2018 F1 Preview
As we get set for another blistering Formula One campaign, here is Playnbrag’s season preview!
2018 is expected to be a season of progression rather than revolution, with few new rules for fans to wrap their heads around. However, new rules of note include drivers having a much wider variety of tyres to choose from each grand prix – including the new ‘hypersoft’ to add to the already-crowded field of ‘soft’ tyres.
Another more controversial rule, is that every car has been fitted with the ‘halo’ device which fits over the cockpit to give the drivers more protection. It improves safety, but purists are unhappy with the ugliness of it.
But what about the cars themselves?
The Front Runners
Well there is no doubt Mercedes are once again the favourites. The latest from pre-season testing is that the German team have been working on improving their car’s performance in tight corners – their only weakness last season. It seems to have worked too with Lewis Hamilton and Valterri Bottas showing sharp turning speeds in Barcelona. A worrying sign for the rest of the pack. Hamilton will once again be the driver to beat this season and it would be a brave soul to bet against at least one of the Mercedes starting from pole this weekend.
Ferrari meanwhile will be looking to keep up with the grunt of the Mercedes engine. Both teams are knocking on the door of the 10,000 horsepower mark, and it will be interesting to see if the two engines are equal this year. Estimates show the Ferrari-powered cars were approximately 15 horsepower shy of Mercedes last season and if that deficit can be erased, Ferrari will look to pick up their first drivers’ title since 2008.
Once again Sebastien Vettel will be their number one driver. Since joining Ferrari he has never quite had the car to match Hamilton, but this year he should be closer than ever, and if it is a straight fight between the two, the German could just about take it.
For years now, McLaren have boasted of having the best chassis on the grid. Now they need to prove it. The Renault engine is likely to still struggle compared to the Mercedes and Ferrari which may mean McLaren, Red Bull and the Renault works team will be battling it out just behind the front.
Even without the unreliable Honda engine, McLaren have struggled to complete many laps in testing compared to others. There are still gremlins in the car and, with the exact same horsepower as Red Bull, there is no excuse for them not battling for regular podiums. Red Bull’s reliability should keep them ahead, particularly with Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen – but McLaren will be right behind them most weekends. And may even be ahead of Red Bull on other weekends. Fernando Alonso remains one of the best drivers on the grid and with a little bit of luck, a race win may not be as far-fetched as it sounds…
The works Renault team, with a solid pairing of Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenburg will also make big strides compared to last season, but consistent points scoring will be their target for the first half of the year.
Best of the midfield
Next up will likely be a battle between Haas and Force India. After celebrating another 4th place in the constructors championship last season, Force India will find it much tougher in 2018. The pace was relatively slow in testing, though the team are expecting upgrades to come thick and fast over the first few rounds. Expect them to start the year slow, but climb back up the field as the year progresses. Haas meanwhile had two solid rounds of testing showing lots of progress. Romain Grosjean remains a great driver waiting for his big opportunity and with the team’s close relationship with Ferrari, he will be looking to impress enough to grab a seat in the Prancing Horse next season. He has the pace to deliver, but does he have the temperament?
Bringing up the rear
At the back will be the trio of Williams, Toro Rosso and Sauber – likely in that order. Williams have been slowing regressing over the past few years and testing has shown little evidence to suggest they can arrest that decline. An inexperienced and inconsistent duo of Sergey Sirotkin and Lance Stroll will pick up points now and again, but do not expect podiums.
Toro Rosso are the only team using Honda engines this year, and the signs from testing have been positive. Honda remain the slowest engine on the grid, but reliability has been much improved which will give everyone in the factory a huge lift. It gives the beleaguered engine manufacturer hope for better days ahead.
At the back of the grid, like last year, will be Sauber. There are some rays of hope however. A partnership with Alfa Romeo is giving them much-needed funding, while unlike last season, they are running a current spec Ferrari engine. The car itself is still poor, in a straight line and going around corners, but they are closer to the midfield than last season, and with a bit of luck, will be hoping to stay off the back row as much as possible.
This article is brought to you by Jason Coulter & Playnbrag
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