Revisiting my five pertinent questions for F1 in 2017

Jawad Yaqub Roar Guru

By , Jawad Yaqub is a Roar Guru

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    Sebastian Vettel signs autographs for Ferrari fans at the Formula One Grand Prix in Austria. (GEPA Pictures/Red Bull Content Pool).

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    Some of the biggest changes Formula One has seen in its long and illustrious history have come in 2017.

    From the overhaul in aerodynamic regulations to spawn faster, more aggressive-looking machines, to a new regime at the reins of Formula One’s commercial rights – there was much to look forward to.

    Prior to the commencement of the season, I highlighted five pertinent questions for the sport to answer. Now, midway through the year, it is apt to revisit them and assess which have already been answered.

    Have the regulations lived up to the hype?
    Despite the lack of overtaking being bemoaned, the change in the aerodynamic regulations has produced cars that, in qualifying, are breaking circuit records set more than a decade ago.

    The cars have now become more physically challenging to drive too, as evidenced by the many occasions that three-time world champion Lewis Hamilton has been heard out of breath on the team radio.

    And as far as bridging the chasm in performance between the teams, Mercedes AMG versus Ferrari for top honours has been a clear highlight of 2017, though the gap to the rest of their competitors remains considerable.

    Can Mercedes AMG be dethroned?
    After three years of unprecedented dominance, the Silver Arrows are facing their toughest challenge yet.

    While the W08 EQ Power+ has maintained its speed in qualifying, both Hamilton and his new teammate, Valtteri Bottas, have struggled during races, with what Head of Mercedes Motorsport Toto Wolff describes as a “diva” of a car.

    Regardless, Mercedes AMG’s consistency with both drivers has kept them atop the constructors’ standings by 39 points, having won six of the 11 races thus far.

    In the driver’s championship, Hamilton trails leader Sebastian Vettel by 14 points, with Bottas 33 points adrift.

    Nine races remain, and despite Ferrari’s challenge, Mercedes AMG aren’t going down without a fight.

    Is Valtteri Bottas the new silver star?
    There was immense pressure piled upon the 27-year-old, stepping into the seat of the outgoing world champion in Nico Rosberg, though the Finn has gone above and beyond so far.

    Contrary to the mass calls to relegate Bottas to the role of ‘number two’ driver to assist Hamilton in his title tilt, the new flying Finn has established his own presence among the front-runners, having convincingly won two grands prix, including one from pole position in Austria.

    Bottas’ consistency has been his hallmark, reminiscent to his predecessor in Rosberg. Often has he maximised weekends, where the team have struggled and Hamilton has vocally expressed his defeats on the team radio.

    Bottas goes into the mid-season break as a genuine championship contender – dispelling the hogwash surrounding the true motives of his presence at Brackley.

    Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes waves to Formula One fans and media.

    Image supplied by AMG Petronas Motorsport

    How have the rookies fared?
    It has been a topsy-turvy campaign to date for Williams debutant Lance Stroll, from the extreme lows of Monaco, to the elation of becoming the youngest-ever podium winner in Formula One at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

    Inexperience, combined with misfortune, has hampered any progress for the 18-year-old. Though on occasions – such as Baku and his home race in Canada, where he gleaned his first points – Stroll demonstrated his potential, which over time will mature.

    It’s been another story for Stoffel Vandoorne at McLaren, with the 25-year-old subject to the tribulations of the maligned McLaren-Honda partnership.

    Now in its third season, the expectation for this collaboration was to be on the fringe of podiums and to be battling for fourth in the constructors’ championship.

    Though, with Honda going catastrophically backwards in their development, finishing races was the best Vandoorne could achieve, let alone score points.

    While his own errors have also cost results – such as in Barcelona, where the Belgian clashed with Felipe Massa – scoring a solitary point at Hungary hopefully marks the turning of the tide for Vandoorne and McLaren.

    What impact has Liberty Media had in their first year?
    Formula One was liberated when the announcement came that long-time ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone had been ‘deposed’ earlier in the year.

    Upon acquiring the commercials rights to the sport, Liberty Media made it clear that their intention was to make the fan the number one stakeholder, introducing measures to engage all viewers.

    Whether it was the introduction of ‘festival like’ fan-zones at all grands prix, or revising liveries on the teams’ cars to boldly highlight the driver and their personalised numbers, Liberty have not beaten around the bush.

    Undoubtedly the highlight so far has been the birth of ‘F1 Live’, which brought the Formula One circus to the streets of London for a day-long festival. Never, outside a race weekend or test, had all the teams gathered in the same space with their cars.

    With an eye on hosting multiple F1 Live events throughout future seasons and in different cities worldwide, it has been pleasing to at last see Formula One embrace the fan.