Ten things we want to know about the 2018 F1 season

2018 F1 season

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How long will F1’s biggest star stick around? Will fans learn to love Halo? Here’s 10 of the big questions ahead of the 2018 F1 season.

Will Hamilton stay in F1?

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Interlagos, 2017
Hamilton wants to do more than drive racing cars
Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes contract is up for renewal at the end of the year. On the face of it you might expect he won’t be going anywhere soon.

Mercedes have given him a championship-contending car for each of the last four seasons and can reasonably be expected to do so for at least the next two seasons with the current engine regulations. The upcoming championship will be Hamilton’s 12th, which is considerably fewer than rivals such as Fernando Alonso (entering his 18th season of F1 racing) have racked up. He earns a stupendous amount and is allowed to do pretty much as he pleases in between races, so why go anywhere else?

The answer could be that he is increasingly drawn to a life outside F1. He has interests in fashion and music he wants to pursue. And life in F1 is not without its problems. His relationship with the media hit a low in 2016 and though it improved last season he drew criticism for being the only driver to skip a fan event in front of his home crowd. The year ended with Hamilton deleting thousands of social media posts following a row over comments he made on Instagram.

Hamilton may be one of two four-times champions in the sport but he has megastar appeal of a kind the more introverted Sebastian Vettel does not have. The Mercedes star is a huge box-office draw and when he decides he has had enough it will be a blow for the sport.

Will Halo gain acceptance?

Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren, Yas Marina, 2017
Halo is going to radically change the look of F1
Last year the FIA’s announcement that F1 cars must be fitted with the Halo device was met with incredulity. In one week’s time, when the first F1 car fitted with the Halo breaks cover, we’ll get the first indication whether the final design will be more tolerable than what we’ve seen so far, or whether F1 has truly destroyed its aesthetic appeal in the name of safety.

Based on what we’ve seen so far the latter appears to be the likely outcome. Given that, just how much of a turn-off is it going to be for its many critics?

For some it isn’t merely the appearance of Halo which is unattractive, but what it stands for: The continued eradication of risk in the sport and a transitional step from open to closed cockpits. And it doesn’t help matters that other series, like IndyCar, are working on more aesthetically pleasing solutions.

One development could drastically alter this debate. If Halo can be proved to have spared a driver from serious injury or worse during the year, even its harshest critics may have to reconsider their views.

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Will the 2021 engine rules be decided?

Honda RA617H
Simpler power units are expected in 2021
A lot is riding on the outcome of discussions around the future of the sport from 2021 onward. But getting an agreement on the future engine formula is one of the most pressing matters. As Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer told F1 Fanatic last month, they hope to make a decision in early 2019 on whether they will enter F1 two years later.

A simpler, louder, cheaper version of the current engine appears to be favoured. FIA president Jean Todt has also suggested bringing F1’s rules into line with other championships, making it easier for multi-brand manufacturers to compete in a range of series.

But keeping the present manufacturers happy while opening the door to new ones is a tough balance to strike. Ferrari ratcheted up the rhetoric last year by making another of their threats to quit. The stakes are high.

Can F1 attract new teams?

F1’s new owners have made clear their desire to make Formula One more affordable and competitive. Do that, and it should automatically become more appealing for new competitors and the under-subscribed grid might soon be filled again.

The changes to prize money structures and regulations necessary for this can’t happen until 2021 at the earliest. But setting up a new F1 team isn’t the work of a moment. If anyone has serious plans for joining the grid in 2021, we may hear the first of it over the coming 12 months.

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Is seven Pirelli’s magic number?

2018 Pirelli tyres
Pirelli has seven compounds to choose from
Has Formula One’s official tyre supplier finally cracked it, or is its seven-tyre range for 2018 a desperate attempt to placate critics of the products it has brought so far? Its 2018 range runs the gamut from ‘hyper-soft’ to ‘super-hard’, though it admits the latter is unlikely to be used.

In theory this will allow them to supply more aggressive, race-able tyres. The drivers made encouraging noises about the softest of these following Yas Marina testing. However at the time of writing it has not been nominated for any of the first four races. Expect it to appear for the first time in Monaco.

Some allowances were made for the conservative nature of the tyres Pirelli supplied last year due to the unavailability of suitable cars to develop them on. That was not a problem for its 2018 tyre testing programme, and Pirelli’s chances of extending its current contract beyond 2019 could be strongly influenced by the quality of product it brings this year.

Will we get a close championship?

The fact that drivers from two teams were in contention for race wins and championship honours for much of the season last year was a development which went against the form book and was all the more welcome for it.

