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Formula One 2014: New Rules and Expert Views

Recently I published the official Private Fleet review of the Autosport International Show 2014 which I had the absolute privilege of attending. The show was something of a celebration and a sneak peak into the world of motorsport in 2014. Some of the highlights included details of the BTCC, WRC and the best of national motorsport. It may shock you to your very core to discover that Formula One did indeed play an instrumental role in the talking points of the weekend. As you may have expected, the sheer size of the event meant that there was no way I could fit all the juicy details into one article. It is no secret that I have never really been a dedicated fan of modern Formula One. In fact, I am of the firm belief that the sport is ruining the heritage and name of motorsport. The problem is, F1 is the most commercial of any global race event and for many people is the only motorsport that exists. So for me to be excited for the new season was always going to be rather difficult. However, when word reached my ear drums of a whole host of changes to the sport, it did get me thinking. Therefore, while I was at the Autosport Show, I was fascinated to hear what the experts thought of these new changes and the state of modern F1.

I was lucky enough to have some pretty big names in the world of Formula One at the event, all of whom threw themselves into the public firing line to answer our questions. Some of these people included David Croft, a broadcaster who has shared many years of experience in commentating on Formula One, Adrian Sutil, the ex-Force India driver who has just made the move to the Sauber team, Martin Brundle, driver come voice of F1 commentary and John Surtees, a timeless legend of motorsport. Here is a quick overview of the dramatic new changes that have been introduced to F1 for 2014:

  • The 2.4 litre V8 powered engine has been sent to the museum and been replace by a 1.6 litre turbo charged ‘power train’ that focuses on energy recovery.
  • Forget KERS, it is now ERS (Energy Recovery System), which gives 33 seconds of an extra 160BHP electrical energy per lap
  • Aerodynamic changes – front wing is now shorter, and lower, which will bring the whole front nose down. There will be different exhaust air flow and a smaller rear wing
  • A new Pirelli tyre
  • Double points for the last race
  • Fixed driver number to be used throughout their career between 2 and 99, with 1 being reserved for the current champion if they decide to use it

Before I divulge the information and opinions I heard from the professionals, let me just shoot my opinion out there. I understand that these rules have the potential to dramatically change the sport, but it makes me wonder why this is happening all at once. One level of analysis could be that it was becoming obvious that the championship was beginning to become boring, predictable and turning many people away. As I always said, why people got so excited over the miniscule number of overtakes in a race really was a worry when in all other forms of motorsports, overtaking is one of the foundations of a race and will happen more times than you can shake a stick at.

Whenever I voice my concerns and criticisms of F1, I am always met without fail with a barrage of abuse and a lackluster defense from people. Just because it is called Formula One does not make it automatically better than every other type of motorsport, but I think the glitz and glamour has gone to many peoples’ heads. Anyway, while I was at the Autosport Show and I was in the ‘Live Action Arena’ I was finally given the proof I was looking for. As the show began, David Croft attempted to wow the audience with mention of the new season of Formula One…

“So who enjoyed Formula One last year LET ME HEAR YOU!”

…the most awkward of awkward silences gripped the stadium…

“That is not much of a surprise really… but give us a cheer if you’re looking forward to the exciting new 2014 season!!!”

…in a room with 5000 people, you could probably have heard a flea farting…

It says a great deal that at a dedicated car show which attracts car lovers the world over falls silent at the mention of F1. It seems that the true lovers of motorsport have spoken (or in this case, stayed silent). The fact even a Sky broadcaster who is paid to love F1 even admitted that the 2013 season was dull. I do in a way admire the fan boys who refuse to see any fault with the sport when even those who are most involved with the sport admit there are issues. Clearly ignorance is bliss.

Having seen designs of some of the new cars, I have got to be honest in saying that I feel sorry for the drivers, i would not want to be racing in the most famous and glamorous form of motorsport in a car that appears to have a droopy gentleman sausage attached to the front of it. Furthermore, as much as I am glad that F1 is slowly becoming greener, it really does sadden me that the engines keep getting smaller and smaller. One of the reasons I am a car lover is the noise; the roar of a race car engine is meant to make the hairs on your neck stand up and rattle you down to your very core. And yet the more the years go on, the cars just sound like high powered bee hives.

With the new regulations, the nose of the car will be a lot lower... Looks erm... wonderful

With the new regulations, the nose of the car will be a lot lower… Looks erm… wonderful

In terms of the double points and fixed number decisions, Twitter really did sum it up for me…

“So as struggles with bankrupt teams and one-driver domination we get fixed numbers and double points. Because that’ll fix everything.” 

“Why stop at double points for last race. How about triple points for third and no points fourth but 100 for fifth and a kinder surprise egg?”

“No need to debate the FIA’s double points for final race idea. Daft. Far too much messing. F1 in danger of becoming a joke”

“Double points for the last round in F1… I can see sprinkler systems and short cuts coming in soon.

Honestly, the FIA really do have a habit of ruining every single series they take control of, whether it is F1, GTs, WTCC or the World Rally Championship. They take a great series and turn it into a one horse race with the most ridiculous rules that only seem to favour the teams that have the most money. And then there was that whole business where Ferrari would barely ever get penalised as the FIA seems to be on the Ferrari bank roll.

Next, drivers will have to start the race by performing the macarena, spinning around 5 times, then jumping in and driving off, having to complete one lap in reverse, and navigating jumps, land mines and Indiana Jones style boulders. Ridiculous does not even cover it.

