With less than one week until launches begin for the 2017 Formula 1 season, and a little over one week until the first test of the new season at the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona, it’s a good time to begin previewing the year ahead.
Stefan Johansson, the veteran driver and manager in both F1 and IndyCar, has provided quite a bit of analysis and insight in his series of blogs, where excerpts from each will continue to run on MotorSportsTalk this season.
In his first blog of 2017, Johansson primarily looks ahead to the changes coming down the pike in F1. With new management, new cars and new tire sizes all coming into play, there’s a lot to look forward to.
So here’s a bit from the latest conversation with Jan Tegler live on Johansson’s website, which continues into 2017.
On the end of the Bernie Ecclestone era in F1:
“It was a weird feeling when I first heard of the announcement and talking with other friends from Formula One it seems that everyone agrees that it’s kind of sad, he’s been like a grandfather to all of us. The change is definitely a big deal. I can’t think of anyone in the paddock now who was there before Bernie. It will be very interesting to see what happens. Personally I feel that Liberty might have been better off by keeping Bernie on-board for a few more years and ease into the ownership by learning or studying how things got done rather than cutting the cord and starting with a clean sheet right away.”
On the challenges ahead facing Liberty Media Corporation:
“It may be easy to recognize what’s wrong but fixing it all is something else. That’s the critical part going forward. I’m not underestimating the people at Liberty Media. They’ve been extremely successful in everything they’ve done. And they’ve have already been smart enough to surround themselves with good people so one would hope that the right decisions will be made.
“I believe F1 is at a stage right now where if you make another two or three wrong decisions in important areas I don’t know how much longer it will be interesting or relevant for the fans – or for the teams too for that matter. Aside from the manufacturers, every team is on the limit financially already.”
On the divide between a “democracy” of ideas and a smaller concentration of power:
“If they let everyone have their view on every single matter it will end in disaster just as we’ve seen in so many other series and sports for that matter. I don’t think the guys at Liberty has any idea of what’s in store for them when it comes to dealing with the teams in particular. The best analogy would be to use the famous quote from Ron Dennis when Eddie Jordan entered F1 back in the 80’s, “Welcome to the Piranha Club”. Nothing has changed since then and that is exactly what they can expect.”
On how the field shapes up with Valtteri Bottas’ move to Mercedes and whether Mercedes will have any challengers:
“If you have an “off” weekend, finishing 7th instead of 4th – which has certainly been the case more than once for Bottas – it’s not that big of a deal. When you’re in Mercedes, Red Bull, Ferrari or McLaren, you’re not allowed to have an “off” weekend.
“I think Red Bull will be the biggest challenger to Mercedes. I don’t think the gap to Mercedes will be as big because the huge advantage they’ve had with their engine is getting smaller. I think they’ll still have a slight advantage but whoever gets their new chassis right will be much more competitive with them and I think Red Bull will be very strong. I have a feeling McLaren will catch up quite a bit too. Ferrari is an unknown at this point, I hope they will surprise everyone and maybe the silence from Maranello is a good sign.”
You can read the full blog post here, for even more insight.
Additionally, a link to Johansson’s social media channels and #F1TOP3 competition are linked here.