2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Preview

The 20th and final round of the 2017 Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) Formula One World Championship takes place this weekend from the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, and while the battle for both the drivers’ and constructors’ championship has been decided, there is still plenty to play for many drivers and teams on the grid.

Lewis Hamilton (345 points) for Mercedes leads the drivers’ championship by an unassailable 43 points over Sebastian Vettel (302 points) for Ferrari. Hamilton had an unusual weekend in Brazil, being strong in practice before losing control of his car on the first flying lap in qualifying, going straight into the wall, forcing him to a pit-lane start after his team decided to change and add new components to his car. Then he stormed from the back of the field to the front, leading the race for 13 laps, starting on Lap 30, before finishing in fourth, 5.468 seconds behind race winner Vettel.

Vettel, after his win in Brazil, is on track to claim second spot in the championship ahead of Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas (280 points). This will only change if Bottas wins in Abu Dhabi, and Vettel finishes ninth or lower.

The battle for fourth in the championship is interesting between Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo (200 points), and Vettel’s teammate Kimi Räikkönen (193 points), who are only separated by seven points in the championship. They are followed in the championship by Ricciardo’s teammate Max Verstappen (158 points), who cannot catch fifth-place Räikkönen in the championship standings.

Also important to note is that it will be the final race in the Formula One career of Felipe Massa, currently 10th in the championship on 42 points. From 268 starts, Massa has won 11 races, claimed 41 podiums, 16 pole positions, and 15 fastest laps in a career spanning from 2002 to 2017, driving for Sauber, Ferrari, and Williams. We wish him all the very best for his future endeavours!

Looking at the constructors’ championship, Mercedes (625 points), Ferrari (495 points), Red Bull (358 points), and Force India (177 points) have secured the top four spots respectively, while Williams (82 points), Toro Rosso (53 points), who are starting their last race with a Renault engine, Renault (49 points), and Haas (47 points) are all in mathematical contention for fifth spot, while McLaren (28 points), who are starting their last race with a Honda engine, are in mathematical contention for sixth spot in the constructors’ championship, and are ahead of Sauber (five points), who are in mathematical contention for eighth in the championship.

As for who is going to win the 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, this circuit on paper suits the Ferrari, and should really ought to end the season on a high, for Vettel to secure second spot in championship, but I think Lewis Hamilton is going to bounce back after a couple of difficult races to claim his 10th victory of the season to set a marker for the 2018 season.

 

The first two practice sessions (90 minutes each) are on Friday at 1pm and 5pm local time (Friday 8pm and Saturday 12am AEDT).

The final practice session (60 minutes) and qualifying is on Saturday at 2pm and 5pm local time (Saturday 9pm and Sunday 12am AEDT).

The 55 lap race is on Sunday from 5pm local time (Monday 12am AEDT).

2017 Brazilian Grand Prix – Preview

The 19th round of the 2017 Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) Formula One World Championship takes place this weekend from the Autódromo José Carlos Pace in São Paulo in Brazil, and after the Mexican Grand Prix, the championship battle has been decided.

Lewis Hamilton has claimed his fourth world championship after finishing ninth in Mexico after the front wing of Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari made contact with the right-rear tyre of Hamilton’s Mercedes, and while Vettel managed to recover to fourth-place after being forced to pit for a new front wing, it was no where near enough to keep his championship hopes, and deny Hamilton, at least for now, his fourth world championship.

In finishing ninth, Hamilton was also lapped, marking the first time that he has been lapped since the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix, which was his first season with the Mercedes team, but it didn’t matter as he joined Michael Schumacher (7), Juan Manuel Fangio (5), Alain Prost (4), and Sebastian Vettel (4) as having won four world championships or more.

In addition to this, by finishing ninth, Hamilton has kept his streak of 23-consecutive points-scoring races going, which is the equal-third best streak in Formula One history, and thus keeps alive the possibility of finishing every race of the season inside the points for the first time in his Formula One career.

As far as the championship standings are concerned, Hamilton (333 points) leads by an unassailable 56 points over Vettel (277 points), with a battle looming for second in the championship between the German, and Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas (262 points), with both drivers guaranteed of finishing inside the top three in the 2017 championship after Daniel Ricciardo’s second retirement in as many races.

Ricciardo (192 points) is fourth in the championship, ahead of Vettel’s teammate Kimi Räikkönen (178 points), and Ricciardo’s Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen (148 points), who claimed his second victory of the season in Mexico, and has finished three of the last four races on the podium after getting decent run of reliability during the last four races.

In the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes (595 points), Ferrari (455 points), Red Bull (340 points), and Force India (175 points) have secured first, second, third, and fourth in the championship respectively, with fifth through to 10th still yet to be decided.

So, who is going to win the Brazilian Grand Prix?

The Mercedes on paper should be the car most suited to this circuit, but both Ferrari, and in recent times, Red Bull, have shown that they can match it with Mercedes at most circuits. However, if Hamilton qualifies at the front, if not on pole position, you just can’t see anyone stopping him claiming his 10th race victory in 2017.

 

The first two practice sessions (90 minutes each) are on Friday at 10am and 2pm local time (Friday 11pm and Saturday 3am AEDT).

The final practice session (60 minutes) and qualifying is on Saturday at 11am and 2pm local time (Sunday 12am and 3am AEDT).

The 71 lap race is on Sunday from 2pm local time (Monday 3am AEDT).

 

2017 Mexican Grand Prix – Preview

The 18th round of the 2017 Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) Formula One World Championship takes place this weekend at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, which is about eight kilometres south-east of the city centre of Mexico City, and after Mercedes took out the Constructors’ World Championship for the fourth year in a row, Lewis Hamilton will have his second opportunity to claim his fourth world championship of his career in Mexico.

Hamilton (331 points) leads the championship in his Mercedes by 66 points over Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel (265 points) with just three rounds remaining after taking a superb victory at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, taking the lead of the race from Vettel on Lap Six after the German won the battle of the start, before Hamilton went onto dominate the rest of the race to take a marvellous victory.

Hamilton is currently showing to the world that he is in career-best form, and while Ferrari have shown improved form in 2017 to challenge Mercedes throughout large parts of the year, Hamilton and Mercedes have really lifted their games, while Ferrari have crumbled under their own pressure, with reliability issues at Malaysia and Japan, as well as the costly chaos at the start of the Singapore Grand Prix really hurting Vettel’s chances of winning a fifth world championship.

Valtteri Bottas (244 points) is third in the championship, but out of mathematical championship contention, finishing the United States Grand Prix in fifth position after struggling for speed once again in comparison to his teammate Hamilton.

However, Bottas is still comfortably ahead of Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo (192 points), who sadly had to retire from the United States Grand Prix due to an engine issue. Ricciardo is still comfortably ahead of Ferrari driver Kimi Räikkönen (163 points), and his fellow Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen (123 points) as we head into the final three races of the season.

In the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes (575 points) have clinched their fourth-successive title, and have an unassailable 147 point lead over Ferrari (428 points). Red Bull (315 points) are third in the championship, with Force India (159 points) unable to catch them in fourth, while Williams (68 points) have pulled away from Toro Rosso (53 points) in the battle for fifth in the championship, with Toro Rosso know battling Renault (48 points) and Haas (43 points) for sixth in the Constructors’ Championship, while McLaren (23 points) and Sauber (five points) bring up the rear of the field.

So, for Hamilton to clinch his fourth world championship at the Mexican Grand Prix, one of these scenarios must happen:

  1. If Vettel wins the race, Hamilton must finish fifth or higher.
  2. If Vettel finishes in second, Hamilton must finish ninth or higher.
  3. If Vettel finishes third or lower, Hamilton is the world champion!

So, who will win the Mexican Grand Prix?

The cars will run with maximum downforce to deal with the lack of air density, which will mean that the cars will still be very fast on the straights, faster than even at Monza, despite the huge amount of downforce on the cars, so it will be important to find a good, strong balance with the cars to be competitive.

If this race was held earlier in the season, I would have tipped Ferrari, and Sebastian Vettel to win the Mexican Grand Prix due to the characteristics of the circuit, and because Ferrari had the stronger car at that point of the season.

However, while Ferrari are still strong, Mercedes have seemingly sorted out their strange issues that they have experienced with their cars at times during 2017, and Lewis Hamilton is in seemingly unbeatable form right as we speak, but we shouldn’t count out Red Bull challenging for the win in Mexico as they are getting better and better as the season has gone on.

My tip for the Mexican Grand Prix is for a Hamilton victory to seal a fourth world championship crown.

 

The first two practice sessions (90 minutes each) are on Friday at 10am and 2pm local time (Saturday 2am and 6am AEDT).

The final practice session (60 minutes) and qualifying is on Saturday at 10am and 1pm local time (Sunday 2am and 5am AEDT).

The 56 lap race is on Sunday from 1pm local time (Monday 5am AEDT).

