THE Formula 1 pre-season launch schedule is often met with yawns as the only news is what colour this year’s cars will be painted (shock! A red Ferrari!), but this year is different. Visually, the sport has branched into a radical new direction with the implementation of the unmistakable halo safety device. And while the thong-like addition has purists clawing at their eyes, it’s not the only change for the 2018 F1 rulebook as the men in white coats close sneaky loopholes to simplify rear aerodynamics. You can be assured each team will already be working on finding fresh loopholes to exploit as you read this.
The battle at the front is set to be interesting too, as Mercedes debuts an all-new power unit to fend off Ferrari’s evolved SF71H. Dani Ricciardo’s Red Bull, meanwhile, is hoping its TAGHeuer-branded Renault engine will finally deliver a much-needed power boost.
Alfa Romeo returns to the F1 grid for the first time in more than three decades, as the namingrights sponsor of the Saubersquad, bringing an influx of cash and current-spec Ferrari engines. Meanwhile, McLaren has been able to offload unreliable Honda power, swapping to Renault, with the Toro Rosso squad instead lumbered with the Japanese engines.
Ford North America has a new president and executive vice president, with Kumar Galhotra stepping up to the top spot at short notice. The position unexpectedly became vacant after the outgoing president Raj Nair left after an internal investigation into reports of inappropriate behaviour. Indian-born Galhotra previously held the positions of Ford Motor Company chief marketing officer and Lincoln Motor Company group vice president. Prior to 2012 he worked for Mazda in Japan.
For the past five years, Williams has had probably the best-looking car in the F1 paddock, courtesy of its classically beautiful Martini stripes. Unfortunately, it looks as if Martini Racing’s 50th year could be its last in F1, as the contract of owners Bacardi Group expires at the end of this season. Williams deputy team principal Claire Williams explained that Bacardi “have many brands to support and obviously their strategic priorities evolve over time.” While the Martini money might have dried up, Williams’ recruitment of rapid Russian Sergey Sirotkin has brought significant funding from SMP Racing to the team.