THE year 2017 is upon us and it brings with it a plethora of changes to Formula 1 and the potential for an outstanding season. What we know so far about the 2017 season is that very little will be the same by the time we hit the semi-street circuit in Australia on March 26. The overwhelming rejig of the aerodynamic rules is the most blatant and significant revolution of the rules in the last twenty years. Its impact is yet to be measured on track for which the first opportunity will be at the first test session on 27 February at Spain’s Circuit de Catalunya. But before that we’ll be able to feast our eyes on at least some of the beasts – and they won’t just look menacing, they’ll be brutal to drive too. Renault, Force India, Mercedes, and Ferrari have marked off the last week of February for their respective launches. While the official start of the 2017 season is still roughly two months away it has been a particularly busy “off season”. As impressive a shock as Nico Rosberg’s early retirement was, it didn’t take too long to pin his replacement. Conventional thinkers would’ve given the seat to Mercedes young driver Pascal Wehrlein. However, as expected, Merc opted for the solidly experienced Valtteri Bottas. The fact that Bottas was seen leaving the Mercedes factory just before Christmas and the ink on Wehrlein’s Sauber deal for 2017 all but makes it official. There’s no speculation about the Williams seat either as it’s all but settled that Felipe Massa will delay his retirement by one year to fill it. Many would argue that Massa should step aside and allow a young driver the opportunity. But two untested youngsters is not what Williams wants in a fundamentally different season. Merc gets Bottas, but it’s likely that Williams may be walking away the happier team. They would’ve gotten a tidy sum for releasing Bottas from his contract and knowing what a shrewd businesswoman Claire Williams is, she likely would’ve negotiated a better deal on the power units too. But the cherry on top of Williams’s proverbial cake is snapping up Merc tech chief Paddy Lowe. His switch to Williams hasn’t been confirmed just yet, but he has left Mercedes and is currently on “gardening leave”. In other team personnel news, Merc is set to announce the appointment of former Ferrari technical director James Allison. Allison, formerly at Lotus and Renault, is second in reputation only to the brilliant Adrian Newey. To let someone of his calibre go, can only be explained in the otherworldly universe Ferrari seems to frequent all too often and is undoubtedly a decision they would deeply regret.Earlier this month news broke that the Manor F1 Team has been placed under administration. While this is undoubtedly disappointing news, it isn’t surprising given the extraordinary cost of competing in the sport. The team’s loss of tenth place in the constructor’s standings resulted in the loss of prize money, totalling R165 million. This was likely a contributing factor to its current predicament. Nevertheless, the team personnel are continuing work as management attempts to find a last minute buyer.