Formula one is the undisputed pinnacle of motorsports. The machines have more in common with fighter jets than with cars. It is speculated that one can drive upside down on a tunnel roof courtesy of the aerodynamics.
The reason Formula 1 has remained the ultimate racing series is that it continuously evolves the “formula” of rules. Last year, wider tyres and more aggressive aerodynamics were introduced to shake up the grid, with Red-Bull expected to close the gap to reigning champions Mercedes.
As we all know Mercedes fought off a valiant charge by the Scuderia and hand Hamilton a well-deserved fourth driver’s championship. However, that was last year, what can we look forward to in 2018?
Hello to the halo
The most controversial change in F1 in recent history. I had been indifferent until I watched testing on Monday. For as long as I have watched F1, there is a cockpit camera that enables us to see the driver and the track ahead.
All drivers have admitted it’s barely noticeable. That’s obviously a good thing. The bad thing is, where the camera is positioned we also get to see the halo, and it’s like trying to ignore a spider dangling before your eyes!
The thong-like structure sits just above the driver’s helmet to protect him from flying debris or the ground in an upturned car. It must withstand over 12 tonnes of force and will have a new weight effect of about 14 kilos.
Now, that’s an obscene number in a sport that weighs nuts and bolts to the gram. That mass also sits high up, angering F1 engineers who prefer a lower centre of gravity. Heavier drivers will have to lose a few kilos to stay competitive.
Say goodbye grid girls
Fast cars and pretty women come as naturally as bread and butter. Nobody ever had a problem with that combination; that is until feminists showed up. They immediately decided the tradition was demeaning to women.
Grid children replaced them, ostensibly to inspire them to aspire to be the racing driver’s they would stand next to. That is all politically correct but the grid girls thought otherwise. They went to social media to dispel the myth that they were low intelligent eye candy without a passing interest in cars.
The grid girls, now rendered jobless, argued that the corporate push to empower women inadvertently caused them to lose their much-loved jobs. They even argued that the corporate feminists paradoxically took issue with women’s manner of dress.
A pillar of modern feminism is that women should dress how they want. I’m deeply conflicted with this, on the one hand I feel sorry for the now unemployed ladies, yet happy for the kids.
New orange, pink tyres
Last Year Pirelli introduced tyres that were 25 per cent wider. These and other aerodynamic changes made the cars go as much as 5 seconds faster than they did in 2016. Pirelli says that the “Rainbow Range” will be considerably softer in 2018. The softest and fastest of the lot will be the pink-coloured hypersoft.
At the other end of the spectrum will be the hardest compound, the Orange Superhard. The hard tyre will be ice blue with the white medium, yellow soft, red super soft and purple ultrasoft remaining as they were.
Intermediate and wet tyres stay green and blue respectively. By making the entire range that bit softer, Pirelli intends to reduce the odds of a one-stop race while increasing performance by about a second a lap.
Engines limited to 3
One of the biggest concerns F1 has to deal with is that it’s a very expensive sport. One of the most expensive components is the engine. In this turbo-hybrid era, they don’t come cheap. While the details of every deal are closely guarded, it’s an open secret that they are excessively expensive! This makes smaller budget teams uncompetitive.
The reduction to three engines this season also seeks to make them more reliable. With Malaysia Grand Prix leaving the calendar the French and German Grand prix have made a comeback. In a 21-race season the winning team will be the one whose engine breaks down the least.
Teams and Drivers
At the very front Lewis Hamilton will lead the usual charge for both championships by Mercedes. Sebastian Vettel is the man to stop them. The very talented Red-Bull duo of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen will be looking to prove both teams wrong and get back to their winning ways with the new Renault engine.
Fernando Alonso, in the papaya orange McLaren, hopes to be higher up the grid, taking on fellow Spaniard Carlos Sainz in the similarly powered Renault. Sergey Sirotkin joins Lance Stroll in the second Williams for battle with Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon in the midfield. He outperformed Robert Kubica to clench the seat and will be worth keeping an eye out for.
Undoubtedly all eyes will be on Torro Rosso, the only Honda-powered team. The Japanese engine has consistently lacked performance and reliability but who knows, it could pull a surprise.
It would be fantastic if the Honda engine proved more powerful and reliable than the Renault unit, effectively pitting the junior team against the senior team. Charles Leclerc will also be a driver to look out for, coming to Sauber from back to back championships in GP3 and Formula 2.
Alfa Romeo is back!
The Italian marque returns to the grid after a 33-year hiatus. Having won the 1950 and 1951 World Championships, Alfa Romeo struggled to replicate the success over the years. They eventually pulled out in 1985. Now the marque returns to the grid as a strategic, technological and commercial partner to Sauber, and as title sponsor. This will see the backmarker team get an up to date Ferrari engine for 2018, something that should help it climb up the grid.