FormulaY : Australia Debrief
Welcome to the first FormulaY : Debrief! Since the focus of our racing podcasts is on the Formula Y Project Rewind: 2010 (Intro thru Round 3 coming soon!) , Javier Alonso (ALO) and myself (KRU) decided the best way to keep up with the 2017 F1 season would be to provide a Debrief on the past Round’s racing in the week following the Grand Prix. A casual (and hopefully useful) notes + thoughts blog that may be an evolving project as our time dictates. Don’t forget to scroll through to the bottom after reading our thoughts. We include F1 Standings and Schedule, plus many other Racing Series schedules to make sure you have enough motorsport in your life!
Changes to the formula for 2017 has resulted not just in wider, meaner looking cars but also in dramatically faster cars. As so many have already pointed out, these are the first changes to the regulations in at least a generation that are aimed specifically at making the cars faster. Wider tyres are one of the most visually noticeable changes but the wider front and rear wings along with wider rear diffuser are allowing teams much more aero space to play with. Not since the 2009 regulation changes–that brought about the simplified and steam-lined cars we had until 2016–have teams been given such a dramatic augmentation in body work.
The boost in mechanical grip from wider tyres are also helping these cars push through turns faster than before even as they lose out on straight-line speed. Taken together with the historical gains engine manufacturers have made in engine efficiency (as much at 45% thermal efficiency), 2017 spec cars are up to 2-4 seconds a lap faster than their 2016 predecessors. As for how far teams will be able to push lap times and corner speed through 2017 and beyond has yet to be seen, but Australia already proved to be a showcase of how speed-oriented the new regulations are.
The end result of these changes for drivers was much less discussed heading into the season opener this past week. As Jolyon Palmer, Lewis Hamilton, and Will Buxton made minor mention before Melbourne, the physical demands on drivers will be worth watching as the season progresses. Because cornering speeds this fast have not been seen since at least the 2008 season, the majority of the F1 field has never had to deal with cars as physically punishing as these. With the exception of Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa, and maybe Sebastian Vettel, the majority of the F1 field is unaccustomed to the training requirements needed to endure a full race with up to 3Gs of force applied to the neck through every turn. Drivers through the weekend made little note of the physicality of the new cars, but it will be something worth keeping an eye on as the season continues.
Will a McLaren points finish come down to whether Vandoorne or Alonso can withstand racing at speed (lol) in the new cars? Will a Red Bull win be decided by a Mercedes or Ferrari driver simply unable to cope? Only time will tell.
Haas & Grosjean
Grosjean and the Americans surprised most with their sixth place finish in last year’s season opener in Melbourne before unfortunately fading off in the second half of the season. While Haas had had a long development lead time heading into 2016, most watchers felt 2017 would give a fairer assessment of Gene Haas’ new venture. Through the opening sessions of the weekend, Grosjean was able to consistently keep the 2017 Haas within the top-10, posting lap-times around 2 seconds off the pace of the leading Mercedes. Qualifying was a particular strong point for the Haas team and the Frenchman was able to break into Q3 and qualify sixth with a time of 1:24.074. The Haas most certainly has the qualifying pace and through the opening laps of the Australian GP had the race pace as well.
Grosjean’s year of added familiarity with the car paid dividends for him all weekend long as he out paced his teammate Kevin Magnussen through every session of the weekend. Unfortunately for Grosjean and our American squad, mechanical failures would once again doom both drivers. Grosjean was forced to retire after 13 laps with a blown Ferrari engine while Kevin Magnussen completed his Sunday 33 laps later with a mechanical issue as well. While it is far too early in the 2017 campaign to speculate with any certainty, Grosjean’s continued success in the Haas Ferrari may prove critical not just for Haas’ future but for his future as well. Grosjean’s exit from Lotus/now-Renault for Haas was perplexing for many considering the success he enjoyed in 2012 and 2013.
Much of the rumored justification for moving to Haas was the close relationship Haas and Ferrari forged in the lead up to their 2016 debut. While Kimi has been rumored to be on the verge of re-retirement since at least 2013, the thinking has been that Grosjean would be able to put himself in prime position to drive for Maranello. The removal of Valterri Bottas and test-driver Esteban Gutierrez from Ferrari’s radar could work in Grosjean’s favor should Kimi decide 2017 is his last campaign. By the end of this season, Ferrari will have two full seasons of data on Grosjean’s performance in a Ferrari engine and what could be a key determinant in the teams decisions to go with a Ferrari-B driver or roll the dice with an outside driver.
