poles back-to-back in Brazil and Abu Dhabi and winning the final race of the season at the Yas Marina Circuit. He also finished every race of the season except the Spanish Grand Prix, where his car suffered an engine failure.
Bottas admits he didn’t meet his own expectations in 2017, having set himself a target of more than three wins. Nonetheless, thirteen podiums is an impressive tally in a début season for a team, and Bottas will surely find more from the car in his second season with Mercedes. With his contract ending at the end of this season, and plenty of top tier drivers in the hunt for his seat, Bottas needs to continue his upward trajectory to secure his seat at the leading team for beyond 2018.
VALTTERI BOTTAS IN 2017
Once the dominant force in Formula One, Scuderia Ferrari have been without a championship victory for the past decade. Having made vast improvements between 2016 and 2017, the prancing horse is back on track and looks to challenge for the title once more in 2018.
The step up for Ferrari over the winter from 2016 to 2017 was impressive, and even Mercedes were left mystified by the Scuderia’s pre-season testing pace. The season started with a somewhat unexpected victory, and their lead driver went on to lead the championship throughout the first twelve rounds. It turned out to be a year of what ifs for Ferrari, though. In the second half of 2017, especially in the Asian races, Ferrari seemed to implode, with problem after problem on both cars. The Singapore Grand Prix was undoubtedly the turning point, with both cars colliding with Max Verstappen on their way to the first turn. This was followed by a spate of technical issues, again on both cars, costing more valuable points. Nevertheless, going from winning zero races in 2016 to winning five in 2017 was impressive. The highlight for the team will have been winning the Monaco Grand Prix for the first time since 2001. The car was, bar technical problems, highly dependable at all tracks, but Mercedes still had the power advantage at tracks such as Italy and Belgium.
Ferrari head into 2018 having threatened to quit F1 due to a dislike of the direction Liberty Media are taking the sport. That’s likely to be one of the larger political stories of the year, while on track, the team will be hoping to have learned from their past mistakes to put up an even stronger fight for title glory. Red Bull were stronger than Ferrari over the last third of the season, so the Scuderia needs to keep one eye behind them. Daniil Kvyat joins the team this season as a development driver.
FERRARI IN 2017
|Points Scoring Rounds||34/40|
|Double Points Scoring Rounds||15/20|
#5 SEBASTIAN VETTEL
Four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel became Formula One’s youngest winner in just his second season in the sport in an under-performing car. With a car at its best, he dominated the pinnacle of motorsport for four seasons with Red Bull and is now on the search for his fifth title with Ferrari.
Ferrari, and Sebastian Vettel, returned to winning ways in 2017. The German stood on the top step of the podium five times and led the title race for the first twelve rounds of the season before his team seemingly imploded. He tried everything he could to swing the championship back in his favour in Mexico, but it wasn’t enough to undo the damage that had been done over the Asian races. Losing his cool in Baku and running into the side of his championship rival will most likely be his biggest regret from 2017.
For 2018, Vettel can once again expect to be in the championship hunt. He is one podium away from becoming the fourth man to have 100 F1 podiums to his name, something which will surely be done over the course of 2018, but have Ferrari done enough over the winter for Vettel to take a fifth title this season?
SEBASTIAN VETTEL IN 2017
#7 KIMI RAIKKONEN
The ‘Ice Man’ is famously a man of few words, but his speed does plenty of talking on track. The 2007 World Champion’s pace may have been off the boil since his return to Ferrari in 2014, but will we see more glimpses of the old Kimi Raikkonen in 2018?
We saw flashes of the old Kimi in 2017 – his pole lap in Monaco was a fantastic display of raw speed and car control – but ending the season 112 points behind his team-mate tells you all you need to know. He lost out on race day in Monaco to his team-mate and, at times, Ferrari swayed in championship-challenger Vettel’s favour, but that doesn’t entirely mask the points differential. He only just scored more points than Daniel Ricciardo in the inferior Red Bull, a battle which was decided at the last race due to Ricciardo’s retirement.
