2017 Chinese Grand Prix Review: Kimi Raikkonen & Ferrari

Shanghai was the scene of the second round of 2017 FIA Formula One World Championship. The major talking points were:

  • Sebastian Vettel’s questionable starting position
  • The first ever implementation of the standing start procedure after circulating for a few laps behind the safety car in damp conditions
  • Kimi Raikkonen and his relationship with Ferrari, with his team’s refusal to pit him at least five laps earlier for his second tyre stop. It almost certainly costed him P3 and the sight of Sergio Marchionne and Maurizio Arrivabene calling for talks over his form was extremely unpalatable
  • Valtteri Bottas’ laughable spin behind the second safety car
  • Antonio Giovinazzi crashing twice: first in Q1 and second on lap 4 in the race
  • Ferrari SF70H’s optimum operating range clearly being in hotter, sunny conditions
  • FIA succeeding in their criterion of implementing racing which consisted of higher quality, instead of higher quantity, of overtakes, particularly in the non-DRS zone around Turn 6
  • The late race Red Bull battle between hard-chargers Max Verstappen & Daniel Ricciardo
  • A dominant, composed drive from Lewis Hamilton
  • Kevin Magnussen’s surprise result of P8.

2017 Chinese Grand Prix Team-Mates Wars/ Winners & Losers

In F1 the first driver you must beat is your team-mate.

FERRARI

Sebastian Vettel (P2) 2-0

Drove as well as ever, although might have had a realistic chance to win if Ferrari had called Kimi to pull over earlier. WINNER 9/10

Kimi Raikkonen (P5) 0-2 DRIVER OF THE DAY

Screwed over by his strategists, who should have pitted him at least five laps earlier for his 2nd pit stop. Drove valiantly under the circumstances. WINNER 9/10

MERCEDES

Lewis Hamilton (P1) 2-0

Won pole and won the race easily. WINNER 9/10

Valtteri Bottas (P6) 0-2 REJECT OF THE DAY

A poor start was exacerbated by the Finn embarrassingly spinning during a safety car period. His fightback was staunch, but his race was one of damage limitation. LOSER 3/10

RED BULL

Daniel Ricciardo (P4) 2-0

After two tricky initial stints, a tweak to his front wing allowed the Aussie to catch his young team-mate, but to no avail. WINNER 7/10

Max Verstappen (P3) 0-2

A wet start saw the Dutchman fly through the field in the opening laps, so his starting spot of P16 proved irrelevant. WINNER 7/10

FORCE INDIA

Sergio Perez (P9) 2-0 WINNER 7/10

Esteban Ocon (P10) 0-2 WINNER 7/10

WILLIAMS

Felipe Massa (P14) 2-0

In spite of a strong qualifying position of P6, the veteran struggled for pace. Williams appear to have a chassis that has raw pace, but is lacking drivability. LOSER 4/10

Lance Stroll (RET, Collision) 0-2

The young French-Canadian has a lot to learn in F1 and it showed on lap 1, when he collided with Sergio Perez. His immediate retirement left him plenty to reflect on weekend where despite breaking Q3 for the first time, his qualifying pace eroded over the hour paradoxically. Remains half a second slower than Massa. LOSER 3/10

MCLAREN

Fernando Alonso (RET, Driveshaft) 2-0

Retaining a sunny disposition, the grizzled Spaniard drove in his words, “Even better than Melbourne”, but once again his tools failed him. WINNER 9/10

Stoffel Vandoorne (RET, Fuel Pressure) 0-2

Wasn’t able to show his full potential with an early departure from the race. With an ill-handling chassis and unresponsive power unit, the young Belgian still trails Alonso half a second per lap. LOSER 4/10

TORO ROSSO

Carlos Sainz (P7) 2-1

A dodgy start on slicks was exacerbated by a spin, where his recovery saw him tag the outer barrier. Luckily his suspension remained intact, so his determined drive to P7 proved his status as a star of the future. WINNER 8/10

