We’re 80 odd days away from the start of the new season. After last year’s somewhat bittersweet season, come March the whole circus will reset again. There’s a lot to look out for in 2018. Battles, politics and interesting stories. So without further ado, let’s take a look at things to look out for in the Formula One 2018 season.
What’s the bottom line?
Despite the lack of a major shakeup in regulations or big changes, there’s still a lot of things that make the 72nd season of F1 racing something to be excited about. Actually, there are a lot of changes that’ll take place that raises intrigue. Worry not for we have you covered. In this article, we have compiled all those things that need to keep an eye out for.
It’ll be better no, to make a list of all the changes and things of interest for next year. Here it is:
- Mercedes Vs Ferrari Vs Red Bull
- 2018 F1 cars
- Drivers to look out for
- French Grand Prix
- Driver Market
- Teams to look out for
So let’s head down to review each one of them in more detail.
Here’s the kicker:
The fans don’t like it, the drivers neither nor do the team bosses. But FIA has shoved its decision upon everyone. After facing a lot of criticism from all quarters during the years the Halo was trialed, FIA persisted with it. And in 2018, the governing body’s decision will come into effect. Halo arguably changes the DNA of the sport as it somewhat takes away the open cockpit element.
FIA’s position is also delicate in this regard, however. Following Jules Bianchi’s death followed by Justin Wilson’s, moral pressure increased on the governing body. Note that not only F1 but also a lot of open-wheel open-cockpit feeder series comes under the administration of FIA. While unfortunately, nothing could have saved Jules Bianchi given the nature of the impact, it did open up the debate about head protection.
But given the late nature of Halo’s introduction means the teams are having to struggle to incorporate it. Also, Halo adds another 14 kg to the already heavier cars meaning drivers will have to manage their weight. For example, Hulkenberg was asked by Renault in January to go on a diet for the Formula One 2018 season!
So the halo is here to stay and we fans have to accept it. The only silver lining is that fact that it’ll be incorporated into the chassis. This means it won’t be as much of an eyesore as it seemed to be during trial runs.
Want to know the best part?
Last year’s saving grace was the seesaw title fight between Mercedes and Ferrari. Although Mercedes finally prevailed but were pushed to the line by Ferrari. Ferrari’s sudden resurgence came as a shock and relief to many and expect this resurgence to continue.
Almost everyone has confirmed that the Mercedes v. Ferrari battle will continue in 2018. But to make this battle more interesting, it is expected Red Bull will join the fray too. The Milton Keynes based team started the year behind the big two. Red Bull was held back by the Renault engines but also because the Red Bull chassis was lacking. Over the course of 2017, Red Bull made great inroads into the advantage held by Ferrari and Mercedes. And this year they are going to be a lot closer if not at par right from the beginning.
In Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull has two potent drivers who can take the fight to anyone. So all eyes will be on these 3 teams as the season begins.
You might be wondering:
Well, you might be wondering why the 2018 F1 cars as a topic is on the list? Well you already know about the Halo and how it is going to radically change the look of Formula 1 cars. But besides Halo, the look of next-gen cars is also going to change drastically.
For starters, the T-Wings have been banned. So no longer do we have those double and triple layered decks to stare at. It’ll put an end to some very interesting memes as well. The T-Wings was a result of a loophole in the regulation and it was purged in the beginning itself for 2018.
Another shocker is that the Shark Fins will disappear in 2018. While some Shark Fins looked like a sheet pasted on the back of the car, some looked beautiful like Renault’s. While the majority of teams were in favour of keeping the Shark Fins on board for 2018, McLaren refused. Without 100% votes in favour, Shark Fins faced the axe. This will, along with Halo, radically change the look of the 2018 cars from 2017.
Also, reports are that Mercedes will shorten the length of W09 over the W08. Ferrari, on the other hand, is rumored to increase the length of its challenger. And both the teams are said to be copying Red Bull’s high rake concept. So we are going to see a convergence in car designs for 2018.
It gets better:
2018 is going to be very very interesting in almost every regards. One of such things is that a few drivers are worth noting this year.
The person topping this list is Max Verstappen. The boy wonder has grown from strength to strength each season. In only his 4th year he can very well be in the championship fight if Red Bull and Renault get their act together. Also worth noting would be how he fares against Ricciardo who will bring his A game in what is going to be a make or break year for the Australian.
How can a list which focuses on drivers not have Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard has added vastly to his legend in the three years with McLaren toiling in the back. And now for 2018, McLaren will get a good engine in the form of Renault. So all eyes will be on Fernando to see whether he can perform his magic on the front end of the grid. The Renault stint can build or destroy Fernando’s aura for he won’t have the ‘GP2 engine’ excuse to throw this time.
Mercedes junior Esteban Ocon is expected to raise his game too. Ocon proved to be very fast last year in what was his first full year in the sport. It’ll be exciting to watch the Frenchman battle it out with his teammate Sergio Perez. A great performance in 2018 will certainly enable Ocon to stake his claim for the Mercedes drive in 2019.
