Is it too late to wish you all a Happy New Year? Probably, but it’s been ages since I last wrote a blog and it feels only right to do so. Because, in Formula 1 terms, after two weeks of launches and the start of testing today, the new year and the new season finally feels like it’s getting underway.
A new and improved Formula 1? Well that’s the hope of course, and there’s plenty of hope and expectancy at the moment that the 2017 season won’t be dominated by one team and their two drivers.
Certainly we have a new look to the cars and, for some teams, new colours to those new look cars too. Even the sport itself has new people at the helm, controlling the commercial side and making new promises for the future.
The launches have been eagerly anticipated and that anticipation has turned into plenty of debate as to which cars look the best, which look the fastest, and on Friday, whether it was the old Arrows or the Marussia that proved the inspiration for McLaren’s new colour scheme? For the record and in answer to the many tweets I’ve had on the subject of the new livery, I don’t dislike it, it’s a colour scheme after all. The important thing is whether the car is more competitive than it has been for the last couple of seasons. With Ron Dennis no longer at the helm though it was important for the team to park that era in the past and I like the fact that they turned to the original Bruce McLaren livery as inspiration. But the end result does rather look like a compromise of the toughest of the dozen people that Zac Brown said were involved in the decision.
I don’t know how many people were involved in redesigning the Toro Rosso livery, brought about to promote Red Bull’s Cola drink. But I do like the blue and red livery. It’s striking and way more refreshing than the cola product itself. Sorry guys, couldn’t resist that one.
Meanwhile, Pinks and I had the pleasure of hosting the Force India launch at Silverstone last Wednesday. A cold, wet and very windy Silverstone, which I’m sure won’t be the case by the time we all descend on the home of the British Grand Prix in July.
Chatting to Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon, you get a real sense of their genuine excitement for the season to come. Both were itching to get into the new car and start driving knowing that, from the simulator results, that driving experience was going to be so much more extreme than in previous seasons. Their winters had been intense training regimes stepped up to enable them to cope with the faster speeds expected. Excited just didn’t cover it, these boys were about to be given the keys to the greatest candy shop a professional racing driver could imagine.
My favourite moment of the day came after the speeches when Vijay Mallya took the time to have a close inspection for ten minutes or so. After all, he’s paying for a lot of that car so why shouldn’t he take a few photos and have a snoop around what is the 10th Force India car to roll out of the factory? When you speak to Vijay about his team and why he’s involved in the sport, it’s clear that racing (and of course cricket) is very much his passion. He’s not involved in Formula 1 just to make up the numbers and he’s expecting plenty from his staff this season. His dream is that one of the big three has got it wrong and that his team can not only keep hold of 4th place in the Championship, but possibly challenge those above.
Force India haven’t got the biggest budget but they spend their money wisely and the car looks fantastic, even allowing for the rather large forehead effect of the step nose. As for the shark fin, the fans might not like it but without it the cars will lose way too much downforce in the corners, hence this and plenty of others have gone in that direction. From a layman’s perspective here, would it not have been better though to lose the shark fin, lose that downforce and make the cars more difficult to control through the corners? To make the challenge for the drivers more difficult and, fingers crossed, promote more possibilities for overtaking? It’s just a thought, but as we herald the arrival of this new era, should the sport be mindful of the fact that engineering solutions don’t always promote the sort of on track action that the fans are looking for? Don’t get me wrong, I can’t wait to see these cars hurtling through Maggotts and Becketts at even greater speeds. But it would be nice to see them sliding around a bit as well and the drivers having to control that situation.
A day later, Mercedes launched their 2017 challenger to a chorus of approval from those present at an even windier Silverstone. No shark fin, adding to the nods of admiration. Red Bull waited until the day before testing to show off their new car, complete with unique front wing that surely will either be copied or protested in the weeks to come.
And in the next two weeks we’ll get an idea of who has got things right, and who has gone the wrong way. Testing has started, I’m off to Barcelona for the second test and we’ll be featuring your tweets and putting them to some of the drivers on Sky Sports F1 in our nightly round up programmes. I can’t wait to see what you think and, more importantly, hear the answers. It’s been a winter of plenty of talking and now, finally, we have some track running to enhance the conversation. The launches are done, its full steam ahead now as we set sail for 2017. Happy New Year everyone!
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