 

 

2017 United States Grand Prix – Preview

The 17th round of the 2017 Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) Formula One World Championship takes place this weekend from the Circuit of the Americas, located about 22 kilometres away from the city-centre of Austin, the capital of the state of Texas, and we have two world championships that could well be decided this weekend.

Lewis Hamilton (306 points) leads the world drivers’ championship in his Mercedes by 59 points over Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel (247 points), while Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas (234 points) is third in the championship, 72 points behind Hamilton, and still has a mathematical chance of claiming his first world championship in 2017.

Hamilton extended his lead over Vettel from 34 points to 59 points after taking a magnificent victory at the Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka after starting from pole position, thus having started from pole position on every circuit on the current Formula One calendar, and holding off Red Bull driver Max Verstappen in the closing laps to take his eighth win of the season, and his fifth win in the last seven races, including his fourth win in the last five races. In addition to this Hamilton has finished on the podium in six of the last seven races, including in the last five races, and is truly at the top of his game right now!

The same cannot be said for Ferrari, who have dropped their bundle in the last three races with the collisions and accidents in Singapore, which wiped out a two-car Ferrari team on the opening for the first time in history, and then reliability issues in both Malaysia and Japan with their power-units, allowing Ferrari to only score a combined 22 points during the last three races, and is seemingly going to cost Vettel the world championship, and it makes it more painful to consider that they had arguably a faster car than their rivals at all of those three events.

Meanwhile, Bottas has been consistent without being spectacular recently, but has finished inside the top five in the last 11 races, but has only finished on the podium twice in the last five races, the five races since the summer break, and you sense he will need to lift his game if he wants to secure second in the drivers’ championship.

So, for Hamilton to clinch his fourth world championship at the United States Grand Prix, one of these scenarios must happen:

  1. If Hamilton wins the race, Vettel must finish sixth or lower.
  2. If Hamilton finishes second, Vettel must finish ninth or lower, and Bottas must not win the race.

However, as I said before, that is not the only championship battle that could be decided this weekend at the Circuit of the Americas, with the World Constructors’ Championship up for grabs for Mercedes for the fourth-straight year.

Mercedes (540 points) lead over Ferrari (395 points) by 145 points with four races remaining, with reliability and the lack of a strong two-driver effort costing Ferrari any realistic hope of claiming their first constructors’ championship since 2008.

Mercedes, in the five races since the summer break, have out-scored Ferrari 183 to 77, a difference of 106 points, and in the last three races, Mercedes have out-scored Ferrari 105 to 22, a difference of 83 points. In fact, Red Bull (303 points), who sit in third in the constructors’ championship, but out of mathematical contention have also out-scored Ferrari in the last three races 91 to 22, a difference of 69 points, and are only 14 points behind Mercedes when you just consider the last three races, just showing how far Ferrari have fallen in terms of the reliability of their car.

So, for Mercedes to clinch their fourth-straight world championship at the United States Grand Prix:

  1. Ferrari must not out-score Mercedes by 17 points or more. If one of the Mercedes win the race, they are guaranteed to win the constructors’ championship. If both Mercedes finish inside the top four, they are guaranteed to win the constructors’ championship.

So, will Hamilton and/or Mercedes claim the world championships this weekend at the Circuit of the Americas.

Both Ferrari and Red Bull have the potential to challenge Mercedes here, and Mercedes, as far as their speed is concerned, don’t have as big a margin as they have had previously at this time of the season compared to 2014, 2015, and 2016.

However, Lewis Hamilton has been right at the top of his game in recent races, and if he continues in this vain of form, he will be very hard to beat at a place where he has only lost once.

Hamilton to win the United States Grand Prix to clinch Mercedes the constructors’ world championship, but the drivers’ world championship to continue onto Mexico.

 

The first two practice sessions (90 minutes each) are on Friday at 10am and 2pm local time (Saturday 2am and 6am AEDT).

The final practice session (60 minutes) and qualifying is on Saturday at 11am and 4pm local time (Sunday 3am and 8am AEDT).

The 56 lap race is on Sunday from 2pm local time (Monday 6am AEDT).

2017 Japanese Grand Prix – Preview

This weekend, the 16th round of the 2017 Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) Formula One World Championship takes place from the Suzuka International Racing Course, also known as the Suzuka Circuit, in Japan, which is about 70 kilometres south-west of the Japanese city of Nagoya.

And with Lewis Hamilton taking some more points off Sebastian Vettel, this world championship battle is set to heat up at the Japanese Grand Prix.