Stoffel Vandoorne has had a terrible start to F1 with woeful Honda engines. McLaren was so woeful in 2017 that Vandoorne got very little to showcase his talents. His second half of the season improved though. Vandoorne also had to deal with having Alonso as his teammate and that pressure alone can be crumbling. For 2018, with Renault engines, the whole McLaren team can flex their wings now and the eyes will be on Vandoorne too to do the same.
And last but not the least is the reigning F2 champion, Charles Leclerc. After decimating the opposition in F2, the Monegasque teen is graduating to F1 in 2018. Although he’ll debut with Sauber, the Swiss team on the back of up to date 2018 Ferrari engines and fresh cash injection with Alfa Romeo deal, can very much find itself in the midfield. So the eyes will definitely be on Leclerc to shine in the context of where Sauber stands in the pecking order in the Formula One 2018 season.
Formula One 2018 Calendar:
You might be wondering about the calendar for next year. It’s pretty hard to keep track of a which races are going to be held next year. A few races have dropped off the calendar and some are making a return. But the most interesting is the return of the French Grand Prix. The circus will head to the country where motorsport arguably began after a hiatus of 10 years. The race will be held in June in the Circuit Paul Ricard which last held a grand prix in 1990. Rumors are that F1 will hold a city demonstration event in France just like in London last year.
Also, Malaysia has bowed out but Germany is making a return. Here’s the calendar for your perusal:
This is Crazy:
The craziest part that we all are waiting for 2018 season is the Driver market. At the time of writing the second seat at Williams is still unannounced but Sirotkin looks set to grab the seat.
Nico Rosberg’s late retirement announcement’s impact hasn’t fully been visible yet even after a full year. But in 2018 the Driver market will fully explode. In Mercedes, both Hamilton and Bottas’s contract is coming to an end in 2018. Hamilton no doubt will sign an extension till 2020, Bottas’s seat is up for grabs. The Finn hasn’t quite been spectacular in the class-leading Mercedes and another year of playing second fiddle to Hamilton will see him out the door. Toto Wolff has himself cautioned Bottas that he needs to be WDC contender in 2018 to convince Mercedes to continue with him in the future.
Ferrari also may have an opening at the end of 2018. Kimi’s contract has been extended time and again because of Vettel’s liking but it seems the limit has been reached. Marchionne has also made it clear that Kimi needs to find his form or he’ll be dropped for 2019 in favour of young blood.
Another big team Red Bull could have an opening too in the form of Daniel Ricciardo. The energy drink team is leaning more and more in favour of Verstappen and Ricciardo is finding himself being left in the shallow. His contract ends in 2018 as well and he is definitely eyeing the Mercedes drive. If he leaves then Carlos Sainz Jr. will finally get his desire of racing for the Red Bull A team.
Currently, Sainz is on loan to Renault for 2018. He will leave in a blink if Red Bull comes calling and hence Renault’s opening is dependent on Red Bull’s. Renault is rapidly progressing and an opening will definitely create a ripple in the midfield as many midfield drivers will flock at the opportunity.
The most coveted seat in the midfield is that of overachiever Force India. Both Perez and Ocon are under contract only till 2018 with their eyes set on Ferrari and Mercedes respectively. Perez is vocally staying put to align himself at Ferrari and a snubbing could mean he can follow his ex-teammate’s route to Renault. Ocon, if he has another blistering year in 2018, can compel Mercedes to place him in the A team. So Force India can possibly see both its drivers leaving at the end of the Formula One 2018 season.
There are a dozen more permutations that can play out and it’ll be the most interesting thing to look forward to in Formula One 2018.
Last but not the least:
Another important aspect which is intriguing in Formula One 2018 is how certain teams will perform. They are Toro Rosso, Sauber and McLaren.
Sauber had been struggling financially and despite new ownership, it hasn’t proved enough to lift them up. It’ll change in the Formula One 2018 season though. Sauber has stuck a reinforced deal with Ferrari now for 2018. As a result, the team will run 2018 Ferrari engines. But not only that, Alfa Romeo has become the title sponsor bringing in cash and technical expertise. A hot new prospect in the form of Leclerc will make his debut too. So in the Formula One 2018 season, the eyes will be on Alfa Romeo Sauber to make an impression.
Toro Rosso after an intricate complex deal has switched from Renault to Honda in 2018. This switch is an interesting bit because by the end of the season, Honda had gotten on top of reliability issues. Honda’s performance will be of the greatest intrigue of the public eye after their split of McLaren. And also because a good performance gain can see Red Bull switch to Honda power for 2019 since their relationship with Renault is already strained.
McLaren, on the other hand, will finally get decent and powerful engines after 3 frustrating years. There’s a sense of excitement in the whole McLaren team after all they can finally fight on track and have decent results and possibly move to the front of the grid. But not all’s rosy.
McLaren for the past 3 years have branded their chassis as the best on the grid and put the blame squarely on Honda’s lack of power. With Renault engines in the back now, Red Bull is the benchmark. Red Bull has won a couple of races on merit and therefore McLaren won’t have anywhere to hide.
All in all, the Formula One 2018 season is going to be way more interesting than last year for the above-mentioned reason. The new Pirelli tires will add a new element too. March cannot come soon enough.
A Petrol Head, Traveller, Writer and Philosopher. Who do you wanna meet?