Eleven (11) races have gone by in the highly contested 71st season of the Formula 1 and as there is the summer break on at the moment, there’s no better time to review the highs and lows of the season so far than right now.
There have been extremely fast cars, different winners, controversy and of course, very talented drivers on the grids this year and this season has brought to fore a very keen contest between major car makers and top drivers. Here are some of the major highlights of the season so far.
TOP CLASS MACHINES
Where else to start than the real stars of the sport, the race cars. There were strong fears about the introduction of wider cars in the 2017 season of the Formula 1 as pundits thought it would reduce the chances of overtaking and consequently give an advantage to drivers who qualify fastest.
Surprisingly, the new cars have etched up in terms of speed and there’s still the dexterity on the grid. A perfect example is the case of Max Verstappen in the Chinese GP who climbed 13 places from 16th to 3rd in just the first lap. That’s the definition of overtaking and now we wonder what we were scared about.
The unpredictable nature of this season’s Formula 1 winners has created a fine spectacle for followers of the sport as there hasn’t been a clear favourite going into each of the races. It is worthy of note that although Ferrari and Mercedes are the top dogs on the grids, there have been different winners at different races.
There were 3 different winners in the first four races this season with season favourites, Hamilton and Vettel being joined by the high flying Mercedes driver, Valterie Bottas as early winners in the Formula. There was also Red Bull’s Daniel Riccardio stepping up especially in Azerbaijan making it four drivers in the mix for the driver’s title. There have been consistent pole and podium finishes also for Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen.
Going into Azerbaijan there was the feeling of friendly rivalry between the top two drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Sébastien Vettel, which some say needed some spark to add to an already interesting grid rivalry. The pair seemed to be enjoying the wheel to wheel battle until Vettel saw red in Baku after deliberately bashing the Mercedes driver whom he thought had break checked him just moments earlier.
Vettel was duly handed a 10 seconds penalty by the race stewards but after the chequered flag, many argued that the penalty was not harsh enough leading to the Ferrari driver facing a disciplinary panel at the FIA. He was given a slap on the wrist and the matter was put to bed.
Vettel subsequently apologized to Hamilton who had been very pissed about the FIA rulings. As much as there was the back and forth as to the severity of the punishment Sebastian Vettel got from Baku, the whole controversy got everyone interested and talking about the Formula 1.
DON’T FORGET THE ROOKIES
No one is allowed to, of course. With Force India looking likely to finish fourth in the constructor’s championship, they have more than their fast cars and the consistent Sergio Perez to thank as new-comer Esteban Ocon has got tongues wagging in and out of the paddock.
20-year-old Ocon is only the 4th rookie to get points by finishing in the top ten in his first five races in the Formula 1. He has followed that up with top ten finishes in Canada, Azerbaijan, Austria and the UK.
Also doing very well is 18-year-old Williams driver Lance Stroll who was brought in to replace Felipe Massa but has ended up driving alongside the Brazilian after the exit of Valerie Bottas to Mercedes.
Stroll is the second youngest podium finisher in the history of the Formula 1 as he came third in Baku. He has also scored points in Canada and Austria
The unfortunate case of Fernando Alonso and his McLaren-Honda team has been a pitiful sight to see as the two-time world champion has struggled to get laps on his car, race after race, leading to serious speculation as to if and where he would be driving next season in the Formula 1.
There has been the question of outright retirement from the grids but with the possible exit of one of the Ferrari drivers at the end of the season, it might just be an unforeseen opportunity to return to familiar grounds.
There has also been the talk of a move to Mercedes to reunite with former rookie team-mate, Lewis Hamilton, whom Alonso had a bitter clash of words and interests in their time at McLaren Mercedes which ended in the rookie finishing 2nd behind Kimi Raikkonen and Alonso finishing third, a place behind his rookie team mate and their team, McLaren, being thrown out of the constructor’s championship for 2007.
VERY TOUGH AT THE BOTTOM
Sauber and Fernando Alonso’s McLaren hold the unsavoury record of still not winning a point in the Formula 1 this season and have not even made Q3. This effectively keeps them rooted to the bottom of the Constructor’s championship
In a season where pundits and followers alike were looking to see real competition for points and places coupled with excitement in the Formula 1, the cars and the drivers seem to be living it up to everyone.
The Formula 1 is back in Belgium for the Belgian GP on August 27.