The Formula 1 Almanac: An alternative look at 2017
Formula 1, and the wider motorsport world, can be a slightly serious affair sometimes, so Motorsport Week’s very own F1 Prophet Phil delves into his crystal ball and supplies us with his motorsport almanac for 2017…
Sauber causes a surprise by unveiling its C36, which doesn’t feature a rear wing. Sauber denies the move has been carried out due to financial constraints. A spokesperson confirms that its straight-line speed will be its strong point, though is wary cornering could prove “slightly challenging.”
Jolyon Palmer misses the entirety of pre-season testing after Renault forgets to inform him of the schedule. “It’s true,” says a team source. “We couldn’t remember who was driving for us, and Nico kept banging on about his Le Mans win so much that we forgot about the other guy.”
Ferrari receives criticism after an anonymous pre-season testing run at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, with the car slow and unreliable. “Bwoah,” says Kimi Räikkönen. “It is what it is and I know that we will work hard to improve.”
Amid wild rumours, McLaren unveils an all-new livery for its MCL32 car. The overhauled scheme sees black replaced by what the team refer to as “contemporary graphite”, featuring “illustrious shades of cocoa, complete with shadowy elements of charcoal, which ideally reflects the team’s image.”
Nico Rosberg begins to explore life outside of Formula 1 as he embarks on a new career in the world of boxing. “I’m just taking it one round at a time,” insists the German.
All eyes are on Daniel Ricciardo in Australia, but after the trend of autographs is replaced by selfies, instead it’s shoeys which prove to be his downfall. Ricciardo is asked to do a shoey at every public appearance across the weekend and eventually passes out in the garage pre-race.
Renault surprises with an upturn in form as Nico Hülkenberg finishes fourth on his first start for the team, exceeding the manufacturer’s 2016 points total in one round.
After the first two rounds of the season feature a combined total of three overtakes, all by Max Verstappen, fans demand changes to the regulations. The sport unanimously agrees that for 2019 drivers should have less downforce available at their disposal, with a greater emphasis on power. “Isn’t this exactly what we had before?” note several observers.
In an extra attempt to spice up the show, the qualifying format is tweaked. Each driver must complete three laps, one on each of the available dry tyre compounds, and their combined lap time counts for their overall qualifying effort. However, it rains, so the concept is dropped.
Sebastian Vettel breaks the world record for the most profanities expressed in one minute after his car stops during the Russian Grand Prix. For the next race, following complaints from air traffic control that the German is blocking the airwaves, the FIA mandates that Vettel is prohibited from using the radio.
Red Bull elects to promote Pierre Gasly to Toro Rosso at the expense of Daniil Kvyat. “We still believe in Daniil’s talents and are sure he will continue to learn,” says Helmut Marko, after slotting Kvyat back into GP3.
A momentary lapse in concentration in Monaco causes Lewis Hamilton to take a wrong turn on lap 55, ending up on the public roads around the Principality. Hamilton surprises locals by asking for directions and manages to find his way back to the circuit, maintaining his lead in the process.
Bored of competing in Formula E, Blancpain and GT racing, Felix Rosenqvist secures a last-minute entry for the Indianapolis 500. Despite starting from last place, with minimal testing, the Swede eventually wins by two laps and drinks the victor’s milk in a new record time of 2.5 seconds.
Liberty Media announces that a Grand Prix will be held on a specifically-designed circuit in Mongolia, 500 miles from the nearest city. “It’ll still have more atmosphere than Baku,” quip several of the more weathered paddock wags. Rumour has it the European Grand Prix title will be revived for the race.
Toyota leads 23 hours and 59 minutes of the Le Mans 24 Hours but a sudden and surprise temperature inversion leads to a blizzard on the final lap. Kazuki Nakajima spins into the gravel and is passed by the #7 Audi, which manages to win despite not entering the race.
GP2 returns to the Baku City Circuit. No-one reaches the finish.
After another race without a podium, and only occupying fourth in the standings, criticism mounts for Ferrari, particularly from the Italian media. “Bwoah,” says Räikkönen. “It is what it is and I know that we will work hard to improve.”
Lewis Hamilton takes his eighth win of the year at the British Grand Prix and denies that he is still upset over Nico Rosberg’s retirement. “Nico can do what he wants, I don’t care,” says Hamilton. “I’m better, you know, always have been, always will be, Nico can think whatever, that’s his say.”
Renault’s Nico Hülkenberg looks set to claim his first Formula 1 podium in Hungary but an alternate tyre strategy allows his Force India successor Esteban Ocon to pass him on the final lap. Hülkenberg comes home in fourth, again.
The FIA opens up the entry process for new teams for the 2018 season. Colin Kolles announces his intention to form a team focused on establishing future Grand Prix stars. Jacques Villeneuve and Rubens Barrichello are recruited to drive his new cars.
In order to get fans more involved in the sport, the FIA announces that a social media vote will be used in place of stewards to decide on penalties and incidents. “This is a totally brilliant idea and I’m confident that it will be positive for the sport,” says Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
Renault’s renaissance makes the manufacturer an attractive location for 2018 as the silly season hots up heading into the summer break. “Yes, we are considering candidates,” says Cyril Abiteboul, “such as Stoffel, Sainz, Kvyat, Ocon, Pérez, Stroll, Bottas, but it’s a small list. Oh, and that guy who races for us. John? Joseph? Jolyon, that’s it.”
