A new season and a fresh start to the world of Formula 1. With some quite dramatic regulation changes for 2017, and with a startling new direction in F1 leadership, there is going to be a big year ahead. To help you get your head around all the differences as well as the winter break headlines, here’s your helpful guide to F1 2017.
The overall effect to the cars is to make them look more aggressive. They’ll be wider and heavier, with much wider tyres and a lower rear wing. And the changes aren’t just for the aesthetic (although they are rumoured to look very good), their combined effects will make the cars over three seconds quicker a lap and far more difficult to drive. These changes have been well received by many of the drivers who have complained that driving a 2016 car didn’t require them to give their absolute all as cars had in the past.
Although there will be no difference to the hybrid engines, the cost of them will go down by €1 million for 2017, with further reductions in the coming years. The convoluted engine tokens system has been scrapped but each driver will have only four engines per season rather than five.
Probably the biggest story from the off season has been the takeover of F1 by Liberty Media. In their first few weeks alone they have managed to do what has long seemed the impossible- ended the 40 year reign of F1 puppet master Bernie Ecclestone. He now holds only an honorary position, with Chase Carey becoming CEO and Ross Brawn, former technical director, team principal and team owner brought back as the new Motorsport Managing Director. Along with Sean Bratches, Commercial Operations Managing Director, the new team aims to make some major differences to F1 as a whole.
Some of their initial targets include expanding the calendar, giving race weekends a more festival-like atmosphere and vastly increase F1’s digital and social media presence. Looking to the future, Liberty wants to create more consensus and democracy, as well as having an aspirational target to close up the field. It will remain to be seen how much of Liberty’s agenda will be implemented, especially as many of Ecclestone’s deals with the teams and circuits will stay in place for many years to come. However, for many Ecclestone’s approach was backwards and lacked vision for the future so it will be interesting to see if new blood will be able to solve any of F1’s problems.
Team Personnel changes
The F1 paddock has lost more than just Bernie Ecclestone, Nico Rosberg and Jenson Button for 2017. Jost Capito was only CEO at McLaren for four months before leaving amid boardroom battles which have also resulted in Ron Dennis’s contract as CEO of the McLaren Group not being renewed.
In terms of the technical director merry-go-round, Pat Symonds has left Williams with Paddy Lowe expected to come into the team in the spring when his gardening leave from Mercedes expires. It is thought that he will be a shareholder and have overall technical control over the Advanced Engineering business as well as the team. James Allison, who has been on gardening leave from Ferrari since last July, is expected to start work at Mercedes in the summer.
Renault team principal Frederic Vasseur has also stepped down from his position over the winter, with no like for like replacement coming in.
After competing in F1 for six years, the Manor team went into administration at the end of January and most likely will not be on the grid in 2017, as several potential attempts to save the team fell through. Formally known as Virgin and Marussia, the team outlived the HRT and Caterham teams who entered the sport in the same year and folded in 2012 and 2014 respectively. Things had been looking up for the team in recent years, with points finishes in both 2014 and 2016. In addition, in 2015 Manor was 3.427% off the pace of the next best team; in 2016 that was cut down to 0.262%. And it’s not as if the team haven’t been in this position before. At the end of 2014 staff were laid off before businessman Stephen Fitzpatrick saved the team, but this time it seems as if there is just not enough time for Manor to be saved.