The new rules do not seem to have gone down too well with many of the drivers and teams either. The main worry is that the sport is losing any sense of credibility and is merely clutching at straws to salvage the burning wreckage it has become. One of the most popular aspects of the new F1 2013 videogame for example is the chance to drive old classic F1 cars. The film ‘Rush’ showed the story of one of the greatest F1 rivalries in history. And the film Senna documented the life of the greatest F1 driver who ever lived. I am noticing a common factor here. I think F1 has finally realised that it has fallen off the edge of the Olympus that it used to be and is now trying literally anything and everything to try and make it good again.

Once again, my time at the Autosport show did nothing but emphasise these arguments I have made. When asked the question, ‘What was your favourite era of F1 and where is your favourite track?’, Martin Brundle, Adrian Sutil AND John Surtees were all picking eras such as the 60s, 70s or 80s, and tracks like the old Spa, the old Silverstone, Monaco, Jerez. When asked about the new tracks they seemed highly dismissive and would even joke about how some tracks like Singapore are rather laborious. Brundle and Surtees reminisced in fond detail about the close racing, the spectacle, the noise and the thrill of F1 ‘back in the day’. The racing would be close and drivers had barely any driver aids. Sounds a lot more fun really doesn’t it?

Those were the days...

Those were the days…

Although they did not say it outright, it seemed apparent that these legends of the sport did not seem too impressed by the state of modern F1. They all loved the old school tracks, and maybe it is not just the public who are massively against tracks designed by Hermann Tilke. Hearing some of the stories told by Surtees really did blow all these modern guys out the water.

When asked about the upcoming season, the stars of F1 had some interesting views on the direction of F1 2014:

Adrian Sutil

“People are quick to criticise the new rule changes in Formula One, but they may actually be a good thing. We will all have to completely change our driving style to suit these new cars. With the high levels of torque there is wheel spin when changing from 4th to 5th, which we have never had before. Not only that but the new aerodynamic changes means that oversteer will become common on most tracks, That is exciting isnt it? As a driver I am looking forward to it, especially since moving to a new team because it is a whole new challenge that we can build on from the start”

Martin Brundle

“This new double points system seems to be answering a question that no one was really asking. Not only that but it does devalue the other races. I think many of the teams will be heading to Melbourne at the start of the year with very basic cars with these new regulations. It will take a lot of time for teams to get on top of these new rules. I do hope that because of this the races will become a lot more exciting and a lot more unpredictable. Chances are that Red Bull will still be the team to beat, but it should be a lot less of a one horse race. Also, I have been told by Ross Brawn that what is going on at Mercedes is very exciting and that he left behind a team very excited for the new season. Lewis Hamilton fans will definitely be in for a good year this year.”

John Surtees

“Everything is just so much different now than what it used to be. With these new changes it may be that the sport begins to go back to how it was in the classic era. Formula One cars used to have no driver aids and it was all about driver skill, as I am sure Martin [Brundle] will agree. These new changes will make the racing closer and as they are so different, no one will know what is going to happen at the start of the year. It really is quite exciting, forgetting the specifics of some of these new regulations”

It really was fascinating to hear these legends speaking about the modern world of Formula One. They may not have said outright that modern F1 is not as good as it could be, listening to them reminisce so fondly about the past would lead one to believe that is what they were implying. Looking at their reactions to certain questions and how they were speaking gave the impressions of hope; it would seem that they are hopeful of the new season, hopeful that the new regulations will bring about positive changes. I guess the main problem with these new regulations is that on paper they seem utterly ridiculous, but I have hope that when put into practice they may indeed be successful.

Interestingly, Christian Horner has predicted that 2014 will begin with a very high drop out rate in races of up to 50%. He believes that with the new regulations, it may bring about many problems for teams and until they have got to grip with them all, audiences may see a lot of cars retiring over a weekend.

I really do hope I can be proved wrong with all this.

Finally, both Surtees and Brundle spoke heavily about the hierarchy and politics involved with motorsport. They both argued that one of the inescapable problems of motorsport and F1 in general is that it is often only open to the super rich, and because of the money needed to fund a season, there is no other way around it. Scholarships for drivers would be a good strategy for breaking down barriers in the future, but where would the money come from? The motorsport industry gives jobs, money and a way of life to so many people and both Surtees and Brundle hopes that one day successful drivers will not just be those who have the biggest pockets but those who have the talent to be at the top. The Red Bull funded race academy is just one example of how the sport is trying to break down the traditional elitist barriers. Good luck to them I say.

As I said at the beginning, it says a lot that there are so many critics of the sport in its state, and I am glad that something is being done to address it, however silly it currently seems. It has not been said outright, but these changes I believe are the FIA admitting that the sport does have faults and changes have to be made. At the end of the day, there will always be people who love F1 to the end of their days, and those who will always be critical. And as I bring this to a close, I just want to say that I am highly critical of F1, but on the other hand I would still love it to return to the success it used to have in its glory years. One day the politics and the technical will fall and the racing will once more take over as the spectacle and talking point of the sport.

The new regulations for the 2014 F1 season may appear to be filled with illogical stupidity, but maybe, just maybe it will be the revolution that we have all been praying for. Just remember, Charles Darwin was once told his concept of evolution was stupid, and now look where we are.

Let’s raise our glasses to the future!

Like me? Hate me? I would love to hear about it, find me on Twitter @lewisglynn69

Keep Driving People!

Peace and Love!

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