It’s that time of the F1 season where hopes and dreams still exist, with no serious on-track running in place to determine a pecking order or title favourite.
What better time to make some predictions ready for the year of racing ahead?
Each member of the Badger GP team had 18 questions to answer in the build-up to Melbourne, to be published and reviewed after the season finale in Abu Dhabi, where we can all laugh about how optimistic/pessimistic/foolish/clairvoyant we all were.
Adam Le Feuvre; Badger founder, coffee connoisseur: Vettel, it will be down to the wire though.
Craig Norman; content editor, optimistic pessimist: If it’s either Hamilton or Vettel then the sport has reached a historical point. My heart wants Vettel to get that first championship for Ferrari but I just can’t see Hamilton being beaten. Again.
Sarah Merritt; writer, bobblehat: I think it has to be Lewis again. He wants that number five! However, I am hoping to see more of a battle this year. Keep it going right until the end!
Ben Briscoe; Fantasy GP top pundit: Hamilton, again. I hope that I’m wrong (not because I’m not a fan – we just need a shake up), but I think the best we can hope for is that he achieves it by the skin of his teeth.
Charlie Eustice; writer, pun master general: Heart says someone unexpected, but head can’t look past Hamilton after his 2017 form.
Rob Cureton; Rumble Strips head honcho: Vettel, by a whisker, in the final race.
Dan Thompson; writer and contributor: Lewis Hamilton.
Emma Thomson; Top Dog picker and contributor: Lewis.
Nick Haldenby; writer and contributor: Lewis Hamilton.
Chris Fawcett; writer and contributor: It’s surely got to be Lewis Hamilton hasn’t it? I’d love to see honey badger taking the title but that’ll have to wait until the year after.
Fern Lock; writer and contributor: Lewis Hamilton will clinch the title, with Sebastian Vettel just losing out in a final race showdown in Abu Dhabi.
Matt Lyons; writer and contributor: Hamilton. I just can’t see it going any other way given Mercedes dominance in this current era to date. They weren’t even trying to top the timesheets in testing. They were that confident in their abilities, they were concentrating on race pace.
CN: Who’s betting on anyone other than Mercedes?
SM: Mercedes. Deffo.
BB: Mercedes, while I have a feeling Ferrari may have a good year, keeping Raikkonen will be their undoing.
CE: The Silver ones!
RC: Mercedes, ahead of Red Bull.
DT: Mercedes. It’s getting closer but nobody’s quite there yet.
ET: Mercedes. By a mile.
NH: Mercedes, but I hope it’s closer than in recent seasons
CF: Mercedes OR Red Bull, if the Renault engine is reliable I can see Danny Ric and Mad Max being consistent enough to just scrape this for them.
FL: Mercedes will continue to dominate the constructors’ championship.
Who will come out on top – Daniel Ricciardo or Max Verstappen?
ALF: Daniel Ricciardo overall, but Max will ‘seem’ more impressive
CN: Max Verstappen. His drives in the latter part of last season, especially Malaysia and Mexico, were of a more mature driver. He now knows what it takes to grab a race weekend by the scruff of the neck and win – Ricciardo is yet to do that.
SM: Ooh, that’s a tough one. I want nothing more than to see Dan go to Melbourne and put on a strong show for his home crowd, but Max is just so…..MAX! I think over the year, he will come out on top, but not by far.
BB: Verstappen, as Ricciardo will have head turned for 2019 at an early stage.
CE: Ricciardo, but they’re going to be very evenly-matched again!
RC: Ricciardo, who will give Hamilton and Vettel a run for their money in the championship.
DT: Max. He was on fire towards the end of last year. Think this will be Ricciardo’s last year at Red Bull.
ET: Max. By a whisker. Does he actually shave yet?
NH: I think it’ll be close. I reckon for the second season in a row, Verstappen will out-perform Ricciardo in qualifying, but Ricciardo will score more points over the season.
