F1 2017: team-by-team guide to the cars and drivers for the season | Giles Richards

Giles Richards
Max Verstappen can challenge at the front, Ferrari were strong in testing, Fernando Alonso is still struggling at McLaren and Lewis Hamilton remains the man to beat. Composite: AFP/Getty

Mercedes

Car F1-W08; Engine Mercedes; Principal Toto Wolff; Debut France, 1954; Grands prix entered 148; Constructors’ titles 3 (2014, 2015, 2016) Still favourites and the team that must be beaten; bringing their dominant engine to the new formula puts them on the front foot from the off but they have not yet had to deal with a challenge at the front; real competition and pressure will pose a new test.


Lewis Hamilton (GB, aged 32)

No44; Debut Australia, 2007; Wins 53; Poles 61; Titles 3 (2008, 2014, 2015); Last season 2nd; Odds Evens

Reinvigorated after missing out on the title last season and happier with the team as the de facto No1 driver, he finished 2016 driving as well as he ever has; hard to beat and hungry again.

Valtteri Bottas (Fin, 27)

No77; Debut Australia, 2013; Wins 0; Best finish 2nd; Poles 0; Best qualifying 2nd; Titles 0; Highest championship finish 4th; Last season 8th; Odds 5-1

Chance of a lifetime for the Finn who can no longer hide in midfield anonymity; cool, calm and unruffled, he is quick too but must earn a full-time place by scoring well and even taking the fight to his team-mate.

Valtteri Bottas sitting in the new F1-W08 Mercedes. Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images

Red Bull

Car RB13; Engine Renault (Tag Heuer); Principal Christian Horner; Debut Australia, 2005; Grands prix 224; Constructors’ titles 4 (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013)

Need to make a step forward from testing but Adrian Newey is likely to have more for the car in Melbourne; if they do so and a development fight ensues, have every chance to challenge for the title and the right drivers for the fight.

Daniel Ricciardo (Aus, 27)

No3; Debut Great Britain, 2011; Wins 4; Poles 1; Titles 0; Highest championship finish 3rd; Last season 3rd; Odds 8-1

His team-mate took the headlines but the 2016 driver of the year coaxed more from the car than might have been expected. Quick, aggressive and formidable at overtaking, he would relish a fight for the title.

Max Verstappen (Neth, 19)

No33; Debut Australia, 2015; Wins 1; Poles 0; Best qualifying 2nd; Titles 0; Best championship finish 5th; Last season 5th; Odds 8-1

A remarkable talent with breathtaking audacity but has shown poor judgment with his racecraft. Supremely confident of his own ability, a championship battle would not perturb him, but staying out of trouble would be a prerequisite for making it feasible.

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo celebrates with Max Verstappen after the 2016 Malaysia Grand Prix. Photograph: Edgar Su/Reuters

Ferrari

Car SF70H; Engine Ferrari; Principal Maurizio Arrivabene; Debut Monaco, 1950; Grands prix 928; Constructors’ titles 16 (1961, 1964, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1979, 1982, 1983, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008)

Superb grip, a strong engine and the quickest times – Ferrari had it all in testing; if it translates to race pace they will be contenders. But the team must step up strategically with coherent, clear leadership and organisation to take the fight to the others.

Sebastian Vettel (Ger, 29)

No5; Debut USA, 2007; Wins 42; Poles 46; Titles 4 (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013); Last season 4th; Odds 4-1

Anger and frustration behind the wheel affected his performance last season, but if the car has the pace it showed in testing, he is still capable of matching it; would be far more focussed if given a genuine chance of being competitive.

Kimi Raikkonen (Fin, 37)

No7; Debut Australia, 2001; Wins 20; Poles 16; Titles 1 (2007); Last season 6th; Odds 10-1

Surprisingly strong in the second half of 2016 and still a masterful driver who knows how to win, Kimi has nothing to prove and is driving for pleasure; so while his motivation may be questioned his talent will out, especially in a decent ride.

Kimi Raikkonen on track during the final day of Formula One winter testing at the Circuit de Catalunya. Photograph: Dan Istitene/Getty Images

Force India

Car VJM10; Engine Mercedes; Principal Vijay Mallya; Debut Australia, 2008; Grands prix 171; Constructors’ titles 0 (best finish 4th)

Punched way above their weight with fourth last season and there is no reason why they cannot do so again. Car was solid in testing, has Merc power and they have a strong driver lineup but will need consistency to triumph in what will be a very tight midfield.

