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A crucial season is finally upon us…

This is a big year for Formula 1, most likely a defining one in terms of framing its future shape and direction of travel.

We’re used, after a season of Liberty’s being at the helm, to the sport being owned by an ambitious, marketing-savvy media giant; under their tenure, a far more open atmosphere has blossomed within the paddock, for which they deserve great credit.

Last season, though, Liberty got a little lucky as we were treated to a right old ding-dong between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel for most of the year. When the track action’s right, it does a lot to quiet dissent, and it bought Liberty some time to begin rolling out their plans for taking F1 to the people. They unshackled social media coverage and staged the London Live event – both big steps toward the goal of ‘massively engaged fans’. cFor this season (though not in the UK) they release an ambitious ‘OTT’ streaming service to revolutionise how fans watch F1 [see James Allen’s new column on p32].

All of this has been welcome and there’s much more to come. But, to burgle a once-ubiquitous US slogan: “where’s the beef?” Where’s the ‘killer riff’ that articulates what F1 should become?

The absence of an easily understood mission statement matters, because F1 faces pressures like never before. The rise of Formula E – though not yet a competitor – raises questions about powertrains, sustainability, and relevance. Meanwhile, ever-spiralling costs, amid talk of enforced budget control, remain troubling: elsewhere in the issue Force India, COO Otmar Szafnauer talks of 450 staff being “about right” for a mid-grid team, while we learn of Mercedes employing nearer 1,500. Huge numbers for what remains an essentially simple sport.

Some might even consider the higher figures ‘bloated’ – a word which, sadly, can be applied to the current generation of F1 car. Stunning to watch up close – and this year they will be the fastest ever – they’re also behemoths: capable of awe-inspiring performance by bludgeon, rather than artistry.

Our own Peter Windsor discusses this weighty topic in his column on page 26; it’s precisely the kind of thorny nettle that Liberty and the FIA must grasp, unflinchingly, to ensure F1’s future health.

We hear that the likes of Ross Brawn and Pat Symonds are framing the template for a 2021-generation F1 that should increase simplicity and improve spectacle – while also preserving all of those talented F1 workforces. Not easy – but when has anything in Formula 1 ever been easy.

Ahead of what promises to be a thrilling season, we await developments. Hungrily.

Anthony Rowlinson Creative content director

Anthony Rowlinson
Editorial Director

Inside the issue

This month's features include

Fernando Alonso
Fernando pulls no punches as he reflects on three dire years – but sees better things ahead

Nico Rosberg previews the new F1 season
The 2016 world champion gives his forthright views on former rivals

Behind the scenes at the Mercedes launch
We’re backstage with Lewis on the eve of the launch of the new W09

Daniel Ricciardo
It’s a make-or-break year for the Aussie hot shoe. How will he fare?

You ask the questions
Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen answers the questions you’ve sent us

A Force India curry
How do you tame F1’s spiciest rivalry? We dine with Force India boss Otmar Szafnauer to find out

Charles Leclerc
Sauber rookie gets behind the wheel of the new Ferrari Portofino

Nico Hülkenberg
During a trip he makes to London, we chat to the Renault driver about beating his team-mate Carlos Sainz


Brendon Hartley
He fell off the F1 log but achieved the near-impossible: he got back on

Haas penalty shoot-out
A look at the misdemeanours of both Haas drivers: Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen

Williams’ new boy
For the first time as a race driver, Russian Sergey Sirotkin pilots the Williams at the Barcelona test

Pirelli’s new range
A glance at the tyre compounds that will be available in 2018

2018 circuit guide
From Australia to Abu Dhabi, via Monaco, Silverstone and the rest

2018 in numbers
A statistical look at the facts and figures that make up the new year

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