F1 fans want news, fans crave it. F1 is driven by numbers, by predictions, by people thinking outside the box.
And of course, by drivers which we consider “the human factor”.
Budgets have become bigger over the years, and F1 teams no longer fly by the seat of their pants. They fill spreadsheets, analyze subjects one by one, add it all up, subtract all negatives, divide, multiply, then re-analyze the result. Then make a single modification to the heap of variables, and start all over again. Evolution is the name of the game, revolution is less wanted. Surprises are too difficult to cope with. And in most cases surprises aren’t positive in a highly competitive sport like F1..
This is why teams like to stay with their current suppliers and current drivers: they know how to work their spreadsheets. That is one of the reasons that Williams re-signed Massa, and one of the reasons Sauber wants to stay with Ferrari engines. Don’t rock the boat, because the boat will rock you.
That is why I was shocked to hear that McLaren will start using Renault engines and Honda will start supplying Torro Rosso. Not shocked in the sense that I didn’t see it coming: I have willed this for the last 3 months. (For people who want how “willing things to work” works: have a look at coach Tony Atlas spurring on Michael Moorer in his heavyweight fight with Evander Holyfield. Exactly that, except in my case I am only yelling to like-minded people..)
I was shocked in that it is real new news. It changes things. It opens up the driver’s market too.
Honda is THE answer for Red Bull. Red Bull has been complaining about not having enough engine suppliers in F1. Honda is only engine suppliers, so that would make a great fit for Red Bull, who is great at making chassis. Obviously, they would have a minor issue with engine performance, which was the cause for Red Bull’s wish for having more engine suppliers..
But Red Bull has already some tricks up their sleeve. They already have experience in working with under-performing engines. They already learned that kicking and screaming (like McLaren is currently doing) simply doesn’t work. Plus Honda got slapped just about enough to be willing to accept help. The timing sounds is right, and Red Bull is one of the teams that willing to try something new. The story is rounded, the puzzle fits.
That in the deal McLaren will get Renault engines, and Sainz will get a Renault seat, that is simply icing on the cake. Sainz really needs something new, and Renault is on the rise. It is good for both.
Hulk is a solid performer and Sainz will get an opportunity to measure himself to something non-Red Bull. If this again kicks off a ludicrous internal team-battle (like Sainz v. Verstappen, Sainz v. Kyvat), we might conclude that this is something in Sainz’ personality. (This is the only thing that is really bothering me about Sainz)
Sainz’ departure opens the door for Gasly to take on of the Torro Rosso seats, and open the door for Palmer to… well, it opens the door for Palmer.
With Renault replacing Honda at McLaren, chances are that Alonso will stay for another season. Van Doorne has already been confirmed, I don’t see a good reason for McLaren to want something else in the light of signing Renault, so no further changes there are to be expected.
Ferrari will remain unchanged in its line-up for 2018.
However, some of the other teams might be in for some change as well. Sainz’s move to Renault, closes the door for Kubica. Since Renault was the only team testing Kubica, estimations are Robert will remain seat-less for the coming season. He will pose too much of a liability for other teams. If they are going to take a risk, they would much rather pull a “Verstappen” and get someone young. Robert’s only option would be to sign a reserve driver contract with Renault.
Massa was out for 2017, then back in again. Although Massa is solid, his contract only is for a single year, and competition for that seat will be fierce. Especially from drivers which are affiliated to Mercedes.
Force India has contracts with both their drivers, but recent events will have caused a situation that both drivers are happy with the team, but not happy with their colleague-driver. Would Ocon be allowed to make a jump? That would open up a seat for Wehrlein and create a solution for his non-developing career. Wehrlein at Williams: not if I was Claire Williams.
The argument that Martini wants to have an “over 25 year old” next to Stroll: are they really paying Williams that much? Rumors are they are paying less than is reflected by the space on the car.
At Haas: I expect Romain remains. I am a KMag fan (remember: I always root for the underdog.. must be some masochistic trait) but I do see that his star doesn’t shine too often.
Sauber will be upgraded to newer Ferrari engines, or will they be rebadged to Alfa Romeo? Ericsson will probably stick on another year. He brings in a solid budget. Ferrari would want some fresh blood for the coming seasons, Giovinazzi for example, or Leclerc. No use training Mercedes’ talent.
Honda to Torro Rosso: shocking! And there will be more shocking stuff in its wake!