With the new Formula One season upon us our team of writers have put their necks on the line and made their predictions for the new campaign.
Do you agree with their views?
Winning driver: It’s difficult to see any driver other than Lewis Hamilton lifting the title this season. Although Sebastian Vettel may offer an early challenge, expect the Briton to romp to his fifth world crown.
Winning constructor: Based on their form during testing, Mercedes should clinch a fifth consecutive constructors’ crown. Ferrari and Red Bull have made strides but have not moved on as far as their rivals.
Best rookie: Williams may be lacking experience in their line-up this season, but in Sergey Sirotkin, they possess a driver of real quality who has the chance to establish himself as the team’s leading star.
Biggest flop: It’s frustrating to see a driver in one of the best cars not pushing himself, and this further reinstates why Kimi Raikkonen does not warrant a seat at Ferrari. At 37, the Finn’s best days are behind him and this will be the year he’s finally found out.
Suprise storyline: With a potential vacant Ferrari seat up for grabs at the end of the season, Sauber’s Charles Leclerc will not be short of motivation as he bids to back-up his stunning GP3 and F2 form in recent years.
Winning driver: Lewis Hamilton is undoubtedly the favourite, but it’s worth remembering just how strong of a season Sebastian Vettel was having last year until it all came undone. The German will need a little bit of luck for sure, but the sport will have a new champion.
Winning constructor: Regardless of whether or not they’re knocked off their perch for the driver’s title, Mercedes aren’t bending the knee to anyone in the constructors’ championship. They’ve once again looked like the ones to beat in testing.
Best rookie: While he won’t be in the best car, Sauber’s Charles Leclerc oozes talent and has proven on the lower levels that he’s a star in the making. He should be fun to watch all season, even if it means he isn’t winning races.
Biggest flop: There’s a lot of hype around Max Verstappen coming into the season and it’s almost assumed he’ll overtake teammate Daniel Ricciardo, if he hasn’t already. But as much talent as the 20-year-old has, he’s not ready to make the massive leap many are expecting.
Surprise storyline: I’ll go out on a limb here and say Fernando Alonso is going to rise back to prominence. Yes, he’s not shown much interest in winning races recently, but his passion for competing may return this year and with it, the chance to be fairly competitive in the championship.
Winning driver: Lewis Hamilton. Very tough to look beyond him. The car at his disposal this season is said to be even more reliable than the one that won him the last championship. A fifth world championship is very much attainable.
Winning constructor: Mercedes. Super strong during testing. Reliability is their strongest suit and the W09 looks capable of lasting the distance. Red Bull and Ferrari will pose a threat, no doubt, but the Silver Arrows retain their edge.
Best rookie: Charles Leclerc. The Sauber driver is the youngest rookie on the grid. The Monaco man was GP3 champion in 2016 and F2 champion in 2017. Has been with Ferrari academy since 2016. Top pedigree.
Biggest flop: Fernando Alonso. Seems to have lost that spark. His interest in endurance racing coupled with the reliability issues of McLaren might just make it another forgettable season for the Spaniard.
Surprise storyline: Halo becomes a hazard. The cockpit head protection system is supposed to protect drivers from flying debris. But drivers are complaining about restricted vision. Expect numerous issues once the season starts.
Winning driver: Sebastian Vettel. Do I sound like I’m just being a contrarian? The German had two very unlucky retirements last year whereas Hamilton escaped without any. If Ferrari have closed the gap to Mercedes even just a smidgen, it’s game on.
Winning constructor: Mercedes and there’s no other argument to be made here. As long as an uninterested Kimi Raikkonen remains Vettel’s No2 for the Scuderia, this is a sure thing. A consistent Red Bull may even fancy second.
Best rookie: Brendon Hartley. He may not score the points that LeClerc does for Sauber, but he can certainly beat out fellow greenhorn Pierre Gasly as the top dog at Toro Rosso. At 28, and after being cut as a Red Bull reserve driver eight years ago, the Kiwi has a chip on his shoulder he can use to good effect.
Biggest flop: Esteban Ocon. The Mexican is in the hunt for a Silver Arrows drive in 2019, alongside Daniel Ricciardo and his Force India team-mate Sergio Perez. There’s just a feeling though that Ocon, at 21, is being built up a little too much too soon.
Surprise storyline: Honda actually supply a Formula One engine that is fit for purpose to Toro Rosso, leaving McLaren – now taking a punt on Renault – fuming after being supplied with years of misery by the Japanese manufacturer.
The Formula One season will kick off this weekend with Lewis Hamilton bidding for his fifth world title.
