2017 is almost over and it’s time for everybody in the paddock to go their separate ways. Lewis to the beach, Kimi to the bar and all the McLaren-Honda teamwear to the shallow grave that Zak Brown has already dug for it out the back of the McLaren Technology Centre.
In a year full of memorable moments, let’s take a look at five of the worst, and five of the best.
#5 Worst – Farewell to Manor
2017 Began on a sad note as a beloved underdog of the grid closed its doors for good.
For the purists among us, the Manor fairy-tale really ended when John Booth and Graeme Lowdon walked away at the end of 2015. But the spark was still there with the reborn squad and many hoped that the plucky backmarkers might just manage to cling on.
Throughout 2016 rumoured lifelines seemed to appear and fade away on a near weekly basis: Honda were going to buy the team, then Mercedes, then Ron Dennis but ultimately none of them did and on 27th of January Manor finally collapsed.
#5 Best – The Kimi Kid
If you ever want proof that a bad day can turn around then go back and rewatch the 2017 Spanish GP.
Caught up in a clumsy first corner scramble, Kimi Räikkönen found his race over before it had even begun and as the broken Ferrari limped back to the garage the cameras caught sight of a young Kimi fan in floods of tears.
Determined to salvage something positive from the day, Ferrari dispatched team personnel to bring the boy and his family to the team motorhome where he got to meet his hero in person and receive a signed hat.
They even took him to the podium celebrations at the end of the race. Top marks.
#4 Worst – T Wings
“Come see F1 2017!” They said. “The cars will look brilliant!” They said. “Also they’ll have weird coat hangers stuck on the back of them.”
You have to give the engineers credit for finding a loophole in the apparently airtight 2017 rulebook. But you can’t ignore the fact that no matter how much you try to make them sound like something from Star Wars, the T Wings looked awful.
They were also pretty dangerous given their tendency to detach themselves from the cars and make occasional bids for freedom.
Aero rules have been further tightened for 2018 so hopefully we’ll see these devices back in the wardrobe where they belong.
#4 Best – Jenson keeps Fernando’s seat warm
If this were a general motorsport list then Fernando Alonso nearly winning the Indy 500 on his first try would definitely be on here. But instead, let’s look at what happened back in F1 while ‘Nando was driving in ovals.
With the Monaco GP taking place the same weekend, McLaren called upon Jenson Button to take over driving duties and despite having never driven the 2017 cars, JB showed us that some of the old magic was still there.
Not only did he put in one of the best qualifying laps that McLaren saw all season but he also gave us the best radio message of the year:
#3 Worst – Who’s driving for Toro Rosso today?
Toro Rosso is famous for having something of a revolving door but in 2017 that door was spinning so fast that it could have been hooked up to a generator and used to power a city.
Put simply: Sainz was going to go to Renault so Gasly replaced Sainz, but then he didn’t so Gasly replaced Kvyat instead; then Sainz actually did go to Renault so Kvyat replaced him; but then Gasly went to do the final race of Japanese Super Formula – except he didn’t because it rained – so Hartley replaced Gasly; then Gasly came back and Torro Rosso thought he was quite good so he replaced Kvyat.
Got it? No? Good, neither did anybody else.
#3 Best – Brilliant Baku
When Azerbaijan joined the F1 calendar in 2016 we looked at the track – a combination of high speeds and tight corners – and predicted absolute madness. It failed to deliver that year but boy did it ever come good in 2017.
We had collisions, Vettel sideswiping Hamilton behind the safety car, Hamilton losing the race because of a wonky seat rest, Lance Stroll on the podium and Daniel Ricciardo pulling off the best overtake of the year.
Thank you, Baku, more of that please.
#2 Worst – Brazilian Crimewave
Interlagos is one of the best race tracks in the world. It is treasure of the F1 calendar and consistently produces some of the best races of every season.
The only problem with the home of the Brazilian GP is that in order to get to it you have to drive through one of the most dangerous parts of São Paulo. It’s always been a problem but this year things went from difficult to downright frightening.
Several teams suffered at the hands of local gangs across the weekend, culminating with Mercedes team personnel being robbed at gunpoint. In the end, the situation got so bad that Pirelli cancelled their planned tyre test and headed home early.
Brazil is a jewel in the F1 crown but the race organisers need to do better. If this happens again next year it won’t just be Pirelli turning their backs on Brazil, it’ll be the entire sport.
#2 Best – F1 comes to London
When Liberty Media took over Formula 1 this year they promised big things in terms of fan engagement but it wasn’t until July that we really got a taste of what that meant.
On the eve of the British GP, the F1 circus descended on central London and took over. Thousands of fans packed out Trafalgar square for a festival of live music, driver appearances and car demos.
It was the first time that F1 cars have taken to the streets of the capital since 2004 and it was brilliant. If this is what the modern fan engagement looks like then long may it continue.
#1 Worst – Engine Penalties
Penalties are always a thorny subject but in 2017 it reached new heights.
In an effort to force manufacturers into building reliable engines – and as a result keep costs down – the FIA set limits on the number of power unit elements that can be used in a single season. Go over that limit and you get a grid penalty. It sounds simple; it wasn’t.
Of F1’s four manufacturers, only Mercedes managed to avoid losing grid places due to engine parts. At the other end of the scale, Honda lost nearly 400.
The peak of this came at the Italian GP when Lewis Hamilton was the only driver on the entire grid to start the race from the position in which he had qualified.
Cost control is an important issue and one not easily solved but there simply has to be a better solution than this. With a three engine limit on the horizon for 2018 there is a good chance of engine penalties deciding the championship and that would, in Lewis Hamilton’s words “suck”.
#1 Best – Ferrari are back
With the 2017 season ending on a bit of a damp note it’s easy to forget just how close it was for most of the year. Yes, Ferrari didn’t so much throw the title away as strap it to a rocket and send it to found a Mars colony, but up until the final rounds they were right there.
There’s a lot to like about the 2014-16 seasons and as two horse races go, we’ve had some good ones, but nothing really compares to a proper battle between teams.
This year we got to see two of the best drivers in the world in two wildly different cars going at it on the track and producing some of their greatest drives in the process. We got action, drama and sublime wheel-to-wheel racing and ultimately, that’s what it’s all about.
If Ferrari can maintain their form and Renault can sort their engine out, there is every chance of a three or even four team battle in 2018 and if that doesn’t give you something to smile about over the holidays, I don’t know what will.
Got any more best and worst moments to share with us? Let us know on Twitter and Facebook and may Jenson Button never pee in your seat.