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Formula One 2017 Primer

With the start of Formula One's new season, here's a rundown of what to know going in.

Matt Fazekas, Staff Writer

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Thursday, March 23, marks the official start to Formula One’s 2017 season. Formula One, for those who don’t know, is the premiere international racing series. Since 1946, Formula One has entertained audiences worldwide with its powerful cars and winding courses.

Official image of Red Bull’s 2017 car, via redbull.com. (Copyright Red Bull 2017).

There a lot of major changes going into the new season, the largest of which being the new administration. Liberty Media, an American mass media corporation, bought the Formula One Group at the end of last year, replacing Bernie Ecclestone, who had run the company since 1987. The company is being run by Chase Carey, former ESPN marketing director Sean Bratches, and former Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn. The new management is expected to usher in a new era for Formula One, which saw a decline in viewership in recent years.

This year sees ten teams on the grid, with the previous season’s eleventh team, Manor Racing, having closed down. Mercedes is expected to continue being the premiere team, with Red Bull following close behind, while Ferrari is hoping to improve after receiving wide criticism of its strategy last season.

Hamilton is set to lead the pack again this year. (image via sports.ndtv.com, Copyright Liberty Media Corporation 2017).

Mercedes’ lead driver, Lewis Hamilton, is getting a new teammate this season after his last one, Nico Rosberg, retired at the end of last season after winning the Drivers’ Championship. Rosberg’s retirement came after three seasons of being Hamilton’s teammate, with the deterioration of their relationship from friendship to acrimony becoming infamous. Hamilton received widespread criticism last season, in particular, with many perceiving him as being a poor sportsman when the season started to go Rosberg’s way.

Replacing Rosberg as Hamilton’s partner is Valtteri Bottas, previously with Williams. Bottas is a stark contrast to Hamilton, being a reserved driver both off and on the track, versus Hamilton’s charisma and ambitious driving style. The choice of a more distant driver is thought to be a preventative measure, a way of preventing a feud from arising the way it had between Hamilton and Rosberg.

Peter Fox
Max Verstappen, widely considered the next big thing in Formula One. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)

A rising star in the ranks this season is Max Verstappen. Verstappen made history last season as the youngest driver to win a Formula One race, winning the Spanish GP at age 18 in his first race for Red Bull. The Red Bull team made tremendous progress last season, and many have wondered whether, if that progress continues, the relationship between Verstappen and his teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, will continue to be positive. Verstappen and Ricciardo were noted for their brotherly relationship last season, but given Verstappen’s reputation as a competitive, sometimes reckless driver, many are left wondering if that brotherhood can last if the team gets more competitive against Mercedes.

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel is looking for a comeback this year, having spent last year getting increasingly frustrated by his team’s decline from a consistent podium-finisher to one that often finishes notably behind Red Bull. Vettel looks to be continuing his rivalry with Verstappen, whose driving tactics Vettel has repeatedly criticized in the media, despite many noting that Verstappen seems to be extremely similar to Vettel in style. Vettel was also repeatedly mocked last season for his frequent tantrums, his already infamous on-track temperament reaching new heights.

The first actual race is on Sunday, March 26, in Australia, at midnight, Central time. The race will be broadcasted on NBC Sports Network. In the days prior, starting on Thursday, press conferences and driver interviews will appear on YouTube, which should provide a good introduction to the drivers and their situations going into the race. The season promises a lot of great drama and should be a great watch.

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Formula One 2017 Primer