Here is a full schedule of the upcoming races and UAE times.
|RACE||DATE||TIME IN THE UAE|
|Australian GP||March 25||9.10am|
|Bahrain GP||April 8||7.10pm|
|Chinese GP||April 15||10.10am|
|Azerbaijan GP||April 29||4.10pm|
|Spanish GP||May 13||5.10pm|
|Monaco GP||May 27||5.10pm|
|Canadian GP||June 10||10.10pm|
|French GP||June 24||6.10pm|
|Austrian GP||July 1||5.10pm|
|British GP||July 8||5.10pm|
|German GP||July 22||5.10pm|
|Hungarian GP||July 29||5.10pm|
|Belgian GP||August 26||5.10pm|
|Italian GP||September 2||5.10pm|
|Singapore GP||September 16||5.10pm|
|Russian GP||September 30||3.10pm|
|Japanese GP||October 7||9.10am|
|United States GP||October 21||10.10pm|
|Mexican GP||October 28||11.10pm|
|Brazilian GP||November 11||9.10pm|
|Abu Dhabi GP||November 25||5.10pm|
Every Formula One season comes up with its own plot lines and talking points, but this season’s competition carries extra weight for it could put one of two drivers in the pantheon of the sport’s history.
Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel are now both among the top five drivers in terms of all-time wins with four, after the former reached that mark following his success last season. They’re in exalted company in Alain Prost but it’s the names above them, the names they could join, that gives this season added significance.
Only two drivers have won more than four. Michael Schumacher, of course, holds the all-time record with seven, and with Hamilton 33 years old and Vettel 30, there’s an outside chance one – or maybe even both – can match the German great’s mark. Then there’s Juan Manuel Fangio, who has five, and is thus squarely in the duo’s sights.
Fangio comes in the top two or three of just about every list of F1’s greatest ever drivers, alongside Schumacher and Ayrton Senna. That’s the greatness at stake for Hamilton and Vettel.
The Briton seemingly has the edge, with pre-season testing showing Mercedes look like the team to beat yet again. This year’s car, the Mercedes W09, no longer behaves like a “diva”, according to team boss Toto Wolff – his way of describing the car’s performance issues at some race venues last year.
There is a sense that Vettel and Ferrari blew their best chance to end Mercedes’ dominance, when the German imploded after the European races to hand Hamilton the title despite holding the championship lead all the way until September.
But he is confident in the 2018 Ferrari, the SF-71H, despite the car being around 0.3 seconds behind the Mercedes after pre-season testing. He says the car is “starting from a good base”, and indeed, last year’s car seemed to make up for a deficit in out-and-out speed by performing better over a full race – and even, on occasion, over a single lap. If Ferrari have retained that quality, a more mature Vettel will like his chances.
Hamilton versus Vettel looks set to be a continuing theme in 2018, but just how close are they from a statistical standpoint? 🤔— Channel 4 F1® (@C4F1) March 20, 2018
Vettel is on the verge of becoming the fourth man in history to reach 100 career podiums this weekend 😮#C4F1 🇦🇺 #AusGP pic.twitter.com/WPe0ff8sso
Others will have their say in the title race – not least the two drivers’ team-mates, with Valtteri Bottas knowing he needs an improved performance to compete with Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen still trying to prove the doubters wrong after being labelled a solid No2 for the last few seasons.
Then, of course, there is Fernando Alonso. He believes he has always been the finest driver of his generation, and plenty of observers have felt the same way, but he’s spent the last ten seasons in sub-par cars, never adding to his 2005 and 2006 titles. The Renault era for McLaren has not begun promisingly but there is still optimism in the team after parting with Honda that they finally have a competitive car.
That’s all Alonso needs. He’s shown during his Ferrari days that his driving is enough to make up a sizable gap to a superior car. And in historical terms, seeing Alonso join the club of three-time champions – or more – would be even more welcomed than either Hamilton or Vettel making it to five.
Not that either driver wouldn’t deserve it. Since Hamilton’s first title win in 2008, either he or Vettel has won the championship in all but two seasons. Only four times during that span has the Drivers’ Championship even been close (and no, last year’s 46-point win for Hamilton doesn’t count). Hamilton and Vettel have dominated like only the greats have – arguably, like only Schumacher and Fangio have.
If this battle is on even terms with both in competitive cars then a real title race could be on the cards. And while chasing Schumacher and Fangio, they could become the next Prost-Senna, a rivalry for the ages.
Otherwise, this battle is to determine which one will be recognised as the best of his time. They have come to define this era of F1 with their competition. Now, the question is who will go down in history as the victor.