As the season went on Mercedes gradually reasserted themselves at the front of the field. Nonetheless the last three races were all won by different teams.

If the new season begins with more of the same it will be a very encouraging sign for the year ahead.

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Can McLaren return to respectability?

Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren, Circuit of the Americas, 2017
McLaren must get back among the front-runners
The strain of five win-less seasons has taken a toll at McLaren. The team is in a rebuilding phase following the ousting of former CEO Ron Dennis in late 2016 and last year’s separation from Honda.

Installing customer Renault power units is its first step towards rehabilitation. On-track results must follow. Ninth, sixth and ninth over the past three years is their worst constructors’ championship performance in consecutive seasons since 1978-80; the period which led to Dennis’s arrival in the first place.

The team has already made some positive moves ahead of the launch of its 2018 car, having confirmed today a new long-term partnership with technology firm Dell.

Are Red Bull and Renault heading for divorce?

After McLaren ditched Honda for Renault power last year questions arose over the future of Red Bull’s relationship with the French engine manufacturer, whose power units it brands as ‘TAG Heuer’.

This could be the last season for Red Bull and Renault, who enjoyed massive success between 2010 and 2013 but have won far less frequently since. The partnership endured immense strain in 2015 as Red Bull suffered a win-less season publicly courted alternative suppliers.

Toro Rosso’s Honda deal may prove a precursor to a Red Bull-Honda tie-up next year if rumours are to be believed.

Will the Formula E boom go on?

Nico Muller, Formula E rookie test, Marrakesh, Morocco, 2018
Manufacturers love Formula E
Formula E is a growing thorn in F1’s side. The fastest-growing motor sport in terms of manufacturer involvement will soon feature Mercedes, Porsche and BMW among the likes of Audi, Jaguar and Nissan.

So far the enthusiasm of car manufacturers has not been matched by a corresponding rise in viewing figures. But the potential is clearly there and the arrival of a new car for the championship’s fifth season beginning later this year could propel it for new heights.

Meanwhile Formula One’s most famous team is looking for a lever it can use to apply pressure to the sport’s new owners. The worst-case scenario for F1 would be if Ferrari reveal they are planning an entry.

How will Liberty change the calendar?

Assen, 2015
Assen has been mooted as a future F1 venue
If the future engine rules are a top priority for Liberty, the most revealing insight into their immediate priorities could come from the decisions they make about the future F1 calendar. The sport is already at a record-equalling 21 races this year but an increase as high as 25 races has been mooted.

The futures of several races are in question. The German round is a point of particular interest, as Germany has a multiple world champion driver (Vettel) and team (Mercedes) yet has struggled to support its race.

Will Liberty put well-attended races in major markets before sparsely-attended yet lucrative rounds in places with little motorsport heritage? Will they revive heritage races in the Netherlands or South Africa where they can expect strong crowds but not race fees of the kind Abu Dhabi and Bahrain can afford?

Their plans for the 2019 F1 calendar will prove telling.

Over to you

What are you most eager to learn about in the new season? How do you think these issues will be resolved? Have your say in the comments.

And what were the big talking points 12 months ago. Take a look back at Ten things we want to know about the 2017 F1 season.

2018 F1 season

Browse all 2018 F1 season articles

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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44 comments on “Ten things we want to know about the 2018 F1 season”

  1. I’m sure fans will quickly grow indifferent to the halo. Is it uglier than the Start Trek V wing? I don’t think so.
    The last year’s comback to 200cm wide cars was far more an improvement on the looks of the cars than how the halo could set it back.

    As for a close championship… What I wish more in the first place are close races with unexpected winners.

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      8th February 2018, 14:11

      @damon I’m a huge Star Trek and Star Wars fan and I have no clue what the V Wing was. I even googled it and barely know what it still is. And that’s the key difference between the V Wing and the Halo analogy. Unlike the Halo which literally sits on top of the cars, the V Wing could be hidden somewhere where no fan (myself included) could ever see it. I do see your point – if the Emperor’s flagship was the V Wing instead of the Death Star, we’d all be laughing at Emperor Palpatine and the rebels in the movie would be debating whether to bother to attack it or not:-)

      1. @freelittlebirds A bit OOT here, but there’s actually 2 V-Wing in Star Wars universe. The Nimbus starfighter in prequels (hideous one and why they don’t call it H-wing instead) or the New Republic airspeeder which sadly from EU and most likely erased from history now.

