Only one team will start the 2017 F1 season with the same driver line-up they had this time 12 months ago.
The world champions have lost the world champion. And a trio of novices flush with junior championship success are embarking on their first crack at the big time.
But which team has assembled the strongest partnership for the coming season? Compare the ten driver pairings below and vote for the best.
Mercedes: Hamilton and Bottas
Nico Rosberg’s shock retirement left Mercedes needing a new driver in a hurry. With all the ‘big names’ already locked up, prising Valtteri Bottas out of his Williams deal proved the quickest way of getting their hands on a rapid and known quantity.
But is he quick and tough enough to handle life at the sharp end of the field. Going up against Lewis Hamilton in an environment where he’s been very happy for the past four seasons and delivered two championships will be a daunting proposition.
Red Bull: Ricciardo and Verstappen
Red Bull’s line up is the product of junior driver programme which has run for years and cast dozens of talents aside in pursuit of only the very best. In Daniel Ricciardo they already have a multiple race winner, but the driver who joined him last year is threatening to upstage him.
Max Verstappen is about to embark on his first full-season campaign at Red Bull. He already has a reputation as a hard racer. Will he be too much for Ricciardo to handle in 2017? This promises to be one of the most exciting driver line-ups in what should be a competitive car.
Ferrari: Raikkonen and Vettel
Now the only team with an all-champion pairing, Ferrari’s duo each turned in somewhat lacklustre performances last season. Sebastian Vettel could have won on more than one occasion but for errors by the team, and the frustration told towards the end of last year.
Kimi Raikkonen, meanwhile, remains the same rapid, persistent yet unobtrusive force he has always been. But he increasingly seems a blunt instrument in wheel-to-wheel combat.
Force India: Perez and Ocon
Consistently excellent performances by Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg took Force India to new heights last year. Will they be as strong now Hulkenberg has been lured away by the promise of a manufacturer-backed drive?
In his place comes the genuinely exciting rookie talent which is Esteban Ocon. Half a season in a Manor he’d done little running in gave little evidence for his qualities, except for a superb drive in Brazil. He could push Perez very hard indeed.
Williams: Massa and Stroll
Whatever they may say, Williams cannot feel terribly satisfied about their driver pairing for 2017. Felipe Massa had a sub-par 2016 and looked ready to retire, so he did. Then Mercedes came knocking for Bottas, so the retirement went on hold.
Newcomer Lance Stroll gets a bad rap because of his father’s huge wealth. He’s got Formula Four and Formula Three titles under his belt, but the latter of those was won against a thin and weakened field. Not a pairing which inspires confidence.
McLaren: Alonso and Vandoorne
Two-times world champion Fernando Alonso is joined by an incredibly exciting talent who’s already won the GP2 championship. This all sounds rather familiar.
Ten years ago when Alonso was paired with Hamilton, few would have thought he’d still be looking for a third world title in 2017 when his team mate will be Stoffel Vandoorne. Heading into his 16th season Alonso remains as relentless as ever, but Vandoorne hinted at his capabilities by taking a point in a one-off start last year.
Toro Rosso: Sainz and Kvyat
Daniil Kvyat may have fallen out of favour but Red Bull have at least given him another season to prove himself back at Toro Rosso. Life doesn’t get any easier, though: Carlos Sainz Jnr was on another level last year.
Toro Rosso started last season in great shape. But their year-old engine hardware inevitably left their drivers scrapping around the lower reaches of the points. Bigger scores should be on offer this season if they are up to it.
Haas: Grosjean and Magnussen
Bringing in Kevin Magnussen to replace Esteban Gutierrez has to be an upgrade for Haas. However Magnussen’s somewhat scrappy season for Renault demonstrated too little of the promise of his debut campaign at McLaren.
The experience of Romain Grosjean served this team well last season but they will need both drivers to perform at that kind of level in what could be a difficult second year for Gene Haas’s project.
Renault: Hulkenberg and Palmer
Nico Hulkenberg has been labelled as F1’s best driver without a top-team drive for years. He’s banking on Renault getting their eventually, but he will have to be patient.
After a slow start, Jolyon Palmer came good in the second half of 2016 and achieved a breakthrough points finish. He fared better alongside Magnussen than many expected, making this an intriguing line-up.
Sauber: Ericsson and Wehrlein
Sauber have retained Marcus Ericsson for what will be his fourth year of Formula One following another adequate but unspectacular campaign.
The interesting new addition here is Manor refugee Pascal Wehrlein, who claims the seat formerly occupied by Felipe Nasr. He was passed over for the Mercedes seat in favour of Bottas, and will be hungry to prove that was a mistake.
Over to you
Which F1 team has got the best driver line-up ahead of the new season? Cast your vote below and have your say in the comments:
Which team has the best driver line-up for 2017?
- Mercedes: Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas (7%)
- Red Bull: Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen (71%)
- Ferrari: Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen (9%)
- Force India: Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon (1%)
- Williams: Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll (0%)
- McLaren: Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne (10%)
- Toro Rosso: Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz Jnr (0%)
- Haas: Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen (1%)
- Renault: Nico Hulkenberg and Jolyon Palmer (0%)
- Sauber: Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein (1%)
Total Voters: 423
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