Will we see another season of mediocrity from Kimi Raikkonen in 2018? In his sixteenth year of Formula One, Kimi has high hopes of returning to the front of the pack. With his contract up at the end of the season, he needs to up his game as a solid number two driver to stay for 2019. Whatever happens, his newly created official Instagram account will surely keep us entertained throughout the year.
KIMI RAIKKONEN IN 2017
Red Bull have had a successful thirteen seasons in Formula One. They’ve taken four drivers’ and four Constructors’ titles, and now – with arguably the strongest driver line-up on the grid – the team look to challenge for the championship again in 2018.
The beginning of 2017 was worrying for Red Bull, as they found themselves in a land of their own between the leading pair of Mercedes and Ferrari, and ahead of the rest of the chasing pack. An aerodynamic overhaul of the cars was supposed to play into the hands of the team, but reliability woes saw the team finish with both cars on very few occasions throughout the year. Baku was somewhat of a turning point, as the team scooped their first win of the year with Daniel Ricciardo. The Australian took nine of the team’s thirteen podiums, as Max Verstappen took the brunt of the team’s engine woes. In the second half of the season, Red Bull were much more competitive. While still struggling with reliability issues, they were on par with Mercedes and Ferrari and snatched two victories courtesy of Verstappen.
Determined to not be another season of what ifs, Red Bull set an earlier completion date for the RB14, hoping that will make the difference between them being occasional winners to once again being championship challengers from the very beginning of the season. The team has a new title sponsor this year in Aston Martin. Keeping their two well matched drivers on good terms will be critical to moving the team up the grid in 2018.
RED BULL IN 2017
|Points Scoring Rounds||27/40|
|Double Points Scoring Rounds||7/20|
#3 DANIEL RICCIARDO
Daniel Ricciardo is one of Formula One’s most universally liked drivers. A smiling assassin out of the car and a Honey Badger inside it, the Australian is in search of his first World Championship after several race victories in recent years.
Daniel Ricciardo’s 2017 got off to the worst possible start. His home Grand Prix in Australia saw him crash out in Q3 on the Saturday and then retire from the race with mechanical trouble on Sunday. Move forward a few rounds, and Ricciardo took a surprise victory at Baku in a chaotic Grand Prix, in which he impressively overtook three cars in one move at the end of the pit straight. He further proved his reputation as one of the best overtakers with his sublime pass on Kimi Raikkonen in Monza and with his his charge through the field from the back in Brazil. Despite a raft of technical issues, which saw him retire from three of the last four races of the year, the Australian scored nine podiums over the course of the season.
2018 could be Ricciardo’s last season at Red Bull. Talk of his next contract, which he admits will likely be the most important of his career, will be a major point of discussion over the coming months. On track, he’ll need to keep an eye on the other side of the garage. Max Verstappen out-qualified him on thirteen occasions in 2017 – the first time in his career that Ricciardo has been beaten in Qualifying over the course of a season, even if the margins were slim. Are more race victories and a championship battle on the horizon for the Honey Badger this season?
DANIEL RICCIARDO IN 2017
#33 MAX VERSTAPPEN
Max Verstappen’s remarkable rise through the ranks had people talking before he got to Formula One. When he did arrive, people had even more reason to talk. After three race wins, the next step for the Dutchman is surely a title charge.
It was a season of two halves for Max Verstappen in 2017. While the first half was dogged with one reliability problem after another, he scored two wins in the second half. He beat his team-mate in Qualifying over the course of the season. Despite being the full-term driver who competed the least laps in 2017, Verstappen made himself seen in the races where he was able to compete – finishing no lower than fifth in every race he finished, with the exception of the Italian Grand Prix.
In 2018, Verstappen has the chance to make the Red Bull team his own. If he can maintain his impressive qualifying pace, he’ll be a step ahead of his team-mate before the races start and if Renault can supply a competitive engine, a first title challenge could be on the cards for the Dutchman this season.
MAX VERSTAPPEN IN 2017
Highly regarded as the best pound-for-pound team in Formula One, the team based at Silverstone took wins in their former Jordan guise. Now regularly in contention for podiums, will 2018 bring the pink panthers more success?
