Deep in the heart of Texas, at a new venue for the sport, the drivers of the IndyCar Series put on a fantastic weekend at the state-of-the-art Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.
Recent headlines have been dominant towards Sergey Sirotkin and his teammate Lance Stroll being hired as pay-drivers, creating skepticism regarding the ability of such drivers.
Williams’ Deputy Team Principal Claire Williams defended that such a label only created negativity. Fernando Alonso equally dominated the headlines with his career ambitions.
Alonso is set to compete in the World Endurance Championship with Toyota Gazoo Racing in parallel with his Formula One Championship with McLaren. The WEC’s move to change the date of the Fuji round to suit Alonso’s schedule with Formula One commitments has been met with strong criticism from other drivers and fans.
This headline domination with just over a week away until the first pre-season test where we will get a preview of how F1 2018 may play out has let the rest of the field escape any unnecessary press reports.
As Sirotkin and Stroll became the innocent in the pay-driver debate it took the heat off new comers Brendon Hartley, Pierre Gasly.
Part of the Toro Rosso-Honda deal was for Toro Rosso driver Carlos Sainz to be loaned to Renault Sport Formula One Team to replace Joylan Palmer for 2018. Sainz, still contracted to Red Bull Racing, made the move late during the 2017 season and joined Renault at the US Grand Prix in October competing in the remaining four races of the season.
Although he scored a point in the US Grand Prix Daniil Kvyat was informed by Red Bull Racing after the race that his services as a Toro Rosso driver have been terminated. Kvyat has since been announced as a Ferrari development driver for 2018.
These late season driver changes at Toro Rosso in hindsight seem a master plan. It allowed the Italian team to trial their prospective 2018 drivers, Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly for the last few rounds of the 2017 season.
As the season ended Toro Rosso were happy to announce Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly are to begin full time status with Toro Rosso for 2018.
Hartley, the first driver from New Zealand for over thirty years, is the reigning World Endurance Champion after securing his second World Endurance Championship in 2017 to add to his 2015 Championship.
He also won the 2017 24 Hours Le Mans. Frenchman Gasly has the 2016 GP2 Championship under his belt and competed in the 2017 Super Formula Championship using Honda engines.
This combination with the Toro Rosso powered by Honda stand a great chance to upset the top runners.
Just as Alonso makes the news for his wishes his disparaging comments towards Honda at times throughout 2017 may have led to questions being asked if Honda was pleased to leave McLaren.
Toro Rosso announced in September 2017 they will be departing ways with Renault as their engine supplier after securing Honda power plants for 2018 with McLaren switching to Renault for 2018.
There wasn’t a great deal of resistance from McLaren nor Honda when it was announced that their relationship was over as it wasn’t the amicable re-marriage that was hoped for and was never close to the level of success the partnership enjoyed back late 1980s to the early 1990s.
Honda’s move to Toro Rosso will find the spot light dimmed, Toro Rosso have never had the spot light directed on them, they are comfortable in being the Red Bull Racing junior team. Evidence of that can be seen with three of the top drivers in with a believable chance to win the 2018 title starting their F1 careers debuting with Toro Rosso.
Honda, no strangers to F1, now enter their fourth year with the Hybrid engine and only a fool would think that they didn’t achieve any progress with McLaren. McLaren, to their credit supplied ideal chassis’s for the Honda engine but results were far from coming.
With Honda’s comments that they plan to make Toro Rosso one of the top three teams in Formula One along with comments from Liberty Media’s Chase Carey, “I wish that sometimes an underdog would win rather than only the favourites” and “hopefully more competition and drama in 2018” maybe for the first time since the turn of the century F1 might be facing an exciting future beginning in 2018.