Daniil Kvyat (RET, Hydraulics) 1-2

Early retirement meant the Russian had no chance. Outqualifying Sainz and breaking Q3 is move in the right direction. LOSER 5/10

HAAS

Romain Grosjean (P11) 1-1

Never looked comfortable all weekend. LOSER 4.5/10

Kevin Magnussen (P8) 1-1

An exemplary performance from the mercurial Dane. WINNER 7.5/10

RENAULT

Nico Hulkenberg (P12) 2-0

A brilliant performance in qualifying was scuppered by poor strategy. LOSER 5/10

Jolyon Palmer (P13) 0-2

Considering the fact that the Briton is almost a second slower per lap than Hulkenberg, it can be viewed as a positive he finished one positioned behind the German. LOSER 5/10

SAUBER

Marcus Ericsson (P15) (1-1 vs. GIO)

Meh. LOSER 4/10

Antonio Giovinazzi (RET, Crash) (1-1 vs. ERI)

Crash once and you’ve made a mistake, but crash twice and you’re careless. Not a good way to entice opportunities for a race seat in the coming future. LOSER 3/10

2017 Australian GP Winners & Losers/Team Mate Wars

In F1 the first driver you must beat is your team-mate.

FERRARI 

*Sebastian Vettel (P1) DRIVER OF THE DAY 1-0

Drove brilliantly all weekend to silence his critics, who denigrated him severely during his disappointing 2016. A definite championship contender. WINNER 10/10

Kimi Raikkonen (P4) 0-1

A tough weekend, where he blamed set-up and understeer issues. The Finn will hurting over his lacklustre showing, where familiar foe Max Verstappen threatened to pounce in the closing stages. LOSER 6/10

MERCEDES

Lewis Hamilton (P2) 1-0

Like last year, the Englishman stormed to pole (his 62nd of his career), but again race day saw his hopes of a winning start thwarted. Whilst last year was lost through a poor start, this year was lost due to his Mercedes pit crew committing a blunder in the timing of his only pit stop. With a car which still suffers in the wake of leading opposition, Hamilton openly admitted the race was lost there and then. LOSER 8/10

Valtteri Bottas (P3) 0-1

The Finn proved steady, if not spectacular. His opening stint was rather sedate, but his second stint proved he was capable of being more dynamic, if not rather obedient. WINNER 7.5/10

RED BULL

Daniel Ricciardo (Ret, Fuel Pressure) 0-1

Did anything go right? Crashed on his first flying lap in Q3, broke down on the formation lap with a jammed sensor and parked up adjacent to Turn 4 on lap 26. Although it’s not clear whether his qualifying crash affected any surrounding hardware within his chassis, Ricciardo is already ten points behind his highly-regarded Dutch team-mate. LOSER 4/10

Max Verstappen (P5) 1-0

A very solid drive from the prodigy hailing from Maaseik. WINNER 7.5/10

FORCE INDIA

Sergio Perez (P7) 1-0

A good performance considering the weight issues affecting the chassis. WINNER 8/10

Esteban Ocon (P10) 0-1

A decent debut outing, topped by his marvellous manoeuvre on Fernando Alonso, which saw him three-wide alongside Hulkenberg. WINNER 7/10 

WILLIAMS

Felipe Massa (P6) 1-0

After what appeared to be unremarkable final season in 2016, the returning Brazilian proved he’s still as good as ever, albeit assisted by the higher downforce levels he thrives upon. WINNER 7.5/10

Lance Stroll (Ret, Brakes) 0-1

An arduous introduction to the top tier of motorsport. Many believe he should be preparing for a season in Formula 2 and the 18-year-old French-Canadian did nothing prove his doubters wrong. A heavy crash during practice was followed by a cautious performance in qualifying, where his aim thereafter was to complete the race distance. If there is solace, former world champion Jenson Button qualified in the penultimate grid position on his debut for the Grove-based team. It’s a long journey to the top. LOSER 3/10

