My predictions last year were actually surprisingly good, couple of mistakes sure, but the majority was pretty spot on. And as has become tradition, the three main StatBlog writers will be doing predictions again to see who ends up closest.
Jack Elleker – F1StatMan
2018 should be an interesting season, Mercedes will obviously be strong, Ferrari should be right up there with them, and I think even Red Bull will be there, particularly towards the tail end of the season, championships could go to either of those three. But as to who will actually take them? I’ll go for Hamilton and Mercedes, though I really do hope I’m wrong.
Max Verstappen will win his first race without Daniil Kvyat being dropped from a team while Raikkonen will be even further off the pace than usual and be lucky to get more than a couple of podiums.
Toro Rosso will be surprisingly decent, even with a Honda in the back they seem to have done well in pre-season and their driver line up is fairly solid, they should finish sixth of the Constructors’, but probably not quite enough for a podium. Williams will not do so well. I can see them dropping down to seventh or eighth.
Renault might steal a podium, with Sainz potentially scoring the 100th podium for a Spanish driver. Alonso will not get that 100th podium, he won’t even be close to it, McLaren will still be slow and with a fragile car they will not have a good season and will likely be a similar story to 2017.
Craig Woollard – IndyCar Writer
I’m not expecting miracles from certain teams this season. I assume the usual suspects – Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull – will be the pacesetters this season. Mercedes does appear to have – ominously – the complete package. It has downforce in abundance, a very strong power unit, and a magnificent suspension. Where questions can be asked is on Mercedes’ softer tyre pace, and on how it conserves its tyres. This is an area where Red Bull, and Ferrari, may well be able to pounce. No championship will be a major disappointment for any one of these three in 2018. My money right now is on Mercedes, but don’t count out Red Bull, which has started stronger this year than in previous attempts.
Behind the front three teams is where I expect the works Renault and McLaren-Renault teams to be. This may not necessarily be the case at Melbourne but, with the massive resources behind them, should happen by the end of the year. However, testing was rather disastrous for McLaren, despite Renault deliberately being conservative with the engine modes over the two weeks. The car also appears quite draggy, as was hinted during the Honda years. There is nowhere to hide now for McLaren, and the same arguably can be said of the works Renault team too. Not being the top Renault-powered team will be disappointing for any of these teams and being out of the top five would be catastrophic.
A surprise in testing was Haas. Formula 1’s newest team had some promising pace. However, can it sustain that through to the start of the season and beyond? In its two years in F1 so far, Haas has struggled for consistency, so it’s fair to assume that more established squads such as Force India could well be stronger during the season, even if the car itself is not as strong. Toro Rosso’s partnership with Honda has started brightly, but it has the least F1 experience on the grid and just how good the power unit is remains a question. Williams has run an unusual testing programme and probably has the weakest line-up on the grid, so this could be a tough year. Sauber has produced a car which appears difficult to drive, and both its drivers have had offs during testing, so it needs to get on top of that. On the plus side, it appears considerably closer to the rest of the field than it did by the end of last season, so the battle for sixth in the championship could be very frantic and exciting.
In terms of drivers, this is the year Valtteri Bottas needs to prove that he is a championship contender throughout the year. I expect him to do just that, and he is my dark horse for the title. Softer tyres should suit Daniel Ricciardo, who struggled last year, and I cannot see why he and Max Verstappen won’t be contenders should the car be reliable enough. Kimi Raikkonen is in what might be his final year, and he will want to fight for victory more again this year. Lewis Hamilton’s fourth championship year came in his strongest season yet and might be even stronger this year. If the car is good, Sebastian Vettel will almost certainly be a contender. But, if the Mercedes is just that good, it may be a one or two-horse race.
The dynamic between Carlos Sainz Jr and Nico Hulkenberg at Renault will be fascinating, as both are desperate to impress, and both desperately deserve podium finishes. That must be the minimum target this year. Stoffel Vandoorne needs to look much more competitive to Fernando Alonso than last year and must do so consistently. Speaking of Alonso, how he manages his dual campaign with Toyota in the World Endurance Championship will be intriguing, and how he applies skills from that in F1 will be fascinating. The same can be said of double WEC champion Brendon Hartley.
The Sergio Perez/Esteban Ocon dynamic will be another tasty pairing to watch, given what happened last year. Pierre Gasly comes in off the back of a strong 2017, and how Charles Leclerc handles F1 after his meteoric maiden Formula 2 season will be another interesting story.
Jack Amey – Formula E and F1 Opinion Writer
All 10 teams have launched their cars, eight days of testing have been completed (well, seven) and the running order of the teams heading into Australia is still unknown.
Yet here we are, on F1StatBlog, making predictions about what will happen in the 2018 F1 season. My 2016 predictions were pretty much spot on but last year’s were a bit of a disaster.
Like usual, testing gives little in the way of an indication about what will happen across the year. It looks like this season’s Mercedes is a step up from last year’s diva, which will give the German marque an advantage in the early part of the season.
It’s worth remembering Mercedes won both titles last year despite having a car with issues, so if it has managed to sort them out then I’d wager that Mercedes will win both titles, with Hamilton taking the drivers’ title.
Behind the Silver Arrows, it looks like Red Bull has a slightly better chassis than Ferrari – Ferrari has changed a fair amount of the car and appears to be unlocking its potential with every session. With Red Bull starting in a better position than previously, it should be able to compete with Mercedes in races. Qualifying may still be an issue unless the Renault power unit comes complete with magic qualifying modes this season.
Behind the big three teams, like last year, it seems the midfield will be incredibly tight. Force India finished fourth last year and have managed to keep hold of Sergio Perez and Mercedes junior Esteban Ocon. The strong line-up will give them an advantage but with both Renault and McLaren expected to make gains, keeping that fourth place will be a challenge for the Silverstone based squad.
Renault will be stronger than McLaren at the start of the season and this help Renault to beat one of its customer teams over the season. The McLaren-Renault was unreliable in testing despite the new power unit and also struggled in the speed trap while Renault had a relatively good pre-season, although not perfect.
With the progress Renault has made, Carlos Sainz or Nico Hulkenberg scoring a podium wouldn’t be out of the question. It’ll be a podium more than likely with a bit of luck rather than on raw pace.
Behind Force India, McLaren and Renault will be Toro Rosso, Williams and Haas. In what order is the big question.
Toro Rosso’s new deal as a Honda works team got off to a great start in pre-season testing, with the Italian outfit running fairly reliably in Spain. Haas has been on the receiving end of praise from Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton.
Williams have a new driver in Sergei Sirotkin, who replaces the re-retiring Felipe Massa, while Robert Kubica is in as a development driver. Kubica’s input will help Lance Stroll and Sirotkin throughout the season although whether it will help Williams improve its constructors’ title position remains to be seen.
Despite an up-to-date Ferrari engine and highly-rated rookie Charles Leclerc coming into the team, plus sponsorship from Alfa Romeo, Sauber will prop up the constructors’ championship again. However, Leclerc has a chance to show why he is highly-related regardless of how fast the Sauber is, by a) comprehensively beating team-mate Marcus Ericsson and b) by putting the car in places it should not be.
The midfield is shaping up to be a tight battle again and it could be a struggle for some teams to score points with the big three (six cars) and Renault taking up the majority of them.
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