The biggest shake up in Formula One in years with new regulations. A move away from the engine formula to create faster cars with wider tyres and more downforce. But who would take Nico Rosberg’s crown this season?
A new era began when F1 rolled into Albert Park with Lewis Hamilton going head to head with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in a fight for pole. Hamilton had the upper hand after the German made a mistake losing a quarter of a second to the Mercedes under breaking. It was a good start for Valtteri Bottas in his first start for the Silver Arrows. Australian Daniel Ricciardo crashed out of Q3 and started tenth.
Vettel piled on the pressure on Hamilton from the start and jumped the Englishman when he made his first pit stop. That allowed him to then open the gap up over the Mercedes driver, who was unable to respond. He couldn’t clear soon enough the Red Bull of Max Verstappen.
Ricciardo’s home race was worsening, after starting a lap down the RBR11 ground to a halt in the middle of the race and that caused him to retire from the race.
Sergio Perez was another winner at the start getting past Daniil Kvyat at the start then pasting his team-mate mid-race, with a move around halfway mark with a fine round-the-outside move at Turn 3.
But it was Vettel who sealed the victory for the first time in 2017 with his start.
The build up to the Chinese Grand Prix was difficult. Thick fog threated the race with Friday’s Practice being heavily interrupted by the weather. Hamilton always had performed well in Shanghai and it was another perfect performance by the Brit who took his fifth career pole in Shanghai.
Vettel wasn’t far off, in the end, it was just six centimetres which handed Hamilton pole. For the second race in a row it was the same top four as in Melbourne. Verstappen failed to make it out of Q1 after technical problems and then the session came to an early end as Sauber’s Antonio Giovinazzi brought the red flags out.
The Italian came out of the last corner and went over the kerb onto the astro turf which sent him into a spin. He then spun across the track into the tyre wall which took his front suspension off.
Hamilton went on once again to dominate in Shanghai and took the grand slam of pole, fastest lap and the win. He had learnt from the mistake in Melbourne, getting a better start and pulled away from Vettel at the start of the race.
Conditions in Shanghai also played to his strengths as he has always managed to perform very well in wet/dry conditions. Giovinniza’s debut weekend wasn’t getting better, he was caught out on the pit straight and aquaplaned as he cross the finish line losing control of his car and spun off into the wall.
That crash allowed the rest of the field to have a free stop and switch onto slick tyres.
McLaren’s once again suffered a double retirement because of reliability problems
Bottas took his maiden pole in Bahrain after going two tenths faster than his team-mate Hamilton, who made a mistake on his final run in Q3. Vettel failed to convert his strong running in the day light into quaiflying pace, also the German also losing time in the last sector as well as the first sector.
It was a close fight between Bottas, Hamilton anf Vettel. But it was the Ferrari driver who came out on top thanks to a penalty for Hamilton after he was gifted the lead when Bottas made his first stop. The stewards decided that the three times champion had held up Daniel Ricciardo in his first stop.
In the midfield, there was a taster of what would shape up throughout the season to be a intense midfield battle with Renault’s Jolyon Palmer, Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat and McLaren’s Fernando Alonso trading places throughout. Eventually, the Renault power meant that Alonso was easy pickings.
Things weren’t going better for the second McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne, He failed to start because of an MGU-H failure. The beginning of the straining of the partnership between McLaren and Honda and the eventual divorce
After a back injury in January, Pascal Wehrlein’s debut for Sauber saw the German finish twelfth.
Qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix was an very close fight between Ferrari and Mercedes. Vettel and Raikkonen bot out-qualified the Mercedes duo, who looked as if they were unable to improve on the final run in Q3. Ferrari looked in strong form all weekend and looked strong in Q3, from the start of the session the team appeared to be close to the Mercedes on pace.
Come Sunday it was Bottas who started better after the first start was aborted. The Finn got ahead of Vettel before a safety car, caused by a collision between Palmer and Romain Grosjean. Bottas then withstood Vettel’s pressure, with Raikkonen third. Hamilton meanwhile was looked as if he was in a race by himself in fourth.
The Englishman looked to struggle on the second stint with the tyres, leaving him unable to catch Raikkonen. However, he clearly had the pace to stay ahead of Verstappen. It was another disappointing afternoon for Alonso who said he was “sad” after his McLaren ground to a halt, at the entry to the pits as he tried to get the car back to the garage.
But it was an emotional afternoon for Bottas who took his debut victory. “It feels a bit surreal. Hopefully, it’s the first of many. It was definitely one of my best races personally ever.” Bottas had achieved the dream the first Grand Prix win, propelling himself into the title race.
As Formula One returns to Europe and with it two all between Ferrari and Mercedes, could either team steal a march? In addition, would Bottas really be in the title hunt for the long haul?