This was suppose to be a happy post, seeing that the Formula One season kicks off this weekend in Melbourne but we start the blog on a somber note. A legend of the sport, and FIA Race Director for the past 22 years, Charlie Whiting sadly passed on this week. He joined the Federation in 1988 and has been integral in not only the success of the sport but also in keeping the needs of the drivers his number one priority during his time. Every single driver, past and present have been giving their heart felt thoughts about Charlie since his passing and this can only show the character of the man he was. We as the fans and public won't really know much about the behind the scenes when it comes to driver briefings, and race management but Charlie ensured that this remained smooth sailing for everyone. He will be missed by one and all in the F1 world.
Back to the racing, Winter testing normally gives us an indication on which teams to look out for in the season to come and there were no surprises with Ferrari and Mercedes on top of the time charts again, with Red Bull now powered by a Honda engine, not too far behind. Overall it was Ferrari that were the fastest in Spain but if we learnt anything from Winter testing, is to not take these results for granted as come race weekend, given the conditions and strategies, a lot can change. With FP1 and FP2 just being completed at Melbourne, its Merc who showing good pace down under with Ferrari playing catch up. It will be interesting to see what happens during qualifying tomorrow.
They've been many changes in teams this season with some drivers swapping teams, swapping seats but for the current constructors champions it all remains pretty much the same for them. World Champion Lewis still heads up the driver line-up with Valteri Bottas being the number 2. It was interesting as to how last season started with Toto giving both drivers free reign to compete with each other but obviously to keep the team in mind when doing so but ultimately it was Lewis who forced his way up the points tally which meant Valteri had to bow down for the rest of the season and allow his team mate to compete and win the Championship in the end. So not sure if the team will adopt the same approach again this season or if the 4 times world champions will have a say in how things go down on race day.
Ferrari, the darling of the sport really need to get some silverware as it's been a good few years without any and I'm sure the powers at be in Maranello have set targets for the team. There has been change at Ferrari, coming from the top with Mattia Binotto taking over the position from Maurizo Arrivabene, interesting move from the Italians and a strategic one at that. There is a change in driver as well with Kimi Raikkonen departing for their sister team. Alfa Romeo Sauber and see's their driver Charles Leclerc come across to partner Sebastian Vettel. Vettel showed good promise at the beginning of last season as he mounted a substantial challenge to Lewis but after some costly errors by him and the team midway through the season saw his challenge disappear. He seems pretty confident about the car this year around and also gave it a name "Lena", with newbie Leclerc along side him, it will be one to watch how their relationship develops over the season.
Red Bull are still that one team everyone knows not to forget about, Christian Horner still has his work cut out for him this season with a new driver pairing of Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly, lets hope he wont have to deal with as much of the friction there was when Daniel Ricciardo was there. It was no secret that Max and Dan didn't see eye to eye, especially on the race track, none so evident that the race in Baku when the pair collided on the straight. Max still remains RBR's number one drive but he has to prove his worth this year round, some costly errors made him still look immature last season and with now reliability a thing of the past with the new engine suppliers, we hope he will be making things extra exciting on the top of the grid.
Other notable changes, as mentioned before see's Kimi join Alfa Romeo Sauber. It's always great to have the charismatic Fin in F1, his charm is one the reasons we like to see him on the podium and many like to see him at the drivers gala dinner at the year end so lets hope he scores some decent points this year. Another happy note see's the return of Robert Kubica to the Williams seat, after his leg break it was hard to see Robert's return to the sport happen but he proved everyone wrong and hopefully can fly the flag high for Williams Racing again. With the first race in Australia, we can't forget about the ever smiling Daniel Ricciardo, after a difficult year at Red Bull, he was pretty open after he signed a deal with Renault about his time at his former team, he said he felt no love for him there and hopefully the French will show him a lot of it. Winning his home race will be a stretch but lets hope we see him in the top 6 at least.
With some new rules being thrown into the mix as well as changes to the cars, this years Formula One season is bound to be another nail biter, even more so than last year. The FIA have now decided to award points to the person who does the fastest lap on race day, so you'll be seeing many gunning to achieve that. This is a tricky one with most teams choosing to look after their engines towards the end of the race but this being optimal time to get those fast laps in, it will be interesting to see who is willing to take the risk for that extra point. I can't wait to see who crosses that checkered flag on Sunday but if the past few races are anything to go by, don't be surprised to see that red car going through first.