It’s here! The 2018 Formula 1 season is upon us! Well, sort of. Testing is underway at the very least, and with testing, comes the first glimpse at the 10 sets of 2018 liveries.
There are many questions, what with new engine deals, new regulations and new safety equipment to contend with.
All cars will be running the FIA Halo. This device is designed to prevent any parts of vehicles coming into contact with the drivers’ heads. From the side, the device looks a lot like the straps on a pair of thongs (the ones one you wear on your feet). From the front, the device looks a lot like the other type.
Its curious aesthetic has generated much discussion, as well as derision, and was arrived upon after fighter-jet style canopies were ruled out. Some materials were too springy, leading to parts being bounced further back into harm’s way on impact, while others hurt driver vision. Sebastien Vettel famously claimed that the screen made him feel sick after one short-lived test.
And so, we have this. A scanty cage with a thin carbon fibre support directly in front of the driver’s eyeline, which reaches around to join the safety cell structure behind the driver’s head.
How it impacts the cars, and what it means for the status quo is yet to be determined. Though we took it upon ourselves to hazard some guesses below.
But you already knew all that, right? You’re just here for the photos of the cars… and that halo….
Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda STR13
Red Bull’s sister team, Toro Rosso, finished more races than RBR in 2017. That probably had nothing to do with the squad saddling Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley with a Honda powerplant for 2018. Right?
At this stage it’s hard to imagine Toro Rosso improving on last year’s performance now. Still, their car looks sharp as hell. Love the silver Red bull text.
Last season result: 7th
2018 Prediction: 10th
Haas F1 Team VF-18
The Haas F1 team were the first to show off their livery, which cleverly uses dark tones to hide the awkward looking Halo from the camera. Drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen remain, which is good news from a stability standpoint. They’ll have the same engines as last year too – Ferrari.
Haas have done better than most new entrants to the F1 paddock, but you can expect them to still be back markers in 2018. In fact, expect Haas to be overtaken by McLaren and finish ninth in the Constructor’s Championship.
Last season result: 8th
2018 Prediction: 9th
Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 C37
When is a Ferrari not a Ferrari? When it’s an Alfa Romeo, of course. Sauber has had a team name change, and brings in yet another driver to its revolving-door line-up, with Charles Leclerc replacing Antonio Giovinazzi. He’ll join carry-over driver Marcus Ericsson in a mostly white car with red accents.
Last season result: 7th
2018 Prediction: 8th
Williams Martini FW41
Felipe Massa was one of the sport’s most popular drivers. Ever the bridesmaid, Massa came back from “retirement” to drive in 2017, but will be replaced this year by Sergey Sirotkin. With he and Canadian Lance Stroll both labelled “pay drivers” many wonder if Williams is merely surviving.
Expect Massa’s departure to hurt, and for Williams to slip back from last year’s fifth place.
On the plus side, Williams Martini is still the best-looking car on the grid, and no amount of Halo can change that.
Last season result: 5th
2018 Prediction: 7th
McLaren F1 Team MCL33
When your team will do literally anything – including letting your driver skive off from the most prestigious round of the season to go race on another continent in the Indy 500 – then you know they know that their car is not up to snuff. Gone for 2018 is the woeful Honda engine, and in its place the um… also woeful Renault. Renault-powered Red Bull was the only other team with 13 DNFs in 2017 – that’s out of a possible 40 results.
Both units were down on power, but still McLaren hopes the Renault will be a step forward from the Honda.
The striking orange livery will surely please fans. Let’s hope the team can keep Fernando Alonso happy too. Stoffel Vandoorne will also be hoping for a better result.
Last season result: 10th
2018 Prediction: 6th
Renault Sport Formula One Team R.E.18
Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz Jr are back in a Renault for 2018, and as one of the most stable teams in the paddock will be hoping to build on 2017’s season, where they finished sixth.
The fight between them, Force India and Williams might be tight again, which adds some spice to the colourful mid-field tussle between the yellow and pink cars.
Last season result: 6th
2018 Prediction: 5th
Force India-Mercedes VJM11
Force India gets closer to the front runners every year, but it was consistency that saw them win out over Williams last season. Only two DNFs for the entire season is an enviable record, bested only by champions Mercedes.
Returning drivers Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon will struggle to make up the gap to Red Bull, assuming Red Bull can cure some of its 2017 mechanical woes.
Last season result: 4th
2018 Prediction: 4th
Aston Martin Red Bull Racing RB14
Last year’s engine wouldn’t hold together, so for 2018 Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen will be powered by… a watch.
Officially, the Red Bull power plant is not supplied by team title-sponsor Aston Martin, nor is it a Renault (even though it is). It’s a TAG Heuer. Because marketing. Or something.
Anyway, without a significant bump in reliability and power to go with that name change, Red Bull will likely remain a lonely third in the team’s title.
Last season result: 3rd
2018 Prediction: 3rd
Mercedes F1 W09 EQ Power+
Not content with three seasons of pure dominance, Mercedes wants to make all our lives hard with the most convoluted chassis name in the business. But here’s a bold prediction: Between them, Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas will only be able to manage second in the constructors’ race for 2018.
Expect the Mercedes to be less dominant than in previous years, and for the squad to find fighting in traffic more frustrating than leading from the front. Remarkable when ahead, the Mercedes rigs have shown cracks in the armour when pressed, and they’ll be pressed hard this year.
Easily the most complex of the body styles, the dogs-breakfast Mercedes is clearly trying hard to find aerodynamic speed.
Last season result: 1st
2018 Prediction: 2nd
Scuderia Ferrari SF71H
Scuderia Ferrari have a lot of work to do in 2018 if they’re to overhaul Mercedes – but my prediction is that they’re almost there. Sebastian Vettel has a lot to prove, and his tempestuous performances late last season showed that he feels his rightful place is at the front. Kimi Raikkonen will be a solid tail gunner, and if Ferrari can find itself in front once or twice more often this year, this duo will make things unpleasant for the silver arrows.
On a less positive note – does anyone else remember when Ferrari was synonymous with “beautiful”? How times change!
Last season result: 2nd
2018 Prediction: 1st