The first race of the new F-1 Season is less than a month away as the 20-race calendar begins with the Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne on March 26, 2017. Nico Rosberg will not be seen in the circuits after he shocked the global racing fraternity by announcing his retirement soon after being crowned as 2016 World Champion. Mercedes has already announced that Williams’ Valtteri Bottas will fill in the spot vacated by Rosberg. There have been some more team changes, including the one in Force India’s team. Nico Hulkenberg will no longer be racing for Force India after crossing over to the Renault team. Hulkenberg’s place has gone to Frenchman Esteban Ocon The new F-1 rules announced by the sport’s governing body, the FIA, will make the cars faster in 2017 by changes in engines, power-units, bodyworks, tyres and wheel spans. Most constructors are coming out with new engines and wider bodies in keeping with the technical changes brought in by Formula-One bosses. The features being introduced from this year are being regarded as the biggest regulation changes since bringing in hybrid turbo power-units in 2014. Wider bodywork and tyres will help boost down-force and grip and as a consequence, the speeds will improve. However, the cars will become physically harder to drive.
2016 World Champion Nico Rosberg has created a gaping hole in Formula One competition by stunning the world with his sudden retirement. With his departure, Rosberg also brought an end to the famous rivalry with his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton. For three years, F-1 circuits were dominated by the Hamilton-Rosberg battle and Rosberg lost out to the Brit in 2014 & 2015. However, Rosberg opened a huge lead on Hamilton during the mid-season and he looked like the new World Champion. But not to be outdone, Hamilton roared back with vengeance and took the World Championship decision to the very last race at Abu Dhabi. Hamilton bagged the top podium finish but lost the World Championship to Rosberg.
Besides Rosberg’s absence, 2017 F-1 season will see wholesale changes in engine and body configurations. These new rules will make the cars significantly quicker than earlier but wider tyres and bodies will also make the cars heavier. Tyre widths have increased nearly 25% from 325mm to 405mm on the rear side while front tyres will now be 305mm wide as against 245mm earlier. Tyre diameter has also increased slightly though the rim size has been unchanged at 13 inches. Front-wing span is increased from 1650mm to 1800mm and the overall width of the car will go up from 1800 to 2000mm. height of the rear wing has been reduced to 800mm from 950mm earlier. Rear diffuser has been made more powerful with an increased height from 125mm to 175mm and width increase from 1000mm to 1050. The overall body width has gone up to 1600mm from 1400mm previously. These changes will increase the car weight to 722 kg from the existing 702 kg. There are many other changes, all aimed at enhancing the overall speed on the track. In the run up to the season’s first race in Australia, constructors have already begun testing the new designs.
Rosberg’s exit has also shaken the team combinations. Williams’ driver Valtteri Bottas will now be Lewis Hamilton’s teammate at Mercedes. Bottas exit from Williams leaves a spot vacant and that is being filled by his former teammate Felipe Massa, who came out of retirement to join the Williams team at short notice. Massa’s teammate at Melbourne will be an 18-year old rookie driver Lance Stroll, whose father is a Canadian billionaire businessman. Since Jenson Button also retired in 2016, his place in McLaren Team is going to Stoffel Vandoorne, who deputized for the injured Fernando Alonso in Bahrain last season. Force India have also found a replacement for Nico Hulkenberg, who went across to Renault. Sergio Perez will have Mercedes junior driver Esteban Ocon as his teammate. The Frenchman competed in the second half of 2016 for tail-enders Manor.