F1 season preview

With the first release dates for the unveiling of the 2017 cars now known, it seems appropriate to take stock on last year’s sensational F1 Championship. 2016 gave us a new World Champion in Nico Rosberg. It saw the rise of Max Verstappen and the introduction of new stars such as Stoffel Vandoorne, and bade farewell to two former stars, Felipe Massa and Jenson Button. It also saw the return of Renault as a constructor and welcomed a new team, Haas.

Just days after the end of the season, Rosberg announced his retirement from the sport, ending his three-year battle with teammate Lewis Hamilton. Rosberg put his heart and soul into beating Hamilton, so now he has nothing left to prove. Hamilton was undeniably the faster driver over their time as teammates, but Rosberg was the deserving champion in 2016.

Rosberg’s decision came just a matter of months after signing a new deal to remain with the Mercedes Team until 2018 at least, so the news came as a major surprise and left the constructor in turmoil and needing a replacement. As expected, Valtteri Bottas has been chosen as Rosberg’s replacement. Bottas was essentially the only option for Mercedes, as Red Bull stated that they would refuse to sell any of their drivers, and the frustrated Sebastien Vettel is contracted to Ferrari until the end of next year. Toto Wolff, head of the Mercedes Team, manages several drivers on the grid: Esteban Ocon, Pascal Wehrlein. But Ocon has been signed by Force India, and Wehrlein, despite his natural speed, has proved difficult to work with.

Bottas left Williams in a difficult position. The team’s main sponsor, Martini, requires a racing driver over the age of 25-years-old in order to fulfil their marketing scheme. Lance Stroll, Williams’ new driver for 2017, is just 19. As a result, Felipe Massa, having had an emotional send off at his home Grand Prix at Interlagos, is returning to the team.

One team that may not return is Manor Racing. The popular minnows, for whom Pascal Wehrlein scored a point in Austria, are entering administration for the second time. They missed out on 10th in the championship after Sauber driver Felipe Nasr finished 9th in the penultimate round scoring two points.

This meant that Manor lost $10 million in extra funding. Heralded as Mercedes’ protégé, Wehrlein has had to sign for Sauber to continue his career.


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January 2022
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