With the opening round of the 2017 Formula One World Championship behind us and the second round getting ready to take place this upcoming weekend in China, it seems like a good time to reflect on the changes we have seen so far.
We all knew coming into 2017 the cars should be faster thanks to more grip and downforce. The tires are wider all around, example being the rear tires are some three inches wider with better rubber from Pirelli. The front wing now has a wider span as does the rear wing and diffuser and some other small aero changes. So were the cars faster? Yes they were, not by the huge five plus seconds a lap initially estimated but they were faster. Lewis Hamilton lapped a 1:22.1 in Q3 versus a 1:23.8 in 2016.
The biggest concern was there wouldn't be any racing. With more aerodynamic grip, when cars get too close to the car in front the air going over the wings is reduced thus reducing grip. This causes drivers to struggle to find a way past. The upside though is with more mechanical grip from the larger width tires and better rubber compound it should be less of a concern. I don't think we saw a good indicator of how this will play out in 2017 yet though.
So the cars are faster, they look far better, and a Mercedes didn't win. Is F1 on the right track? From a fans point of view the cars are entertaining to watch. The speed in corners is visibly increased and the excitement some drivers have shared says the driving aspect is back as well. With the ability to push tires harder with less degradation there's more of a driver factor.
It's too early to tell but with a win from Ferrari at the opening round, it starts the 2017 season off with something refreshing and gives Mercedes some work this season. As we head away from a street circuit and to a more traditional road course, we will see if the excitement can stay or if it was just new season luck.