The three men who can stop Lewis Hamilton dominating this season
In the world of Formula One, February is basically Christmas Eve. Teams reveal their new entries one by one, and pre-season testing drip-feeds us clues about how the forthcoming campaign might shape up.
But this season we could be heading into the most one-sided display in the sport’s history.
Nico Rosberg’s mic-drop retirement after claiming the world championship last November left Mercedes in a major lurch, and they eventually plucked Valtteri Bottas to partner Lewis Hamilton.
Is the Finn good? Yes. Is he going to be good enough to sustain a title challenge against one of the sport’s greatest racers? Nobody knows just yet.
But the general consensus is that while Bottas will push Lewis hard, the former Williams man won’t quite push him hard enough.
And that means Hamilton could have it all his own way in 2017.
However, new rules offer hope that Mercedes’ recent dominance will soon come to an end, and we’ve picked out three men ready to take the fight to Lewis this year.
Nearly every driver review of last season put the Red Bull star at number one, and if Daniel Ricciardo can build on his scintillating 2016 campaign, the Aussie could be on course for the title.
Boasting rapid pace and stunning racecraft, the 27-year-old seldom makes mistakes, and is arguably the most complete driver on the grid right now.
Ricciardo wasn’t fazed by Max Verstappen’s arrival last season either, and this term the two should push each other to the next level – something which may not happen now at Mercedes.
If Red Bull get the right grasp on the new regulations, Ricciardo’s level-headedness and added experience could prove vital in getting the upper hand in both the inter-team and world title battles.
Few dare predict Max Verstappen’s season with confidence, for the Dutch teenager is simply too unique, too unpredictable and too fast to call.
But with a full pre-season at Red Bull underneath him, Verstappen should be stronger than ever in 2017, and that’s from a very high starting platform.
A lack of experience may cost the 19-year-old this season, while the newer, faster cars might test his physical attributes in the humid early-season races like Malaysia and Bahrain.
But in his short career Verstappen has consistently proven all doubters wrong, and there is a very real chance he can become the youngest world champion this season.
Last season Ferrari suffered their second winless campaign in three years, and simply put, a repeat will not be tolerated in Maranello.
And it certainly won’t be tolerated by Sebastian Vettel, with the four-time champion growing increasingly frustrated last season.
The new rules offer a chance for the Scuderia to make a comeback, and similarly, Vettel could capitalise with the quicker cars.
With Kimi Raikkonen ready to keep the German on his toes for one more season, we should expect a much strong charge as Vettel and Ferrari seek to end their 28-race winless run.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing