Motorsports rewind 2017: Lewis Hamilton stars but trouble brews in F1
Lewis Hamilton and Marc Marquez clinched the top titles as motorsports enjoyed a turbulent 2017 season.other sports Updated: Dec 28, 2017 11:02 IST
Formula One is a tad insecure again, and the insecurity seems to have touched drivers, and some teams as well. After Liberty Media’s takeover of F1 early in 2017, the sport was set for a change of philosophy (read business model), along with, as racing geeks would say, technical evolution. But, as things stand now, at the end of 2017, F1 might have a couple of serious issues to handle, including the pullout threat of one of the biggest teams in racing — Ferrari.
However, the Italian team will have to wait till 2020 (contractual obligation) for an official pullout, triggered by the proposed revenue-sharing model that stands to make things equitable for all teams big, small or historic. The prospect of losing out on money has not gone down well with the big bosses at Maranello. Ferrari would use all its might to get its way. But whatever be the outcome, the sport may stand to lose.
The sport had a great season of sorts, with some semblance of wheel-to-wheel action early in the year when Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari threatened to upset the Mercedes hegemony. But, at the end of the year, Lewis Hamilton drove his Merc to the championship. However, the 2017 champion, who won his fourth world title to enter the club that includes Alain Prost and Sebastian Vettel (4 F1 titles), still seems to be seeking validation. Behind only Juan Manuel Fangio (5) and Michael Schumacher (7), Hamilton is yet to be named in the same rarefied breath as the legends.
Hamilton is a great driver, no doubt, and an even greater competitor. He showed that during his gritty drives trying to surpass Vettel through the first part of 2017 when the German’s Ferrari showed a competitive streak. The season showed promise, till things fell apart for Vettel, while Hamilton — along with teammate, Valtteri Bottas — had a refined, fire-breathing Mercedes to close the season. Title went to Hamilton, Vettel was second.
Year of Marquez and Gill
Such questions on greatness quotient — even if highly subjective — could never be posed against another world champion, Marc Marquez, who also sealed his fourth MotoGP title this year, riding for Honda. Marquez’s ride to the title wasn’t easy this year. Then again, when has MotoGP been easy -— the quality and depth of racing ensure the fans as well as the riders are on the edge, always.
Marquez edged out Andrea Dovizioso of Ducati to the title this year, with the championship being decided on the final race. That speaks volumes on how tight the racing was through the year, not to mention the x-factors thrown in by Valentino Rossi, Maverick Vinales (who finished third in the championship), Johann Zarco, Jorge Lorenzo and the likes.
X-factors were aplenty at the World Rally Championship too, where Frenchman Sebastien Ogier, despite joining a new team — Ford Fiesta M-Sport — drove to his fifth crown. Ogier’s domination has more to do with his skill and wile as a driver and not the one-sided nature of the competition. Proof of that is the fact that Ogier managed just three rally wins out of 13 rallies, winning the title over German Thierry Neuville by just 24 points.
India too had reasons to celebrate in rallying. It was a great year for Gaurav Gill, who sealed his 3rd Asia Pacific Rally Championship title, beating MRF-Skoda Fabia teammate Ole Christian Veiby. Gill won three of the five rallies, while Veiby triumphed in two — a complete domination by MRF, and perhaps a sign that it is time the Indian graduated to the world stage.