Hamilton (281 points) leads the world drivers’ championship for Mercedes by 34 points over Vettel (247 points) after finishing second behind Red Bull driver Max Verstappen last weekend at the Malaysia Grand Prix in what was considered to be a disappointing result for Mercedes after struggling to find their normal pace during practice, and while Hamilton did secure his 70th pole position in his Formula One career, he did not have the speed to hold of Verstappen in the race.

However, he did gain six more points over Vettel in the championship after his Ferrari had major technical issues on Saturday relating to the power-unit in his car, meaning that he couldn’t set a time in qualifying, which meant he started from last on the grid, although the major benefit from that disappointment was that he was able to take on extra power-unit components without effectively serving a penalty.

However, despite a storming drive in his Ferrari from 20th on the grid to finish fourth, more pain was to follow for Vettel on the cool-down lap, colliding with Williams driver Lance Stroll, damaging his Ferrari significantly, meaning that he might have to take a grid penalty for a gearbox change should his team find damage to his gearbox, which could mean further pain in his quest to win a fifth world championship.

Third in the championship is Valtteri Bottas (222 points), 59 points behind teammate Hamilton in the standings after finishing a disappointing fifth in Malaysia, and has really been out of sorts since the summer break, generally struggling for speed in comparison to his teammate, and not producing the performances that he expects from himself. Bottas will need to lift his performances in support of Hamilton if he wants Hamilton to win his fourth world championship.

Daniel Ricciardo (177 points) is fourth in the world championship, 104 points behind Hamilton, and the last driver (other than Hamilton, Vettel, and Bottas) in mathematical contention for the drivers’ championship, although Ricciardo has accepted for sometime that he wasn’t going to have the machinery to contend for the championship, after finishing third in Malaysia.

Kimi Räikkönen (138 points) is fifth in the championship for Ferrari after power-unit/battery issues caused him to be wheeled from the grid, and he was unable to start in the Malaysia Grand Prix, which was a huge shame considering that he was starting from the front row of the grid, and certainly he had the pace to win in his Ferrari. Räikkönen could have also helped his teammate remain closer to Hamilton in the championship if he was able to participate, and finish ahead of Hamilton (either first or second), which would have meant Hamilton would have only gained five points over Vettel instead of the six points that he did gain over Vettel.

Sixth in the championship is Verstappen (93 points), who finally had some luck go his way, winning the Malaysia Grand Prix after overtaking Hamilton on Lap Four at Turn One, and then leading 51 of the remaining 53 laps to take a comfortable 12.770 second victory over Hamilton, which was only the second race win of Verstappen’s young career, which happened the day after his 20th Birthday!

In terms of the Constructors’ World Championship, Mercedes (503 points) lead by 118 points over Ferrari (385 points) in the two-way battle for the constructors’ championship with Red Bull (270 points) in third, followed by Force India (133 points) in fourth, then Williams (65 points) in fifth, who have broken away slightly from Toro Rosso (52 points) in the battle for fifth in the championship, followed by Renault (42 points), Haas (37 points), and then McLaren (23 points), and Sauber (five points), who seem destined to finish 10th in the constructors’ championship.

Looking at trying to predict a result for the 2017 Japanese Grand Prix, I think that although it has been a couple of difficult weekends for Mercedes in terms of their speed, I would expect them to be back on top form at Suzuka, and although I think Ferrari and Red Bull will still be good in Japan, I believe Lewis Hamilton on a circuit tailor-made for him and his Mercedes, due to the long, fast corners, and the premium placed on having a strong power-unit, will dominate all of his rivals to claim victory ahead of a five-way battle for second and third between Valtteri Bottas, Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Räikkönen, Daniel Ricciardo, and Max Verstappen.

 

The first two practice sessions (90 minutes each) are on Friday at 10am and 2pm local time (12pm and 4pm AEDT).

The final practice session (60 minutes) and qualifying is on Saturday at 12pm and 3pm local time (2pm and 5pm AEDT).

The 53 lap race is on Sunday from 2pm local time (4pm AEDT).

2017 Malaysian Grand Prix – Preview

This weekend, the 15th round of the 2017 Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) Formula One World Championship takes place at the Sepang International Circuit, which is about 60 kilometres south of Kuala Lumpur, for what will be, at least for the foreseeable future, the final Malaysian Grand Prix.

The Sepang International Circuit was the second circuit ever designed by legendary circuit designer Hermann Tilke, and since 1999, it has been a circuit that has seen some crazy races in Formula One, many great triumphs, and even some heartbreak.

