This was surely one of the early surprises for 2017, when the man who gave Mercedes a second title last year decided to switch to McLaren for 2017, Argenis Riera simply could not refuse the offer from the British team. Riera comes into the season with a Drivers Championship under his belt and seven wins from last year. Although he was relatively quiet during winter testing, he is surely the man to beat. Jacobo Cardozo will team-up alongside Riera, a move that shocked the team selection when he announced that he was going to split from long-time teammate Roberto Bianco and move to McLaren for a year long. Being one of the most experienced drivers on the grid, he can surely bring stability to the team and perhaps fight for the top. We know from recent seasons that Cardozo is one of the most consistent drivers and also a great strategist, but sometimes, luck is not always on his side. He is looking to improve from finishing in 8th place overall last season, but for that to happen, the Venezuelan needs to get his act together during Qualifying sessions and start the races near the front of the field.
Sean Higgins, the ex-Ferrari driver, decided to take his talents to the Constructors championship winning team, Mercedes. Higgins was mostly absent during pre-season testing, as well as his new teammate, Dave Carney. Perhaps this was a move from the German team to keep everything under wraps and show their true potential when it matters. Both Higgins and Carney have a huge task at hand, to bring a third crown to Mercedes.
The duo of Ezequiel Montero and Edmundo Martinez decided to part ways with Williams and join the French team for 2017. Montero is surely coming with one objective, to beat Argenis Riera and win his first Drivers Championship. We know bad luck played a key role last season to the Argentinian, he is looking forward to turning it around this time. A strong start of the season will be necessary if he is to challenge for the championship. Martinez will be playing a key role in keeping the competition behind and perhaps fight for the top alongside Montero. We'll see how this develops early on and how big of a challenge they really are.
The British team decided to sign two drivers from the Winter Series, Glyn Cooper, who finished fourth, and Deuce Michaels who finished right after him. Great talent was shown from both of them during the Winter Series. We can surely say that they are both consistent drivers and will be fighting for a good number of points race in and race out.
The Austrian team was able to retain the services of Leandro Schwaab for this year. In 2017, they decided to take it up a level by signing another Brazilian, Renato Romero. Romero comes from finishing 7th in the Winter Series. We have yet to see how this duo performs. Romero is looking forward to learning from his experienced teammate and have strong results throughout the season.
The Indian team was left out of drivers when Cardozo decided to join McLaren and Roberto Bianco to sit out the season. However, they moved quickly to secure the services of Samuel Campisciano and Brandon Gant, both coming from the Winter Series. Campisciano has endured two tough seasons and is really looking forward to finally having a decent one. Gant comes in as a new driver but with lots of experience from other categories. When this pair gets their act together, they can surely fight up front.
Keyter Bautista is making a return after finishing as runner-up in the Winter Series. He will be paired with Darren Fisher, another new face who showed great pace during the pre-season. Both of these drivers are blindingly quick, it's only a matter of time before we see either one on the top step of the podium.
At this point you have probably been asking yourself the question, where are Otto Acosta and Richard Haynie? Well, look no further. After McLaren shockingly decided to show the door to both of them and hire Riera and Cardozo, the long-lasting duo of Acosta and Haynie were forced to look elsewhere. The Italian team moved quickly and signed them for a season. We know from the previous season that this is one of the most consistent pairs in the grid. Perhaps they are the dark horse for 2017, can they finally bring glory to Ferrari? a team that has historically underperformed in SRHF1. We'll get to see that soon when the lights go off in Melbourne.
Red Bull's sister team decided to hire Richard Walcott and Mat Harto from Renault (previously Lotus). This pair showed incredible pace last season, but consistent results are what lacked from them. We know how quick they can be, but can they do this race in and race out? We definitely hope so. The duo of Walcott and Harto can surely fight for titles and finally dethrone Mercedes and Riera.
Manor, the long-struggling team who perhaps are in their final year at SRHF1. They've decided to hire the veteran Craig "The Huntsman" Hunter and John "The Captain" Cook for the 2017 season. Both of them showed great consistency throughout the Winter Series. They are looking forward to finding ways to improve their raw pace and perhaps challenge the mid-field teams for some points. Keep an eye on this team this year.
Finally, we reach the new team for the year. The Americans probably have one of the strongest pairings for 2017, with Sasha McHenry, winner of the Winter Series, and Cory Mackey, who came in very late in the Winter Series but was able to win the last round very comfortably. Both of them have a lot of raw talent, but can they handle the pressure? We'll see that in less than two weeks when we take our bags down under to Melbourne, Australia.
Here's the event poster for the SRHF1 2017 Australian Grand Prix: