British Formula One legend Jackie Stewart is hoping to witness a fierce battle for the world championship next year after Mercedes ran away with a fourth consecutive title this season, thanks to Lewis Hamilton.
Hamilton’s successes in 2014, 2015 and 2017, along with Nico Rosberg’s triumph 12 months ago, have seen the Silver Arrows sustain a four-year stretch of dominance in the sport.
That was preceded by four years of similar reign by Red Bull with their former driver Sebastian Vettel hogging the world title from 2010 to 2013.
While Vettel managed to put some pressure on Hamilton this year in his new and improved Ferrari, the Briton was still able to steer clear of his fellow quadruple world champion. A total of 43 points separate Hamilton from Vettel entering the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi.
Stewart, a three-time world champion himself, believes the sport needs some stiffer competition at the top.
Asked if he can perhaps imagine next year’s title fight to be a three-horse race instead of Hamilton’s one-man show, Stewart told Sport360: “I hope so. We need to have it more competitive than it’s been this year.
“We’ve had a long run now of domination, whether it be Red Bull and then Mercedes. So it would be nice of course to see Ferrari come back in.
“But Ferrari seem to be sort of peak and valley, they’re not as consistent. But I think, hopefully next year, you never know with Red Bull having a Honda engine next year, that could prove to be quite good. So I hope we’re going to have a more competitive season next year.”
British marque McLaren are one of the most successful teams in the history of F1 but they’ve only won one world title this century – Hamilton’s maiden championship coup was with them in 2008.
The Woking-based team have struggled in recent years, and their partnership with Honda that started in 2015 did not deliver the performance McLaren were hoping for.
Next year, they will be replacing the Honda engine with a Renault one. Does Stewart think this move will pay dividends and push them back to the front of the grid?
“I think it’s not impossible,” said the 78-year-old. “McLaren have a lot of knowledge and a lot of experience. Don’t count them out. They’ve got one of the finest facilities in the world. So I think they can be in good shape.”
While expectations are high from the McLaren team for next season, Cyril Abiteboul, the managing director of Renault Sport Racing, is somewhat reserved when discussing the power they plan on supplying both the British side as well as Red Bull.
“You know I don’t want to make any promises,” Abiteboul said in Abu Dhabi on Friday.
“First thing will be reliability because we’ve seen this season that you need to walk before you run and I think we’ve been on many occasions too aggressive in the way that we were trying to bring performance and extra power to the engine too quickly because of the expectation of all customers including the yellow cars, so I think we need to go step by step: first be reliable then accumulate as many miles as possible during the winter tests – I think it’s important for any chassis organisation.
“I understand, talking about Red Bull, that they changed their philosophy and are planning for the development of their car but if the engine is not reliable it’s going to be useless. So we need to get that.
“And if we have that, I am extremely comfortable and confident that we have the sort of technological bricks to bring to the engine in order to make steps and to catch Mercedes.”