Wednesday 29 November at 17:15 :
With the 2017 Drivers Championship sewn up (and with, of course, Lewis Hamilton’s name on it), attention is fast turning to 2018. It will only be a few months before the drivers are back on the track in Melbourne and a whole new season of drama will be underway. Asking who will be the favorite in 2018 is more or less unnecessary. It’s Hamilton, unless something drastic should happen with the driver or his team at Mercedes. The more worthwhile question is which driver seems to be in the best shape to challenge Hamilton’s supremacy.
Here’s a look at where some of the big names stand, before the odds for 2018 really solidify (though some are already out there).
Sebastian Vettel seems oddly forgotten by casual Formula 1 fans, because it’s quite clear that Hamilton has stolen his status as the best driver in the world. However, we’re only a few years past Vettel being a figure about as dominant as any in history, and he certainly doesn’t sound like he’s done. Vettel recently joked that 2018 should be a walk in the park
, and while he certainly meant it in jest, he was still making a comment on the real progress he’s seen with his team at Ferrari. Vettel seems confident that if the team continues to make improvements he can catch up to the top of the podium, and that means he’s still probably the best bet to challenge or even dethrone Hamilton.
As anyone following F1 knows, Max Verstappen is probably the hottest name entering 2018. Just 20 years old, he’s being billed as the next big thing, and with multiple first place finished this season, he may be closer than we thought a year ago to realizing his potential. There’s certainly a chance that he makes a major breakthrough, and that if Hamilton falls short of the 2018 Drivers Championship it will be because Verstappen took it. But we’re still keeping him a notch beneath Vettel.
Ricciardo did not distinguish himself this season, retiring from multiple races and failing to finish seemingly on a pretty regular basis. But as stated in a preview for the Brazil Grand Prix, when Ricciardo’s finished in 2017 it’s normally been in the top three
. That is to say, if he can find a little bit more consistency with his car and team, Ricciardo is still a threat. A breakthrough to the top of the podium at the end of 2018 would be shocking, but if we’re speculating based purely on driving talent, he could still find himself in the mix. And really, not many drivers can say even that much.
Bottas has virtually no chance of a Drivers Championship as long as he’s behind Hamilton at Mercedes (which will be the case again in 2018). However, he does have a great deal of talent and arguably the best manufacturer working behind him. So, if for any reason Hamilton should be knocked off course in 2018, it’s always worth keeping an eye on Bottas. He’s perfectly capable of filling in as a top driver.
Fernando Alonso has had a fairly miserable time of it in 2017, but he’s committed to McLaren for another year
, and with the team switching from Honda to Renault, there could be a real chance for significant improvement. Alonso has virtually no chance of winning a championship, but he’s an outside threat to finish in the top three in 2018, so he merits a mention.