Will Ferrari continue to close the gap in 2018? File picture: Ueslei Marcelino / Reuters.

Paris - Will overtaking become easier? Can Ferrari continue closing the gap to Mercedes? Will Robert Kubica return to the sport? And can Renault come good on its 2020 promise? AFP Sport looks ahead to the 2018 Formula One season.

Mercedes v Ferrari again?

Sebastian Vettel won five Grands Prix as Ferrari made a stunning return to form in 2017 in an eventually failed bid to end a nine-year title drought. 

German outfit Mercedes has had a cast-iron grip on the world title, winning the last four, but its chief Toto Wolff was full of praise for the Italian team. "From the get go, they had a very quick car," he said. But he also felt other teams could make equally dramatic returns to form next season. 

"Today, as it looks, it's Ferrari and Red Bull. But I'm curious to see where McLaren and Renault are going to come out, as the teams that have the resources."

Showtime - overtaking

Liberty Media, the new American owner of the sport, is desperate to win back the fans. Among the initiatives being planned is the obligatory installation of 360-degree cameras on all cars, but the real key will be making overtaking easier.

"Impossible to pass here, man," Lewis Hamilton told his winning teammate Valtteri Bottas and third-placed Sebastian Vettel at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. "I think they've got to change this track," he went on. "The more overtaking there is the more interesting it is for the spectators."

Technology

On paper at least the new Pirelli tyres could produce the fastest times ever. The reduction in engines used in a season from four to three will also sea a flurry of grid penalties, as will the limiting of fuel consumption. 

But the general look of the Formula One racing car will be rather similar to the current model except for the cockpit, where the introduction of the Halo cockpit protection concept has changed the look and divided fans. The halo has a curved windscreen which Vettel said made him feel dizzy but which is aimed at giving greater head protection.

Renault get the wallet out

The French outfit wants to compete for the title by 2020 and has been working in the shadows to recruit fresh talent - not only Carlos Sainz Jr joining Nico Hülkenberg but throughout its team - after a disappointing season.

In addition, the team is building what it calls a new super-engine which it will also provide to McLaren. 

Kubica back?

Talented Robert Kubica, now 32, looks set for an emotional return to F1 seven years after partially severing his right arm in a crash. 

Kubica tested for Williams following the season-ending Abu Dhabi GP, and the Pole took part in a two-day tyre test alongside Russian Sergey Sirotkin as the British-based team try to settle on its 2018 line-up.

Agence France-Presse