Sergio Pérez (Mex, 27)

No11; Debut Australia, 2011; Wins 0; Best finish 2nd; Poles 0; Best qualifying 4th; Titles 0; Best championship finish 7th; Last season 7th; Odds 500-1

Has moved on hugely from a difficult season with McLaren in his third season; now a strong points-scorer and able to make the most of any advantages that fall his way, he is quick and reliable, Force India’s sharpest weapon in the fight for fourth.

Esteban Ocon (Fr, 20)

No31; Debut Belgium, 2016; Wins 0; Best finish 12th; Poles 0; Best qualifying 17th; Titles 0; Best championship finish 23rd; Last season 23rd; Odds 500-1

Moved on from the now defunct Manor, the Mercedes junior driver is without doubt a talent; now must prove it in a car that can show what he can do and in proper competition rather than at the back; signs are he is more than capable of doing so.

Esteban Ocon tests his Force India. Photograph: Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Williams

Car FW40, Engine Mercedes; Principal Frank Williams; Debut Spain, 1977, Grands prix 646, Constructors’ titles 9 (1980, 1981, 1986, 1987, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997)

Strong in testing, fourth is a realistic target for the team; have recruited strongly and Paddy Lowe’s return will be a huge boost but with a lineup featuring drivers at either end of the career spectrum they must be bolder and sharper strategically to make it work.

Felipe Massa (Br, 35)

No19; Debut Australia, 2002; Wins 11; Poles 16; Titles 0; Best championship finish 2nd; Last season 11th; Odds 200-1

Brought back from retirement after Bottas left for Mercedes but is not an ideal replacement. His latter years have been decent but not outstanding and he no longer has the raw pace of the Finn. Williams will need an almighty effort from the old boy.

Lance Stroll (Can, 18)

No18; Debut N/A; Wins N/A; Poles N/A; Titles 0 (2016 Euro F3 Champion); Last season N/A; Odds 500-1

The 18-year-old Canadian rookie has been bankrolled into F1 by his father and attracted all the wrong attention with offs in testing; but winning in F3 is no cakewalk. Consistency and points will be the target, that and keeping it out of the wall. Williams need their teenager to step up.

Lance Stroll biggest challenge may be keeping his car on the track. Photograph: Lluis Gene/AFP/Getty Images

McLaren

Car MCL32; Engine Honda; Principal Eric Boullier; Debut Monaco, 1966; Grands prix 801; Constructors’ titles 8 (1974, 1984, 1985, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1998)

Launch-day optimism turned to ashen faces in Barcelona after disastrous testing. The Honda power unit was unreliable and not providing the expected output and, when it was working, the car did not look quick. Need to make remarkable recovery just to match last season.

Fernando Alonso (Sp, 35)

No14; Debut Australia, 2001; Wins 32; Poles 22; Titles 2 (2005, 2006); Last season 10th; Odds 250-1

Still one of the best drivers on the grid, Alonso stuck with McLaren over two frustrating seasons on the promise of a better 2016; but that elusive third title looks further away than ever and he may well chose not to put up with it again – expect fireworks.

Stoffel Vandoorne (Bel, 24)

No2; Debut Bahrain, 2016; Wins 0; Best finish 10th; Poles 0; Best qualifying 17; Titles 0; Best championship finish 20th; Last season 20th; Odds 500-1

To all intents and purposes a rookie, bar one start for McLaren in Bahrain; he is talented and must show it by getting his head down and making the most of difficult circumstances while right in the spotlight; a real test of character in his debut season.

Fernando Alonso in the new McLaren pre-season. Photograph: Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Toro Rosso

Car STR12; Engine Renault; Principal Franz Tost; Debut Bahrain, 2006; Grands prix 206; Constructors’ titles 0 (Best finish 6th)

Switching to Renault after using a year-old Ferrari engine is step forward and the car looks good on aero, making mid-table realistic; driver line-up will reinforce that, and the challenge to do better will depend on ability to develop strongly plus consistency.

Daniil Kvyat (Rus, 22)

No26; Debut Australia, 2014; Wins 0; Best finish 2nd; Poles 0; Best qualifying 4th; Titles 0; Best championship finish 7th; Last season 14th; Odds 500-1

Came back well after his sudden demotion from Red Bull last season, which proved his character. Is now an experienced driver so needs to be strong from the off to prove he still deserves a place in F1.

