Formula One Season Review | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Formula One Season Review

Sports writer David Garbutt gives the low-down on another season of Formula One action.

As the tyre smoke settles on another Formula One season, leaving us without our racing fix for another six months, let us look back over the last eight months to address the main talking-points in another eventful year.

Hamilton’s Prowess

A season review could not be complete, or indeed start, without focusing on its championship winner. Lewis Hamilton had already shown the world that he was a great racing driver before this season, winning three Drivers’ Championships and coming close on two separate occasions, but this year he arguably cemented himself amongst the sport’s greats. His fourth Drivers’ Championship crown ensures that he sits level with Sebastian Vettel and Alain Prost on the all-time list, only trailing Manuel Fangio (5) and Michael Schumacher (7). This achievement is put into even starker light when it is remembered that he has won at least one race in every season he has competed in, regardless of the competitiveness of his car, whilst this season saw him surpass Schumacher’s record of pole positions (68), with his current total being 72 and counting.

This season also ensured that he claimed second in the all-time total Formula One winner’s list, with 62 wins from 208 races, ensuring that Schumacher’s record of 91 wins seems within his grasp, especially seen as Schumacher competed in 100 more races. All these facts do not prove that Hamilton should be seen as the best Formula One driver ever, as such a question is incredibly contentious and can never be proven, but they do show that he should at least be considered in the discussion. This year’s Championship win demonstrated Hamilton’s prowess more than any of his previous triumphs, largely because he was faced with overcoming one of Formula One’s all-time greats in Vettel, whose Ferrari was arguably quicker and more consistent than the Mercedes, particularly when closely following other cars. Hence, Hamilton’s superb driving in multiple qualifying sessions and races helped to offset his disadvantage so that by the season’s end, the Drivers’ Championship was never much in doubt.

Prancing Horses’ Resurgence

This season review would also be incomplete without acknowledging the resurgence of Ferrari from the ashes of several years of mediocrity. Considering how far they were behind the Mercedes at the end of last season, their work over the past winter should be praised, as they closed the gap to the Silver Arrows and they debatably had the fastest car for large parts of the season, particularly on certain tracks. This Ferrari competitiveness ensured that Vettel had the bit between his teeth for most of the season, and it could be said that by the season’s half-way point, few would have counted against Vettel securing the Drivers’ Championship.

However, in reality, Ferrari’s season began to fall apart in the second half of the season, partly due to the terrific driving of Hamilton, but also due to Ferrari’s old failings resurfacing, particularly reliability.  Vettel’s championship hopes were also not helped by his occasional reckless driving, which was best seen in the Singapore Grand Prix where he was overly aggressive off the grid, resulting in he and his teammate, Raikkonen, crashing out of the race, leaving Hamilton clear to gain an unlikely victory, even though on paper his car was much slower than the Ferraris’. Nevertheless, their late season woes should not detract from what has been a great season for Ferrari, especially in comparison to their recent history. It is everybody’s hope in the paddock that this prestigious Formula One name can maintain it’s position near the front of the grid for many years to come.

Red Bull Arising

Whereas the second half of the season has been one to forget for Ferrari, it has been one to remember and cherish for Red Bull. Before the season started there were hopes that the Red Bulls could challenge the Mercedes from the off, but this failed to materialise. Nevertheless, the team were unperturbed and oversaw a radical development of the car as the season progressed, ensuring that by the season’s end they were Mercedes’ most consistent challengers for podiums and race wins. This season has also seen the coming of age of Max Verstappen, who claimed two race wins in the last five races, and had he not had terrible reliability in the first half of the season, he arguably could have claimed many more. If Red Bull continue their resurgence next season, the future looks bright for them, and the potential of seeing three different constructors, Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes, all challenging for race wins is something which most Formula One fans would die for. Here’s hoping that this dream becomes a reality next season.

Authentic Racing Vs Lack of Overtaking

Finally, this season has seen the return of authentic racing for the first time in many years, much to the joy of both the audience and the drivers. The past few seasons have been somewhat undermined by the fact that weak tyre compounds prevented drivers from racing at 100% for fear of ruining their tyres, hence a Grand Prix was often won by the driver who could manage his tyres better, rather than whoever was fastest. This ensured that the drivers found races boring as they had to drive incredibly slowly for their tyres to make it to the end of the race. Thus, this system was farcical as Formula One is meant to highlight the fastest cars and the best drivers. Happily, the return of stronger tyres has meant that drivers are able to race flat-out for the race’s duration, hence authentic racing has returned.

However, it is important to add that the racing in Formula One is still not perfect, as the increase in downforce of the cars this season has ensured that it is almost impossible for cars to overtake each other. This is because a following car loses so much performance as the disturbed airflow over the car stops it from performing effectively. Hence, unless a car is significantly quicker than its competitor, or it is aided by DRS, which is a gimmick whereby a car can increase their top-speed in certain straights by reducing the car’s drag, no overtaking is possible, and the viewer is left watching a train of cars stuck behind each other.

Sadly, this problem does not look like it will be fixed by next season, which may damage the sport as it will struggle to appeal to fans who like wheel to wheel racing. Despite this, there is hope that this issue will be fixed in the future if Formula One teams choose to focus their downforce on the car’s floor, rather than over the front and back wings, as this will ensure that cars would be less disrupted when closely following each other. This system is seen in Nascar Racing, and if successfully carried out, Formula One may gain greater popularity due to both its authentic and exciting racing.

A proud Yorkshire-man, who will happily watch any sport, as long as there are no 'time-outs' in it. Loves: moaning about how bad his beloved Leeds United is at the moment, strong tea, and yes, I love cats..... Hates: weak tea, whatever happens to be in the music charts right now, and Manchester United


3rd December 2017 at 11:00 am

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