2017 F1 cham­pi­onship set to show­case young tal­ent

Malta Independent - - SPORT - Jerome Pug­mire, AP Sports

Next year’s For­mula One cham­pi­onship prom­ises to show­case young driv­ing tal­ent keen to em­u­late 19-year-old ris­ing star Max Ver­stap­pen.

Good­bye Felipe Massa, hello Lance Stroll.

So long Jen­son But­ton, wel­come Stof­fel Van­doorne.

As 30-some­things Massa and But­ton leave F1 with more than 550 races be­tween them, they will be re­placed by the 18-yearold Stroll and the 24-year-old Van­doorne — two of the fresh faces on a new-look grid.

Stroll is tak­ing Massa’s seat at Wil­liams, while Van­doorne is re­plac­ing But­ton at McLaren.

Oth­ers, like French­man Este­ban Ocon, will be keen to make an im­pres­sion in the way Ver­stap­pen has done.

Ver­stap­pen, the youngest driver to win an F1 race when he won the Span­ish GP in May when still 18, al­ready has seven podium fin­ishes.

But the oth­ers un­tested.

Van­doorne has raced once this year, as a stand-in for Fer­nando Alonso at the Bahrain GP in April, while Ocon has nine races after mak­ing his F1 de­but at the Bel­gian GP in Au­gust.

But it will be new ter­ri­tory for Stroll, the son of Cana­dian bil­lion­aire in­vestor Lawrence Stroll.

Wil­liams an­nounced ear­lier this month that Stroll would be tak­ing the seat va­cated by Massa, who is re­tir­ing.

Stroll, who was part of the pres­ti­gious Ferrari driver academy, won this year’s Euro­pean For­mula 3 cham­pi­onship by a large mar­gin.

“I want to be a quick driver — maybe the quick­est one day,” he said. “If Wil­liams didn’t think that I am ready, I wouldn’t be here.”

Wil­liams’ deputy team prin­ci­pal Claire Wil­liams cer­tainly thinks he is.

“He’s ab­so­lutely got the tal­ent. We are go­ing to have high ex­pec­ta­tions of him next year,” she said. “Anyone that has met Lance knows and un­der­stands that he de­serves that pro­mo­tion into For­mula One. He’s ex­tremely in­tel­li­gent, a very quick learner.”

Stroll will be the youngest driver on the grid and F1’s youngest since Ver­stap­pen made his de­but last year at 17.

Stroll, the first Cana­dian in F1 since 1997 cham­pion Jac­ques Vil­leneuve, has been fi­nan­cially backed by his father since he was eight.

“With­out that (back­ing) I wouldn’t have been able to move from Canada to Europe and pur­sue my dream,” he said. “No mat­ter how much money you have, if you are not able to are largely be quicker than the rest you don’t get any­where.”

His father’s in­flu­ence helped his son get a taste for the sport.

“I watched F1 races with my dad early on Sun­day morn­ings in Canada when I was very young. Then I got hooked,” Stroll said. “When I look back at those days, it was fan­tas­tic shar­ing this pas­sion for mo­tor­sport with my dad. Michael Schu­macher was also a huge in­spi­ra­tion for me.”

Van­doorne, mean­while, won the GP2 se­ries last year, and is so highly rated that Mercedes head of mo­tor­sport Toto Wolff said in Au­gust that McLaren would be “crazy” not to take him.

Fill­ing in for Alonso in Bahrain, the Bel­gian driver made an im­me­di­ate im­pres­sion.

In qual­i­fy­ing, he was ac­tu­ally faster than But­ton — the 2009 F1 cham­pion — and fin­ished a cred­itable 10th in the race.

Ocon made his F1 de­but a month be­fore his 20th birth­day. He be­gan this year rac­ing for Mercedes in Ger­many’s DTM tour­ing car cham­pi­onship and was a re­serve driver for Re­nault un­til the Manor F1 team snapped him up.

He will have a quicker car when he joins Force In­dia next sea­son on a multi-year con­tract, re­plac­ing Ger­man Nico Hulken­berg, who will drive for Re­nault.

Ocon has strong cre­den­tials, win­ning the Euro­pean F3 se­ries in 2014. That year, Ver­stap­pen fin­ished third.

“As much as it’s sad to be los­ing a cou­ple of the For­mula One leg­end driv­ers, it’s go­ing to be re­ally ex­cit­ing next year,” Wil­liams said.

The first race of the sea­son is the Aus­tralian Grand Prix in Mel­bourne on April 26, where Ger­man driver Nico Ros­berg will de­fend his ti­tle after clinch­ing it at Sun­day’s Abu Dhabi GP.

Ger­man Grand Prix off 2017 F1 cal­en­dar of 20 races

The 2017 For­mula One cham­pi­onship will be run over 20 races, with­out the Ger­man Grand Prix, de­priv­ing new cham­pion Nico Ros­berg of his home race.

Mo­tor­sport’s gov­ern­ing body, the FIA, ap­proved the cal­en­dar at a meet­ing Wed­nes­day in Vi­enna. The drop­ping of the Ger­man race for fi­nan­cial rea­sons was ex­pected: Ger­man me­dia had re­ported that teams were told of the de­ci­sion in ad­vance so it does not dis­rupt their travel plan­ning for next sea­son.

The Hun­gar­ian Grand Prix, on July 30, will now be the last race be­fore F1’s sum­mer break. The sea­son will then resume with the Bel­gian Grand Prix on Aug. 27.

Ros­berg will be­gin the de­fense of his driver’s world ti­tle at the open­ing race in Mel­bourne, Aus­tralia, on March 26.

The last race will again be the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, on Nov. 26, after a swing through the Amer­i­cas in Austin, Texas, and Mex­ico City in Oc­to­ber, and Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Nov. 12.

The 2016 sea­son was run over 21 races, with the Ger­man Grand Prix won by Ros­berg’s Mercedes team­mate Lewis Hamil­ton at the end of July.

Com­plete cal­en­dar

March April 9, Shang­hai, China. April 16, Bahrain. April 30, Sochi, Rus­sia. May 14, Barcelona, Spain. May 28, Monte Carlo. June 11, Mon­treal, Canada. June 25, Baku, Azer­bai­jan. July 9, Spiel­berg, Aus­tria. July 16, Sil­ver­stone, Eng­land. July 30, Bu­dapest, Hun­gary. Aug. 27, Spa-Fran­cor­champs, Bel­gium. Sept. 3, Monza, Italy. Sept. 17, Sin­ga­pore. Oct. 1, Sepang, Malaysia. Oct. 8, Suzuka, Ja­pan. Oct. 22, Austin, United States. Oct. 29, Mex­ico City, Mex­ico. Nov. 12, Sao Paulo, Brazil. Nov. 26, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emi­rates. 26, Mel­bourne,

Aus­tralia.

Stof­fel Van­doorne

Lance Stroll

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