The driver line-ups have been confirmed, the cars have been unveiled and Pre-season Testing has finished so the start of the F1 2018 is just around the corner. Just 3 days to go until we hear the infamous saying – “Light out and away we go” – in Melbourne, Australia to host Round 1 of F1 2018.
F1 2018 Starts Now!
It was the 26th of November of last year that we saw the last wheel-to-wheel action in the season finale in Abu Dhabi. Mercedes Valterri Bottas held off newly crowned 4 time World Champion, Lewis Hamilton to his 3rd F1 victory with the Finn heading into this year confident that he can beat Hamilton in a straight fight.
It’s not advised for everyone to look into much detail about the times set in Pre-season Testing but if one thing is for sure, 2018 will be ultra close. The reasons given as it is unclear what fuel loads, aero specifications and car set-ups each team were running at the time of their best lap and over the course of the test.
Mercedes, once again, look to have a slight advantage but it’s Ferrari and Red Bull snapping at their heels, desperately in a hunt to stop Mercedes from winning, in 2018, five Constructors Championship in a row. Ferrari are eager for their 1st Drivers Championship since 2007 and Red Bull hope to hit the ground running, something that which hampered them last year.
The biggest surprise of testing was the reliability of engine manufacturer Honda, now partnered with Toro Rosso after their split with McLaren last year. Toro Rosso were able to rack up nearly over 100 laps a day and in the end, sat 3rd overall in racking up 822 laps. This combination is well and truly something to watch out for this year.
The mid-field appears to be very competitive with the likes of McLaren and Renault, now climbing their way up the order, along with Haas, Force India, Toro Rosso, Williams and Sauber. Although McLaren had made the most progress in terms of lap-times compared to 2017, it did not reflect in the speed-traps or in the amount of laps the team completed. McLaren ditched Honda engines last season and now run Renault engines and they hope to be able to directly compare themselves against Renault and Red Bull.
Force India had a low-key pre-season but the team say that Melbourne will show their true pace as they have a raft of upgrades planned for the season opener. The team is in the process of changing their team name to something else rather than “Force India”. This is expected to be announced soon.
American-based team, Haas F1, have been tipped by Mercedes to be the biggest surprise in 2018. Both Lewis Hamilton and Toto Wolff said that Haas could be well in the fight in the midfield as both were impressed by their pace. To be able to fight for points, the Haas drivers must qualify well, something in which they lacked last year.
Sauber, now backed by Alfa-Romeo, can see the midfield after finishing last in the Championship last year. The much improved team field exciting talent in Charles Leclerc who will partner Marcus Ericsson. Point and consistency is the aim for 2018.
It’s difficult to tell who will be at the back of the field but given their driver line-up, it would be easy to say Williams. Williams field the least-experienced line-up on the grid with Lance Stroll and newcomer Sergey Sirotkin.
Along with a few driver changes, the cars will have the controversial Halo – protecting the drivers and has been compared to the average flip-flop! It’s also been said that the halo can support a double-decker bus but no tests have been done to prove this as yet! More on the technical side, the cars will no longer have the T-wing or shark fins integrated into the car’s design and the ban Trick suspension will no longer be visible.
But the biggest change to this has gotten all the teams and engine manufacturers worried is the new limit of just 3 engines per season. It’s a bid to make F1 power units even more reliable and further reduce costs but now the 3 engines will now have to endure 21 races this year. Expect teams to take the dreaded engine penalties in bulk to reduce the impact.
For the first race of the season, Pirelli have chosen the Soft, Supersoft and Ultrasoft tyre for the teams and drivers to chose from.
Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull have a different approach to the weekend in choosing their tyres. Mercedes have chosen 9 sets of the Ultrasoft tyres for Hamilton and Bottas while Ferrari and Red Bull have chosen 8 and 7 sets of tyres for their drivers.
McLaren and Williams have also chosen 9 sets of the Ultrasoft tyres for their drivers. Only Hamilton, Sirotkin and Romain Grosjean have opted for just one set of the Soft tyre.
This has also had a slight change in the way of tyre regulations so check out an earlier post summarising these changes – F1 2018: Talking Tyres
Australian GP Facts
- Lap record: 1:24:125, Michael Schumacher, 2004
- Laps: 58
- Circuit length: 3.295 miles
- Race distance: 191.117 miles
- Corners: 16
- First held: 1996
- Past Winners: Sebastian Vettel (2017), Nico Rosberg (2016) & Lewis Hamilton (2015)
- Past Pole-sitters: Lewis Hamilton (2015, 2016 & 2017)
Who do you think who’ll finish on top in Melbourne on Sunday? Keep up-to-date with all of the news ahead of the GP weekend by following myself on Twitter. There you will see Qualifying and Race updates along with in-race surveys and reports of the sessions when published. Rhonan Colquhoun – @rhonansf1blog