World champion 1996
Like many, I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing how McLaren will perform with Renault power. Will it be the step forward for which everybody is hoping – and how will Fernando Alonso rate his new engine? Assuming that he’s not already completely knackered by the time the season starts…
Ferrari was very strong for most of 2017 and I’d like to think it will be able to build on that – assuming, of course, that the team doesn’t withdraw from the sport before the first race!
I don’t see a great deal changing at Mercedes. Toto Wolff does a great job maintaining a consistently high standard – indeed the whole team is so efficient that it almost comes across as unexciting. Will Lewis come out all guns blazing? I know he’s had a few ups and downs off the track over the winter, but I don’t imagine that will distract him particularly.
I’ll be interested to see the different ways in which teams integrate the new halos, to see whether any of them finds a way of doing it advantageously, and I’m hoping the new tyre options will mix things up a bit, by creating a greater number of two-stop races. My biggest hope, though, is that we’ll see some good, hard racing. There was some very close competition last season, but I wouldn’t want a complete re-run: I hope the gap between the top three teams and the rest will come down.
Other things to watch? Max Verstappen seems to get stronger by the year and I note that Kimi Räikkönen has finally taken to using social media, so I’m looking forward to see what that yields. I’ll keep a close eye on Williams and Force India, too: I wonder how long it will be before Paddy Lowe’s influence starts to take effect at the former – and Force India continues to be a cracking little racing team. And, on top of everything else, Fernando will be chasing his Le Mans dream. It’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that he’ll win, is it? That would leave him only the Indy 500 to conquer…
This could be a quick way to lose a few friends… There’s a case to be made for sticking the Mercedes engine in the back of a Red Bull, but I guess the simplest option would be to buy the whole Red Bull-Renault package. Christian Horner runs the whole operation very well, Adrian Newey is still a great designer and I think the Verstappen/Ricciardo pairing is probably the strongest in the paddock.