MCLAREN

Fernando Alonso (Ret, Broken Floor) 1-0

The wily Spaniard made no secret of his disgruntlement of the apparent decline in the team’s progress over the winter, but his race pace was as phenomenal as ever. P10 was looming until damage to his suspension saw him swamped by Ocon & Hulkenberg. WINNER 9/10

Stoffel Vandoorne (P13) 0-1

Finishing last was not what the 2015 GP2 champion had in mind for his full-time F1 debut. Appears to be unable to invoke enough temperature in this year’s Pirelli compounds, allied by a defective MCL32 chassis and oscillating Honda power unit. A laborious season awaits. LOSER 4/10 

TORO ROSSO

Carlos Sainz (P8) 1-1

Another promising drive of the Spaniard’s blossoming career. WINNER 7/10

Daniil Kvyat (P9) 1-1

Easily his beat drive since returning to the Faenza-based outfit. WINNER 7/10

HAAS

Romain Grosjean (Ret, Water Leak) 1-0

Decimated his new team-mate for pace and consistency all weekend, pulled off a fabulous qualifying result (P6), but saw his car crippled by all-too-commonly occurring mechanical gremlins. LOSER 6/10

Kevin Magnussen (Ret, Suspension) 0-1

Gunther Steiner signed the 24-year-old Dane because he felt K-Mag would be a more reliable bet for points than the heavily-maligned Esteban Gutierrez. However, Magnussen spent the weekend still learning how to adapt to VF-17’s brakes. His collision with Marcus Ericsson saw him lucky to escape a penalty in the race, before his failing suspension truncate a disappointing outing in the Dane’s debut for Haas. LOSER 2/10

RENAULT

Nico Hulkenberg (P11) 1-0

With an extremely weak team-mate, it will be excruciatingly tough to track the German’s progress this season (unless Palmer beats him, then it will be clear that Hulkenberg is struggling). A solid debut for his new Renault, he will be disappointed that the thick turbulence in the wake of Ocon’s Force India prevented a points finish. WINNER 7/10

*Jolyon Palmer REJECT OF THE DAY 0-1

Palmer is clearly only in F1 because Magnussen accepted Haas’ offer to join them for 2017. Crashed in practice, blamed anyone but himself for an abysmal qualifying display and overheating brakes was the tale of the Briton’s sorry Melbourne weekend. LOSER 1/10

SAUBER

Marcus Ericsson (Ret, Hydraulics) (0-1 vs. GIO)

A reasonable qualifying result of P14 was scuppered when Kevin Magnussen smashed into Ericsson’s right sidepod at Turn 3 on lap 1. The consequent hydraulics-related damage meant the Swede retired on lap 21. LOSER 4/10

Antonio Giovinazzi (P12) (1-0 vs. ERI)

A sensational debut GP2 season, where the Italian narrowly missed the title to Pierre Gasly, was richly rewarded with a stand-in drive for the stricken Pascal Wehrlein. It was a performance where he proved his selection was richly deserved. WINNER 7/10

2017 Australian Grand Prix: A Measured Response

The new regulations presented themselves with a few pros, but some deeply stark cons. It was great to see the drivers enjoying the grip and sensation of pushing every lap, but agonisingly discouraging to see the cars struggle in dirty air once they reached within 2.5 seconds of cars in front of them. The new, wider, harder tyre compounds witnessed cars on the limit through every corner on every lap, but it meant the race was restricted to one stoppers, so strategy was indistinguishable throughout the field. Fernando Alonso stated the drivers had to be incredibly sharp in their responses to any tank slappers or slides, “So you have half a tenth of a second to react. Last year you had four seconds – in the corner you could take a coffee in those cars!”