The best pound-for-pound team delivered once again in 2017, finishing best of the rest behind the top three teams despite a driver line-up change ahead of the season. Though Force India failed to score a podium for the first time since 2013, they were in a battle of their own for fourth place, striding well clear of Williams in the competitive order, amassing their best ever total of 187 points – 104 clear of their closest competitors. Their new recruit, Esteban Ocon, ruffled more feathers than many expected, regularly battling more experienced team-mate Perez. The two were close on track, and it cost the team dear at times. Their coming together in Baku arguably cost them a double podium, while in Belgium things turned nasty as Perez forced Ocon towards the wall on the run to Eau Rouge.
For a more global sponsorship appeal, the team look to change their name ahead of the 2018 season. The team may lack the resources and money of other top teams, but deliver year on year as regular podium contenders. They would surely like to return to the podium this season, while maintaining a healthy relationship between their two drivers. With expected steps forward from McLaren and Renault, will they be toppled in 2018?
Force India in 2017:
|Points Scoring Rounds||35/40|
|Double Points Scoring Rounds||16/20|
#11 SERGIO PEREZ
A storming season in 2012 saw Sergio Perez promoted to a top drive in 2013. The opportunity may have come too early, but the Mexican has been ‘best of the rest’ for the past two seasons. Will his 2018 performance grant him another shot with a championship winning team?
For the first time since he joined the Force India team, Sergio Perez failed to score a podium throughout the year in 2017. The team were simply not on the pace of the frontrunners, and Perez cost the team a chance of a podium in Canada, where we saw the first signs of tension between him and new team-mate Esteban Ocon. Perez defiantly disallowed his team-mate a shot at a podium finish, before further collisions at Baku and Spa made the situation even frostier. Nevertheless, Perez’s year was as solid as ever, and he scored just one less point than in 2016 on his way to be being ‘best of the rest’ for a second year running.
Perez became a father over the winter break. In 2018, he’ll more than likely have an even harder time keeping Ocon at bay. If he can work on being a team player, he could find himself in contention for a top tier drive once again in 2019.
Sergio Perez in 2017:
#11 ESTEBAN OCON
Fast, reliable and highly consistent. Esteban Ocon holds the qualities of a future champion. With his potential truly showing in his first full season of Formula One in 2017, can he capitalise on it in 2018?
For many, Esteban Ocon was the positive surprise of the 2017 season. It was expected that the young Frenchman would be Force India’s number two to Sergio Perez, yet Ocon was more than a match for his vastly more experienced team-mate. Despite on-track tussles with the Mexican, Perez’s ruthless nature didn’t distract Ocon from the job at hand. He kept up his incredibly consistent finishing record until the Brazilian round of the championship, where he was taken out of the race on the first lap. Of the nineteen races he finished, Monaco was the only event where he failed to score a point. He started third on the grid in Monza, but despite coming close a number of times throughout the year, his quest for his first podium continues.
Ocon’s pace was improving through 2017. If his rate of development continues, then he’s likely to be at least a match for his team-mate in 2018. Looking to the future, there’s a potential opening at the World Champion team for 2019, and as a Mercedes junior driver, Ocon will be doing all he can to make sure his name is on the consideration list.
Esteban Ocon in 2017:
Williams has had a history of steely determination, which has led them to nine Constructors’ Titles since they first entered the sport over forty years ago. The family-run team has a new, young, driver line-up for 2018. Will it bring them the success they crave?
For 2017, Williams were forced to adapt to Valtteri Bottas leaving for Mercedes with late notice, and did so by re-signing Felipe Massa. The team, with rookie Lance Stroll partnering the experienced Brazilian, were unable to challenge for podiums as frequently as in recent years, but ended up being the only team outside the top three to stand on the rostrum in 2017, thanks to Stroll’s smooth performance in Baku.
