Recently, the 2017 Formula One season commenced, and with reigning champion Nico Rosberg freshly retired on the back of his maiden championship victory, motivation for the season seemed to be elevated with a new champion guaranteed. Heading into the season opener, it seemed the grid possessed multiple accomplished drivers boasting the necessary experience to challenge for the title; the clearest candidate with these aforementioned credentials seemed to be Lewis Hamilton who, with three title wins to his name, may have been superiorly equipped to attain the trophy. Yet, it was four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel who took the chequered flag, continuing the pre-season testing form which Ferrari seemed to showcase, and ultimately proving the German may be able to add to his 43 race wins.
The 2017 season seemed to signal a transitional period for F1, and a time where innovation may be key in driving the sport forward. Whilst it seems there have been consistent improvements to the sport across the last decade, most pivotally to ensure an elevation in driver safety, this season’s changes most notably surround the technical areas, with regulations governing bodywork design revised with the objective of improving lap times by four to five seconds; this innovation may create a more intriguing spectacle for viewers, with faster races enabling a vaster support network to be created. In addition, multiple driver changes occurred during the interval, and with experienced veterans, such as Jenson Button, taking sabbaticals, opportunities arose for young, motivated drivers to be drafted in an impact the sport. The race in Australia therefore seemed to provide the first opportunity for these drivers to showcase their abilities, and emphasise the reasoning as to why they were chosen to compete in the sport.
Ferrari seemed to have ensured their car may be considered as the fastest as a result of their pre-season testing, and heading into Melbourne this may have provided Vettel with increased motivation levels to emerge victorious. Whilst Hamilton started the race at the front of the grid, with a time of 1:22.188 ensuring his 62nd pole position, Ferrari, aiming for their first constructors win since 2008, seemed to have an advantage in pace and tyre efficiency, and this seemed to act as the catalyst in Vettel’s eventual victory. Yet, whilst Vettel attained the 25 points, the race may have also ultimately proved the sport possesses multiple drivers with the necessary quality and desire to attain race wins, with pole position, fastest lap and race victory scattered between three different drivers.
With Vettel winning the season opener, he seems to have taken the initiative earliest after Rosberg’s retirement, ensuring his recognisable status may continue to be maintained. Ultimately, the win in Melbourne seemed to occur most notably as a result of the experience both he and Ferrari have amassed across multiple seasons; Ferrari have competed in F1 since it’s conception in 1950, and Vettel’s completion of 180 races seems to hold him in good stead for the title. In addition, this was Vettel’s first win since the Singapore GP in September 2015, perhaps proving Ferrari might be able to match Mercedes after their recent dominance, and further highlighting both their and Vettel’s flexibility, as they seem to have adapted quickest to the new regulations, a trait which may be key in attaining the title.
With the upcoming Grand Prix in China rapidly approaching, it seems Ferrari may be aiming to utilise this brief period to ensure they may maintain their consistent early form. As such, Vettel may be amongst the favourites in Shanghai, and in turn the entirety of the season, yet he may be under increasing pressure from his rivals who might be aiming to replicate the German’s achievements. Yet, whoever the eventual champion is, 2017 seems to signal the beginning of newly implemented regulations aiming to drive the sport forwards, as continuously innovating may be key in enabling a wider audience to be attained, and lead to a new, fresh batch of drivers striving to compete at the pinnacle; with ten driver changes this season, opportunities seem to be plentiful.
How may Ferrari utilise their pre-season form in order to ensure the newly-implemented regulations enhance their title quest?