File picture: Albert Gea / Reuters.

London - Some of Formula One’s biggest regulation changes this century mean that the cars will look very different when they line up on the grid in Australia this weekend. 

This year’s wider, more aggressive looking machines have been designed to secure quicker lap times and also increase the physical challenge for the drivers. Here's a recap of how 2017's cars will differ from last year's:

Width

Total width of the cars has been increased to two metres, making them the widest cars since 1997. It means they will be slower on the straights, which should make overtaking a bit tougher.

Tyres

The rubber will be 60mm wider at the front and 80mm broader at the rear. They will also produce more grip which increases speed in the corners. We’ll see more people off the road this year. It will test those neck muscles they’ve all been training over the winter for sure.

Downforce

Bigger bargeboards on the side of the cars and a wider, higher diffuser under the rear wing will help generate more downforce. These improve air flow around and under the cars, pushing them into the track for quicker lap times.

Rear wing

It’s 150mm wider, 150mm lower and sits 200mm further back, ‘overhanging’ the rear of the car. This is all about more downforce - but could make it a bit harder for cars following to produce that.

Fuel

The cars’ overall minimum weight limit has been raised by 25kg, a fifth of which is fuel allowance, up to 105kg. Quicker lap times mean higher fuel consumption. There could be fewer pit-stops, probably one at most races.

HOW ARE THE TEAMS SHAPING UP?

David Coulthard talks us through the prospects faced by the four teams on everyone's lips

Mercedes

Testing was decent but not perfect. Mercedes have always found a little bit more than the rest during the season and they might have a wee bit more again but it’s going to be close. If they’re going to win a fourth straight constructors’ title they will need Valtteri Bottas to keep cranking out the results and picking up wins when Lewis is not there like Rosberg did. Hamilton has to go in as favourite.

Ferrari

They looked good in testing and I don’t think it was showboating as they don’t need the sponsorship. It would be great for the sport if they’re challenging for wins. If they do have a better car than they’ve had in the last few years then Sebastian Vettel will be Hamilton’s biggest challenger. Kimi Raikkonen is more than capable of winning races but I don’t see him beating Vettel over the course of a season.

Red Bull

They probably have the best driver pairing on the grid in Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen. Max is ready to win the championship and if they give him the car he could do. Certainly mileage-wise they would like to have done more in testing, no question about that. But when I was there we never showed what the car could do before the season started, so they’ll be close.

McLaren

They’re in a spiralling, downward effect. Honda still don’t have a handle on the engine problems and nobody’s interested in their excuses. If you enter a boxing ring you can’t say you didn’t have enough time to train at the weight. No one forced you to go in there. Until Honda deliver proper power they’re not going to get results and they’re not on the right track. It’s going to take at least another year.

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