After much speculation, Williams finally confirmed their 2018 driver line-up on 16th January, with rookie Sergey Sirotkin partnering Lance Stroll. For the first time since 2012, Williams’ driver line-up starts the season with zero wins between them. Robert Kubica has been signed as the team’s test and reserve driver, and will compete in some Free Practice sessions throughout the season. Williams are at risk of losing two positions in the Constructors’ Championship this year to McLaren and Renault. In 2018, we will see the first real effects of Paddy Lowe’s presence on the team. Will it be a step in the right direction?
Williams in 2017:
|Points Scoring Rounds||20/40|
|Double Points Scoring Rounds||3/40|
#18 LANCE STROLL
He may have paid his way into the sport, but Lance Stroll’s racing CV is as respectable as those without the money. After a steady first season, can the Canadian step up as Williams’ team leader in 2018?
Having crashed his car multiple times in winter testing in 2017, the rookie went into the season already being billed as the ‘next Maldonado’. Flash forward four races, and Stroll was yet to finish a Grand Prix, partly due to poor reliability. Things began to change as he scored his first points on home soil in Montreal, then scored one of the shock results of the season – a podium finish on a memorable afternoon in Azerbaijan. He scored points at seven races and started on the front row in Monza, becoming the youngest ever driver to do so. His qualifying was somewhat hit and miss in his début season, but his pre-season reputation as the new crash king didn’t prevail as only one of his retirements in 2017 was due to his own fault.
After silencing some of his doubters in 2017, 2018 is all about unlocking the potential which Lance Stroll showed in his maiden season. As the team’s de facto number one driver, he needs to up his game in Qualifying and will need to be competitive against his rookie team-mate.
LANCE STROLL IN 2017
#35 SERGEY SIIROTKIN
In 2018, Sergey Sirotkin becomes the third Russian driver to compete in Formula One. Lining up as one of two rookies on the grid, the former GP2 racer will be keen to impress in his maiden season.
Sirotkin returned to the GP2 series – now called Formula Two – for just one round in 2017, replacing the injured Alexander Albon at the Azerbaijan round of the championship. He finished a respectable tenth and fourth in the two races. His racing commitments were few in 2017, though he did compete in his début 24 Hours of Le Mans, in the LMP2 class. He also made four Formula One outings during Friday practice with the Renault team, who had signed him up as their reserve driver in 2016.
Sergey Sirotkin now follows in the footsteps of compatriots Vitaly Petrov and Daniil Kvyat, becoming the third Russian driver to compete at the pinnacle of motorsport. He’ll drive for Williams in 2018, having impressed the team at a post-season test in 2017. His place is in part due to the money he can bring to the team, but Sirotkin’s career in the junior formulae proves that he is deserving of the seat.
After winning two championships in the mid-noughties, Renault returned to the sport in 2016 following a five year absence. With a strong driver line-up the team is definitely pushing to move towards the front of the grid.
At the start of 2017, it seemed as if Renault had lost direction. Team Principal Frederic Vasseur left the team, along with Kevin Magnussen, who cited a lack of commitment from the team as his reason for leaving. Their 2017 driver line-up was made up of Nico Hulkenberg and Jolyon Palmer, with the latter failing to score until a chaotic Singapore Grand Prix. It is without question that the Renault package improved over the season, though reliability struggles in the latter stages prevented Hulkenberg and Palmer’s replacement Carlos Sainz the opportunity to score many points.
Heading into 2018 with a strong driver line-up, Renault seem to have found their direction once more. Their target is to be battling at the front in 2019 and they need to make considerable steps forward this season if they are to achieve that. Renault have finished ahead of McLaren in the past two seasons, so keeping it that way as they begin to supply the British team with engines should be a priority.
Renault in 2017:
|Points Scoring Rounds||10/40|
|Double Points Scoring Rounds||0/20|
#27 NICO HULKENBERG
It seems strange that the man who excelled at every junior series he competed in is now the man with the most F1 starts to not score a podium finish. Nico Hulkenberg is well respected for his speed and racecraft, and he’ll surely be hoping to get that maiden rostrum finish in 2018.
