Melbourne, Australia hosts the Australian Grand Prix for the 22nd time and this will be the 20th time Albert Park hosts the opening round of the Formula One season. The 14th Chinese Grand Prix will be the second round of the season on April 9th with the first night race of the season taking place a week later in Bahrain on April 16th, Easter Sunday. After a week off Formula One heads to Sochi, Russia for Russian Grand Prix with the first western European race being the Spanish Grand Prix on May 14th.
The Monaco Grand Prix once again falls on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, May 28th. From Monaco, the teams head to Montreal for the Canadian Grand Prix on June 11th. This year, Baku hosts the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on June 25th after hosting the European Grand Prix last year. For the fourth consecutive season Formula One heads the Red Bull Ring on July 9th with the halfway point of the season coming the following week with Silverstone hosting the British Grand Prix on July 16th.
Hungary marks the first race of the second half of the season on July 30th, the final race before the summer break. The teams return to action on August 27th with the Belgian Grand Prix from Spa-Francorchamps. One week later will be the final European round of the season, the Italian Grand Prix from Monza. Two weeks later the teams head to the second night race of the season, the Singapore Grand Prix. The Malaysian Grand Prix round out the third quarter of the Formula One season on October 1st.
On October 9th, Suzuka hosts the Japanese Grand Prix, the final Pacific round of the season. October 22nd and October 29th will be the United States and Mexico back-to-back with the Circuit of the Americas leading off before Autodromo Hermanos Rodríguez. November 12th marks the Brazilian Grand Prix from Interlagos with the season finale taking place on November 26th at the Yas Marina Circuit for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport
Lewis Hamilton: #44 Mercedes F1 W08 EQ Power+
What did he do in 2016: Hamilton finished second in the World Drivers' Championship, losing the title by five points to former teammate Nico Rosberg despite winning ten of 21 races.
What to expect in 2017: There is no reason not to expect Hamilton to be the championship favorite and be at the front of most of the races. He should lead his new teammate during most of the season and Hamilton will likely win the most races in 2017.
Valtteri Bottas: #77 Mercedes F1 W08 EQ Power+
What did he do in 2016: Bottas finished eighth in the World Drivers' Championship with his best finish being third at Montreal.
What to expect in 2017: I expect Bottas to be competitive but under the thumb of Lewis Hamilton. He is going to try and buck his senior teammate but fall short. He will get at least three victories and finish somewhere in the top five of the championship.
Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer
Daniel Ricciardo: #3 Red Bull RB13
What did he do in 2016: Ricciardo finished third in the World Drivers' Championship and won the Malaysian Grand Prix.
What to expect in 2017: The expectation is the Red Bull will provide a greater challenge to the Mercedes this season although the pace wasn't there for Red Bull during testing. Ricciardo is going to contend for a few races and should end up on the top step of the podium at least one if not twice. Ricciardo should finish in the top five of championship.
Max Verstappen: #33 Red Bull RB 13
What did he do in 2016: Verstappen finished fifth in the World Drivers' Championship and won the Spanish Grand Prix in his debut with Red Bull Racing.
What to expect in 2017: Verstappen ended 2016 as a star in the making and a pest to some at the same time. He should give his teammate Ricciardo a run for his money as the best at Red Bull and he should win multiple times in 2017.
Sebastian Vettel: #5 Ferrari SF70H
What did he do in 2016: Vettel finished fourth in the World Drivers' Championship with three runner-up finishes.
What to expect in 2017: The Ferrari was the fastest during preseason testing and should that speed carry over during the season, Vettel should be on the top step of the podium at least once and be somewhere in the top five of the championship, if not in the championship fight.
Kimi Räikkönen: #7 Ferrari SF70H
What did he do in 2016: Räikkönen finished sixth in the World Drivers' Championship with two runner-up finishes.
What to expect in 2017: Räikkönen was responsible for the fastest time during testing but the Finn is the oldest driver on the grid and defeating his teammate will be hard enough let alone defeating two Mercedes and two Red Bulls. He should be on the podium a few times and could get a victory.
Sahara Force India-Mercedes
Sergio Pérez: #11 Force India VJM10
What did he do in 2016: He finished seventh in the World Drivers' Championship with two third-place finishes.
What to expect in 2017: I think Force India as a whole takes a step back in 2017. Pérez will still be best within the team and have a handful of promising races but he will be on the edge of the top ten in the championship.
Esteban Ocon: #31 Force India VJM10
What did he do in 2016: Ocon ran the final nine races of the Formula One season with Manor with his best finish being 12th in the wet at Interlagos.
What to expect in 2017: He will score some points in 2017 but finish behind his teammate in the championship and his best finish will be no better than fifth.
Williams Martini Racing Mercedes
Lance Stroll: #18 Williams FW40
What did he do in 2016: Stroll won the FIA European Formula Three championship and won 14 of 30 races.
