It’s been a long off season with plenty of changes, but finally F1 is back next week with the season opening Australian Grand Prix!
So if you’re an avid fan, a bandwagoner, or someone whose daily commute to work has increased by an average 45 minutes around Albert Park and you’re wondering what the hell is going on, we’ve got you sorted.
This is your one stop shop for all the F1 info you need ahead of the most star-studded week on the Melbourne calendar, especially now that the Logies have moved to the Gold Coast.
The off-season didn’t bring too many surprises in the cockpit, with 6 of the 10 teams opting to keep the same drivers as last season.
Frenchman Pierre Gasly and Kiwi Brendon Hartley have signed on for their first full season in F1 with Toro Rosso as Carlos Sainz makes the full time switch from the Red Bull junior team to Renault.
Sauber controversially dropped Pascal Wehrlein, who many considered to one of the sports young guns, and replaced him with Charles Leclerc. He does come to the struggling team with some good performances in the junior categories after winning the GP3 and F2 Championships over the last 2 years.
Williams were the last team to confirm their driver line-up with the ever-improving Lance Stroll keeping his seat and is joined by Russian Sergey Sirotkin, who just edged out the experienced Robert Kubica, who will be the team's reserve driver.
Pre Season Testing
Perhaps the most interesting point to note from this year’s winter testing is no matter how much technology you can throw into a car, it still can’t drive in the snow. Temperatures hit single figures and they even had a snow day!
Once all the snow melted, the cars hit the track in all their beauty…ahhh maybe not. The dreaded ‘halo’ device for driver protection is now mandatory…and they look terrible. Teams and designers have been struggling to meet the car weight requirements with the halo having to be strong enough to withstand some rigorous structural tests.
But, I guess if it means driver safety, I guess it has to stay…
In terms of lap times at the Circuit De Catalunya, teams have been smashing it. The official lap record, set by Felipe Massa in 2009, is 1.18.34 and five drivers eclipsed that over the last 2 weeks.
More importantly, the reliability issues that have plagued the last few years seem to be a thing of the past, with teams clocking up some ridiculous numbers. Mercedes (1040) and Ferrari (929) lead the pack. Surprisingly Toro Rosso were third, who have moved to Honda engines, which have decimated McLarens last 3 years with extremely poor reliability, to the point where the former F1 powerhouse ended the relationship and moved to Renault power. Ironically, it was McLaren completed the fewest laps with only 629.
Yeah yeah…but what about Ricciardo?!
After belting out 364 laps (and also toppling the lap record, if you don’t mind) and Red Bull clocking up over 780 in total, Danny Ric is pretty happy. “We’re certainly more ready than we were last year - and probably every year before that since I’ve been with the team.”
He is also still one of the biggest legends in the paddock, keeping us up to date on his Insta so if you don’t already, give him a follow. It’s well worth it. You’re welcome Dan.
What does this season have in store?
Well, World Champs Mercedes are still fast and reliable. Ferrari look like they have a decent package with the most experienced drivers on the grid, who were both in the 1 minute 17s. That is seriously quick. Red Bull are again just behind, but perhaps haven’t shown their full potential just yet. Let’s just hope for Ricciardo’s sake that they aren’t playing catch up throughout the season, as they have done in the last few years, and reliability improves.
And this year, keep an eye out for Renault. It’s their 4th year back in the Championship as a works team, and with Nico Hulkenberg and Sainz at the wheel they’re a real smokey to move up the Constructors ladder from 6th.
The Formula 1 2018 Rolex Australian Grand Prix. March 22-29. Tickets from grandprix.com.au.