2017 F1 preview: the cars

On your marks. Set…

The new Formula 1 season is ‘go’. Here is our essential guide to the racing ahead.

Expectations, it is fair to say, are high. As the wraps come off the 2017 Formula 1 season, fans around the world are hoping that the raft of changes being introduced this year will repay their faith in a sport it hasn’t always been easy to love.

Over the following pages we hope to explain exactly what those changes are – from the new regulations to the new cars, new drivers, new rivalries and the effect they will have. Many of the changes have been inspired by a desire to, in the words of a million Tweets, “make F1 more of a spectacle”. But a word of warning: people expecting F1 to be transformed magically into a Moto3-style overtaking-fest are likely to be disappointed. The cars will be faster, however, lap times will come down and F1 will remain at motor sport’s pinnacle.

Perhaps more exciting in the long term is the change of ownership. Liberty Media’s purchase of F1 earlier this year brought to an end Bernie Ecclestone’s long reign. Already, the can-do attitude of the American company has engendered an air of optimism among teams and fans for the future – and in Ross Brawn it has recruited one of the paddock’s brightest stars.

It seems likely that the new owner will push to bring F1 to an American audience, too – perhaps with additional US races – certainly by jazzing up the race weekend and giving it a sprinkling of NASCAR-style pizzazz. These changes should be embraced rather than viewed with suspicion and we look forward to seeing how they will develop over the coming years.

In the short term, fans should start to see Liberty’s impact later this year. When we spoke to McLaren racing director Eric Boullier, there was no mistaking his sense of excitement: “Formula 1 is undergoing a big change that’s very good for everybody. It’s difficult to see exactly where F1 is going but you can see they want to engage more with the fans and make it easier for any new teams to enter the sport, which is good. They want to consider the show and make it better without destroying the DNA of F1. We all agree with that and are very supportive.”

Owner and teams in agreement? Perhaps some things have changed already.

We start our coverage with our pick of the new 2017 cars that have been revealed ahead of testing. 

Williams FW40

They say: “Celebrating 40 years in the sport this year, the Williams Mercedes FW40 shows a very different look to 2016’s FW38. Although cosmetically the 2017 cars will look very different to their 2016 predecessors, the power unit and the areas around the power unit have not changed a great deal”.

We say:  Compared to most other teams this is an exercise in simplicity. A relatively uncomplicated front wing and uncluttered body beg the question as to whether Williams will make the most of the new regs.

McLaren MCL32

They say: “The new colouration is a particularly crowd-pleasing touch, intended not only to revisit McLaren’s past but also to kick-start a fresh chapter in the team’s history”. 

We say: Goodbye Ron Dennis and goodbye MP4 nomenclature… Note the wide nose and extreme aero intricacies of the front wing.

Mercedes W08

They say: “The W08 project has gone back to first principles. Only 17 per cent of the components in W08 have been carried over from its predecessor, with the team’s main focus lying on optimising the car within the new regulations”.

We say: The shark fin is barely there (although that may change) giving a sleeker look, while the tightly packed, shrink-wrapped rear end has resulted in an expanse of floor in front of the rear wheels.

Renault RS17

They say: “The RS17 is the first car which Enstone and Viry have been able to plan and develop. It’s a beautiful car. For 2017 our performance targets are clear. Fifth position in the Constructors’ Championship”.

We say: Unlike last year’s car, the RS17 has been designed specifically for Renault’s new RE17 engine. Castrol returns to Renault after a 20 year absence.

Force India VJM10

 They say: “We have tried to exploit an area of the front suspension regulations that improved the characteristics of it from a mechanical perspective. It does mean that because of the way the regulations are worded, we cannot merge it into the nose as we would like. So unfortunately we end up with a little bit of a ‘forehead’, as it is called.”

We say: “Unfortunate” is an understatement.

Sauber C36

They say: “With the Sauber C36-Ferrari we have a solid basis as well as the resources to further develop the car. This will be important to establish [the team] in mid-field”.

We say: A striking design and eye-catching livery. The gold reflects Sauber’s  25th anniversary in F1. Still no major sponsors though.

Ferrari SF70-H

They say: “The lengthened nose and the arrow-shaped wing are a consequence of the regulations, as is the obvious fin on the engine cover and the more complex aero appendages ahead of the air intakes on the sidepods, whose unusual shape was designed in harmony with the front crash structure”.

We say: Quite fussy looking with clumsy  aero and inelegant sidepod openings. Ferrari is calling the extra rear wing above the fin the ‘seagull’.