Nico Hulkenberg carried the Renault team for much of the 2017 season, and was their only points scorer up until the Singapore round of the championship. He trounced his team-mate Jolyon Palmer in Qualifying, and was only beaten by his team-mate on a Saturday on two occasions over the year. With a car that was still somewhere off the pace, Hulkenberg became the driver with the most F1 starts to never finish on the podium.
In 2018, Renault will be continuing their charge up the order. Hulkenberg is likely to face a bigger challenge with his team-mate this season, as Carlos Sainz embarks on his first full year with the team. Will the German remain the team’s number one?
NICO HULKENBERG IN 2017
#55 CARLOS SAINZ
After a glittering career in the lower ranks, Carlos Sainz delivered when he joined Formula One in 2015. Stepping out of the shadows of his famous namesake father and his former team-mate Max Verstappen, Sainz is looking to pave his way to victory in his first full season with Renault.
It was a similar story for Carlos Sainz in 2017 as he scored the majority of Toro Rosso’s points, with brilliant displays in changeable weather conditions in Shanghai and Singapore. A fourth place finish in Singapore is the best result of his career to date. After persistent rumours, Sainz finally moved to Renault ahead of the U.S. Grand Prix, where he was on par with Nico Hulkenberg from his first weekend at the team. There were a few moments of silliness from Sainz in 2017, though. A race ending crash with Lance Stroll at the pit exit in Bahrain was deemed to be his fault, while his last outing with Toro Rosso ended in the gravel on the first lap.
Sainz could become the finished product in 2018. His qualifying pace may be one of few question marks heading into the season. If he can refrain from errors over the course of the season, it will be interesting to see how he compares to his experienced Renault team-mate.
CARLOS SAINZ IN 2017
Existing as a proving ground for Red Bull’s young drivers, Toro Rosso has seen plenty of talent pass through its door since the team was founded in 2006. The team walks into the unknown with new engine partner Honda in 2018.
It was another year of mixing up driver line-ups for Toro Rosso in 2017. Starting the season with Kvyat and Sainz, the team ended with Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley, as Kvyat was dropped from the Red Bull driver programme, and Sainz moved to Renault. Before he left, Sainz scored the best result of his career – a fourth place in Singapore – the team’s best result since 2008. Despite their new drivers facing terrible reliability issues in the final races of the season, the team managed to hold on to seventh for the fourth season in a row. Ironically, Kvyat, on his one-off return in America, scored the team’s only point from the last six rounds.
Toro Rosso have a new engine partner for 2018 – Honda. Hartley and Gasly will remain with the team, as they look to prove themselves worthy of a seat at the pinnacle of motorsport. The loss of Sainz – their main points scorer for the last two seasons – could hit the team hard, and Honda’s history of bad reliability may not allow the new pairing to get a chance to flourish. On the other hand, Toro Rosso become an effective works team this season, as the only team Honda are supplying with engines. If the Japanese manufacturer have finally found a winning formula, the Italian team could be a wild card for 2018.
Toro Rosso in 2017:
|Points Scoring Rounds||12/40|
|Double Points Scoring Rounds||2/20|
#10 PIERRE GASLY
The 2015 GP2 Champion was made to wait for his F1 opportunity, but it finally came late last year as Toro Rosso shuffled their driver line-up around. Heading into his first full season with the team, can Pierre Gasly live up to the high standard of results he’s delivered in the junior formulae?
With no places available at the Toro Rosso team, Pierre Gasly was forced to have a year on the sidelines in 2017, but still raced in the Japanese Super Formula series. After months of persistent rumours, Gasly made his F1 début at the 2017 Malaysian Grand Prix with Toro Rosso, replacing Daniil Kvyat. He stayed for just two races before jetting off to Japan to compete in the final round of the Super Formula season, where he was still in title contention. The trip was ultimately a wasted journey, as the race meeting was cancelled due to bad weather. Gasly finished all the F1 Grands Prix he started in 2017, with a best finish of twelfth at the Brazilian Grand Prix.
2018 will be a learning curve for the young Frenchman, who partners fellow rookie Brendon Hartley at the Toro Rosso team. The car will be fitted with a Honda engine for 2018, which, given the manufacturer’s reliability record, could be a challenge in itself. Hopefully Gasly will get the opportunity to score his first F1 points and put in solid performances across his maiden season.