What to expect in 2017: Stroll spun multiple times in testing and has been chastised for his inexperience. I think he will start the season slow to get miles under his belt but he will have at least three or four magnificent races where he is the darling of the day. He will also have at least two or three bonehead moves.
Felipe Massa: #19 Williams FW40
What did he do in 2016: Massa finished 11th in the World Drivers' Championship with his best finish being fifth.
What to expect in 2017: Massa retired but with Bottas moving to Mercedes the team brought Massa back and the Brazilian was fifth during testing. I think Williams could repeat its 2014 success and get a handful of podiums with Massa just outside the top five of the championship.
McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team
Stoffel Vandoorne: #2 McLaren MCL32
What did he do in 2016: Vandoorne finished fourth in the Super Formula Championship with two victories and finished tenth in his Formula One debut at Bahrain.
What to expect in 2017: McLaren is a disaster and Vandoorne is a promising driver. Perhaps his talent can get him a few points and perhaps the car improves as the season goes on but at best McLaren will finish seventh on track.
Fernando Alonso: #14 McLaren MCL32
What did he do in 2016: Alonso finished tenth in the World Drivers' Championship with his best finish being fifth
What to expect in 2017: This will be Alonso's final season in Formula One. He is gone. He is taking the money and running. I don't know if it is to sports cars or maybe he does the Indianapolis 500 but even then I think he would say no if offered by Honda. He will get a few points and then be out the door. However, I bet he is able to find some humor through all the turmoil.
Scuderia Toro Rosso
Daniil Kvyat: #26 Toro Rosso STR12
What did he do in 2016: Kvyat finished 14th in the World Drivers' Championship with his best finish being third but his best finish with Toro Rosso was ninth.
What to expect in 2017: Toro Rosso could be the Force India of 2017 but Kvyat was over a half-second slower than his teammate in testing. I think Kvyat will better his best finish with Toro Rosso in 2016 but finish outside the top ten in the championship.
Carlos Sainz, Jr.: #55 Toro Rosso STR12
What did he do in 2016: Sainz, Jr. finished 12th in the World Drivers' Championship with his best finish being sixth.
What to expect in 2017: Sainz, Jr. will finish in the top half of the championship and ahead of his teammate and Sainz, Jr. could be on the cusp of a podium finish in a race or two.
Haas F1 Team Ferrari
Romain Grosjean: #8 Haas VF-17
What did he do in 2016: Grosjean finished 13th in the World Drivers' Championship with his best finish being fifth.
What to expect in 2017: Haas was respectable during testing but the brake problems have continued into 2017. Grosjean did a great job in year one with the team but the car isn't all there for him. He will get a handful of points finishes but won't better his championship position.
Kevin Magnussen: #20 Haas VF-17
What did he do in 2016: Magnussen finished 16th in the World Drivers' Championship with his best finish being seventh.
What to expect in 2017: The Dane is with his third Formula One team since his debut in 2014. He will score more than seven points, his 2016 total but he won't improve on his best finish from 2016.
Renault Sport Formula One Team
Nico Hülkenberg: #27 Renault R.S. 17
What did he do in 2016: Hülkenberg finished ninth in the World Drivers' Championship with his best finish being fourth.
What to expect in 2017: Pressure is on the German as he has yet to finish on the podium after six seasons in Formula One. Renault scored eight points in 2016 in a car that wasn't design for a Renault engine. Hülkenberg was eighth in testing and I think he can sneak on the podium once and finish in the top ten of the championship.
Jolyon Palmer: #30 Renault R.S. 17
What did he do in 2016: Palmer finished 18th in the World Drivers' Championship with his only point coming at Malaysia.
What to expect in 2017: The Renault is better in year two of Palmer's career but he will finish behind his teammate despite the Briton increasing his scoring. Palmer will be outside of the top ten in the championship.
Sauber F1 Team Ferrari
Marcus Ericsson: #9 Sauber C36
What did he do in 2016: Ericsson failed to score any points in 2016 with his best finish being 11th at Mexico.
What to expect in 2017: Sauber is using the year-old Ferrari power unit. The car is going to continue to be at the back of the pack but it should be reliable. Ericsson might get a point in 2017 but it will have to come in a race of high attrition.
Pascal Wehrlein: #94 Sauber C36
What did he do in 2016: Wehrlein finished 19th in the World Drivers' Championship with his only point coming at Austria.
What to expect in 2017: The 2015 DTM champion was able to squeeze a point out of a back marker in 2016 at Manor. It is going to be a stretch for the German to score points again in 2017.
Friday practice at Melbourne starts at 9:00 p.m. ET on Thursday March 23rd with second free practice scheduled for midnight Friday March 24th. Free practice three will be at 11:00 p.m. Friday night with qualifying at 2:00 a.m. ET on Saturday March 25th. The Australian Grand Prix will take place at 1:00 a.m. ET on Sunday March 26th.