It’s been a long time coming. Ferrari has finally won a Grand Prix again and Mercedes are no longer the Constructors’ Championship leaders. Last season saw all but two races (Spanish GP & Malaysian GP) end in a MERC victory, and Mercedes never fell from the leader board’s top spot in both Drivers’ and Constructors’. Not that any of that is a surprise given Mercedes’ three years of dominance. But Ferrari lived up to the Testing hype. All through the weekend they were the speedy, flashy car to watch. Blending MERC’s and RBR’s power and aero approaches, Ferrari made an emphatic statement, taking Fastest Lap (RAI) and the Win (VET).
While Ferrari’s performance was expected, the big surprise of the weekend was Ferrari’s strategy winning them a race. Maurizio Arrivabene’s team the previous season lost out to RBR by 70 points mainly because of shoddy strategy. Mercedes were well positioned, getting a competent start on Pole and the 3rd grid box, and sandwiching Seb. But Hamilton’s tyres couldn’t hold grip and that allowed Seb to stay out not just one but multiple extra laps on his original tyres. A quick stop in pitlane for Vettel saw the German eek out of pitlane just in front of Hamilton (and Toto gif madness ensued).
Was the strategy luck? Maybe. But nonetheless, Ferrari must be gushing with confidence–something they didn’t carry in 2016 that led to hesitation in strategy calls–and that should be present the next round or two. But credit Seb and Kimi for executing to perfection. Vettel was able to chew off seconds on dirty shoes. Kimi, for his part, applied enough pressure to Bottas to keep Seb free to charge and then carried the lead until Vettel could emerge from the pits.
Don’t sleep on the Iceman this season. Kimi set down the fastest lap and really didn’t have the positioning to make passes at Albert Park. But as Javi mentioned earlier in the post, G-Forces and experience corralling tougher drives gives Kimi the edge in the long game. Vettel certainly proved the Ferrari’s bravado this weekend, and we all know Kimi isn’t in short supply of that either. I’d still put money down on RAI winning the Drivers’ Championship, given the odds.
Felipe Massa had a quiet but promising first round of 2017–though by the NBC Sports TV coverage you may have thought Massa never un-retired (hardly ever shown on screen). Qualifying wasn’t the prettiest but the Brazilian hung in each Qualifying Round and improved each time, qualifying 7th. Even though Massa only moved up a position in the Classified Results due to Grosjean and Haas’ misfortune, Massa didn’t give up any spots either. Instead, he fought off both Toro Rosso charging bulls and a motivated and pink Sergio Perez. Possibly the most impressive feat was Massa finishing the race on the same lap as the leader, Vettel. No one after Massa was able to do so, which is good news as Force India and Toro Rosso are the main competitors for Williams.
With Lance Stroll’s debut ending with a retirement due to brakes, Massa’s steady drive must give the Williams family and team a stiffer upper lip. They should still pick up points, data, and camera time when Stroll’s adolescent ambitions get the best of him.
You have to feel for Fern. He drove the McHonda into Q2 to the shock of everyone. And despite Albert Park’s oddities helping McLaren keep up with pace easier, the 14 car wasn’t a back marker as expected. Alonso was able to jump up to 10th and was able to keep it until Lap 49. The pressure from Ocon’s Mercedes-powered drive was too much and Fern’s desperate defending may have quite literally snapped the suspension. We all knew it would end in retirement but how many put money on it being beyond lap 10? On it not being the engine?
So there is a lot of good to take away. McLaren and Honda got about 45 more laps of data than they expected, and data not at the back of the pack. The engine reliability, while still not fixed, proved to be less of a tyre fire than expected. At least in Round 1.
On the other hand, Alonso showed he isn’t just out there to collect data for Honda’s upgrades and 2018 progression. Alonso is gunning for podiums, or at least in that mindset. The world class skill has not left him and these regulation changes favor the Spainard. The big drama this year will be how Alonso’s season goes; that is a given. Considering Mark Webber’s comments (take with grain of salt), who knows if the year ends early or in another car.
