FIA Formula 2 2017 – Spain (Barcelona) (Rounds 3-4)

Well, it was always going to be pretty good, but my word…that was quite some way to get things started, wasn’t it? Granted, it’s hard to argue with the fact this is one of the most coveted and prestigious prizes in motorsport, and, with an even bigger reward potentially on offer come the end of the season, I guess it wasn’t all that surprising, but there’s a saying that while no driver can win a championship in the first race, they can certainly lose it, and so even the most talented drivers eventually have to learn to race more with their head than their heart in order to achieve the best possible results. However, on the flipside, the very nature of a single-make formula like this almost forces drivers to take something of a risk in order to stand out, and, while you could argue that there’s a time and a place for taking chances, or even that they should have got it out of their system by now, it’s difficult to dispute just how impressive that was, and, if that kind of standard can be matched (or, in fact, exceeded) over the course of the year, well…we’re going to be in for one hell of a fight. The new blood is already threatening to take over in the new-look 2017 FIA Formula 2 Championship, and, even at such an early stage, judging by what we’ve seen so far…they’re going to be hard to stop.

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Formula One 2017 – Spanish Grand Prix (Round 5)

Well, it certainly wasn’t as easy as it could have been…but at least the monkey’s off his back now, isn’t it? I mean, regardless of the style of racing or the status of a specific championship, the world of motorsport is a fiercely competitive business, with drivers constantly being pressured to achieve the best possible results in an attempt to justify their position on the grid, but the longer it takes for that success to arrive, even the most talented peddlers can find it even more difficult than normal – particularly at such a high level as this – to establish themselves as a credible contender, and that’s why it sometimes pays for them to take a chance. Of course, you could make the point that any seat is better than no seat at all, and so it’s sometimes easier for them to stay where they are (which is a perfectly fair assessment), but any aspiring racing driver has to have aspirations of making it to the very top, and, with so few actually making it there, it’d be foolish to pass up an opportunity like this when they come along…and we’re already starting to see the benefits such a decision can have. There’s a saying that ‘two’s company, three’s a crowd’, and, when it comes to the 2017 Formula One World Championship…the identity of the third contender is rapidly becoming an awful lot clearer.

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TCR International Series 2017 – Bahrain (Rounds 3-4)

There’s obviously still a long way to go…but this is what can happen when things get left until the last minute, isn’t it? I mean, one of the greatest things about motorsport as a whole is the sheer variety of different styles of racing, and so it’s perfectly understandable for drivers to keep their options open as long as possible before deciding on their next career move, but at the same time, there’s always a chance that even the defending champion of a particular series can find it tricky to get onto the grid if the ideal package isn’t there…and that seems to be exactly what’s happened here. Of course, the fact this is still a relatively new series means it’s difficult to work out where they would go next, and so staying put (albeit with a new team or car) is sometimes the only option, but, while a good driver can make it work once, it’s quite another thing to pull it off twice on the trot, and, although past achievements at least have to be considered, in reality, they count for very little in this game, and for once, it looks like we might have something different on the cards. The level of competition is higher than ever in the 2017 TCR International Series…and, at this early stage, it’d be a brave man to predict who’ll come out on top.

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WTCC 2017 – Race of Italy (Rounds 3-4)

Sure, you wouldn’t exactly call this a new era just yet, but, when you look at it…this really does feel different, doesn’t it? I mean, when it gets to an international level such as this, one of the great things about motorsport is the fierce competition between fully-funded, manufacturer-backed teams, but sometimes, you get a situation that’s the complete opposite, with one particular outfit constantly holding the advantage, and so, as daft as it might sound, it’s sometimes best to let them go. Of course, there’s always a chance that some of the world’s top driving talent might be left with nowhere to go if this happens – and, really, that’s exactly what’s happened here – but, while that doesn’t say much about the general appeal of the series, it does at least give the rest of the field a chance to move out of their shadow and take up the mantle of being the ones to catch…and that surely can’t be a bad thing, can it? The 2017 FIA World Touring Car Championship might not look quite as strong on paper as it has in the recent past…but it already looks as though it could be the closest season for a while.

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Supercars 2017 – Phillip Island 500 (Rounds 5-6)

We knew it was going to be close…but that was taking it a bit too literally, really, wasn’t it? Of course, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that, as entertaining and exciting as it might be, motorsport at any level is dangerous, and, while things have moved on significantly in recent years to try and make it as safe as possible, there’s always an inherent risk that racing drivers (who, with the greatest of respect, are an entirely different breed) take whenever they go out on track, and sometimes…that risk can backfire in a pretty big way. I mean, thankfully, incidents like that don’t tend to happen too much these days (which is a real testament to just how much things have improved), and, while these are undoubtedly some of the most talented drivers around, it’d be harsh to say they should have been able to avoid something that was almost totally out of their control, and so the most important thing now is to try and make sure it doesn’t happen again. The battle for glory in the 2017 Virgin Australia Supercars Championship might still be in its early stages, but unfortunately…there’s only been one topic of conversation so far.