CF: Heads or tails, this is entirely in my heart of hearts; I’d like to see Daniel come out on top so he can fiddle a drive with the likes of Ferrari or Merc next year.
FL: Max is well overdue some good luck. It wouldn’t surprise me seeing him start the season off with a podium in Melbourne.
ML: Dan Ricciardo. Max is great, I really like him – I just think he needs a bit more experience.
Best full rookie season? (From Charles LeClerc, Brendon Hartley, Pierre Gasly or Sergey Sirotkin)
ALF: Charles Leclerc, without a doubt.
CN: I can’t see Williams or Sauber scoring that many points between them this year, so out of the two Toro Rosso drivers I’m going for Gasly.
SM: I’m torn between Charles and Brendon, and part of that has to be down to their steeds, it driving talent alone. Let’s go with LEC.
BB: Sergey Sirotkin, from a pure points perspective.
CE: Gotta go with ol’ Pierre Cumberbatch himself. ‘mon the Gasmobile.
RC: Gasly will trounce them all.
DT: LeClerc. He’ll come out all guns blazing. After all, there’s a Ferrari drive at stake.
ET: Points wise, Gasly. Potential wise, LeClerc.
NH: I think Pierre Gasly will score the most points from the four rookies, but Charles Leclerc will put in plenty of eye-catching performances in the Sauber.
CF: Hartley; a good solid driver with great pace, I really rate him, he will finish the season 8th or 9th FL: Pierre Gasly – Toro Rosso-Honda are going to surprise everyone with their reliability, and he’ll be scoring points in most races.
ML: My gut tells me Charles LeClerc.
Will Robert Kubica return to racing?
ALF: Yes, for one race but will be annoyingly disappointing and not finish due to a car issue.
CN: No, and even with the entire motorsport community screaming “PUT HIM IN THE CAR”, Williams won’t pull the trigger on it because money talks.
SM: I think so, the second half of the season maybe.
BB: No, sadly he’ll be restricted to practice sessions for 2018.
CE: YOU”RE GOD DAMN RIGHT HE WILL. Belgian Grand Prix.
RC: Sadly, no, although rumours of him taking over will start by the mid-season break
DT: Yes! Let’s keep the dream alive.
ET: No, sadly.
NH: Not in F1 in 2018, but maybe in the WEC. Williams will get to the end of the season and not have confirmed their driver line-up for 2019.
CF: No, as much as I feel he deserves to be a part of the grid, I think the money aspect means he’ll stay away on Sundays.
FL: No, he’ll appear in a few practice sessions, but I can’t see him returning to race.
ML: No. Unfortunately, the fairy tale is not to be.
Will Lewis Hamilton vs Sebastian Vettel be an entertaining rivalry?
ALF: Yes, most definitely – hard words being exchanged by Monaco.
CN: It’ll only be entertaining from the standpoint of what the media create around it. These guys aren’t at each other’s throats and that just won’t happen in the modern age.
SM: Depends what you mean by entertaining! I cringed at Baku last year. I think it will be, but actually believe we will have Red Bull in the mix too, so the rivalry at the top will be the entertainment.
BB: Yes, it will – they’ll be trading blows throughout, but I doubt believe the title will come down to the final race.
CE: Not really. Hamilton vs Ricciardo vs Verstappen on the other hand? Hooooo boy.
RC: VERY! Seb will use his cheeky side to get under Lewis’ skin all season until Lewis snaps and does something stupid on-track.
DT: When it comes up it will but this year will be more about Hamilton vs Verstappen…
ET: I bloody well hope so. Yes!
NH: Yes. I think there’ll be at least one more controversial on-track collision between the pair this year.
CF: Initially, but Ferrari will have another meltdown meaning Redbull become the closest challengers.
FL: Emotions will be running high, I’m expecting fighting on and off the track.
ML: I hope so.
Who will come out on top – Kimi Raikkonen or Valtteri Bottas?
