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"Are you the future of Formula 1?" - "Absolutely!"

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"Are you the future of Formula 1?" - "Absolutely!"
Aug 24, 2017, 5:49 PM

F1, like all professional sports, is a generation game.

F1, like all professional sports, is a generation game.

A new generation comes in, replacing an older one that retires. In the 1960s and 70s the turnover was much faster as sadly many drivers were killed.

Nowadays, the cars and circuits are much safer and it is common for drivers to clock over 200 Grands Prix in their careers, a milestone Lewis Hamilton is celebrating this weekend.

Amazingly he is the 17th F1 driver to reach that mighty total.

Considering that his entire F1 career has lasted 10 years - the same as Ayrton Senna's - it shows both how many Grands Prix they pack into a season these days, compared to the past and also how long careers can be. It is Fernando Alonso 282nd, Kimi Raikkonen's 263rd and Felipe Massa's 261st. Hamilton is the fourth most experienced active driver.

At the other end of the spectrum we have the three fresh faces that greeted us in the first part of today's FIA press conference at Spa; Max Verstappen, 19; Esteban Ocon, 20 and Stoffel Vandoorne, 25.

The trio were asked at one point, "Are we looking at the future of F1?" To which Verstappen replied immediately, "Absolutely!"

Ocon added, "When all the other guys retire, we’ll be in the front."

They then went on to talk about how they believe that in a few years time they will be the ones fighting it out at the front, as Hamilton, Vettel, Bottas and Raikkonen are doing today.

Ocon and Verstappen are old adversaries, Ocon won the 2014 FIA F3 series in which Verstappen made his name and from which he leapt straight to F1 in 2015. Ocon did more junior category racing, winning the GP3 series in 2015 and then getting his break into F1 a year ago with Manor.

Today he is a Mercedes junior and his pathway to a Silver Arrows is clear, provided he keeps developing as he is today. Verstappen will most likely end up fighting against him in either a Red Bull or a Ferrari, while Vandoorne's colours are tied to McLaren-Honda's mast. How long it will be before they can fight at the front is anyone's guess at this point.

In contrast we had Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa in the second part of the press conference; Raikkonen, who has secured another year's contract from Ferrari, announced yesterday, said that he only continued racing because he still enjoys it and added, "As long as I can win races and fight for championships I continue."

Monaco and Budapest were both races he could have won, but in the latter he played the team game and let Vettel take maximum points, while in Monaco things just didn't work out for him to win from pole and he followed Vettel home.

Team harmony is the name of the game there; Raikkonen's announcement was made a week before Ferrari confirms Vettel's new agreement with the team in Monza. They weren't done at the same time, one imagines, so as to avoid media questions suggesting Raikkonen is there because it suits Vettel.

Team harmony was also the dominant factor at Mercedes in Hungary, with Hamilton honouring his promise to give the position back to Bottas if he could not overtake Raikkonen for second place. The three points he gave up that day could cost him later in the year, but he was paying it forward, looking to a time when he hopes Bottas will back him when things tighten up in the championship.

But as the Finn has outscored Hamilton and Vettel in the last six races and is the only one of the three to reach the podium for the last five consecutive Grands Prix, you could argue that he is the form man at the moment.

Meanwhile Massa, who announced his retirement almost exactly a year ago, said that he had enjoyed his 'bonus year' in F1 and had the appetite to go again if the opportunity were there.

Neither Massa nor Raikkonen, who will be 39 at the end of next season, is the future of F1, but they are big names, race winners and in Raikkonen's case a world champion.

That is something any of the young drivers on parade today would give their eye teeth to be able to say one day.

What do you think of the young drivers in F1 today? Which do you think will win the world championship? Leave your comments in the section below
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