F1 Season Review 2017: Hamilton's Fourth, Vettel's Temper
If anybody would describe the 2017 formula one season, it would have to be one that was ended before the last race, and a challenger that lost the championship both in the drivers and constructor’s competition due to a small 100-dollar spark plug, and a temperamental driver.
When the season began back in March in Melbourne, Australia, Ferrari was right on the mark. Many thought that with Sebastian Vettel’s win there that the Scuderia finally had at last pulled even with the AMG Mercedes squad that had dominated the championship for the last three seasons.
Without defending champion Nico Rosberg, who stunned everyone one day following his championship win in Abu Dhabi by announcing his retirement, Lewis Hamilton finally got the silver arrows rolling with a victory in the second round in China. But Vettel returned at the first of two-night races in Bahrain with his second victory of the year. But out of nowhere came a driver that had raced with Williams the season before, as Valterri Bottas, who got the drive of his career when he replaced Rosberg at Mercedes, didn’t take long to realize that his car was a race winning one, taking the following round in Russia. Hamilton and Vettel traded off wins in Spain and Monaco, before the season came to North America in Montreal, Canada.
This was Hamilton’s favorite ground, and proved no wrong as the Briton won again before the F1 circus returned to Europe to contest the Summer races. After all the wins by Mercedes and Ferrari, it was time to have another winning driver from another team. That award went to Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull, who won in Azerbaijan, following a controversial race when Vettel thought during a safety car period that Hamilton, who was in front of the German, was brake testing him, and decided enough was enough and struck Hamilton’s car from the side. Vettel was hit with a slap on the wrist for a penalty, but proved that his patience with everything was beginning to crack.
Bottas took his second win in Austria, while Hamilton triumphed in his home race in Great Britain at Silverstone. Just before the month-long summer break, Vettel found his rhythm at the twisty Hungaroring in Hungary and felt that after his earlier troubles that happened were finally over with.
But it wasn’t to be that way.
Hamilton came on strong once the season resumed, and won both the final races in Europe at Belgium and Italy, before the circus once again moved to Asia with the next three races in Singapore, Malaysia and Japan. This is where Ferrari’s season unfolded and already Mercedes was well ahead of the constructor’s championship, so much that by Suzuka, they already clinched the title. Hamilton won in Singapore and Japan, with a challenge from young Max Verstappen in Malaysia, giving Red Bull Racing their second win of the year.
Hamilton edged so closer to his fourth title as he won in Austin, Texas and finally realized his goal in Mexico. But what happened to Ferrari? In Singapore and Malaysia, it seemed that their engines were malfunctioning all the time, which did not sound like the Scuderia, and of all, Vettel. Vettel retired from those rounds, and it gave Hamilton the chance to avoid having a final round nail biter in Abu Dhabi. The cause of Vettel’s misfortunes was something that might be expensive to a road driver, but costly to a race team. And this was a faulty spark plug, which for a race car can cost nearly 100 U.S. Dollars. A cheap item to an F1 team that ended all that work trying to defeat the defending champions.
Although Hamilton clinched the title in Mexico, Verstappen won again, his second of the season, which gave his Red Bull team the opportunity to sign him until 2020, something that Ricciardo might begin to think that the team might not be interested in him anymore following the end of his contract in 2018.
Considering the role of drivers and constructors championships were clinched, the tension on Vettel was now over, and this followed with a win in Brazil, with Bottas finally taking the final race in Abu Dhabi, which was to most people: “A boring race.”
What really made the difference of having the season interesting was the fight with the 6th, 7th and 8th places in the constructor’s championship. With Force India and Williams already clinched the 4th and 5th positions, respectively, the battle would be between Toro Rosso, Renault and the American Haas F1 Team, looking to improve on their last year’s eighth place finish. However, Nico Hulkenberg’s sixth place finish in the final race gave the French manufacture the highest position, followed by Toro Rosso and the Haas team, once again in eighth.
This year finally, can be the first time that Bernie Ecclestone was not in the mix as head maestro of formula one. His replacements from the United States, with Chase Carey at the helm, are proving that the fun time is now over in their rookie season. It now will come down to what can happen for this sport for the future and even for next season, whether Hamilton can win his fifth title, or Vettel doing the same. Will Verstappen step up higher for a challenge to the top, or can a works team like Renault advance? And will Haas have more money to pursue their popularity towards American fans and the rest of the world, to respect that America can compete against the rest of the world in the most popular form of motor sport.
A 16 year veteran of writing formula one racing weekend race reports, features and team launches, Mark has worked for such companies as all-sports, e-sports, The Munich Eye newspaper in Germany, racingnation.com and Autoweek. A former member for this site four years ago, Mark now is a contributor for R.I.S.