ALF: Bottas, I want to say Kimi, but head says Bottas will be more consistent.
CN: Bottas will be in the better car and will be more motivated to keep that seat, so he’ll win at a canter.
SM: Bottas. I think Kimi has peaked. Don’t get me wrong, he’s still an excellent driver, but Valtteri is on the ascendancy and is raring to go this year.
BB: Bottas, based on his consistent nature. Raikkonen has all the talent, but it depends on his application.
CE: Valtteri Bottas because he’ll be allowed to race for victories. Kimi will say Mwoah a lot and retire at the end of the season.
RC: Bottas. I say this every year I know, but Kimi will be inconsistent, lose interest and then announce his retirement
DT: Bottas. But it won’t be enough to save his seat.
ET: Is this a serious question? Bottas.
NH: Bottas. Hopefully, Bottas can challenge Hamilton more consistently than in 2017.
CF: Valtteri Bottas, I honestly don’t think Kimi has the heart or desire for it anymore, he’s a clear number two behind Vettel which has taken his “oomph” away.
FL: Valtteri Bottas will win the battle of the Finns.
ML: Bottas. I don’t think Kimi is getting enough love from Ferrari or has the same desire to win.
Will a midfield team (Williams, Force India, Haas or Renault) win a Grand Prix?
ALF: No, but they’ll get some podiums – well, Force India and Renault will.
CN: Renault will tease it for the most part of the season, but it ultimately won’t happen.
SM: No. Podiums yes, wins unlikely.
BB: No, I just can’t see it – that’d be a hell of a race if they do.
CE: Considering there was only one podium for teams outside the top three last season – Stroll in Baku – I’d go with no. Hoping on some podia for Force whatever they’re called and Renault.
RC: Not a chance. Renault will come close though
DT: No but Renault will visit the podium at least once.
ET: No. But they will all get on the podium at least once.
NH: Nope. I think Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull will dominate the podium positions in 2018 – a similar story to 2017.
CF: Let’s get specific for a laugh, Renault will win a rain-soaked race in Suzuka, Hulkenberg taking the top step, but his podium drought will end well before this.
FL: No – podiums are possible, but not a win.
ML: No. Mercedes and Ferrari/Red Bull will dominate.
Will Renault finish in the top four constructors?
ALF: No, 5th.
CN: Yes, a lonely 4th place and McLaren and Haas take points off each other.
SM: Erm….I think they have a very good chance of getting the fourth spot, which is what I assume this means because I think we know who the top 3 constructors will be.
BB: It would be difficult, with only one place up for grabs, and some established teams that have their eyes set on it too. I’m going to guess that they’ll just, just do it!
CE: As an engine manufacturer re-badged as a watch? Certainly. As a works team? It’ll be tricky, but I think they can just about muscle past Force Something.
RC: Too close to call between them and Force India. I reckon they will JUST make the top four.
DT: Yes, they’ll finish 4th after some good battles with McLaren.
ET: Yes, 4th. NH: They’ll finish fourth. Hulkenberg and Sainz is a strong line-up, both proven points scorers, and the Renault team have more resources and a bigger budget than Force India, plus they looked to have a solid car in testing.
CF: Yes, they will finish fourth, comfortably.
FL: Yes, they’ll finish fourth, throw in a podium or two and they’ll have the perfect season.
ML: No. Renault is rebuilding over a 5 year period. They’re 2 years in. It’s just too soon for them to finish 4th yet.
Will Red Bull win a Grand Prix in the first half of the season?
ALF: Yes they will, but it will be more due to a lucky scenario.
CN: Yes, probably China – if it rains – and Monaco
SM: YES! They are more prepared than ever this year after a good pre-season test.
BB: Yes, probably in the wet.
CE: No, they’ll win four!
RC: They’ll win at least two races before the mid-season break
DT: Yes. This looks like the best starting package of the V6 era. They’ll be fighting for wins from race one.