        1. @sonicslv For the Nimbus starfighter, they couldn’t call it the H-wing because there was already a H-wing strike fighter dating back to the Galactic Civil War (for non-Star Wars fans, that’s the bit the Original Trilogy covers). The reason they aren’t shown in the movies is because they were (in-universe) both expensive to purchase (twice as much as any other starfighter) and required unusual numbers of people to maintain. It looks almost as much like a squashed W as it does a H. (And before you ask, W-wing was already taken by a different vessel, a modified X-wing from the same war.

          At around the time of the last prequel, a second H-wing model was being used in the EU (this model was about 25 years after Star Wars: A New Hope). Presumably, LucasArts had run out of letters by this point to call ships. The new H-wing was similarly expensive (though due to the Rebel Alliance becoming the much-better-resourced New Republic by that point, some some effective use nonetheless by Jedi pilots). It is noted early in the new H-wing’s use that its name is a bit of an affront to naming nonemclature, as it doesn’t really resemble any letter, let alone a H.

          Neither H-wing is in the current canon.

          1. @alianora-la-canta Yeah Star Wars naming is really a mess. Aside from the obvious and iconic X-Wing, Y-Wing, and A-Wing, we got the ridiculous [ ]-Wings. B-Wing is nowhere near B and letter T is still available back then too.

    2. @damon I would have chosen the platypus nose as a better reference (which was even worst and with less purpose). It will take until the media has something else to write / speak about and then halo will be part of history.

      Unpredictability? Yes up to one point, the sweet spot tire which allow any driver to roll the dice and win a GP, no thanks. You still need to win on merit but closing the performance gap is certainly a good thing. On paper it should close up to 2021.

      25 races, as stated before, they will lose people interest. It is way too long, for teams, fans and the sake of the championship… You would lose a lot of the exclusive effect. Stick to 20 races but change venues over the years.

    3. eh?? What is a V wing?

    4. Karen Gilbert
      8th February 2018, 15:36

      Someone described the halo as looking like a thong panty. I will neveer be able to see a halo and not have that image now.

  2. 1. Who cares??? No where for him to really go in motorsport other than that is of non interest
    2. No but nothing a fan can do :(
    3. In good time. NO one is waiting with baited breath so not important
    4. No, maybe an engine manufacture and some new sponsorship tie ins but that’s it
    5. New or more tyres will change nothing
    6. Yes I think so but it won’t be particularly dramatic
    7. Yes but they won’t win a race
    8. Will depend on the competitiveness of Honda and their performance time line
    9. With artificial interest propping up the series and manufacture interest for future technology reasons then yes
    10. They will expand the series for commercial reasons yes

    1. No Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes No We’ll see

    2. Who cares? Good point, although given the endless crap we are fed about alonso and hid WEC antics and indy dabblings, someone probably does

  3. One of my main questions, and I’m not optimistic, is will the tires still have a finicky narrow optimum operating temperature range such that half the drivers’ time and energy is spent just getting tires to work, thus taking away from actual racing? Are the fronts still going to start to fail as soon as a car is in someone’s dirty air?

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      8th February 2018, 14:23

      @Robbie Indeed, that’s been the biggest issue of the past season where the leading drivers are literally baby-sitting the tires behind another car. The words Dirty Air have been the most anti-climactic words you can possibly hear in a race – it literally means the race is over. Drivers must be able to put pressure on the driver in front of them, not back off for 45 laps with one or half an overtaking chance in significantly wider and quicker cars.

      A driver has just pitted and is in pursuit with new faster tires over the car in front but the race is over even though the car in front has slower worn tires. That cannot continue to happen…

      1. @freelittlebirds Agreed. I know they have their reasons for using these tire, namely to try to shake up strategies and create passing via drivers on divergently different tire states, but that isn’t why we tune in. To see drivers in the pinnacle of the sport struggling on tires that could be so so much better is bizarre to me, and is to me merely a weak answer to try to mask the aero addiction, like drs.

        1. @robbie, Agreed. I could only stomach these tyres if for instance teamX could run the hyper-hard non-stop and beat teamY using the ultimate-soft but stopping for 3 new sets (or vice-versa), but compulsory tyre use/changes just breaks up the racing on track for no (planned) difference in tactics between teams.

  4. Chase Carey has stated that increasing the number of races isn’t a priority for them and that the number 25 was, after all, more or less just an exaggeration as according to him they’ve never suggested this figure regarding the subject. Even if they did, it could/would never work in reality unless a lot of changes were made to, for example, a significant relaxation on PU component and gearbox usage, etc. Furthermore, I doubt half of the teams (especially the smallest ones) could rotate (double) their crews.