PIERRE GASLY IN 2017
#28 BRENDON HARTLEY
Booted out of the Red Bull driver clan in 2010, Brendon Hartley returned with a Le Mans win and a World Endurance Championship title under his belt in 2017. Now embarking on his first full season in Formula One with Toro Rosso, will Hartley prove he’s deserving of a second chance?
Brendon Hartley’s call up to F1 came as somewhat of a surprise to everyone, including himself. He was offered a drive at the U.S. Grand Prix with Toro Rosso, the team he had been sacked from seven years previously. Hartley duly accepted the offer and became the ninth driver from New Zealand to start a Formula One race, and the first since 1984. While he showed that he was capable of the job, the lack of reliability from the car’s engine didn’t really let Hartley show his true potential in the last four rounds of the 2017 season.
For 2018, Hartley, alongside his similarly inexperienced team-mate, will have Honda power. Hopefully the Japanese manufacturer will allow the Kiwi to put in competitive showings in his first full F1 season.
BRENDON HARTLEY IN 2017
Formula One’s presence in America has been increased thanks to the arrival of the American Haas team in 2016. A midfield running team in their first two seasons, the team could face an uphill battle in 2018.
Kevin Magnussen joined the team for 2017, and his points perhaps masked the team’s slip in performance. Magnussen scored nineteen points over 2017, compared to Guiterrez’s zero in 2016. Overall, the team scored eighteen more points than in 2016, so it’s questionable whether those extra points were down to a better car or a better driver line-up. It was, at times, a difficult sophomore season, but the team seemed to be more at grasp with their car. The opening round of the season was one of the highlights, as Grosjean scored the team’s best ever qualifying result with sixth place, while Brazil was a low point, with both drivers crashing through their own errors on the first lap.
After their second season, it’s hard to judge what the future will hold for the Haas team. McLaren and Renault will, most likely, be out of reach for the American team in 2018, so Haas may find themselves with only Toro Rosso and Sauber for company towards the rear of the grid.
Haas in 2017:
|Points Scoring Rounds||13/40|
|Double Points Scoring Rounds||2/20|
#8 ROMAIN GROSJEAN
Handed a second chance in 2012, Romain Grosjean was hit and miss in his comeback season. Flash forward six years and he’s a multiple podium finisher and a team leader figure at the new Haas team. Will his 2018 performance put him in line for a top tier drive?
The driver of car number eight finished in the points on eight occasions in 2017, but Romain Grosjean never reached the heights of Haas’ impressive early 2016 race pace. A best ever qualifying of sixth at the Australian Grand Prix was the highlight. More often than not the Frenchman could be heard complaining on the team radio due to frustrations with his car, but nevertheless he maintained his team leader status, beating Kevin Magnussen more often than not.
During the off season, Grosjean welcomed a new baby into his family and, along with his wife, released a cookbook. Will he be cooking up a storm in 2018 as he feeds his hunger for more points?
ROMAIN GROSJEAN IN 2017
#20 KEVIN MAGNUSSEN
A podium on début was a false dawn for Kevin Magnussen when he reached Formula One, as he’s never reached those heights again. Dropped by McLaren after one season, his career was salvaged by Renault, before the Dane moved to Haas in 2017.
Kevin Magnussen picked up a bad boy image in 2017, colliding with four rivals over the course of the year. He opened his season with a crash with Marcus Ericsson and then crashed with Daniil Kvyat in Spain, Fernando Alonso in Malaysia and most notably Nico Hulkenberg in Hungary, which led to an interesting confrontation between the pair post-race. At times when the Haas car was struggling, Magnussen held things together better than team-mate Romain Grosjean, such as in Azerbaijan where the Dane finished a season-best seventh. His season also had a trio of strong eighth place finishes.
For the first time, Magnussen starts his second season with a team. In 2018, he needs to be less reckless to really take the fight to his more experienced team-mate.
