Way Too Early 2018 Formula 1 Preview
Are we nearing the end of Mercedes' domination?
Lewis Hamilton just secured his fourth World Drivers Championship Sunday in Mexico. Mercedes clinched the Manufactures Title At The Circut of The Americas. There are still a few questions left to be decided. Can Bottas overtake Vettel for second in the Drivers Championship? How will things shake out among the second tier teams? What drivers are on the hot seat and what can they do to secure rides for 2018? To those involved these are very important questions that need answering. Yet the major Championships have been decided so it is only natural to look forward to 2018.
Mercedes has had everything their own way recently. Four straight Manufacturer and Driver Titles has them the clear team to beat. The question remains can anyone take them down? Ferrari was looking like a contender until everything fell apart for the Italian outfit. Vettel had Hamilton concerned right up to the moment he decided to take himself out in Malaysia. Then Ferrari hit issues and that was all she wrote.
Mercedes is in an interesting position their engine is just about at the peak of its performance potential. Their power advantage was significantly reduced this season as Ferrari was able to take the fight directly to the silver arrows. Given their performance early in 2017 Ferrari would be the obvious choice to topple Mercedes. The Ferrari, not the Mercedes was the car to beat on the higher down-force tracks where Mercedes couldn't exploit its horsepower advantage. If it wasn't for some bad luck and silly mistakes their man, Sebastian Vettel would still be in the fight for a Championship. It would stand to reason that given another year of development Ferrari would continue to close the gap and possibly overtake Mercedes.
Then there is Red Bull, during Ferrari's struggles Red Bull surged to take the fight to Mercedes claiming three race wins in the process. Max Verstappen dominated Mexico. Red Bull's chassis development is never really a question, it is the Renault power that is the leading force holding the energy drink boys back. Renault has made huge strides in 2017, unfortunately that was also accompanied by unreliability. Renault sees another power team join their ranks next season as McLaren makes the switch from Honda to Renault. That gives Renault enormous development power. A full factory effort combined with the might of Red Bull and McLaren could see the French power unit develop at an increased rate. This could catapult Red Bull ahead of Ferrari as Mercedes' chief rival in 2018.
Red Bull has another thing going for it as well. Ferrari's leadership seems to be a fairly disorganized mess at the moment. Maurizio Arrivabene's leadership style has rubbed many in the team the wrong way. His political game playing, pitting people within his own organization against each other yielded a disastrous finish to the 2017 season. Silly mistakes such as leaving a faulty spark plug in Vettel's car in Japan turned Vettel into a contender into someone clinging on to second place in the Championship. Red Bull by comparison is a well oiled machine. Ferrari may have the horsepower advantage (for now) but Red Bull clearly has the organizational advantage.
So how will all of this play out? Will 2018 be another season Mercedes has everything go their way? Will Hamilton claim another title in his quest to be the greatest statistical driver in F1 history? What team is best situated to take the fight to Mercedes? Will McLaren and Renault power return to Championship relevance? Like I stated above, Mercedes is close to the developmental peak of their current platform. Ferrari and Red Bull are closing in and if things go their way could topple the Mercs. Mercedes' days of pure and total domination are coming to an end. Personally I feel Red Bull will be that team but Ferrari will be in the fight as well. For the first time in a very long time we could see three teams doing battle for the Championship.