There is something magical about Monaco. The most densely populated country on the planet invites the Formula 1 circus to put on a showpiece event every year – a 78 lap blast around a location entirely unsuitable for hosting a grand prix.
Nelson Piquet Jr famously described the challenge as like riding a bicycle around your living room. Simply lapping the circuit at the limit of adhesion alone is enough of a trial – overtaking on Monaco’s impossibly narrow streets is the work of a moment of magic.
It may be a procession on Sunday. It may be a winner from pole position and a one-stop strategy. Regardless, there are plenty of reasons to be excited about F1’s blue ribbon event.
With Formula 1’s Strategy Group having recently approved an increase of next year’s fuel limit from 105kg to 110kg per race, the category is obviously moving away from being a fuel efficiency formula.
That’s ultimately a good thing. F1 is no longer able to compete against the likes of Formula E for being pioneers of the technological future. Having lost the high ground in that fight, it has to instead focus on becoming the most entertaining racing series on the planet instead of necessarily being the most technologically advanced one. Providing enough fuel to allow “drivers to use the engine at full power at all times” fits this mandate perfectly.
However, the news has reignited a debate on whether F1 should cut the half-measures and return to in-race refuelling. That would be a bad thing.
The 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix was a modern classic. It had elements of soap opera, late-braking bravery, inter and intra-team anguish and plenty of unexpected heroes. The ’18 edition of the race was, as a result, in danger of being over-hyped.
In the end, the race lived up to the blockbuster billing with a finale that would have earned a ‘fresh’ rating from Rotten Tomatoes.
The eve of a brand-new Formula 1 season is one of the year’s most exciting times. The anticipation of discovering which teams have done the best job at scaling the pecking order over the winter, and conversely, which teams have the most work to do?
Predicting the final constructors’ championship results pre-Melbourne is never more than the art of guesswork but in the name of fun, I’ve had a go anyway.
Here is my predicted pecking order for F1’s 2018 season;
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.
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.
At present, Honda doesn’t necessarily have the most marketable product in Formula 1. Their current partners McLaren are continually pinning their lack of performance – and quite rightly so – on the Honda power unit’s deficiencies and the Japanese manufacturer has a history of overstating the value of engine upgrades.
Regardless, certain teams are willing to consider Honda power as an option for 2018 and beyond. Sauber had even signed a deal with Honda prior to the appointment of Frederic Vasseur as the team principal, who had other ideas and subsequently terminated the deal. Now, it would seem that Toro Rosso is considering Honda power for 2018.
While it may sound bizarre, such a tie-up would make a lot of sense.