Brendon Hartley is not necessarily a household name. Despite this, his upcoming cameo appearance in Formula 1 filling in for the ‘trophy hunting’ Pierre Gasly at Toro Rosso, could not be any more exciting.
Hartley has been a World Endurance Championship factory LMP1 driver at Porsche since 2014. Alongside team-mates Timo Bernhard and Earl Bamber, the New Zealander is likely to secure a second WEC title this season to couple with his 2015 crown. Despite his achievements in prototype racing, the news of his imminent F1 debut is a seismic shock.
2017 has been a year to expect the unexpected in world motorsport. Hartley’s imminent F1 bow is as surprising a storyline as Fernando Alonso’s Indy 500 escapade and injects another fascinating narrative into the 2018 F1 driver market.
The Netherlands has not hosted a Formula 1 race since 1985. However, the appetite for the category has well and truly been rekindled thanks to the heroics of one remarkable talent.
Max Verstappen’s meteoric rise has once again galvanised interest, with easily recognisable Dutch fans flocking to a number of European races both in 2016 and ’17. Grandstands have been painted orange at the Austrian and Belgian Grand Prix in particular.
It is no surprise that the commercial rights holders are looking to maximise this Verstappen-induced enthusiasm. Autosport has revealed that Sean Bratches – one arm of the triumvirate governing the sport – is aiming to introduce a Dutch street race onto the F1 schedule in the near future.
Jolyon Palmer is not the first and certainly won’t be the last driver to find himself spat out by Formula 1’s revolving door. The pinnacle of motorsport can be suitably brutal at times.
Palmer’s statistics make for difficult reading. In his 36 F1 starts – all of which while driving an at least semi-competitive Renault – he has only claimed two points scoring finishes. Palmer’s eight points in 2017 are dwarfed by team-mate Nico Hulkenberg’s 34.
However, the statistics fail to tell the story of his career, nor the talent that Palmer possesses. In reality, his premature departure from Renault and F1 – four races before the end of the season – could well be a blessing in disguise.
Ferrari has endured a nightmare September. After being trounced by Mercedes at Monza, the first-lap clash in Singapore between Ferrari duo Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, marked the first time in Formula 1 history that both Ferrari’s have been eliminated from a Grand Prix on the opening lap.
In Malaysia, the Scuderia seemed to be out of the woods. Friday saw Vettel and Raikkonen top the timesheets, while also posting impressive times during long runs. It seemed certain that Vettel would seize pole position and reduce his points arrears with a win on Sunday. A turbo fault in FP3 before power unit gremlins in qualifying served to derail his weekend by condemning him to the back of the grid.
In the meantime, victories in Italy and Singapore – followed by a second place finish in Malaysia – have allowed Lewis Hamilton to steal a march towards the 2017 drivers’ championship title. He now leads Vettel by 34 points with a maximum 125 points still up for grabs.
September has been bleak for Ferrari. However, positives have emerged from the gloom and Vettel can still enter the final five races with an air of optimism regarding his title aspirations.
One of Formula 1’s most crippling weaknesses over recent years has been the series’ inability to utilise the growing tool that is social media and the World Wide Web. The internet has eclipsed television as the location in which to showcase a sport and F1 had fallen significantly behind the curve during the Ecclestone-era.
Fortunately, Liberty Media has acknowledged the need to embrace the new age of media consumption. On Tuesday, the 2001 Malaysian Grand Prix was uploaded – in full – to the official F1 YouTube channel and will be freely available to view for 19 days.
The Singapore Grand Prix has a habit of injecting fresh jeopardy into a title battle. Be it Felipe Massa driving off with his fuel hose still attached during Formula 1’s first-ever night race in 2008 – or Nico Rosberg’s faulty wiring loom that led to terminal clutch issues in 2016 – Singapore has the potential to turn a championship fight on its head.
Should 2017 championship leader Lewis Hamilton be crowned a four-time world champion in November, Sebastian Vettel’s dramatic first-lap elimination in Singapore will be looked upon as a season-defining moment.
Now trailing Hamilton by 28-points with just six races remaining, Vettel unquestionably finds himself hugely compromised. However, this is a title battle that is still far from declaring a winner.
Despite 2018’s front running seats being locked down by their incumbents, it appears that a midfield shuffle is about to be triggered by Carlos Sainz Jr. Bizarrely, it would seem that power unit politics is the factor that is set to fuel a move for Sainz from Toro Rosso to Renault for 2018.
It is a switch which makes perfect sense, as it benefits all five parties that are either directly or indirectly involved; Red Bull, Renault, Toro Rosso, the beleaguered McLaren and – most poignantly – Sainz himself.