A Writer From The Grand Tour Explains 2017's Most Garbage F1 Teams

Photo credit: Dan Istitene/Getty Images

Who are those cars at the back of the Formula One grid, and what’s their deal? Sniff Petrol—the nom de plume of former Top Gear and current The Grand Tour script editor Richard Porter—has a new book out explaining everything you’d need to know about the upcoming 2017 season, mocked for your enjoyment.

While Porter’s book includes all of the teams, tracks and changes for the year, we’ve hand-picked the excerpts on the teams we identify with the most as a sample. That’s right: the backmarkers. If you like this guide, you can purchase the full book over here on Amazon. We’re especially fond of the descriptions of the F1 schedule‘s most oppressive regimes and the bad name-dropping F1 pundit.—Editors

Photo credit: Charles Coates/Getty Images


Full name: McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team
Car: MCL32
Engine: Honda
Drivers: Fernando Alonso, Stoffel Vandoorne

An object lesson in how much attention you can get just by painting something orange (see also: Donald Trump), the MCL32 is meant to mark a new start for the Woking team, based around the principle of thinking, “What would Ron Dennis do?” and then doing the exact opposite. Hence the colour change, the name change and the decision to launch the car from what appeared to be the set for a charity telethon.


All these measures have been brought about by new boss and anti-Ron, Zak Brown, whose determination to be the opposite of his predecessor extends to radical measures like speaking in short sentences made up of things that are actually real words. Also, apparently the factory is “a right shithole” these days as staff are being encouraged to leave the washing up, spill Vimto on all the desks and actively participate in events such as Walk Dog Turds Into Reception Friday.

Amidst all this change, Honda have asked if they fancy not being crap this season and have agreed to give it a go by redesigning in a way that almost certainly hasn’t worked.


Driver-wise, Fernando Alonso remains the same, although he has shaved off the beard that made him look like the Spanish poet who stole your girlfriend last summer, and if the car works he might also stop having to do that routine where he appears to be so pissed off he’s actually laughing about it.

In the other car, Jenson Button has been relieved of his duties, allowing him to spend more time with his collection of supermodels, and driving chores will be handled by something called Stoffel Vandoorne, which is a type of massive cartoon cat.

Photo credit: Charles Coates/Getty Images


Full name: Haas F1 Team
Car: VF-17
Engine: Ferrari
Drivers: Romain Grosjean, Kevin Magnussen

Back for that difficult second season, it’s America’s only F1 team. There was no U.S. GP, you must have dreamt it. (Oh look, Bobby’s getting out of the shower.)


Haas did surprisingly well for newbies last year, but it remains to be seen if they can repeat the trick of walking into the Ferrari parts store and asking for “two F1 cars, please,” never mind whether they can make them work again.

The new car isn’t the best looking thing, following a disappointing dildo ‘n’ fin pattern, but it’s backed by a strong team working out of the proud American state of Oxfordshire.


In the driving seat once again is Romain Grosjean who has defied expectation to become a surprisingly safe and skilled pair of hands now he’s been taken away from the bad influence of Pastor Maldonado.

The second Ferrari-branded seat with a Haas sticker over the bit that says “Ferrari” will be taken by mild breeze Kevin Magnussen who can be relied upon to avoid drawing attention to himself and in 30 years’ time may look back and forget that he was ever in F1 at all. On the plus side, he is good at welding which might come in handy if the American team decides to go back to its roots for the next chassis.



Full name: Renault Sport Formula One Team
Car: R.S.17
Engine: Renault
Drivers: Nico Hulkenburg, Jolyon Palmer

The team that used to be one of the Lotuses is back for its second season as Renault with a new strategy, which is to give its drivers overalls that inexplicably make them look like camp trawlermen. Also, they’ve had another crack at the engine and promise that it’ll be better this year, if only so they can optimise the packaging in order to shove it up Christian Horner’s arse.


Cyril Abiteboul is somehow in control or at least maintaining that illusion whilst simultaneously retaining his position as member of the paddock who most resembles that French skiing instructor your wife fancies even though she “doesn’t normally go for bald men.”

Meanwhile, Jolyon Palmer keeps his seat in the car and will be sure to turn in another world class performance in the specific areas of having a head that looks too old for the rest of him and saying the word “guys” on the radio in really needy way.


Kevin Magnussen moves out of the other car, leaving the way open for Nico Hulkenburg, a man so dependable he sometimes returns his neighbour’s lawnmower in better condition than when he borrowed it. Disappointingly, however, the driver often known by his obvious nickname of ‘The Nburg’ will not be attempting another combined F1/Le Mans driving offensive, perhaps due to as-yet-undisclosed plans to star in the entire seasons of both BTCC and CSI: Dusseldorf.

Photo credit: Dan Istitene/Getty Images


Full name: Sauber F1 Team
Car: C36
Engine: Ferrari
Drivers: Marcus Ericsson, Pascal Wehrlein

Sauber’s traditional position as the thinking fan’s midfield team has been undermined in recent seasons, largely by their inability to get into the midfield. Now denied the embarrassment damper of Manor behind them, the Swiss team has to try a new tack which is either to invite 10 new and useless extra teams to drive around behind them, or to get better.


They seem to have opted for the latter strategy, starting with binning that crap livery that made them look like a low-level GP2 team and replacing it with a smart, elegant paint scheme that is refreshingly untainted by sponsors. Team boss Monisha Kaltenborn will need to do something about that in order to make the most of their Ferrari power, assuming of course she hasn’t accidentally signed a contract stipulating that in fact their engines must be supplied by Giedo van der Garde.

Driver-wise, the team has a mixed bag on its hands with computer generated race child Pascal Wehrlein showing great promise before he was shunted by an elderly Brazilian man at the Race of Champions, while Marcus “Sony” Ericsson has been in the sport so long that everyone has pretty much realised he’s not very good, and is employed largely because he’s punctual and has nice hair.


Richard Porter is Sniff Petrol. You should buy his book.

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