    1. @jerejj, It could work if the races were sequentially closer together and admission/broadcast fees were made more affordable. Swings and roundabouts !?

      1. @hohum That wouldn’t help if the limitations regarding PU element allocation and gearbox usage remained as tight as they’re now. Furthermore, it also wouldn’t really make a difference to my doubts that the smaller teams would find it difficult to achieve a crew rotation like the big ones.

  5. Lewis usually signs in Monaco. Mercedes need to have their act together.

  6. I hope there’s an almighty pile-up at the first corner in Melbourne and every driver has a tyre launched at their face at 200 mph and they all clamber out fine and then shut up and get on with the rest of the season.

    1. OmarRoncal - Go Seb!!! (@)
      8th February 2018, 17:20

      … a superb pile-up would be blamed to Halo’s blocking optimum visibility. So I doubt that would end the criticism.

      1. Hahaha. Good point.

  7. Breaking news: MotoGP made some tests and found out that having 4 wheels is safer than 2. Starting next year all motorbikes must have 4 wheels. Many tests have been performed and it was shown that having 4 wheels would have prevented some accidents in the past. Therefore there is no choice but to change the rules and mandate 4 wheels. Maybe a roof in the future, which has also proven very good for safety.

  8. One development could drastically alter this debate. If Halo can be proved to have spared a driver from serious injury or worse during the year, even its harshest critics may have to reconsider their views.

    Wonder what will happen if the opposite occurs?

    1. @schooner

      Wonder what will happen if the opposite occurs?

      Are there any such scenarios more likely than a wheel or other piece of large debris hitting a driver on the head?

      Assuming there isn’t, the discussion point is something of a dead end. And if there is, Halo shouldn’t (and, realistically, wouldn’t) be going on the cars.

      1. Upside down burning car (with ruptured fuel cell).
        Driver can’t escape due to the halo.

        1. And that’s “more likely”? I think the last time I saw an F1 crash in which a fuel cell was damaged was 29 years ago.

          1. However @keithcollantine there is still a chance that an object on a downward trajectory could enter the space between the Halo and the headrest. Certainly the Halo should prevent the most-likely danger of a loose wheel striking the driver, but to paraphrase, when was the last time we saw that in F1.?

          2. Alonso finished upside down in Melbourne 2016

            Massa got hit by flying debris in 2009

      2. @keithcollantine

        Given that the FIA video itself showed (as its only simulation) a tyre hitting Halo that then hit the driver (quite how the creators thought that energy transfer was going to be missed by viewers is the confusing part here, especially when the footage was shown twice) and claiming benefits in types of crashes where Halo would not logically be involved… At this point, any possible crash could turn out to be one where Halo makes things worse. From what I can tell, misleading presentation is all Halo has going for it.

        From the FIA’s own evidence (to the extent that this has been made available to the public) Halo should not be on the cars, but due to the FIA cornering itself by stating it would have front-end protection for 2018 in the middle of 2016 and then not discovering a safe version of it, it’s going on anyway. That’s what’s been aggravating me about Halo since last August.

        1. (Parenthetically, this is from someone who was cautiously pro-Halo prior to the FIA starting to make questionable-at-best claims about it).

    2. @keithcollantine
      The main thing I can imagine is an accident caused by blocked visibility

  9. Bring on free tyre choice! It can’t be that difficult…

  10. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    8th February 2018, 21:20

    I would love if F1 hosted 1-2 “exhibition” races in February with their test drivers and the old car. I’m tired of waiting for the new season…

    1. @freelittlebirds I don’t find the off-season too long. Yes, it can feel like that at times, but at least it’s shorter these days than it used to be.

  11. How long will F1’s biggest star stick around?

    Jeez, Verstappen joined in 2015,… So I’d say until 2030. If the Sport is still allowed to exist at that point in time of course. We could have a fully left-wing world government at that point and everyone will be told what to watch and enjoy.

    Will Hamilton stay in F1?

    Probably. At least until he gets a teammate who beats him again.

    Will Halo gain acceptance?

    Not by me. The Halo wouldn’t have saved Justin Wilson, Jules Bianchi or Dan Wheldon. It might have saved Henry Surtees. That’s 1 life since the death of Senna in open wheel racing. If you look at what really kills racing drivers it’s high speed impacts with other cars and walls. Or rather, racing drivers being stopped too fast. The only way to stop racing drivers from dying is to stop racing altogether.