Someone who has experienced both emotions in Malaysia has been Lewis Hamilton, who won the Malaysian Grand Prix in 2014, but was forced to retire while leading comfortably in 2016, ultimately costing him the world championship.

Hamilton (263 points) leads the world drivers’ championship for Mercedes by 28 points over Sebastian Vettel (235 points) after the former’s victory in Singapore, which happened after the latter’s collision in wet conditions with both Max Verstappen, and his Ferrari teammate Kimi Räikkönen, which caused all three of them to retire, which was only the fourth time in Formula One history that the entire front row (Vettel and Verstappen) was wiped out on the opening lap of a grand prix.

It was a gift that Hamilton had no hesitation in grabbing to take complete control of the championship as he seeks to equal Vettel with four world championships.

Vettel and Ferrari you sense will have to find something extra special if they want to topple Hamilton and Mercedes in the championship battle in the final six races of 2017, at circuits that on balance suit the Mercedes better.

Third in the world championship is Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas (212 points), who finished third at the Singapore Grand Prix to help Mercedes gain crucial points over Ferrari, who scored zero points in Singapore, in the Constructors’ World Championship.

Fourth in the championship is Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo (162 points) after what you could say was a disappointing second-place finish in Singapore, after suffering non-terminal gearbox issues, preventing him from driving as fast as he could have, potentially costing him victory.

Räikkönen is fifth in the championship on 138 points after his retirement in Singapore, and has really got to lift his game if he wants to see his teammate, Vettel, win his fifth world championship. Räikkönen needs to steal points away from Hamilton, and when Vettel wins during the final six races of the season, he must finish second. So far, he has shown little signs recently that he is capable of stealing big points away from Hamilton, and you would think that Vettel’s attitude towards his team about his teammate will change quickly if Räikkönen can’t step up to the plate for the remainder of 2017, starting at this weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix.

Verstappen (68 points) is sixth the world championship for Red Bull, and his bad luck continued at the Singapore Grand Prix, suffering his seventh retirement from 14 races in 2017 after being taken out by the two Ferrari drivers. Verstappen cannot take a trick, and while most of the retirements haven’t been his fault, somewhere along the line, you would have to look at his approach to racing, and look at ways to tinker with it slightly to ensure he doesn’t get involved in so many incidents like we saw in Singapore off the start-line.

Equal on points with Verstappen in the championship is Sergio Pérez (68 points) after finishing fifth in Singapore, and is followed by his Force India teammate Esteban Ocon (56 points), who is 12 points behind the Mexican in the championship.

Carlos Sainz Jr. is ninth in the world championship in his Toro Rosso on 48 points after signing for Renault for 2018, while his teammate for next year, Nico Hülkenberg, is 10th in the championship on 34 points in his Renault, leading a four-way battle for 10th in the drivers’ championship between Felipe Massa (31 points), Lance Stroll (28 points), and Romain Grosjean (26 points).

In the Constructors’ World Championship, Mercedes (475 points) lead by 102 points over Ferrari (373 points). Red Bull (230 points) are third in the constructors’ championship, comfortably ahead of Force India (124 points), who are comfortably ahead of a four-way battle for fifth between Williams (59 points), Toro Rosso (52 points), Renault (42 points), and Haas (37 points), while McLaren (17 points) are starting pull away from Sauber (five points) in the battle for ninth in the constructors’ championship.

So, who will win the final-ever Malaysian Grand Prix?

I think it could be an epic battle between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, similar to the battle they had in Spain earlier this year, and if that is the case, it may be too close to call, but Vettel desperately needs to win, and if he doesn’t, and Hamilton wins, it could well be game over in terms of his championship hopes!

 

The first two practice sessions (90 minutes each) are on Friday at 11am and 3pm local time (1pm and 5pm AEST).

The final practice session (60 minutes) and qualifying is on Saturday at 2pm and 5pm local time (4pm and 7pm AEST).

The 56 lap race is on Sunday from 3pm local time (6pm AEDT).

2017 Italian Grand Prix – Preview

The 13th round of the 2017 Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) Formula One World Championship takes place this weekend at Monza in Italy, and the battle between Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton is set to explode, and likewise between Ferrari and Mercedes with only eight races remaining in the season.

Vettel (220 points) for Ferrari leads by a slender seven point margin over Mercedes driver Hamilton (213 points) as we head towards the most important stages of the season. Both drivers haven’t had to retire from a single race so far in 2017, and have finished inside the points in every single race, and in fact, the lowest finish both drivers have had in 2017 has been a seventh place finish (Vettel at Silverstone, Hamilton at Monaco).