Carlos Sainz Jr (Sp, 22)

No55; Debut Australia, 2015; Wins 0; Best finish 6th; Poles 0; Best qualifying 5th; Titles 0; Best championship finish 12th; Last season 12th; Odds 500-1

Precocious talent often overlooked in the shade of Verstappen but the 22-year-old has excellent qualifying and race pace and closed last season strongly, even with the out of date engine; could seriously out-race his team-mate and further his case for a better drive.

Daniil Kvyat was demoted by Red Bull last season and must prove himself at Torro Rosso. Photograph: Clive Mason/Getty Images

Haas

Car VF-17; Engine Ferrari; Principal Guenther Steiner; Debut Australia, 2016; Grands prix 21; Constructors’ titles 0 (Best finish 8th)

Solid debut season must be matched by this US squad and technical partnership with Ferrari suggests they can deliver. Car was good in testing and they have a reliable, strong engine; can challenge in midfield battle now they have experience under their belts.

Romain Grosjean (Swi, 30)

No8; Debut Europe, Valencia, 2009; Wins 0; Best finish 2nd; Poles 0; Best qualifying 2nd; Titles 0; Best championship finish 7th; Last season 13th; Odds 500-1

More mature driver now, Grosjean has kept the turn of pace that originally got him noticed and he can turn a half chance into a strong race; but struggles when the car is not behaving as he would like. A stable platform and team will let him shine.

Kevin Magnussen (Den, 24)

No20; Debut Australia, 2014; Wins 0; Best finish 2nd; Poles 0; Best qualifying 4th; Titles 0; Best championship finish 11th; Last season 16th; Odds 500-1

Badly needs to work well on and off the track with his third successive team. Questions being asked after McLaren and Renault dispensed with young Dane’s services; he is quick but putting in some no-nonsense performances in the points is vital.

Romain Grosjean still has pace but needs the Haas to provide him with stability. Photograph: Charles Coates/Getty Images

Renault

Car R.S.17; Engine Renault; Team principals Jérôme Stoll, Cyril Abiteboul; Debut Great Britain, 1977; Grands prix 321; Constructors’ titles 2 (2005, 2006)

Team’s first year back with their own car as a manufacturer expected to be a stepping stone and it looks able to secure midfield territory. Better resourced and financed now, they can expect to develop strongly and will improve further as Renault tune their power unit.

Nico Hülkenberg (Ger, 29)

No27; Debut Bahrain, 2010; Wins 0; Best finish 4th; Poles 1; Titles 0; Best championship finish 9th; Last season 9th; Odds 500-1

Le Mans 24 Hours winner has yet to stand on the podium in F1, which is a disservice to his talent, but will need to get lucky to do so. Must show he is still hungry and make the best of a manufacturer aiming for the title in future.

Jolyon Palmer (GB, 26)

No30, Debut Australia, 2016; Wins 0; Best finish 10th; Poles 0; Best qualifying 13th; Titles 0; Best championship finish 18th; Last season 18th; Odds 500-1

Had to dig deep after a tough opening to his debut season but did so and finished stronger than his former team-mate Magnussen. Has the ability to build on that and putting Hülkenberg under pressure would be good result.

Jolyon Palmer (left) and Nico Hulkenberg launch the new Renault. Photograph: Nick Ansell/PA

Sauber

Car c36; Engine Ferrari; Principal Monisha Kaltenborn; Debut South Africa, 1993; Grands prix 421; Constructors’ titles 0 (Best 2nd as BMW)

With proper financial backing on board the team is looking to move forward but using last year’s Ferrari engine will be costly as the season goes on; restructuring and rebuilding is still in progress so can expect little more as yet than bringing up the rear.

Marcus Ericsson (Swe, 26)

No9; Debut Australia, 2014; Wins 0; Best finish 8th; Poles 0; Best qualifying 9th; Titles 0; Best championship finish 18th; Last season 22nd; Odds 500-1

Quick on a good day and aggressive when he needs to be, Ericsson now has three years experience to his name – so it is time to show the consistency and level-headedness needed to turn that into points whenever they are on offer.

Pascal Wehrlein (Ger, 22)

No94; Debut Australia, 2016; Wins 0; Best finish 10th; Poles 0; Best qualifying 12th; Titles 0; Best championship finish 19th; Last season 19th; Odds 500-1

Another Mercedes junior driver and with recognised pace, now has a better machine than last year’s Manor and the chance to prove he has the licks in trading places as well. Will expect to, and probably can, outshine his team-mate.

Marcus Ericsson must turn his three years worth of experience into points. Photograph: Dan Istitene/Getty Images
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