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Formula One 2017 – Russian Grand Prix (Round 4)

Well, it was already pretty clear, but now we know for certain…it’s going to be like this all the way, isn’t it? Granted, there’s still more than enough time for things to change – and, to be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if they did – but, when all’s said and done, this is meant to be the highest level of motorsport in the world, and it doesn’t do that image many favours when there’s only two cars from the same team fighting it out at the front, but, at last, things seem to be starting to change. I mean, when you consider the way the last few seasons have played out, it would have been easy to think this sort of competition was still some way off, but such a significant change in the rules was always likely to help bunch the field up and give a few different names an opportunity, and, as a fan…this is just the kind of thing we’ve been crying out for. After several years at the top, the pace-setters finally have a fight on their hands for the 2017 Formula One World Championship…and they’re certainly not going to have it their own way from here on in, either.

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BTCC 2017 – Donington Park (Rounds 4-6)

It was always going to take a lot to match what had gone before…but that wasn’t exactly a bad start, was it? I mean, as a whole, it generally doesn’t take much to see just how competitive motorsport can be, but, while pretty much any series is capable of producing the odd season of classic racing, being able to deliver to such a consistently high standard year in, year out takes some doing, and, without a shadow of a doubt…this championship is right up there with the very, very best. To be honest, it’s not hard to see why it’s been held in such high regard for so long – after all, while the names, faces and even the rules have changed significantly over the years, you’d have to look very, VERY hard to find anything that comes anywhere near when it comes to close, no-holds-barred, bumper-to-bumper racing – and, if the opening exchanges are anything to go by (which, of course, they almost certainly won’t be), it’s already shaping up to be yet another absolute cracker. The 2017 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship has begun in typically frantic fashion…and it’s only going to get better from here.

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WRC 2017 – France (Corsica) (Round 4)

OK, so it was a little while in coming, but when it did, well…they didn’t exactly make life easy for themselves, did they? I mean, when you think about it, there’s been numerous famous examples in motorsport over the years of strong connections between certain manufacturers and championships – some more iconic than others – and, while it’s not unusual for some teams to want to try their hand elsewhere every now and again, there’s almost an expectation that the more successful names would be able to pick up where they left off when it comes to bringing in the silverware, but, more often than not, it’s not as simple as that, and this is a classic case in point. Sure, they were never exactly likely to lose that winning habit overnight, but things have a habit of changing surprisingly quickly in this game, and, even with the dominant force of recent times now out of the picture, it was always going to take a little while for them to readjust, but, now that they’re off the mark, it’s hard not to think that this could lead to a major upturn in fortunes. Even at this early stage, the battle for the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship title is looking closer than it’s been for a very, VERY long time…and it’s going to be some time before it’s resolved.

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FIA Formula 2 2017 – Bahrain (Rounds 1-2)

OK, so it’s not quite ‘back to the future’, but…I think we’ve been here once before, haven’t we? When it comes to motorsport, the world of open-wheel single seaters is often seen as the most spectacular form of racing, but, while the majority are well aware of Formula One as being the top level and the ultimate ambition for any aspiring young driver, there’s never been much consistency in the junior categories as to the best way to get there, but, at long last…it looks like that might all be about to change. Yes, it’s not exactly a massive alteration – in fact, you’d find it difficult to pick out anything different apart from a new logo and a new name – but, in the long run, it could be a hugely important development, and, if the action on track remains even half as good, I don’t think there’ll be many people complaining. It might have a new identity, but, in almost every other way, the 2017 FIA Formula Two Championship is pretty much the same…and it’d be a brave man to try and predict how it’s going to turn out.

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Formula One 2017 – Bahrain Grand Prix (Round 3)

Well, we all knew it was coming, but, even by their standards…that was quite some response, wasn’t it? I mean, whichever way you look at it, securing any kind of silverware in the cut-and-thrust world of motorsport is hard enough at the best of times, but the challenge often seems to be even greater when it comes to retaining a particular title, and, while some teams have the ability to make it look incredibly easy at times, it’s equally as interesting to see how quickly they can respond when somebody suddenly emerges from the pack and presents themselves as a genuine challenger…and that’s almost exactly what we’ve got here. OK, so it didn’t come completely out of the blue – in fact, the signs were there for all to see even before a wheel was turned in anger, and it generally doesn’t take much to work out who’s going to be quick and who’s not in this game – but, once you get used to it, that winning habit is difficult to get out of, and really, it was always going to be a case of ‘when’, not ‘if’, the pace-setters would show just what they were capable of. The fight for the 2017 Formula One World Championship already has the makings of more than a two-horse race, and, even at this very early stage…it looks like it could go the full distance.

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