    Will we get a close championship?

    Yes and no. I feel Red Bull and Ferrari might get closer to Mercedes as Mercedes gets ever closer to the performance ceiling but at the same time Mercedes will have the upper hand in reliability. The 3 engines rule will definitely destroy any chances Ferrari and/or Red Bull might have.

    Will the Formula E boom go on?

    Manufacturers will undoubtedly hail it as the new best thing but until the cars manage to do serious speeds and will race on proper tracks I won’t be interested in the least.

    1. I’m not convinced of your claim the halo wouldn’t have helped Justin Wilson, who was hit by someone else’s nosecone, or Dan Wheldon who went into a catch fence and whose head hit a fence post. I would have thought the halo would have come between both the nosecone and the fence post and the unfortunate drivers’ heads.

      I’m also not convinced the 3 engine rule is going to remove RBR’s and Ferrari’s chances against Mercedes this year. There is just as much chance that the added reliability they’ll have known was coming and will have adapted for will help them finish more races. I don’t think it is the big stretch from the reliability they were already having to account for to go from 4 engines to 3. And really, the top 3 teams can pretty much start from the back and podium anyway, lol.

      1. Agreed. But looking at the rest of his post, it’s clear he doesn’t really follow F1.

  12. 10 questions?!!! I can’t answer that many…F1 Fanatic needs to adopt a Question Cap so small time commenters have a chance for COTD fame and riches.

    Will Halo gain acceptance?
    Define acceptance. If and that’s a very big ‘IF’, it proves one day to save one life, it will be accepted in that instance. All the other times when it’s not saving lives, but ruining sight lines and the spirit of open cockpit racing, then no. We’ve only been subjected to a single car trundling around in practice sessions to make our aesthetic decisions. A grid full of fully halo’d cars will be a sight that I believe many will want to un-see.

    Will the 2021 engine rules be decided?
    Please check back in 2022 or ’23 for the definitive answer.

    A simpler, louder, cheaper version of the current engine appears to be favoured.

    …by FIA president Jean Todt.
    Pick any 2, Jean. Or to be safe, 1.

    What I haven’t heard is whether Jean/AM’s hot air PR bag and Horner can accept a substantial loss of performance if the current fuel restrictions will apply. Upping the rev limit is pointless if the power unit is fuel limited. Increasing noise means reducing efficiency, so less power is sent to the wheels. Removing the MGU-H again reduces efficiency and performance.

    These design ‘tweaks’ won’t come cheap – it’s a non-trivial redesign. Unless the FIA/FOM enforce an engine cost cap as they have in the past. But, if they force the engine manufacturer’s to eat development costs, that would eliminate an incentive for new power unit suppliers to enter the F1 circle of madness.

    For years I’ve been enamored with F1’s ability to complicate simple stuff and failing miserably to simplify complicated stuff. At least that F1 tradition is certain to endure past 2021.

    Can F1 attract new teams?

    The changes to prize money structures and regulations necessary for this can’t happen until 2021 at the earliest.

    Show me the money. If the new FOM really wants new teams, removing a few hundred million in percs to selected teams, won’t be enough. Liberty re-dividing the 50% of the F1 pie the teams receive is a nifty, if much needed, misdirection. But still a misdirection.

    What about the other 50%? The Bernie 50. Liberty can’t afford to change the fundamental problem with F1 revenue distribution. They overpaid Bernie/CVC and took over the massive debt that CVC created to fill their pockets. In other ‘entertainment’ areas 15%-25% would be the fair rate for the tasks FOM performs.

    The Bernie rob-the-teams model is broken and Liberty can’t afford to fix it. The only way I see a new team entering F1 is either as a massive marketing spend by a major auto manufacturer or another billionaire’s soon-to-be bankrupt vanity project.

    F1 has become a two tier racing series. Maybe they could add a 3rd tier, with even slower backmarker teams with lower paying paid drivers that don’t lose quite as much money as the 2nd tier teams. The 2nd tier ‘independent’ teams will feel better about themselves and Liberty will look great on TV with a 26 car grid.

    Or they impose cost caps to attract new marginal teams. Worked before. Right, Max, Caterham/HRT/Virgin?

    And that’s my answer cap spent. Sorry F1 Fanatics, I don’t have any major questionable sponsors to perform the required research and development to answer more.

  13. I’d need a split screen to answer each question, so I’ll just state my position ; The day F1 cars are all mandated to be powered by equalised rubber bands (or batteries) is definitely the day I’ll be gone.