Whilst last year’s narrow track chassis combined with fragile Pirelli compounds proved monotonous and frustrating for the drivers, at least spectators were treated to close racing with opportunity for passes albeit at corner speeds adjacent to Formula 2. This cars have not only seen dramatic rise in corner speeds, but also drastically reduced braking distances, much more aggressive steering lock approaches, earlier re-application of throttle responses on corner exits, increased acceleration out of braking zones and heavily multiplied drag levels.

So what is the solution? It would be egregious to return to last year’s slower regulations, that was dismissed by fans, drivers and personnel alike as mickey mouse-like and regressive. However, a number of options for 2018 need to be considered and these include:

  • An increased power unit capacity, with a switch to either 2.0L- 2.4L V6/V8 turbo hybrids or 3.5L- 4.0L V10 naturally-aspirated internal combustion engines (although the latter option has been ruled void by FIA president Jean Todt)
  • A removal of the multiple elements on the front wings, with a rule mandating that only two separate elements with a single slot gap separating them. This is highly recommended, as this is a probable solution to the issue of the dramatically increased turbulence the cars have been suffering in the 2017 specs
  • A narrowing of the chassis from 2 metres to 1.8 metres, in order to decrease drag and force the size of the wings to be reduced by 10%.

Some fans heavily bemoaned the durable tyre compounds reducing the number of pit stops to just one during this year’s Australian GP, but the sight of Esteban Ocon and Nico Hulkenberg having confidence in their tyres to endure moving offline to overtake an ailing Fernando Alonso without last year’s worries of regular flat-spotting was very promising.

However, there also needs to be a technical change which can adversely affect the balance of the cars. Of course, some may argue that the sight of drivers losing the rear end of the cars may occur more commonly, as seen by Jolyon Palmer’s and Daniel Ricciardo’s crashes last weekend. However, others have argued drivers will eventually become familiarised with the handling and the limits in which they can extend the boundaries of their machinery. With that in mind, it is highly likely the necessity for the drivers to attack to maximum will see the margins between the top drivers and the merely good extend to much wider in comparison to last year: the time gaps between Haas’ Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen, Renault’s Hulkenberg and Jolyon Palmer & Williams’ Felipe Massa and rookie Lance Stroll are proof of how much talent and experience will count this year. This is something that will be welcomed by certain fans, who have admonished cars of the past five years as little better than souped up GP2 cars.

The sight of at least a dozen elements on the front wings has had some fans criticising the technical aspect of the sport having become esoteric. Former prominent F1 supremos such as Flavio Briatore have been openly scathing in their criticisms about these issues, stating clearly that the sport should prioritise entertainment for viewers over what he saw as a self-indulgent pet project for engineers. The loss of downforce through the removal of elements and narrowing of cars and wings could be compensated with the return of ground-effects, albeit with a FIA-standardised venturi-shaped floor which every team must fit to the underneath of their chassis.

Practice on Friday saw Mercedes domination, which many saw as sad harbinger of what may follow this season. Non-Mercedes fans’ worst fears of a fourth consecutive seasons appeared depressingly real, but Saturday displayed the hallmarks of a Ferrari challenge. Although Lewis Hamilton grabbed the 62nd pole position in his 189th attempt, Sebastian Vettel hauled his scarlet Ferrari within 0.268 seconds of the Mercedes. It proved to be a miracle as qualifying was ran in mild conditions, with a sprinkle of rain appearing in the early minutes of Q3, which had threatened to kill off competition for pole ten minutes early.

Sunday saw Daniel Ricciardo ominously break down in front of his home crowd on a warm-up lap, thanks to an electronic sensor locking his transmission in sixth gear. He was fortunate the rescue crew extricated his stricken Red Bull and returned it back to the pits, but when he re-ignited his Renault power unit, his car had already been lapped twice. Toro Rosso stablemate Daniil Kvyat faced the threat of an extraordinary third consecutive DNS in-as-many-events at Melbourne due to a fire extinguisher emptying itself, but his mechanics saved his bacon in prompt manner. Nico Hulkenberg embarrassingly parking his Renault two inches ahead of his demarcated grid slot, enforcing a second formation lap, which may have frayed a few anticipatory nerves. The race start was clean, but the collision between Magnussen and Marcus Ericsson at Turn 3 was the result of the Dane clipping his rear right tyre over the kerb, causing a sudden tank-slapper that left him nowhere to go but clobber the startled Sauber driver.

