Racing in formula 1 is usually cyclical, with the pattern often times determined by which team is best adapted to the existing rules and regulations regarding engine and car design.
It was interesting to note that the three podium places were taken by the last three individuals to be champions of the sport, spanning a period of seven years. It’s difficult to say how symbolic this is; is the dominance set to continue next season, or is there going to be a change of guard, with a new set of faces in the driving seat?
One face that won’t be on the circuit though, is that of the new world champion Nico Rosberg. It is often said that the best time to make an exit is when the ovation is loudest, and Rosberg has decided to follow this school of thought.
The ice in the champagne bucket had barely melted when he announced about two weeks ago, five days after the final race that he was retiring from the sport. This has come as quite a shock to many, but maybe not so much to those who are very close to him. He has indicated that he is no longer ready to keep up with the demands of racing in Formula one after ten years, choosing instead to focus on other things, most notably his family.
He has also made it quite clear that there is no going back, completely ruling out the possibility of a comeback, thus giving a tone of finality to the decision, especially coming from a man like Nico Rosberg. The intensity of competition has taken its toll, and after finally achieving his dream of becoming World Champion, it is difficult to question his logic.
This development has definitely added a new dynamic to the 2017 season. Already, in addition to the rule changes, there has been this feeling that the level of competition is about to exceed the level seen in recent times, as there are lots of talented drivers on the circuit.
All of a sudden, the hottest seat on the circuit is available; a chance to race in what currently is the best car available, and also to directly compete against arguably the best driver around as a teammate. In F1, It doesn’t get much better than this.
The news came as a bit of a shock to Mercedes too. However, they’ve accepted the decision in good faith. Already the search has begun for a replacement and Mercedes hopes to make an announcement before the year runs out.
An approach has been made for Williams’ driver Valtteri Bottas which was rejected, while a lot of other drivers have been linked to the seat, including Fernando Alonso, widely regarded as one of the best around, as well as someone who in a truly competitive car, would take some beating and-four time champion Sebastian Vettel. Both have ruled themselves out of the running, at least for the moment.
It is also not likely that any of the Red Bull drivers would leave at this point, with a lot of uncertainty about the true strengths of each of the teams going into the new season.
The situation has definitely not left Mercedes with a lot of straightforward choices. Not that any of this matters to Lewis Hamilton; he has stated severally that he’s prepared to accept and compete against anybody, only demanding from Mercedes equal standing with any teammate.
This has been an incredible few weeks for Rosberg. He has followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming an F1 world champion, and has added to this a possible place in the history books as the first champion to fail to defend his F1 title due to retirement. This however doesn’t dampen expectations towards the new season. Early signs indicate it is going to be a special one.
Next season promises to have a lot of things- new cars, a new driving combination for the winners of the constructors’ championship, world champions in the twin Ferraris, potential world champions in the twin Red Bulls, and some new faces on the grid. One thing it will lack though, is a defending champion. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing.
The clock is ticking already- the countdown to the new season has begun; a countdown to the time when every driver would be able to echo the very words used by Lewis Hamilton when defying team orders at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix…