July 15, 2024


Fantasy Formula 1 Management

FF1M 2017 – The Commentator’s Predictions

A new set of regulations plus the first tyre war since 2004 could present the opportunity for some teams to grasp opportunities and gain the initiative at the front of the pack. Five teams have carried over their 2016 cars into this season and are likely to make a strong start, whereas the other six with their new cars could take a few races to catch up.

The power sensitive Bahrain International Circuit isn’t a particularly strong barometer for aerodynamic performance, but its straights do give good clues as to which engine manufacturers have been performing well. With the Australian Grand Prix round the corner, let’s see where the eleven could end up by the end of the season… but probably not…

11th – Ajay Motorsports-Hart (M)

FF1M’s selfless minnows have returned for this season, taking over the Meister entry and also the fifth engine manufacturer role with Hart taking over operations from Ilmor. The team have rescued Gojira driver Robert Kubica from early retirement, and his 176 races worth of experience should assist Ajay and Hart with steady development. They have also signed the 2015 FF2M champion James Clark, whom Ajay rated highly, but if pre-season testing is anything to go by, then they are in for a transitional season as they readjust to life as an FF1M team.

10th – Gojira AutoSport-Mugen (M)

Gojira failed to live up to their 2016 testing pace and underperformed massively to 8th in the championship, largely due to neglected aerodynamics. More so, their Mugen customers were able to take race wins and a drivers championship in the hands of Mitchell. Swapping Robert Kubica for James Clark mid-season failed to save their season, so for 2017, Gojira have opted for a new car and a completely new driver line-up in 2016 FF2M championship runner-up Alessandro Farina and former Mitchell favourite Nico Hulkenberg, who had an unlucky season with FJR despite winning at Silverstone. They could be in for a shock however as their Mugens can no longer boast the claim of most powerful engine on the grid thanks to Megatron’s improvements, and if they repeat their 2016 development patterns, then Gojira could be in for an even more difficult 2017.

9th – Pedersen-Mugen

The popular Danish team started 2016 off with a bang courtesy of Nico Rosberg’s win at Melbourne, but the team faded as the season went along despite a shock win at Sepang for Sam Bird, who became the first substitute driver to win a race since Michael Schumacher back in 2006. Former Shake ‘n’ Bake favourite and two time champion Sebastian Vettel was a big signing, but he and Carlos Sainz couldn’t to get to grips with the new MP-17 in pre-season testing, and with Mugen slipping behind Megatron in terms of power, Pedersen could see themselves struggling to score podiums.

8th – Andrew Racing-Climax

One of five teams to carry across their 2016 car, Andrew Racing will be looking to build on what was a good season last time out with 4th, beating Pedersen by a single point thanks to a consistent campaign. They will be looking for a strong start with their solid driving pairing of Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne, but their Climax powerplant didn’t look particularly strong in pre-season testing. There’s reason to believe that Climax have gone big on ERS with their engine pledge, which will help Andrew in qualifying, less so in the races where they have half the amount of extra power compared to the engine’s parent team.

7th – GRM-Megatron

GRM are a difficult team to read this season. Despite finishing 9th in the teams championship last time out, they have chosen to carry over their 2016 car across for this season, which will certainly help the dynamic line-up of Valtteri Bottas and Sergio Perez in the early part of the season as those teams with new cars catch up. Their Megatron engine looked mighty in pre-season testing, plus their raw pace is more hidden than others due to running exclusively on the hard Goodyear tyres. A shortage of laps in testing could go against them, plus it is likely that Megatron might not have a particularly strong ERS system.

6th – Willows Racing-Judd

2016 was nothing short of a complete write-off for the East Midlands team with them relinquishing manufacturer status in favour of customer Judd engines. Willows have stayed loyal to their two drivers, Max Verstappen and Stoffel Vandoorne, with the Dutchman putting in two great drives at Silverstone and Spa. Pre-season testing hasn’t shown an immediate recovery with them having opted for a new car, but unlike the other customer teams, Willows have access to as much ERS as they want in the races courtesy of FJR and Judd’s generosity. This could bring them into play at circuits that demand top speed and Willows may be able to sneak a podium or two towards the end of the season.

5th – FJR-Judd (M)

FJR completely tore up the form book in 2016 when they were able to overcome a dreadful pre-season and first two races to challenge for the drivers championship in the hands of Kevin Magnussen, who eventually finished runner-up to Lewis Hamilton. Team boss James Brickles was keen to keep the talented Dane onboard for a fourth consecutive season, but his salary demands have meant that Brickles has had to team him up with the unproven Catharina Caracciola, who will become the first female to race in FF1M. Their JB-16B car, carried over from 2016, had arguably the best aerodynamic grip levels during last season, but pre-season indicates that Judd have a bit of catching up to do in terms of natural power.

4th – Tornado Motorsport-Climax (M)

For the first time in their history, Tornado successfully defended a teams championship in 2016, but it was far from easy as team boss Tobias Wolff had to drop an underperforming Tomas Gonzalez in favour of the next Flying Finn, Vaino Kimminen, who made a massive impact in the final four races. With him being partnered by the returning Romain Grosjean, the two make for a potent partnership. Pre-season testing didn’t exactly go to plan for Tornado with fewer laps than expected, plus Kimminen was involved in a big smash on the first test after being flipped by Tornado’s last drivers champion, Fernando Alonso. Wolff is a canny team boss however, so if there are any issues with car or engine, they will probably be overcome.

3rd – CBA Racing-Megatron

Taking over the absent Exolite team are CBA Racing, winners of both the drivers and team championships of the 1993 FF1M season. They inherit customer Megatron engines and two drivers who James Whiteley gave lifelines to, the dropped Tomas Gonzalez and elder statesman Kimi Raikkonen, who holds the accolade of most experienced driver on the grid. New sponsorship is rumoured to be on its way with companies varying from dart board makers to Italian home appliance manufacturers to lager looking to appear on CBA’s car, and if their strong form in pre-season testing is anything to go by, it could be quite a car, particularly towards the end of the season.

2nd – Shake ‘n’ Bake Motorsport-Megatron

2016 was a bit of a reality check for Shake ‘n’ Bake as they had lost their competitive edge that took them to multiple race wins and a drivers championship for Sebastian Vettel in 2014. It was enough for the German to depart the team after six happy seasons with Courtney Cass’s outfit, but the ambitious team boss manage to poach Fernando Alonso to partner Nolan Bryant. The combination looks to be a good one as Bryant topped the first day of testing, while Alonso topped the second day’s evening session. Their strong showing in pre-season testing is mostly down to a much improved Megatron engine, although there are question marks as to how well developed their ERS is as it looks like they’ve concentrated almost solely on improving natural power.

1st – Mitchell-Mugen

Mitchell returned to the top in 2016 thanks to a peach of a car and a resurgent Lewis Hamilton taking a record fourth drivers championship after a tough battle against Sergio Perez, Kevin Magnussen, and Tomas Gonzalez. Cooper Lee also performed well, taking three podiums including a dominant win at Monaco, although he still showed some inexperience after crashing out of 2nd at Montreal and colliding with Perez at Silverstone. The Australian should still improve as he continues to gain experience, and although the team were mostly outpaced by Shake ‘n’ Bake and CBA Racing during pre-season, they still topped the second day’s morning session courtesy of test driver Chuck Bucknum. The JNM-16B should still be aerodynamically competent, plus Hamilton should still be hungry for more drivers championships.