Despite all of this, 2018 has some promising stories to look forward to. The biggest, for me anyway, is that McLaren might, just might find its way to the front half of the field again. I am still skeptical that McLaren’s woes are purely engine related, but moving to Renault, should give them a boost. Keep in mind McLaren’s slump started in 2012, well before they were running Honda engines. Having the same engine as the third best team in the sport removes any excuses: it’s a make or break season for McLaren, and really one they cannot afford to get wrong, lest they be relegated to the doldrums of F1 permanently. I am excited to see how McLaren performs, though nervous if they fail. Looking more broadly, with the rules fairly stable for 2018, and a full season of experience and refinement under their belts, the gaps between the top three teams will shrink. Hopefully, we will also see those outside the top three close in and sneak in podiums again. Fun fact: aside from Lance Stroll’s very unlikely 3rd in Baku, every single podium position in 2017 was held by a Red Bull, Ferrari, or Mercedes. I’m not sure when the last time the podiums were held that tightly by so few teams, but it’s been a while. Hell, even when Mercedes was wiping the floor with everyone in 2014, '15, and '16, at least Williams and Force India were sneaking onto the podium on merit. Anyway, I hope that we will see more than two title contenders in 2018 and more than two dominant teams as well.
But most of all, I want to talk about more between races than, “he said, she said.” Racing should have a healthy balance of on and off-track topics. Formula 1 this year has more often than not been all about the off-track drama. F1 is a motorsport, not a soap opera. It’s a shame we started this column up after Singapore, because it was a genuinely thrilling race. And, how much fun was Baku? That was by far the best race of the year and one of the better races of the decade. The number of passes on-track for the lead in 2017 can be counted on one hand. That is bad even for Formula 1. I sincerely hope 2018 brings more racing, more championships, and more wheel-to-wheel action. For all its faults, 2017 showed a lot of promise, and I am looking forward to the next season, warts and all.