The race for the lead was a cat-and-mouse affair between Hamilton and Vettel. Taking a cue out of the 2016 strategy book, the Briton pitted early on lap 17, as the Mercedes tacticians naively believed the undercut would work like last year despite Hamilton still having 30% tread remaining on his first stint compounds. With clean air to scythe through, Vettel duly capitalised, whilst Hamilton emerged behind a beguiled Max Verstappen, who made his struggling Red Bull as wide as possible for five laps before the Briton inevitably used DRS to speed past. Unfortunately for Mercedes, Vettel pulled enough of a margin so that when he cleared a confused Lance Stroll and pitted, he had a comfortable enough margin which he never relinquished. Hamilton would spend the remainder of the race complaining of dirty air, something which his Mercedes cars of previous years undoubtedly proved inferior in terms of dealing with in comparison to the opposition (but rarely mattered due to its absolute domination). With the improvements Ferrari have made intertwined with the new regulations, this is an issue which will provide many headaches at Brackley during breaks between races.

Valtteri Bottas fell progressively behind in the initial stint, but his second stint proved more productive, where he eventually finished less than 1.5 seconds behind his illustrious team-mate. Kimi Raikkonen, sadly, seemed to flounder as the race progressed, as fifteen laps from the race’s end his arch-nemesis of last year, Max Verstappen, closed in ominously, but could not even attempt to facilitate a consideration to overtake the embattled Finn due to the excessive turbulence in following the wake of the rejuvenated Ferrari package. The Iceman’s P4 is a solid start, but already his critics were condemning his performance, slamming it as half-arsed, lazy and other slurs which have become all-too-commonly aimed at the 2007 world champion.

An “un-retired” Felipe Massa drove as if he’d never retired, as he brought home a vital 8 points. Motivation will be key for the 35-year-old Brazilian, as Williams cannot be sure his dilettante team-mate Lance Stroll is capable of scoring points whatsoever judging by his underwhelming Grand Prix debut. Running 13th, the young French-Canadian eventually parked his car in the pits with failing brakes, but whether this was a genuine mechanical gremlin or a result of his inexperience with handling carbon F1 brake discs remains to be seen.

Despite an overweight new VJM10 chassis, where drivers Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon were forced to lose weight before the race, they respectively finished 7th & 10th, proving the Silverstone squad had not regressed on last year’s remarkable results. Toro Rosso debuted their STR11s with drivers Carlos Sainz & Daniil Kvyat finishing eighth & ninth, however both questioned the handling and balance of their chassis throughout the weekend, so tweaks could be forthcoming.

Stand-in Antonio Giovinazzi drove an impressive Grand Prix debut, admitting he had pace to spare after finishing P12 due to lack of experience with this year’s durable Pirelli compounds. Hulkenberg tried to overtake Ocon in the closing laps, but yet proved an umpteenth driver unimpressed with the dirty air produced in the wake of a fellow competitor. Stoffel Vandoorne finished P13 and last, clearly unable to adapt to his MCL32’s dreadful package, as his far smoother driving style could not correct the understeering tendencies which his illustrious team-mate Alonso has famously combated with stunning success thanks to an infamously aggressive initial turn-in. The Spaniard had been running an awe-inspiring P10 before debris caught under his car’s floor would leave him as a sitting duck for the advances of Ocon & Hulkenberg. A resultant broken floor would force an unsurprising retirement from Alonso, who made no secret of his frustration at McLaren & Honda’s apparent regression in development over the winter.

