By Stephen Williams
Written in association with Missed Apex Podcast. Listen in the player below the article.
As the 2017 Formula One World Championship approaches it's time to take a look at the driver head to head battles for each team, and predict which team mate will come out on top.
Hamilton vs Bottas
Lewis Hamilton will be keen to avenge last year's championship disappointment and take back the title. However, he'll have a quick team mate in the form of new man Valtteri Bottas. Hamilton goes into the season as the bookies favourite and if the Mercedes team have been sand bagging as much as predicted through winter testing then expect the Brit to take a fourth world title. Bottas should do well, expect consistent points scoring and podiums and the occasional win, but does he have what it takes to beat Hamilton?
Top Mercedes Driver: Lewis Hamilton
Ricciardo vs Verstappen
Red Bull potentially host the strongest the driver line up currently in the sport with two exciting racers from their academy. Ricciardo was very strong last season and will look to add to his four Grand Prix victories. Verstappen had plenty of stand out performances in 2016 too, but needs to be more consistent to score points regularly in order to challenge for the title. The physicality of the cars this year and extra experience may suit the Australian.
Top Red Bull Driver: Daniel Ricciardo
Vettel vs Raikkonen
Ferrari were the quickest team on the timesheets in testing but it's still unknown how strong they will be in 2017. The new regulations allow for a better front end and improve traction which suits both driver's style. Raikkonen was closer to Vettel's pace in qualifying last season and could be a stronger competitor to the four time champion. Despite Vettel's bad luck in some races last season, he still managed to pull back the points deficit to his team mate so expect him to come into 2017 on a high.
Top Ferrari Driver: Sebastian Vettel
Perez vs Ocon
Force India have overachieved in most seasons they have competed in the sport but it looks unlikely they will be able to challenge further than fourth in the constructors in 2017, in fact it already looks like they have taken a step back. Perez scored two podiums last season but it appears that regular points are more likely now. New man Esteban Ocon joins the team from Manor and it will be interesting to see how much he can challenge the highly regarded Perez.
Top Force India Driver: Sergio Perez
Massa vs Stroll
Lance Stroll made plenty of headlines with his jump up to Williams, but the Canadian has an impressive racing pedigree. Although testing started off on a bad foot for Stroll with a number of spins, the second week of testing has shown signs of improvement already. He will need to continue to develop quickly in order to get the better of Massa by the end of the season who looks rejuvenated after ending his planned retirement.
Top Williams Driver: Felipe Massa
Alonso vs Vandoorne
McLaren's testing struggles look set to send the team from Woking to the back end of the grid. It will be a tough season for both drivers but Fernando Alonso has a proven record of outperforming his cars or grinding out an unexpected result. 2015 GP2 champion, Stoffel Vandoorne proved a suitable debutant for McLaren in 2016 scoring points in Bahrain. If Alonso's motivation is still there then expect him to rescue some points when they become available while Vandoorne develops confidence in the team.
Top McLaren Driver: Fernando Alonso
Sainz vs Kvyat
Despite being overlooked to be Kvyat's replacement at Red Bull last season, Carlos Sainz has continued to impress. Another strong season should put him in the shop window to attract a drive at a top team in 2018. Daniel Kvyat improved gradually after his demotion to Toro Rosso but needs to add some consistency to challenge Sainz regularly.
Top Toro Rosso Driver: Carlos Sainz
Grosjean vs Magnussen
Romain Grosjean was regarded as one of the top drivers but his career appears to have halted recently as he has been overlooked for a number of top drives. At the beginning of last season his career appeared rejuvenated scoring the only points for the new Haas team, but this season he should have some strong opposition from new team mate Kevin Magnussen. Both drivers should push each other but the Frenchman should be the more consistent and more complete driver with this being his second season with the team.
Top Haas Driver: Romain Grosjean
Hulkenberg vs Palmer
Previous years has shown that Palmer needs time to adapt to a car but he cant afford to fall too far behind the ever reliable Hulkenberg. Hulkenberg too may need time to adapt to his new surroundings as he moves to a factory team. The Renault looks to have made a jump in testing so both drivers will need to be quick and consistent to be the best of the midfield teams.
Top Renault Driver: Hulkenberg
Wehrlein vs Ericsson
Although being overlooked for the vacant Mercedes seat due to a lack of experience, Pascal Wehrlein's debut season in F1 was strong and he managed to score the teams only points in Austria. Despite bringing money to the Sauber team, Ericsson has not performed too well in the Sauber in recents years, and last year he did not manage to score any points for the team.
Top Sauber Driver: Pascal Wehrlein