Formula 1 doesn’t radically shift from one old car to an entirely new one. Anyone who’s been watching F1 know that Ayrton Senna’s legendary McLaren cars can’t compete with today’s cars anymore, not because they weren’t as quick of powerful (they are possibly quicker and more powerful), but because technological changes made sure that car is obsolete. It’s good for a day’s run around Silverstone, but for those cars to compete? Refueling along will be an issue, and myriad of issues will only follow that one.
And the changes? The changes have been rough. Everyone respected Bernie Ecclestone for his hard approach to enforcing new rules, but it’s rare that his cronies’ decisions have been met positively. Just in the last few years before transferring ownership to Liberty Media, nobody spoke up for the rule changes. Since it was during a period when F1 was trying to penetrate new markets, it didn’t make sense to stick to rules that resulted to quieter engines and blown tires.
Now, for once, FIA finally made a decision that pleased their most of their teams: a new front wing that decreases turbulence left by the car, which leads to the comeback of natural overtaking. DRS reduced drag by activating an adjustable flap in the car’s wing, giving it better cornering, faster acceleration and higher top speed. The downside was DRS was only activated on select spots in the track, creating “artificial” overtaking zones. This didn’t let drivers have complete control on when to overtake, and not to mention that the DRS effect created turbulent air that further discouraged overtaking. And while teams have made strides decreasing the DRS effect, this new front wing decreases turbulence in the air altogether, which could possibly lead to more overtaking and exciting races.
The Pirelli Problem
F1 is in contract with Pirelli until 2019, and ever since the partnership began in 2011, it has been one problem after another. They’re not entirely to blame, as Bernie Ecclestone imposed on them to create tires with a short life that that created the blow-ups during the 2013 season. The tire company laid the blame on the teams, but so far in their life as F1’s tire supplier, there hasn’t been any scintillating victory for them. They’ve turned conservative after receiving everyone’s ire, and while gone are the days of multiple pit stops, the main reason why tires last longer now is because of tire management. It’s a sort of coping mechanism F1 teams developed because Pirelli tires have been so unreliable.
The regulations didn’t help, either. It’s become mandatory for drivers to use two sets of tires, effectively forcing them to make at least one pit stop per race. There’s also the rule change against refueling, which came back only on 2017, that forced drivers to pit more often. It removes variety from the races, as it’s guaranteed that each team will use the same strategy to comply with regulations. Gone were the days of four strategic stops made by Ferrari at Magny-Cours during the 2004 season, when the ingenuity of Ross Brown and a Michael Schumacher masterclass allowed the Italian team to outrun the much quicker Renault. Wouldn’t this creativity lead to more exciting, varied races?
Refueling: Putting All-Out Back on the Menu Again?
Fans have been calling for the reinstatement of refueling for years, but is it the right thing to bring back now? With a smaller fuel tank and high-degradation tires, and a mountain of regulations that rely on the drama of pit stops, it’s just not right. Multiple pit stops due to consuming too much fuel, more tire blowups and pushing these smaller engines to their limit, it seems that nothing from these possibilities will make for a good race.
At least, there’s naturally induced drama, right?
Aerodynamics: The Air Around Us
The black art of aerodynamics looms over every F1 team. The car with the best aerodynamic features usually wins the championship, and with the upcoming implementation of a new wing, the sport is rolling back the rules that made F1 dull to longtime fans.
Back in the 70s, when downforce was all the rage, teams experimented with putting wings in the cars. Mario Andretti drove the most famous wing car of them all, the Lotus 79, and won the 1978 F1 championship. Brawn’s double diffuser helped the team win the championship in 2009. McLaren’s brilliant F-duct system was so effective in reducing drag that helped them reached second place in the constructor’s championship. Both, however, were banned in 2011.
Not all aerodynamic ventures resulted in victories, however, as Ferrari discovered in 2011 and 2012. Optimistic tunnel tests didn’t equate to victories, as the team came third and second even with Fernando Alonso behind the wheel.
Will Engines Be Any Smaller?
Bernie Ecclestone’s decision to shrink the engine back in 2016 was a gut punch to the F1 world. Switching from V8 to V6 meant smaller power, sound and less excitement. And with hybrid technology looming over the automotive world, will F1 “move with the times” and start a new life with an electronic engine?
The hope is that the new owners will bring the engines back, at least to a V10, and let the cars roar again. One of the pleasures of seeing old F1 cars being taken out to the track is seeing the sparks again, quite literally. And the sound, the sound is invigorating! It brings old fans back to the days of Senna, Mansell, and Prost when the sound was so nearly deafening.
We probably won’t see 1,300-horsepower engines ever again, but let’s hope for FIA to only increase the horsepower allowed. The sport will never be safe, but it’s becoming too safe to entertain.
The absolute best of F1 is when man and machine is on the border of what’s possible. Danger always lurks on the fringes, but we remember the names of Jackie Stewart, Juan Manuel Fangio, and James Hunt because they brought us with them. Now, we hope that our current crop of drivers can accommodate our wishes, as lowly fans, to bring us to racing nirvana.