Number 288: The 2017 Formula 1 Issue
It’s a fickle thing, this motorsports game. When we started planning our Formula 1 content for this issue of RACER, Sebastian Vettel was leading the points for Ferrari, Max Verstappen was the unluckiest man in racing, and a warring Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon looked odds-on for pink slips from the pink-hued Force India team.
One month on, Verstappen is still the unluckiest man in racing. No change there. But Perez and Ocon are playing nice again and remain gainfully employed, while Vettel now has a mountain to climb if his fifth Formula 1 World Championship is to become a
eality in 2017.
Vettel’s change in circumstance – from seven points ahead of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, pre-Monza, to 28 points in arrears, post-Singapore – was partly down to Mercedes getting in the groove with its fast, yet flighty W08. But the bigger factor by far was Vettel’s split-second decision to block Verstappen on the run down to Singapore’s first turn. With Vettel’s Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen also closing in, the inevitable clash removed all three.
You don’t always make your own luck in racing, but in Vettel’s case, the vast majority of a 35-point swing in just two races was self-inflicted. If, as seems likely, he does miss out on the title, he can look back on his ill-conceived and crudely-executed move in Marina Bay as a defining moment.
For the most part, Verstappen’s awful 2017 luck hasn’t been of his own making. Seven DNFs in the first 14 GPs sounds like a statistic from the 1970s, and Red Bull Racing knows the pressure’s on if it’s to keep him beyond 2018. Despite it all, the 20-year-old Dutchman remains upbeat and pragmatic, as RACER’s Chris Medland found when he sat down with Max.
Speaking of upbeat, check out Mark Glendenning’s interview with newly-crowned IndyCar champ Josef Newgarden. At 8:15a.m., the morning after the night before, Team Penske’s newest star proved remarkably lucid and insightful...