Australian Grand Prix Preview

The unknowns for 2017

Australian Grand Prix Preview

As practice gets underway around Albert Park for the Australian Grand Prix we've cast our eyes to the season ahead.

There's a lot of new stuff in 2017 - rules, cars, tyres and drivers,

That makes this one of the hardest seasons to predict for several years.

What we do know is Nico Rosberg won't be back.

Last year's world champion is enjoying his retirement and will be just as keen as fans to see what will unfold in Melbourne.

Two recent pre-season tests in Spain have given us some clues about what we can expect when the likes of Hamilton, Ricciardo, Vettel and Alonso turn their steering wheels in anger on Sunday.

Now for some tough questions...

How fast is Red Bull?

It's been a while since Daniel Ricciardo had the fastest car on the grid and this year looks to be no different if testing is anything to go on.

But some around the F1 paddock suggested the team weren't showing off their true pace, with more of it set to be unlocked from Melbourne onwards.

The early indications are that the new Renault engine will take some time to get on par with Mercedes.

What about the Renault? Have the French finally nailed it?

Not content with getting smacked weekend after weekend by Mercedes, the French went back to the drawing board on their 2017 powerplant.

There were glimpses of promises, with the Red Bull topping speed charts for the first time in Barcelona.

But the big uncertainty is the R word.

Reliability.

If anything is going to help them, it's the end of the controversial engine token system, which allows Renault to make as many upgrades as they want through the season.

Can Ferrari Be World Champions?

The pace of the Scuderia surprised many in Spain, so much so it's got pundits predicting a Hamilton v Vettel rivalry will dominate the season.

Not to be left out, Kimi Raikkonen was quicker than any other driver in pre-season testing.

Whether this speed carries across to the season remains to be seen.


Does Lewis Hamilton Have Anything To Be Worried About?

With Nico Rosberg done driving in circles, you'd think Lewis Hamilton can breathe easy knowing the newly-crowned world champion is done.

But Mercedes weren't going to settle for any old second fiddle.

Management had to twist some arms at Williams to get quietly quick Finn Valtteri Bottas over to the Silver Arrows.

Right now it's only a one year deal.

No one knows more than Bottas that if he isn't up to speed from the opening race, then talk will quickly centre on who'll be taking his seat in 2018.

Formula 1 can be like that.

Have Honda Stuffed It?

There were frustrations aplenty at McLaren's home base of Woking in the off-season and rightly so.

Confident their woes were behind them after making solid progress last season, Honda took it upon themselves to redesign their engine to fit the new 2017 regulations.

The trouble is, the new unit's turned out to be a bit of a dud.

The team ripped through a number of engines across both pre-season tests and often struggled to get out of the garage.

It also meant Fernando Alonso and new team-mate Stoeffel Vandoorne clocked the least amount of laps out of all the teams.

With Honda well and truly under the pump, hints are being dropped about a reunion with Mercedes in 2018 with the Japanese can't get their act together... fast.


Will We Get Some Decent Racing?

The cars will be a good deal faster than recent years with larger grippier tyres expected to result in lap times falling by as much a 3-4 seconds.

Some new aero rules have also been brought in to try and make things extra competitive on track by encouraging more passing.

But drivers have reported the extra drag created by the latest aero packages has done the opposite and made it harder to pull off an overtake.

While the rules look good on paper, the jury's out on what this will mean for the action on track.

Qualifying at Albert Park is at 5PM AEDT on Saturday.

The lights go green on the Australian Grand Prix at 4PM AEDT on Sunday.

;