Formula 1 Standings and Schedule
|3||Red Bull Racing||10|
|1||26 March||Australian||Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit||Sebastian Vettel||Ferrari|
|2||9 April||Chinese||Shanghai International Circuit|
|3||16 April||Bahrain||Bahrain International Circuit|
|4||30 April||Russian||Sochi Autodrom|
|5||14 May||Spanish||Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya|
|6||28 May||Monaco||Circuit de Monaco|
|7||11 June||Canadian||Circuit Gilles Villeneuve|
|8||25 June||Azerbaijan||Baku City Circuit|
|9||9 July||Austrain||Red Bull Ring|
|10||16 July||British||Silverstone Circuit|
|12||27 August||Belgian||Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps|
|13||3 September||Italian||Autodromo Nazionale Monza|
|14||17 September||Singapore||Marina Bay Street Circuit|
|15||1 October||Malaysian||Sepang International Circuit|
|16||8 October||Japanese||Suzuka International Racing Course|
|17||22 October||United States||Circuit of the Americas|
|18||29 October||Mexican||Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez|
|19||12 November||Brazilian||Autódromo José Carlos Pace|
|20||26 November||Abu Dhabi||Yas Marina Circuit|
More Race Schedules
|1||9 October 16||Hong Kong||Hong Kong Central Harbourfront Circuit||Sébastien Buemi||Renault e.Dams|
|2||12 November 16||Marrakesh||Circuit International Automobile Moulay El Hassan||Sébastien Buemi||Renault e.Dams|
|3||18 February||Buenos Aires||Puerto Madero Street Circuit||Sébastien Buemi||Renault e.Dams|
|4||1 April||Mexico City||Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez|
|5||13 May||Monaco||Circuit de Monaco|
|6||20 May||Paris||Paris Street Circuit|
|7||10 June||Berlin Race 1||Tempelhorf Airport Street Circuit|
|8||11 June||Berlin Race 2||Tempelhof Airport Street Circuit|
|9||15 July||New York Race 1||Brooklyn Street Circuit|
|10||16 July||New York Race 2||Brooklyn Street Circuit|
|11||29 July||Montreal Race 1||Montreal Street Circuit|
|12||30 July||Montreal Race 2||Montreal Street Circuit|
|1||March 12||Firestone GP of St Petersburg||Streets of St Petersburg||Sébastien Bourdais||Dale Coyne Racing (Honda)|
|2||April 9||Toyota GP of Long Beach||Streets of Long Beach|
|3||April 23||Honda Indy GP of Alabama||Barber Motorsports Park|
|4||April 29||Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix GP||Phoenix International Raceway|
|5||May 13||IndyCar GP||Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course|
|6||May 28||101st Indianapolis 500||Indianapolis Motor Speedway|
|7||June 3||Chevrolet Detroit GP||Raceway at Belle Isle Park|
|8||June 4||Chevrolet Detroit GP||Raceway at Belle Isle Park|
|9||June 10||Rainguard Water Sealer 600||Texas Motor Speedway|
|10||June 25||Kohler GP||Road America|
|11||July 9||Iowa Corn 300||Iowa Speedway|
|12||July 16||Honda Indy Toronto||Exhibition Place|
|13||July 30||Honda Indy 200||Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course|
|14||August 20||ABC Supply 500||Pocono Raceway|
|15||August 26||Bommarito Automotive Group 500||Gateway Motorsports Park|
|16||September 3||GP at The Glen||Watkins Glen International|
|17||September 17||GoPro GP of Sonoma||Sonoma Raceway|
|1||16 April||6 Hours of Silverstone||Silverstone Circuit|
|2||6 May||WEC 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps||Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps|
|3||17-18 June||24 Hours of Le Mans||Circuit de la Sarthe|
|4||16 July||6 Hours of Nürburgring||Nürburgring|
|5||3 September||6 Hours of Mexico||Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez|
|6||16 September||6 Hours of Circuit of the Americas||Circuit of the Americas|
|7||15 October||6 Hours of Fuji||Fuji Speedway|
|8||5 November||6 Hours of Shanghai||Shanghai International Circuit|
|9||18 November||6 Hours of Bahrain||Bahrain International Circuit|
|1||31 March||World RX of Barcelona||Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya|
|2||21 April||Bompiso World RX of Portugal||Montalegre|
|3||5 May||World RX of Hockenheim||Hockenheimring|
|4||12 May||Coyote World RX of Belgium||Circuit Jules Tacheny|
|5||26 May||World RX of Great Britain||Lydden Hill|
|6||9 June||Team Verksted World RX of Norway||Hell|
|7||30 June||World RX of Sweden||Holjes Motorstadion|
|8||4 August||World RX of Canada||Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres|
|9||1 September||Bretagne World RX of France||Loheac Bretagne|
|10||15 September||Neste World RX of Latvia||Bikernieki National Sports Base|
|11||29 September||All-Inkl.com World RX of Germany||Estering|
|12||10 November||World RX of South Africa||Killarney International Raceway|
|2||R1||20 May||EuroSpeedway Lausitz|
|2||R2||21 May||EuroSpeedway Lausitz|
|5||R1||22 July||Moscow Raceway|
|5||R2||23 July||Moscow Raceway|
|6||R1||19 August||Circuit Park Zandvoort|
|6||R2||20 August||Circuit Park Zandvoort|
|8||R1||23 September||Red Bull Ring|
|8||R2||24 September||Red Bull Ring|