Although there is only one true rookie on the F1 grid in 2017, that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been a huge amount of change to the driver line ups. Only three teams remain unchanged (Ferrari, Red Bull and Toro Rosso) and only Ferrari goes into 2017 with the same drivers that it began 2016 with.
Mercedes– Lewis Hamilton
Hamilton enters his fifth year with the team, and will be hoping that Mercedes continue to have the advantage that allowed him to take two world championships. After losing out last year to teammate Nico Rosberg he’ll be even more hungry for success and resolute in proving his dominance over his new teammate. There were moments during 2016 where his relationship with Mercedes seemed to sour but they will still be Hamilton’s best bet for success.
Mercedes– Valtteri Bottas
When Nico Rosberg made the shock announcement that he would be retiring from F1 just five days after winning the drivers’ championship, all the drivers were clamouring to climb into a Mercedes. But it soon became clear that Bottas was the front runner for the seat with his wealth of experience with a Mercedes engine, Williams’ openness to releasing Bottas from his contract and his obvious racing talent all coming into play. 2017 will be a huge challenge for him as he strives to prove himself as not just good but a great.
Red Bull– Daniel Ricciardo
As he begins his fourth year at the Red Bull senior team, Ricciardo will be getting impatient for a real shot at the championship. The regulation changes of 2017 might be his best opportunity for some time, but he has to watch out for Max Verstappen usurping his moment.
Red Bull– Max Verstappen
Verstappen’s first full year in the Red Bull team will be an opportunity to really show them what he is made of and to fight for a higher championship position. If his 2017 turns out to be anywhere near as exciting as last year he is definitely the one to watch.
Ferrari– Sebastian Vettel
After a disappointing 2016, Vettel will be hoping for another chance to herald the Ferrari resurgence. After showing promise in 2015, the team seemed to go backwards last year and failed to win any races. Hopefully Vettel’s frustration at his lack of results will propel him on rather than be a cause of friction between himself and the team.
Ferrari– Kimi Raikkonen
Ferrari has chosen to retain Raikkonen for another season, despite speculation for several years now that they would be better going for a younger driver. However there are plenty of reasons to keep him. He’s very reliable, a known quantity and gets on well with Sebastian Vettel. He’s also, not to be forgotten, still very fast.
Williams– Lance Stroll
Stroll was originally signed as Felipe Massa’s replacement although he’s now ended up partnering Massa himself. He is the reigning European F3 champion and although there is talk of how his family’s money has impacted his career, he has proved himself as a very talented racer and took his title whilst competing against a lot of highly rated drivers.
Williams– Felipe Massa
When Massa made his emotional farewell to the Brazilian fans less than three months ago he never expected that he would still actually be in F1 in 2017. But with alcohol sponsors putting pressure on the team to pick an older driver to partner eighteen year old Lance Stroll, Massa was the most talented driver available that fitted the requirements. He’ll just get to say goodbye all over again at the end of the year.
Force India– Sergio Perez
After a brief flirtation with Renault, Perez has decided to remain at Force India for another year, making it his fourth season at the team. Perez was an important factor in Force India achieving their best ever constructors position in 2016 and the team will be glad to have his talent for another year.
Force India– Estaban Ocon
Although he has only half a season’s experience under his belt, Force India chose Ocon over his more experienced Manor teammate Pascal Wehrlein. Although often outqualified by Wehrlein, he outperformed him in the races, helped by his teammate’s high number of DNFs. 2017 is his opportunity to prove himself in a team closer to the front of the grid.
McLaren– Fernando Alonso
Alonso is now entering his third year of his second stint with the McLaren team and there has been significant improvement from when he first joined. Whether the improvements are enough for Alonso, in his final year of his contract, is the important question. He may well decide that his only chance of a third title is with another team, or if no suitable seat is available, to leave F1 completely.
McLaren– Stoffel Vandoorne
McLaren have had Vandoorne waiting in the wings for a couple of years and now with Jenson Button’s effective retirement he has a chance to bring some new blood to the team and play his part in returning McLaren to its championship winning ways. He fared well when he stood in for Fernando Alonso in early 2016 and won the team its first point of the year.
Toro Rosso– Carlos Sainz
Sainz has been given a rare a third year at Toro Rosso which shows the faith that Red Bull have in him. However with no sign of movement in the Red Bull team Sainz will have to impress and put himself in a strong position for finding himself a new team for 2018.
Toro Rosso– Daniil Kvyat
Kvyat has managed to get himself a reprieve and a final chance to prove himself worthy of an F1 future. After his controversial demotion back to Toro Rosso in the late spring, his confidence, and results, took a significant dip. It’s hard not to think that Kvyat will have to really shine in 2017 to save his F1 career.
Haas– Romain Grosjean
At the beginning of 2016, Grosjean’s move to the fledgling team Haas seemed inspired. Although their performance did quickly begin to drop off, he still seemed to have made the right choice. He will be hoping that the team can continue to build on their early success and help him to deliver the results he is so clearly capable of.
Haas– Kevin Magnussen
When Renault was slow to offer him a second year, Magnussen took the opportunity presented by Haas. The team should offer him a better car to demonstrate his talents and help him to build on his success at Renault and also his time at McLaren in 2014.
Renault– Nico Hulkenberg
Hulkenberg’s move to Renault is based on the belief that the team will eventually come through to a championship winning position and he will be at the head of it. However ex-team principal Frederic Vasseur was instrumental in the signing of Hulkenberg and the driver has found his departure hard to accept. This could create a rocky start to the relationship.
Renault– Jolyon Palmer
Palmer will continue to grow in his second year with the team, and will provide some continuity for Renault as they too attempt to build on the foundations created in 2016. But he’ll have to do better than the one point he achieved in 2016 to become part of the team’s long term future.
Sauber– Marcus Ericsson
Ericsson had the edge over 2016 teammate Felipe Nasr, and was retained for a third year at the team after the arrival of Sauber’s new team owners.
Sauber– Pascal Wehrlein
Although he was initially overlooked for the Force India seat, Mercedes protégée Wehrlein was not forgotten and was given the opportunity to move to Sauber for the 2017 season. Depending on the final results of this year’s silly season, there is a real chance that Wehrlein could move up to a more competitive team.