F1 2017: Mercedes' dominance, Bottas' potential and more big questions ahead of the new season

Updated: 

The new Formula One season is upon us and, as ever, it is a leap into the unknown, although the jump is even greater this season thanks to a raft of fresh regulations.

Nico Rosberg is not returning to defend his title, with Valtteri Bottas filling in at Mercedes to challenge Lewis Hamilton.

The dominance of Mercedes was challenged somewhat by Ferrari in pre-season testing as the Scuderia put in the hottest laps.

With all the above and much more causing a certain amount of head-scratching across the paddock, Jack Davies and Matthew Scott go head-to-head on the burning issues surrounding the 2017 season.

 

What impact will the new regulations have on F1?

JD: It'll be really interesting to see how teams adapt to the changes in the early part of the season, and whether that has a long-term impact on the standings over the course of the campaign. The changes I most welcome are those that put greater emphasis on the skill of the driver, with getting away cleanly set to be much more challenging due to a further reduction in driver aids.

MS: With F1 looking for an era of all-out pace, it seems like overtaking has become a forgotten priority and the amount of downforce on these new cars suggests that natural manoeuvres might be a thing of the past. One rule change I am looking forward to is a relaxing of social media restrictions. Liberty's new age of selling F1 for the spectacle it truly is cannot come soon enough.

 

Will this be the year Mercedes finally face a realistic challenge to their dominance?

JD: Hopefully! F1's detractors in recent years have pointed to Mercedes' supremacy as one of their biggest turn-offs. A three-way battle for the constructors' title would be a huge shot in the arm for the sport, and Red Bull and Ferrari have shown promising signs of being able to challenge the Silver Arrows.

MS: Ferrari have the pace and reliability seems to be in play for them with the Scuderia and Haas both enjoying fruitful testing of the 062 engine. However, I think the biggest challenge will come from Red Bull. The Renault power unit is souped-up and it will only get better with free rein on in-season development.

 

How will Valtteri Bottas cope with stepping into Nico Rosberg's shoes?

JD: Rosberg's departure sparked some wild speculation about who Mercedes could recruit to take his seat, but they have landed one of the most consistent drivers on the grid in Bottas. The Finn - admittedly yet to win a race in F1 - has, of course, been driving a Mercedes for the last three years with Williams and, if he can adapt to the workings of his new team quickly, he could be in with shot at the title. 

MS: This could depend how much pressure Bottas comes under on track. He had a few tangles with Kimi Raikkonen in 2015, which suggests his wheel-to-wheel skills are not quite there. If the Silver Arrows are dominant again, he should pick up a good number of wins, though.

 

Will this be Fernando Alonso's last season in F1?

JD: I wouldn't be altogether surprised if he didn't see out the season. Pre-season has offered no indication Alonso is going to be given a competitive car, and this is one of F1's greatest drivers we're talking about. Surely he has something better to do with his time than drag a dud of a McLaren around the world. Get that man a deck chair! 

MS: It would take a turnaround of epic proportions from Honda to give Alonso a car that will stimulate him for the whole season, especially given he could be spending much of the early races watching from the paddock. 

 

Who will win the drivers' and constructors' championships?

JD: It's difficult to look beyond Lewis Hamilton, although the regulation changes promise a more open championship and Bottas is an unknown quantity in a consistently competitive car. I'd love to see Max Verstappen at least running Hamilton close after his breakthrough year in 2016. Mercedes should hold on to their constructors' crown.

MS: Lewis Hamilton will win the drivers' title. He is the best on the grid and yet will feel he still has something to prove, plus the Mercedes remains the strongest car. I'm not so sure that the constructors' title will follow, though, and I think a Red Bull side with plenty of aero expertise as well as Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen will take enough points off Bottas in 2017.

 

Who will be this season's surprise package?

JD: I'm going to go for Toro Rosso. Their use of a year-old Ferrari engine held them back last season and they will hope to reap the benefits of a switch to Renault power. Daniil Kvyat will also be keen to prove himself once again. His effective demotion to make room for Verstappen at Red Bull had a negative effect on his performances in 2016. They're capable of improving on their seventh-place finish.

MS: Renault have finally closed the gap to Mercedes in the power stakes and the signing of Nico Hulkenberg shows they mean business. If Red Bull are expected to fight for race wins regularly, then Renault should be looking to muscle in on a few podiums here and there. I'd back them for fourth in the constructors' championship in 2017, a mighty step up from ninth last time.