ET: Yes, and Ricciardo will win first.
NH: Yes. They’ll win two, including Monaco.
CF: Yes, Monaco, Ricciardo will take pole and lead from start to finish in a bore-fest.
FL: Yes, perhaps even before the European races start.
ML: Yes. I think they will. If Mercedes don’t dominate completely!
Which team will pick up the wooden spoon?
CN: I can’t see how Williams is going to turn around this pace deficit with the car they have. It’ll be them at the back this year fighting with Sauber.
SM: I think Williams, based on testing, which is something I don’t want to see happen…
CE: Williams. I do not hold their driver line-up in high regard I’m afraid.
RC: Sauber, by a decent margin
DT: Sadly it’s got to be Sauber again.
ET: Sauber. Just.
NH: I think Sauber will score the least points, but will score more than they did in 2017 and will be closer to the rest of the field.
CF: Sauber, I just can’t see any other team taking it, unfortunately.
FL: Williams, it’s going to be a lot closer at the back and 2018 will provide some huge surprises, this being one of them.
ALF: Ferrari will complain about something and it will be a silly story that goes nowhere. Oh, and Vettel will moan about Hamilton at least once.
CN: The continuation of FIA personnel leaving their roles in the sport and heading to the team offering the most money, to the point where stewards meetings are Charlie Whiting, two mops and a washing line.
SM: Well, I guess the obvious one will be a Williams Sirotkin/Kubica swaperoo occurring at some point. Whilst I have been overjoyed the Fernando is getting to follow through on his desires to race in WEC as well as F1, I just have a gut feeling that there may be a reason why someone would have to jump in the Mac to cover for him on an F1 weekend (logically Lando Norris). I hope I’m wrong!
BB: Vettel crashing into someone, at some point, when he really shouldn’t and there isn’t really an excuse.
CE: Red Bull dump ‘Tag Heuer’ in favour of Honda at the end of the season, Aston Martin get pissed off, and Jos Verstappen’s DB11 gets repossessed.
RC: Someone HAS to be trying something funny with the halo haven’t they? It’ll be that. Some naughty mods on the halo from someone.
DT: Ferrari will go to war with Liberty over the future of the sport and lose.
ET: Max and Dan will have a full-on, toys out pram meltdown that makes Multi 21 look tame.
NH: The Red Bull engine saga. Renault will push them into making a decision before they’re ready to. I also think Renault’s driver agreement with Carlos Sainz may end up having some implication on Red Bull’s future engine deal.
CF: Alonso doing well in WEC and leaving Formula One at the end of the year, prematurely.
FL: Fernando doesn’t complete his F1 season and decides to focus on WEC as McLaren fails to improve.
ML: Blown rear wings.
Will Haas live up to their pre-season pace?
ALF: No. They’ll be battling with Sauber and lose (my heart is taking over here – I want Alfa Romeo to look good!).
CN: For the first five races or so it’ll look like they’ve made a breakthrough, then Renault and McLaren will close the gap significantly.
SM: Yes, I hope so. They are a thoroughly lovely bunch and they deserve a good year.
BB: In part… I imagine they’ll do their usual see-saw impression throughout the season. In fairness, there is a lot more optimism now than there was previous to testing.
CE: It depends what that means, but I can’t see them bothering the podium. But steady points finishes with a couple of top sixes should definitely be do-able.
RC: I think they will. They’re gonna get properly stuck into the midfield battle this year
DT: I actually think they will. They’ve got no reason to be doing glory runs.
ET: Hmmm. Probably not.
NH: I think they’ll be the fourth or fifth best team in Melbourne, but will slip down the order throughout the season, a bit like they did in 2016.
CF: I think they’ll be consistently making it through to Q3, maybe challenging for decent points at certain races.
ML: For the first half of the season.
Will Toro Rosso-Honda score points in Australia?
ALF: Yes they will, but only a couple.
