In the first of this two part list I outlined the first half of my favourite stories from 2017. In a year with so many plot twists and highlights it was hard to pick my top five, but hopefully you’ll agree these are the some of the most significant stories to emerge this year.
If you’ve not already, check out the first part of this blog here: The motorsport headlines of 2017 so far- Part 1
5. LMP1 on the edge
When Audi bowed out of the WEC premier class at the end of 2016, it was the beginning of the end for LMP1. The big story from Le Mans was the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECA leading the race at the beginning of the penultimate hour and all six LMP1 cars having encountered problems. Only the #2 Porsche made it to the end of the 24 hours, and on to victory. In recent weeks Porsche has announced its withdrawal from the class, leaving the possibility of Toyota battling on alone or possibly the end of the system as we know it. Without two manufacturers LMP1 runs the risk of losing its world championship status and the WEC faces the prospect of adapt or die.
What didn’t happen at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix? It was a race that will be remembered far beyond the conclusion of the season. We had the championship leaders brawling as Sebastian Vettel deliberately banged wheels with rival Lewis Hamilton for perceived brake testing, Lance Stroll taking a podium in a season of woe and Valtteri Bottas pulling off a Button-in-Canada-2011-esque feat of going from lapped to second. McLaren finally achieved its first points of the season, tension built at Force India and Sauber as the respective team-mates made contact and Hamilton bizarrely lost the race to a badly affixed headrest.
- Alonso’s Indy adventure
In April McLaren took the world by storm when it announced that Fernando Alonso would be missing the Monaco Grand Prix to compete at the Indianapolis 500. Even though opinions were mixed as to whether Alonso should be allowed to skip the most prestigious event on the F1 calendar, over two million people tuned in simply to watch his private test in the McLaren Honda Andretti car. However Alonso’s bid to win motorsport’s coveted triple crown progressed no further as (a tad ironically for a man trying to escape from his Honda engine woes in F1) his engine failed in the closing stages of the race. This should take nothing away Alonso’s performance as the Spaniard had shown himself to be on the pace throughout the event and was running in sixth place at the time of his retirement.
- Kubica’s fairytale return
In the almost seven years since Robert Kubica last drove an F1 car in earnest, F1 fans worldwide had as good as given up on the hope that the Pole would ever fight his way back onto the grid after his life threatening rally accident in 2011. But amazingly, 18 operations and bucket loads of determination later, Kubica seems to have a real chance of getting back into F1. The fervour surrounding ‘ #kubicaday’ -as social media termed the second day of the Hungarian in-season test- shows how he is still regarded by many as one of the greats. Kubica still has a lot to prove for a man once mentioned in the same breath as Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton but to even make a starting grid would establish him as a legend. If Kubica does end up sitting in a Renault in 2018 it could well be regarded as one of the world’s greatest comebacks and if his lap times so far are any indication, that could be much more than a pipe dream.
- The fall of Bernie’s reign
You’d be forgiven for forgetting that 2017 dawned with a certain Bernie Ecclestone still calling the shots in the F1 circus. Despite those who warned F1 would flounder without the octogenarian puppet master, on the surface life seems to have go on relatively uninterrupted. In the eight months that have passed Liberty Media have had a chance to increase their social media presence and the accessibility of the series. When Nico Hulkenberg won Le Mans in 2015 Ecclestone reacted by ensuring that in 2016 the 24 hour race clashed with an F1 race, effectively putting an end to drivers competing in more than one series. When Alonso wanted to have a go at Indianapolis 500 Liberty not only allowed him to skip a race for it but made use of it as an opportunity to raise the profile of both series. What happened in London in July would never have occurred with Bernie in charge and no one can disagree that it was an unmitigated success. The buck has passed on from ringmaster to ringmaster with more of a fizzle than the bang that had been for years anticipated. There’s new blood in F1 and that’s quite possibly for the better.