Hamilton & Vettel

By Chip Kidger
23rd March 2018 at 1:15pm

F1 is back and bigger than ever with 21 races for petrolheads across the globe to savour.

The season all starts in Melbourne this weekend with Lewis Hamilton looking to win his fifth World Championship title.

But who will be enjoying an extended victory lap in Abu Dhabi come November?

Here’s our F1 2018 season preview…

Monaco Grand Prix

 

New for 2018…

It’s pretty much as you were in terms of the teams lining up on the grid in 2018, but there have been a few noticeable shake-ups behind the scenes. McLaren have joined forces with Renault in a bid to improve their reliability, while Toro Rosso have moved in the opposite direction by teaming with Honda.

The latter have been the most adventurous in terms of new driver picks in 2018, with Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley stepping for their first full F1 campaigns after brief cameos towards the end of the last campaign.

Perhaps the most interesting move of the summer is Sauber’s signing of Charles Leclerc. Fans and pundits will be interested to see how the 20-year-old adapts to the step up after winning the FIA Formula 2 Championship in 2017.

The final driver change is an enforced one as a result of veteran Felipe Massa retiring for a second time after a late change of heart led to an extended stay for the Brazilian with Williams last year. His seat has been handed to promising young Russian driver Sergey Sirotkin.

Finally, 2018 marks the return of an old favourite with the reappearance of the French Grand Prix on the F1 racing calendar. It won’t be returning to Magny-Cours, however. Instead, Circuit Paul Ricard will play host to its first Grand Prix since 1990.

 

The Main Contenders

Expect the three big hitters in Formula 1 in the shape of MercedesFerrari and Red Bull to once again lock out the top six grid places for the majority of the season. Mercedes will be looking to make it a fifth Constructors’ title in a row, but Ferrari and Red Bull will be snapping at their heels to end their era of dominance.

Sebastian Vettel will be particularly keen to prevent Lewis Hamilton pulling ahead of him in titles after the Mercedes driver drew level with the German in securing his fourth title in 2017. Both drivers will also need to look over their shoulder at the irrepressible Max Verstappen, who comfortably looks the sport’s next superstar after 5th and 6th placed season finishes in his first two years in F1 and is still at the tender age of just 20.

This may still be a season too soon for the sport’s heir apparent, but he could make a real breakthrough if Red Bull can shake off their reputation as notoriously slow season starters. Seasoned campaigners Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen cannot be completely discounted either, but may have a more important role to play in trying to secure the Constructors’ title for their teams. Valtteri Bottas will also be looking to close the gap on teammate Hamilton after a respectable third place finish in his maiden campaign with Mercedes.

Ferrari

The Teams…

Ferrari

Drivers: Kimi Raikkonen (4th, 2017); Sebastian Vettel (2nd)
2017 position: 2nd

Force India

Drivers: Esteban Ocon (8th); Sergio Perez (7th)
2017 position: 4th

Haas

Drivers: Romain Grosjean (13th); Kevin Magnussen (14th)
2017 position: 8th

McLaren

Drivers: Fernando Alonso (15th); Stoffel Vandoorne (16th)
2017 position: 9th

Mercedes

Drivers: Valtteri Bottas (3rd); Lewis Hamilton (1st)
2017 position: 1st

Red Bull

Drivers: Daniel Ricciardo (5th); Max Verstappen (6th)
2017 position: 3rd

Renault

Drivers: Nico Hulkenberg (10th); Carlos Sainz Jr (9th)
2017 position: 6th

Sauber

Drivers: Marcus Ericsson (20th); Charles Leclerc (N/A)
2017 position: 10th

Toro Rosso

Drivers: Brendon Hartley (23rd); Pierre Gasly (21st)
2017 position: 7th

Williams

Drivers: Sergey Sirotkin (N/A); Lance Stroll (12th)
2017 position: 5th

 

F1 2018 Calendar

25 March – Australian Grand Prix, Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit, Melbourne
8 April – Bahrain Grand Prix, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir
15 April – Chinese Grand Prix, Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai
29 April – Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Baku City Circuit, Baku
13 May – Spanish Grand Prix, Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Barcelona
27 May – Monaco Grand Prix, Circuit de Monaco, Monte Carlo
10 June – Canadian Grand Prix, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal
24 June – French Grand Prix, Circuit Paul Ricard, Le Castellet
1 July – Austrian Grand Prix, Red Bull Ring, Spielberg
8 July – British Grand Prix, Silverstone Circuit, Silverstone
22 July – German Grand Prix, Hockenheimring, Hockenheim
29 July – Hungarian Grand Prix,  Hungaroring, Budapest
26 August – Belgian Grand Prix, Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Stavelot
2 September – Italian Grand Prix, Autodromo Nazionale Monza, Monza
16 September – Singapore Grand Prix, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore
30 September – Russian Grand Prix, Sochi Autodrom, Sochi
7 October – Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka International Racing Course, Suzuka
21 October – United States Grand Prix, Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas
28 October – Mexican Grand Prix, Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, Mexico City
11 November – Brazilian Grand Prix, Autódromo José Carlos Pace, São Paulo
25 November – Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Yas Marina Circuit

All image sources from PA Images

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