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The Year that was F1 2017

From Australia to Abu Dhabi the 2017 F1 season has inscribed moments, memories, celebrations, and lessons that will be well remembered.

Ferrari revival

As the cars rolled out onto the track for testing in early 2017 it was immediately evident that Ferrari had put together something special with its SF70H. It was beautiful, consistent and most importantly, fast right out of the box. Ultimately, Ferrari’s season ended on bittersweet note after often having the quickest car but failing to attain championship glory through mistakes and unreliability.

Specifically, it was the unreliability in Malaysia and Japan coupled with the error in judgment from Vettel in Singapore is what ultimately derailed their chances of taking the title. These incidents also Ferrari 1-2_Russia 2017 Qualifyingovershadowed a season in which Ferrari had spectacularly resuscitated the prancing horse and made it a genuine championship contender.

It wasn’t solely the work of the engine department, or the designers, or the aerodynamicists, which made the 2017 Ferrari a great car. Rather, it was the combination of all facets of the team, which had undergone major reshuffling, which had made 2017 possible.

There is clearly some work still to be done but Ferrari finally has a plan in place that works. One that if refined could very well deliver titles in 2018.

Mercedes juggernaut

If Ferrari is to be commended for their 2017 season then Mercedes deserves even more praise. They faced a stern test from the Italian team in the first half of the season but showed their sublime class on every level.

Similar to Ferrari there was little doubt that the W08 was a quick car. But it’s the running of the team and the factory that set these teams apart. The most minute of details were considered and covered by the team proving that German efficiency is no myth. Through their microscopic attention to detail Mercedes proved that it takes more to win in F1 than building a quick car and that having the procedures and processes in place is what ultimately ensures victory.

New 2017 cars

0069New regulations ushered in significant change to the appearance of F1 as wider tyres and cars became the norm. The new look of F1 was an instant win as cars looked far more aggressive and quick than their predecessors.

Naturally, there are some kinks to iron out such as making the T-wing and sharkfin disappear for 2018. While some, read Hamilton, complained about the inability to overtake in these cars the truth is that while the Merc wasn’t conducive to overtaking there were a plethora of overtaking moves that will live on the replay reel for some time to come.

kimi raikkonen 2017 monaco gp qualifying pole position lapLap of the year

Given the fact that Lewis Hamilton took the overall record for number of pole position it seemed obvious to pick one of the Brit’s quali laps as the best of the year.

But Kimi Raikkonen’s pole position in Monaco stood out as the best as the sheer commitment of the lap left most, if not all, in awe as he brushed the barriers around the famed streets of Monte Carlo towards one of the most memorable pole positions of his career.

Race of the year

GP EUROPA F1/2016The grand prix in Azerbaijan is likely one of the craziest races of the last few years let alone 2017. Blotted by several crashes and clashes the race neutralized several times by the safety-car. In one of these safety-car periods Vettel took offence to Hamilton’s ‘behaviour’ pulled up alongside the Merc and turned into the side of him. It was as controversial a move that’s been seen for the last decade.

While Hamilton, and some others in the ‘media’, called for a ban Vettel was given a ten second-stop/go penalty. It seemed Hamilton was cut-and-dried at the front until a loose headrest forced him into the pits. Still the order was far from sorted as the race resumed after a red-flag period. An audacious move into turn one on both Williams’ cars by Daniel Ricciardo gave the Aussie the lead and a victory that’ll go down as the one of the most chaotic ever.

 

Rookie of the year

Motor Racing - Formula One Testing - Day 1 - Spielberg, AustriaThough Esteban Ocon had a short stint with Manor in 2016 at the start of this year he was very much a rookie. Most would’ve assumed that he was in at the deep-end with an experienced and quick teammate such as the Mexican Sergio Perez.

The relationship between Ocon and Perez was far from friendly and directly symptomatic of the fact that he’d gotten under the Mexican’s skin with his pace.

He pushed his Mexican teammate so hard that he began to unravel, Canada and Spa being the optimal examples of said Perez’ unraveling. Ocon scored points in all of two races in 2017 and finished eighth in the driver’s standings.

Driver of the year

Lewis Hamilton takes Italian GP pole positionFour times a world champion Lewis Hamilton is easily the driver of the year. But it isn’t because he picked up a fourth crown but rather how he went about it. While grand prix weekends such as Monaco and Russia show that it wasn’t a perfect season for Hamilton his relentless ability to churn out performances is astounding.

By the time he binned in quali at Brazil the championship had already been won and it was the solitary mistake he’d made all year. In the thick of the championship fight there was a relentlessness to the level of Hamilton’s performances that he’d never shown before. Despite having three titles and a decade of racing under the belt he showed his hunger for success. He’d stepped up yet another level that proved peerless in 2017.

About Natalie Le Clue

Natalie Le Clue is an F1 aficionado of the most dedicated vein. And, true to form for any F1-enamoured junkie, she readily admits to crying the first time she saw a F1 car, calling it an ‘overwhelming moment’. Natalie has won the 2010 gSport Woman In Media award, the 2015 Woman In Media Print award, and has been named as one of the Top 100 Most Influential People in South African Sport by the Department of Sport and Recreation. Natalie is currently serving as SAfm's F1 correspondent. Follow Natalie on Twitter @nlc27

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