The Turn 3 incident between Magnussen & Ericsson would see the Dane retire 11 laps from the end with suspension damage, whilst the Swede would soldier on with hydraulics damaged in the incident that failed after 21 laps. Daniel Ricciardo would see his car retire after 25 laps, thanks to a fuel pressure issue unrelated to his pre-race electronic sensor failure or his crash in qualifying the previous day.

Jolyon Palmer, who had the weekend from hell, retired with his brake-by-wire system failing to register his car’s electronics and hydraulics together properly after 15 laps. Star of qualifying Grosjean saw a water leak end his day with just 13 laps completed, having started 6th, an all-time best for Haas.

F1 Stars of the Future: GP2 and Development Drivers

It has been a heated matter of conjecture concerning whether GP2 is a conducive breeding ground. A sad trend of pay drivers (i.e. Sergio Canamasas) occupying seats worthy of more talented prodigies has irked fans and journalists, with many questioning driving standards.

It has also become an emerging trend for F1 teams to select starlets from lower series, with Daniil Kyvat & Valtteri Bottas plucked straight from GP3 and Carlos Sainz Jr & Kevin Magnussen graduating from Formula Renault 3.5 (now Formula V8 3.5). However, hope is not lost for GP2, as the implemention of the FIA Superlicence points system will rigorously enforce prospects to accumulate experience steadily through junior formulae.

*Eligibility for F1 requires a minimum of 40 Superlicence points (Points listed from conclusion of 2015 racing seasons)

Alexander Rossi

Current series: Indycar (Bryan Herta Autosport w/ Andretti Autosport #98)

Indycar 2016 position: 11th (370 points, one race remaining)

Superlicence points: 43

F1 2017 Likelihood: 6/10

The Californian displayed flashes of brilliance against the all-conquering Stoffel Vandoorne in 2015, where he made the most of resources supplied to him by Racing Engineering to finish ahead of Rio Haryanto and current GP2 ace Sergey Sirotkin. Rossi fared favourably against Formula Renault 3.5 veteran Will Stevens, but lack of sponsorship funding meant a switch to the notoriously competitive Indycar Series and a reserve role with Manor. In spite of his meticulously calculated Indy 500 victory, progress has been steady if unspectacular. Rumours swing from a return to a race seat with Manor or Haas in F1 to remaining where he is, but no one can doubt his versatility would hold him in strong stead against Pascal Wehrlein or Romain Grosjean if he was selected.

Alex Lynn

Current series: GP2 (DAMS #5)

GP2 2016 position: (8th- 93 points, 4 races remaining)

Superlicence points: 58

F1 Likelihood: 5/10

Once a highly touted prospect, Lynn’s sparking progress has fizzed out in the F1’s top feeder series. The Essex exocet’s performances this season have mirrored that of his debut season, with both seasons seeing him win twice, but performing inconsistently thoughout. His development driver contract with Williams may be terminated if he fails to emerge as a championship contender in 2017.

Antonio Giovinazzi

Current series: GP2 (Prema #20)

GP2 2016 position: (2nd- 164 points, 4 races remaining)

Superlicence points: 43

F1 Likelihood: 7/10

A native of Martina Franca, Giovinazzi has spent much of his junior career beneath the radar of F1 scouts- until now. His recent invitation to a simulator test with Ferrari is justified recognition of his vastly-improved performances, transforming himself from a F3 journeyman to a championship contender in GP2. A brilliant double win in Baku with back-to-back victories in Belgium and Italy were just exactly what the doctor ordered, leaving the Italian ten points behind team-mate & championship leader Pierre Gasly with 96 points remaining. He may not debut in F1 next year, but a test seat is certainly not out of question.

Artem Markelov

Current series: GP2 (Russian Time #10)

GP2 2016 position: (11th- 80 points, 4 races remaining)

Superlicence points: 10 (Insufficient)

F1 Likelihood: 2/10

Rumours of the young Russian and his investors enquiring F1 teams about a 2017 race seat have circulated in the paddock, but it would be wholly undeserved on the basis of his results achieved in his three years of GP2. Just a single win from an incident-filled Monaco feature race this year has proved to be an exception on an otherwise unimpressive CV.