  14. And how will Kubica perform during FP1? Will Williams will let him drive in qualification setups?

  15. I think the halo or the new Indycar screen would have saved Justin Wilson, Dan Wheldon possibly 50/50. In Wheldon’s case, his car went cockpit first into the catch-fence at 215mph. It did not strike the pole straight away, but travelled along the fence line inverted, before striking the pole, killing Dan in the process. A horrible set of circumstances, but when you see that the roll hoop was destroyed by the impact, it is safe to surmise that the halo would have been destroyed also.
    The same with Jules Bianchi. There are some accidents that, in any era, are just unsurviable.

  16. 1) It’s always sad to see an all time great leave but I’ll respect his decision if he chooses to.
    2) I will never accept halo. Even if it saves a life. It’s not F1 and never will be for me. I know of many who will hate it no matter what.
    3) Must decide the rules now otherwise there won’t be time to implement them. If Ferrari will make trouble too much they can leave IMO. F1 will survive without them but not sure if F1 can survive with them due to their bad and vast influence
    4) It must. 10 teams is an unhealthy number that gives too much influence to few manufacturers because they can threaten to decrease car numbers to an unacceptable level.
    5) Pirelli tries too much and achieves too little. They should have simplified the whole thing instead of complicating it further.
    6) Simply impossible to know yet. Too much unknown variables.
    7) Yes and they will.
    8) If Honda finally get their act together yes. Otherwise no. Fairly simple.
    9) FE boom? What boom? No one I know likes it. It’s slow, has stupid fanboost, pathetic whirring noise and races on rubbish street circuits. Artificially enhanced PC “racing” to suit the current fashion that nobody cares about. Yes, nobody. Because those for whom it’s supposed to cater, don’t care about racing or even cars in general one yota. Even if they go to see a race in their city as just another entertainment, in between sitting in their local hipster cafes doing nothing at all, they immediately forget about it till next year.
    10) If Liberty’s smart they will. too early to tell.

  17. Will Hamilton stay in F1? – If he sees a point to doing so. If he doesn’t like the vibe of the season, I could see him leaving, but I think that he’d give due notice before doing so. Not only because he seemed a bit shaken at the lack of notice Nico gave when he retired, or because he wouldn’t want the distration in a potential title-chasing season. This is a man who likes parties, he wouldn’t want to miss his retirement party either…

    Will Halo gain acceptance? – That depends entirely on the pattern of crashes that happens. If it looks promising, (without a definitive positive assistance in a major crash such as Keith described in the main article), I think the complaints will be down to a generic murmur but very much still present. (I’m trying to be positive here, about a device of which I have serious safety misgivings).

    Will the 2021 engine rules be decided? – No. I’ll be impressed if those are decided before 2020 starts, let alone 2019. After all, the (originally-intended-for) 2013 engine regulations were decided in summer 2013…

    Can F1 attract new teams? – No. Ask again in 2020.

    Is seven Pirelli’s magic number? – No. The problem for Pirelli is there is no magic number. There is a need for F1 to use tyre regulations that the FIA will not countenance (several different types could work, but none are compatible with the FIA’s insistence on blancmange tyres). Nonetheless, I expect the alliance to continue because no other manufacturer is so willing to bend over backwards to suit the FIA.

    Will we get a close championship? – No. It will be less close than last year, simply because any gain Ferrari and Red Bull get in speed will be counteracted by the lack of reliability they will have in their engines by the three-quarter mark of the season.

    Can McLaren return to respectability? – Yes. For a given value of respectable. I expect it to reliably beat Toro Rosso and Sauber (but not necessarily match Renault), which will give it a cartload of hope and at least some respectability. This is likely to be a turning point in McLaren’s future.

    Are Red Bull and Renault heading for divorce? – Yes. But expect the court battle to last until the new engines arrive – whenever that is.

    Will the Formula E boom go on? – I don’t think so. Formula E is heading for that awkward phase where initial growth stalls out and a new, maintenance-based approach is needed (to establish a consistent foundation for the second phase of growth). The arguments that have started this season makes me think that stalling process has already started, though it may be next season (2018-2019) before that becomes definitively more than a “bobble”.

    How will Liberty change the calendar? – Slowly. Venues will get swapped out or have terms changed as and when contracts reach completion. I expect rich venues to get first call, though any nations which have gone without a Grand Prix and have a compelling cultural basis for inclusion will probably get a look-in also. Expect a second US Grand Prix, but for any 2018 word on it to be “investigations” or “negotiations” rather than “announcement” or “save the calendar date”.

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