Rosberg’s dalliance with other businesses continues as he opens a British-themed pub in his native Monaco and installs himself as landlord. “I’m just going to take it one round at a time,” he comments.
The roads around Spa-Francorchamps become jammed as Belgian fans supporting Stoffel Vandoorne and a Dutch army supporting Max Verstappen descend on the Ardennes. No-one manages to arrive at the circuit on time, aside from Nico Hülkenberg, who finishes fourth, again.
Felipe Massa emotionally announces his retirement in the Williams motorhome at the Italian Grand Prix, though only three people attend, and two of those do so by accident. Williams announces Formula 3 driver Mick Schumacher as his replacement for 2018.
For promotional purposes, Toro Rosso elects to field Carlos Sainz Jr. and Carlos Sainz Sr. for the team’s home race at Monza. Despite the name confusion in team briefings, Sainz Sr. stuns by setting the pace and is poised to win, only for engine failure to cost him victory on the last lap. A furious Sainz Sr. clambers from his stranded STR12 and smashes his helmet through the rear wing of the car.
Sauber decides to embark on further cost-cutting measures by supplying only Virtual Cars for Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein. The C36-Ferraris are super-imposed on-track while a robotic version of Ericsson and Wehrlein control the simulated cars from a computer. Wehrlein’s robotic self is noted for its sparky personality compared to the real-life German.
In a surprise move, Red Bull is keen to promote youngster Richard Verschoor from Formula 4, and the Dutchman moves into GP3 at Kvyat’s expense. “Daniil is a very talented driver and he will continue to learn,” quips Marko, after placing Kvyat in ADAC Formula 4.
An astonishing discovery reveals that Vettel’s Ferrari has been partly powered by his in-car swearing. “We didn’t want to tell Seb that we had a power deficit,” a source comments. “But we converted his anger into kinetic energy and it seems to be working.”
Ron Dennis holds a press conference in a swanky London hotel to announce his new venture. “I can confirm that it is my intention to cultivate an organisation in which machinery will be powered to progress with forwards momentum,” he says, announcing the ‘McLaron’ team for 2018.
US President Donald Trump visits the Circuit of the Americas to conduct the podium interviews and congratulates Lewis Hamilton for “winning bigly” but blanks third-place finisher Sergio Pérez. Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, is also in attendance but an email mix-up means she is denied access to the grid.
Ferrari once again misses out on the podium, leaving the team marooned in the midfield, but Räikkönen remains confident that problems can be addressed. “Bwoah,” says Räikkönen. “It is what it is and I know that we will work hard to improve.”
Rosenqvist, after a handful of outings in LMP2 and GP3, takes up an entry for Rally Spain. Despite being equipped with a Ford Cortina running on only three cylinders, the Swede takes victory by a minute. “He only won because of favourable running order,” fumes Sébastien Ogier.
Wary of Fernando Alonso’s antics across the past two years, McLaren boss Zak Brown demands that deckchairs are banned from Interlagos. Alonso, ever the canny operator, breaks down once again and unveils a fold-up chair, previously hidden inside the cockpit, and is immediately sacked.
Torrential weather strikes in Brazil and Renault’s Hülkenberg thrives in the atrocious conditions. Hülkenberg leads for 70 laps but spins at the Curva do Sol, picks up a puncture, and gets struck by lightning on the final lap, eventually coming home in fourth, again.
Ferrari finishes the year without a single front row start or top three finish, leading to a stinging rebuke from the Tifosi, and a demand for a shake-up of the organisation. “Bwoah,” comments Räikkönen. “It is what it is and I know that we will work hard to improve.”
Having been ousted by McLaren, and with every other seat taken, Alonso signs for McLaron, which secures a partnership with returning engine supplier Peugeot. “I totally believe in this project,” says the Spaniard, embracing Dennis, “and believe that this will be my last team in Formula 1.”
The next day, Lewis Hamilton, fresh from securing his fourth world title with 15 wins, stuns the sport by announcing his retirement from Formula 1. Ron Dennis insists Alonso’s three-year contract with McLaron is binding, despite Mercedes’ advances. Mercedes eventually turns to Lance Stroll, after some eye-catching rookie performances with Williams, leaving a vacancy at Grove.
Williams, desperate for an experienced driver to place alongside newcomer Schumacher, re-hires Massa, again.
Red Bull announces that Kvyat will compete in karting in 2018 after his handful of outings in F4. “We still believe Daniil is a superb talent who will continue to develop,” says Marko.
Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne insists that the outfit will learn from its disappointing 2017. “I know the team has all the resources available to fight for both world titles next year,” he says at the team’s annual Christmas lunch.
A large blaze erupts at McLaren’s pristine Technology Centre in Woking, engulfing the building in devastating scenes. “Still,” quips one wag, “McLaren did promise us some orange in 2017...”
This feature originally appeared in issue 201 of Motorsport Monday, which can be read for free, just click here.