Charles LeClerc

Current series: GP3 (ART Grand Prix #1)

GP3 2016 position: (1st- 177 points, 4 races remaining)

Superlicence points: 20 (Will be increased to 45 if he wins GP3 title)

F1 2017 Likelihood: 5.5/10

A fabulous record in karting followed by accolades in Formula Renault 2.0 and European F3 were proof that the Monegasque was a probable championship victor when he made his GP3 debut and his supporters have been indicated. He only turns 19 next month, but he has completed three Friday practice sessions with Haas at Silverstone, Hungaroring and Hockenheim. Some may consider 2017 too soon for his F1 debut, but a reserve role intertwined with a seat in DTM appears preferable to the rough-and-tumble nature of GP2.

Esteban Ocon

Current series: F1 (Manor MRT #31)

Previous series: DTM (Mercedes ART #34)

F1 2017 Likelihood: 7/10

Esteban Ocon is an enigma. Two ordinary seasons in Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 followed by immediate championship success in European F3 and GP3 is evidence of his ability to toil through strenuous self improvement, but perhaps a slight lack of raw natural talent. His GP3 season saw him win the title with ten second places, but just a solitary win in the season opener. His partial season in DTM yielded just two points, guaranteeing an eventual championship position of no higher than 24th. His initial full Grand Prix outings with Manor have laid the bricks for gradual improvement, but whether Renault or another team will be convinced to offer him a full-time seat remains a mystery.

Lance Stroll

la

Current series: FIA European F3 (Prema #1)

F3 2016 position: (1st- 364 points, 6 races remaining)

Superlicence points: 20 (Will be increased to 60 if he wins F3 title)

F1 2017 Likelihood: 6.5/10

Widely dismissed as a rich kid freeloading from a tycoon father, the Montreal native has stiffen his credentials annually, with honours galore in karting and titles in Italian F4 and Toyota Racing Series and an almost probable championship win in this year’s FIA European Formula 3 championship. However, many will pontificate the vast sums invested into Prema Powerteam he drives for and how it has taken two years to claim the title at this level, but he is yet to turn 18. He retains a watertight development contract with Williams, whom are doubtless appreciative of lucrative funding provided by his father.

Pierre Gasly

Current series: GP2 (Prema #21)

GP2 2016 position: (1st- 174 points, 4 races remaining)

Superlicence points: 39 (Will be increased to 69 if he wins GP2 title)

F1 2017 Likelihood: 9/10

With stories of Daniil Kvyat’s relationship with the Red Bull hierarchy declining, the well regarded Frenchman appears a dead cert for the Russian’s Toro Rosso seat. As the most likely of this year’s junior hotshots to cement a seat in F1 next season, you’d think pundits would praise him highly, but many feel impassive by his steady yet unspectacular path to prominence. His solitary season in Formula Renault 3.5, where he finished runner up, yielded no wins and his first season in GP2 produced four podiums and no wins. His feature race victory at Silverstone this season ended his three year winning duck, stretching back to his Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 title-winning campaign, an omen Gasly will not want to carry into his F1 career.

Other GP2 stars

Oliver Rowland, Sergey Sirotkin and Raffaele Marciello currently hold the required number of points for FIA Superlicence eligibility, but their chances of appearing in F1 are heavily reliant upon sponsorship funding. Mitch Evans is yet to match the stunning heights he achieved in his earlier junior formulae career, with five victories throughout his four year GP2 career, but a slim chance of finishing 5th in this year’s championship has rendered the Kiwi unlikely to ever drive in F1. Manor development driver Jordan King and Norman Nato have also impressed, but will remain ineligible for a Superlicence if they finish where they currently stand (5th & 6th).