KEVIN MAGNUSSEN IN 2017
Changing fortunes have seen the once mighty McLaren team struggle near the back of the grid for the past three seasons. Now McLaren have escaped their doomed Honda partnership, can their new engine supplier return them to the top of the sport in 2018?
It was a year of yet more disappointment for McLaren in 2017 as Honda once again failed to deliver, leading to a breakdown in relations between the team and the engine manufacturer. There were, as we’ve come to expect, some highlights from Alonso – setting the fastest lap in Q1 at Silverstone and setting the fastest race lap on his way to sixth in Budapest. Honda’s unreliability meant that McLaren were dogged by grid penalties for an overuse of engine parts from as early as the fourth round of the season. The beginning of the end for the McLaren Honda partnership was clear from the very beginning of winter testing in 2017, and so it transpired over the Singapore Grand Prix weekend, as McLaren announced a new partnership with Renault for 2018.
Predicting where McLaren will finish the 2018 season is a difficult task. ‘The best chassis’ is a claim that had been thrown around a lot by the team in recent seasons, and the true test of that will come this season. If the Renault engine settles in the McLaren with little teething trouble, there should be no reason why the Woking-based team won’t challenge Red Bull in the Constructors’ Championship. Fernando Alonso is already talking up his chances of winning the championship.
McLaren in 2017:
|Points Scoring Rounds||8/40|
|Double Points Scoring Rounds||1/20|
#14 FERNANDO ALONSO
Despite having not won a title since the mid noughties, Fernando Alonso is fast becoming a motorsport legend. Hampered by an unreliable and uncompetitive car for the past three seasons, the Spaniard looks to race at the front once again in 2018.
Given an opportunity, Fernando Alonso delivered in 2017; but he was given far too few opportunities. A memorable on-track battle with Hamilton in Mexico proved he still had it, as did Hungary where he set the fastest lap of the race on his way to finishing sixth. Setting the fastest lap in Q1 at Silverstone, albeit due to being on the right tyre at the right time, was also one of the highlights. Another highlight could have been Singapore where he made his way to third at the first corner, but was then shunted out of the race by an out of control Max Verstappen.
People were talking about Alonso again in 2017, but not always because of F1. He was kept happy by competing in the Indy 500. While he was competitive, he was ironically forced to retire due to a Honda engine failure.
Fernando Alonso spent the off-season competing in the Daytona 24 Hours race. This season, he’ll be juggling his McLaren duties with a seat at Toyota in the World Endurance Championship, where he’ll get the opportunity to tick off the second goal on his Triple Crown list – the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In F1, with McLaren’s new engine partner Renault, the Spaniard is hopeful of a return to the top end of the grid. Alonso will overtake Button and Schumacher to become the second most experienced F1 driver in the sports history in 2018. Will McLaren’s performance gains be enough to convince him to stay for more seasons?
FERNANDO ALONSO IN 2017
#2 STOFFEL VANDOORNE
After breaking records in GP2, Stoffel Vandoorne scored points on his one-off F1 début in 2016. He finally stepped up to a full-time drive in 2017, where he showed glimpses of why he’s so highly regarded. Will McLaren’s new engine partner allow the Belgian driver to battle further up the field in 2018?
In 2016, Vandoorne deputised for the injured Fernando Alonso at the 2016 Bahrain Grand Prix, where he scored his first F1 point, and the McLaren team’s first point of the season. For the rest of the year he combined his McLaren commitments with a season in Japan’s Super Formula, winning two races on his way to fourth in the championship. At the 2016 Italian Grand Prix, it was announced that Vandoorne would be replacing Jenson Button for the 2017 season.
With a team-mate like Fernando Alonso, it was always going to be a difficult task for Stoffel Vandoorne to consistently impress over his maiden season. Nevertheless, Vandoorne’s improvement over the course of the year didn’t go unnoticed. The qualifying margin to his champion team-mate was just two tenths on average, and he scored just four points less than the Spaniard by the end of the season. His two crashes in Monaco and his collision with Felipe Massa in Spain were mere blots on an otherwise solid form book, in a maiden season where he finished seventh twice in an under-performing car. With any luck, McLaren will provide Vandoorne with a car and engine package in 2018 which is more capable of showing his highly rated race craft.
