As the Formula 1 paddock breaks up for the summer and the third Formula E season draws to a close it seems an ideal time to look back over the biggest motorsport stories to make the headlines this year. It’s been seven months of drama, thrills and sheer brilliance and 2017 certainly hasn’t been afraid of throwing in a surprise or twenty. While this compilation is by no means exhaustive it is my opinion of the biggest stories, and their impact on motorsport as a whole. Hold on to your hats, we live in exciting times.
- Leclerc’s F2 dominance
Reigning GP3 champion Charles Leclerc has taken a commanding lead of this year’s F2 championship with five wins and six pole positions and has a 50 point lead over best-of-the-rest Oliver Rowland with eight races left to go. The Ferrari junior driver academy member has also topped the timing sheets at the F1 in-season test at Hungary and it looks set that the team will find the young Monegasque a well deserved seat on the 2018 grid.
- Buemi lets the Formula E championship slip away
At the halfway point of the season it seemed absolutely inconceivable that Sebastian Buemi would do anything but walk the championship. He’d taken five out of six victories and held a 43 point advantage over his closest rival Lucas di Grassi. But a timetable clash with his WEC commitments caused him to miss the New York rounds of the championship and two disqualifications in the latter half of the season left him with an 18 point deficit he was unable to turn around in the final race. A third different champion in the three years of Formula E is good for the championship but Buemi must feel that luck just wasn’t on his side.
- A three way F1 title fight emerges
After three years of the title fight being a Mercedes -only zone, it seemed too good to be true when Ferrari seemed to be able to match their pace in pre-season testing. But true it was and in the 11 races since the Hamilton/Vettel battle has developed nicely. What people maybe didn’t expect was that Valtteri Bottas would plant himself so firmly in the mix. As things stand he is only 33 points behind championship leader Sebastian Vettel and the Finn is only improving as he adapts to the Mercedes machinery.
- Toyota’s WRC success
Toyota was not expected to do well in its first year back in the World Rally Championship since 1999. Over the winter the team had weathered a storm of criticism and commentators had written the year off as a steep learning curve. But a podium first time out in Monte-Carlo and then a win for Jari-Matti Latvala in Sweden proved the doubters very wrong. Their results may have tailed off a little since then but a further two podiums puts Latvala fourth in the championship and a spectacular Rally Finland for the team concluded with Esapekka Lappi taking his maiden victory at his home event. For a team and car pulled together in ten months, Toyota is defying all expectations.
- The introduction of the halo
The FIA controversially decided to introduce the halo cockpit protection concept in 2018 after toying with other designs throughout the year. Both drivers and fans are split over the idea, despite the increase in safety and the possibility that it could save lives. Critics centre their arguments on the ugly aesthetics of the halo, as well as the move away from the DNA of open-wheeled racing. The decision has been a long time coming- research into cockpit protection has been going on since 2009- and whatever people think about it now, drivers in the future might just thank them for it.