CN: Gasly will just sneak into 10th on the penultimate lap.
SM: I tossed a coin and I’m going with no!
BB: No, I think they’ll start fairly slowly.
CE: Yes, with BOTH cars!
RC: Yes, Gasly will drive the wheels off it to take advantage of some early-season unreliability from other teams
DT: No, but it’ll be due to pace rather than reliability.
NH: Nope. One of the two cars will finish, but just outside of the points.
CF: No I think they will both retire through reliability, for McLaren’s sake. I hope they do well, I like the team and wish to see Honda remaining for some years yet.
FL: Yes, this is going to be their year to shine.
Who will score a podium first – Nico Hulkenberg or McLaren?
ALF: McLaren. But not until the second half of the season.
CN: McLaren, as Nico’s wait continues.
SM: McLaren! #BelieveInMcLaren (yeah, I know I’m biased!).
BB: Neither will manage it.
CE: How long have you got? I’m going to let heart go with this one and pick Hulkenberg.
RC: McLaren, in 2019
DT: McLaren. If you give Alonso a sniff then he’ll steal one.
ET: The Hulk.
NH: Unless there’s a crazy mixed up race like Azerbaijan last season, I don’t think either will score a podium this year.
CF: Hulkenberg, in Spain, McLaren will get a couple of podiums this year I’m sure.
FL: Nico – it will be a huge celebration of his 150th race.
ML: McLaren. Nico’s great but McLaren have got an enormous point to prove to themselves, and externally.
Where will Daniel Ricciardo sign for 2019?
CN: Red Bull. The package looks too good out the box for him to walk away.
SM: He will stay at Red Bull.
BB: Mercedes, to replace Bottas.
CE: He’ll head to Ferrari to replace Kimi and buddy up with old teammate Vettel. Ocon will move to Mercedes.
RC: Not Ferrari
DT: Mercedes. They’d be crazy not to.
NH: Mercedes. Solid results in the first half of the year will put him firmly in contention for the seat. The potential of a frontrunning car and a four-time champion team-mate will persuade Ricciardo to switch away from Red Bull.
CF: Ferrari most likely, Vettel will throw his toys out of his pram, I’d love to see him at Mercedes, but I guess it depends on Bottas’ performance this year.
FL: Red Bull – Everyone expects him to leave and go to Ferrari or Mercedes, but he’ll sign a one year contract to stay where he is.
ML: Red Bull.
Will we get a Grand Prix with under 10 cars finishing?
ALF: No, sadly not.
CN: Not in this era of reliability.
BB: No, modern reliability is a pure disappointment.
RC: Not a chance
DT: No. The reliability is there now.
ET: No, unless everyone boycotts Sochi.
CF: Yes, I reckon there will be a big accident (with everyone leaving unscathed) in the early part of the season, HALO will protect someone during it too, leading the to FIA patting themselves on the back.
The ‘Drive of the Season’ will come from which driver?
ALF: Max Verstappen, of course!
CN: I’m going to go a bit left field and say Carlos Sainz, simply because it’s his time to shine this season.
SM: I hope it is from Alonso or Vandoorne. I think it would give the team and the fans a boost that they deserve.
BB: Verstappen. He’s got the trademark, I’d imagine.
CE: Charles Leclerc powering his Sauber to an insane P6 during a torrential downpour somewhere.
RC: Sainz will pull off a fantastic underdog drive to almost win that race I mentioned earlier.
DT: Alonso, holding off a Merc on his way to victory.
ET: Max Verstappen. He will be most frequent Top Dog too (don’t worry – I am always scrupulously fair).
NH: Max Verstappen, starting from the back after an engine penalty to finish on the podium.
CF: Vettel, he will mess up qualifying and start at the back, he will then ride Voluptuous Vanessa/Glamorous Gertrude or Cougar Carol (his car, obviously) to second in the race.
FL: Max Verstappen.
ML: Max Verstappen.