As the 2018 Formula 1 season zooms off in Melbourne, Australia, we preview the season and make our predictions for the Championship.
A NEW ERA FOR F1: Formula 1 enters its first full year of the post-Bernie Ecclestone era after its acquisition by Liberty Media for $4.4bn last year opened a new chapter for the sport, with the new chairman, Chase Carey, having talked of growing the sport, and making it more attractive, especially to the young, and fit for the modern world (change of the F1 logo, for example).
NEW RULES FOR 2018: The one change every F1 fan noticed in the 2018-spec car is the introduction of the halo – the cockpit protection device designed to further improve driver safety in the event of an accident, and in particular to deflect debris away from the head.
Teams exploited loopholes in the 2017 regulations, leading to the emergence of shark-finned engine covers and T-wings, which have been banned for 2018.
The quantity of engines a driver may use during the season was reduced from four units to three, while the range of tyre compounds, now includes the new, pink-marked hyper soft tyre and the orange-marked super hard tyre.
WHAT TO EXPECT THIS SEASON: If results from the Pre-Season tests in Barcelona are anything to go by, after seeing every car on track, and after analyzing lap times, it’s going to be an eventful season, with a lot of action in the midfield.
Ferrari may have been quickest in the Pre-Season winter testing but it is world champions Mercedes, once again, who appear to be in best shape ahead of the new Formula 1 season, despite not setting the fastest lap of either session. Taking into account the compound of tyres on which the quick lap times were set on, the Silver Arrows look to be in front with the Prancing horse and Red Bull behind (how far or close behind, we’ll soon find out).
For race pace, it looks like Mercedes hold more of an advantage there, but we’ll find out if that’s true come Melbourne…at least the top 3 teams didn’t accuse each other of sandbagging like they constantly did in last year’s tests. With an unchanged driver line-up for this season, Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull are still the “Big 3” once again this season.
Behind them, the battle in the midfield looks tight.
Haas did pretty well in the timesheets and they look the closest team to lurk behind Renault, the new ‘best of the rest’…or not.
McLaren is still upbeat, despite the hiccups suffered during the pre-season tests suffered by their Renault-powered car, which broke down on-track five times. Meanwhile, their former engine suppliers Honda are having a bright start with Toro Rosso, despite their new driver line-up.
Williams and Force India have got lots of work to do on their respective cars, as their tests were disappointing, though Force India says their full package for 2018 would be brought to Melbourne.
Sauber is hoping to get off the bottom of the table in its new partnership with Alfa, and gaining from being a sort of Ferrari junior team.
QUESTIONS SEEKING ANSWERS
- Can Ferrari banish their reliability woes of 2017 and topple Mercedes?
- Would Vettel beat Hamilton to a fifth title?
- Would there be a McLaren renaissance powered by the Renault engine?
- Would Mr. Chase and Liberty brighten the fortunes, and future, of F1?
- Who leads in the battle of the Red Bulls?
- Did Haas and Renault flatter to deceive?
- Would rookie Sergey Sirotkin prove critics wrong?
- Would the Alfa alliance help Sauber off the bottom?
Finally… Will the Halo affect racing? All these, and more, we will find out in Melbourne this weekend.
By Ekwonye Osy Ernesto