Overall, Hamilton has the most race victories so far in 2017 with five, compared to Vettel’s four, but the Ferrari driver has had more podium finishes with nine, compared with seven for the Mercedes driver.

The teammates of both Hamilton and Vettel, Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Räikkönen look set to be cast into support act roles for the remainder of the season by both Mercedes and Ferrari respectively as both teams focus on the drivers’ world championship, and their lead drivers Hamilton and Vettel.

Bottas (179 points) is third in the championship, 41 points behind Vettel, and 34 points behind teammate Hamilton, and has had a wonderful season, his first season with the Mercedes team, with eight podiums, and two potentially crucial race victories in Russia and Austria when Hamilton was having a difficult weekend, preventing Vettel, who finished second in both of those races, from extending his championship lead to a greater margin.

However, Bottas will likely be deployed as a number two driver for the rest of the season, but has shown that he is very capable of stealing crucial points away from Ferrari, and in particular Vettel in the championship battle.

However, Räikkönen (128 points), who is fifth in the championship, 92 points behind teammate Vettel, and 85 points behind Hamilton, hasn’t been able to show in 2017 that he can get that crucial victory to help his teammate in the championship, and deny Hamilton of vital world championship points, but has had four podiums so far in 2017.

In saying that though, Räikkönen has been deployed by Ferrari as a number two driver throughout most of 2017, but at some point during the last eight races, he is going to be faced with a scenario where he has going to have to win a race when Vettel is in trouble, or having a difficult weekend to potentially deny Hamilton the championship. Whether he can or not remains to be seen in 2017.

However, someone who can spoil Vettel’s or Hamilton’s championship challenge is Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo, who sits fourth in the world championship on 132 points, 88 points behind Vettel, and 81 points behind Hamilton.

Ricciardo has shown that he has that uncanny knack of getting himself into the right place at the right time to pick up a race victory in Azerbaijan, as well as a further five podiums (all third places) in a car not as quick as either the Mercedes or Ferrari, but his teammate Max Verstappen has had lots of reliability issues with his car.

Currently sixth in the world championship on 67 points, Verstappen has had six retirements in the opening 12 races, most of them mechanical, and needs some luck to go his way, as he has generally been quicker than Ricciardo. I think if his car is reliable, Verstappen can win a race in 2017 in the right conditions, and have an impact on the championship battle.

In seventh and eighth position in the world championship are the two Force India drivers, Sergio Pérez (56 points) and Esteban Ocon (47 points), and while this is not a battle for the world championship, it is battle to settle their futures that has erupted out on the track with collisions in Azerbaijan and Belgium in a feud that has threatened to overheated since Canada.

And while you would suspect, due to his Mercedes connection, that Ocon will remain with the team next year, Pérez has got to be very careful because he could end up without a seat in Formula One next year if this feud continues.

In terms of the Constructors’ World Championship, Mercedes (392 points) lead by 44 points over Ferrari (348 points), with Red Bull (199 points) comfortably in third position, ahead of Force India (103 points), who are equally comfortable in fourth position in the constructors’ championship. After them is a tight battle for fifth in the championship, with Williams (45 points), Toro Rosso (40 points), Haas (35 points), and Renault (34 points) separated by just 11 points, with McLaren (11 points) and Sauber (five points) bringing up the rear of the field.

Fernando Alonso, who is currently 15th in the championship on 10 points, is getting increasingly frustrated about the reliability and performance of the Honda, and has been heavily criticised for perhaps retiring the car in Belgium when it had no problem, which was the eighth time in the 11 races he has competed in during 2017 that his car hasn’t seen the chequered flag, although two of the times he has been classified as a finish.

Unless something dramatic happens at McLaren as far as their relationship with Honda is concerned, Alonso looks set to leave the team, and I believe he could well be heading to Williams, and I doubt he will be worried how much he is paid considering the troubles of the last three years.

Looking ahead to who will win the Italian Grand Prix, I sense it is going to be a tight battle between Mercedes and Ferrari, and I think Vettel might get the victory ahead of Hamilton in front of the patriotic Italian crowd in a thriller.

 

The first two practice sessions (90 minutes each) are on Friday at 10am and 2pm local time (6pm and 10pm AEST).

The final practice session (60 minutes) and qualifying is on Saturday at 11am and 2pm local time (7pm and 10pm AEST).

The 53 lap race is on Sunday from 2pm local time (10pm AEST).