STOFFEL VANDOORNE IN 2017
With just one win to their name over their 25 year history, the Sauber team enter 2018 with the latest Ferrari engine, a new partnership with Alfa Romeo and a renewed sense of optimism.
In 2017, as they celebrated 25 years of being in the sport, Sauber hoped to move up the grid and be challenging in the midfield. Monisha Kaltenborn left her role as Team Principal and was replaced by Frédéric Vasseur during the season. It was always set to be a difficult task with year-old Ferrari engines, and at the start of the season, when they were theoretically more competitive, they were without their only points scorer – Pascal Wehrlein – due to injury. Wehrlein amassed five points for the team from two rounds, while Marcus Ericsson failed to score.
Sauber were set to become Honda’s partners in 2018, until Vasseur essentially ripped up the contract on his first day at the team. Sauber have been in a no man’s land in recent seasons but 2018 could be the year where that changes. The team will benefit from having current-spec Ferrari engines this year, and a new sponsorship deal with Alfa Romeo. The highly regarded reigning F2 champion Charles Leclrc will join the team alongside Ericsson as the duo start their mission to move the Sauber team into the mid-field.
Sauber in 2017:
|Points Scoring Rounds||2/40|
|Double Points Scoring Rounds||0/20|
#9 MARCUS ERICSSON
Marcus Ericsson’s four seasons in Formula One have brought him more penalty points than World Championship points. His budget finds him staying at Sauber for another year, where hopefully the team will be more competitive and the Swede can show what he’s made of.
Marcus Ericsson was the only driver who was at every race in 2017 to not score points through the whole season. He suffered an embarrassing crash in Monaco under Safety Car conditions and while better showings in Azerbaijan and Mexico saw him on for points finishes, outside circumstances cost him the opportunity. Nevertheless, the Swede fared better against Mercedes junior Pascal Wehrlein than many had expected him to.
Ericsson has scored two more penalty points than World Championship points during his time in Formula One. He holds on to his seat at Sauber for a fourth season, mainly for financial reasons rather than through talent. Hopefully he’ll have the machinery to prove his worth in 2018 and be able to score his first points since the 2015 Italian Grand Prix.
MARCUS ERICSSON IN 2017
#16 CHARLES LECLERC
Charles Leclerc joins the F1 pack this year after a record breaking season in F2 in 2017. It seems a matter of when, not if, this Ferrari Young Driver will take his place at the legendary Italian team. Will 2018 be a rookie season to remember?
No rookie had won Formula One’s main support series since Nico Hulkenberg in 2009, and very few – not even the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg – have set the records which Charles did in the 2017 season. Leclerc has the self belief, but lacks outright arrogance. He believes he’s good enough for the top tier of motor racing but, as his past teams have commented, wants to know how to improve even if a weekend runs perfectly. He is entirely focussed on pushing himself and getting better. He regularly works with psychologists from the Ferrari Driving Academy to better himself on track. All of these qualities are likely to see him go far in Formula One.
He chose his birthday, 16, as his race number after his first two choices – 7 and 10 – were already taken by competitors. He will be the first Monagasque driver in F1 since Olivier Beretta in 1994. We’ve seen exciting drivers come through the ranks before and had careers which amounted to very little in Formula One, but there is a real air of excitement around Leclerc, and there seems to be the belief that this is a driver who could define his generation.
After graduating in 2015 with a First Class honours degree in English Language and Literature, Nicky Haldenby, a lifelong fan of Formula 1, founded the Lights Out F1 Blog in 2016. The blog has become a firm fan-favourite, delving deep into the sport’s history books and lifting the cover on unusual F1 statistics.
Nicky also writes at F1Destinations and Motorsport Guides and can be heard as the resident stats man on the 2 Soft Compounds Podcast. His work has appeared on WTF1, BadgerGP, motorsport.com, Sky Sports F1 and BBC Radio 5 Live. Nicky is also the host of the F1 Rewind Podcast.