The 2017 season has provided an opportunity for a new beginning. This new era of Formula 1 is set begin and the last three seasons are now long in the past. A big shake up of the rules always provides plenty of talking points, here are just 5 things that are bound to get the Formula 1 world talking over the next 20 races.
These cars have been designed to be fast. Perhaps the fastest they have ever been. For the last 20 years, the FIA has been writing rules with the aim of slowing the cars down. Grooved tyres, restricted driver aids and reduced aerodynamics were all intended to decrease speeds and improve safety. Before now, the only control the FIA exerted over the sport was to ensure that safety standards were as high as possible. This sudden shift in philosophy was surprising, especially considering how fresh we all still are from the tragedy of Jules Bianchi.
Yet here we are. The cars have hit the circuit for testing, and immediately set lap times faster than we have seen for a decade. The air of discontent surrounding the sport has hit the ceiling over the last couple of years. Polystyrene tyres that offered no grip, being dragged around by cars that were designed to be slower, were certainly not gaining any supporters, so these new rules were drawn up to re-create the terrifying speeds that we experienced in the late 80s and early 90s.
The speeds in testing were impressive enough. Although virtually all of the teams have since confirmed they were holding back performance. That fills me with huge anticipation of what we are going to see in Melbourne. Aside from the quality of the racing, these cars are going to be ridiculous. Throughout this season lap records are going to tumble. Let’s hope this fact supplements an exciting season.
A variety of race winners
Mercedes have won 85% of all races since the beginning of 2014. Of the 59 races, Mercedes have won 51, Red Bull have won 5, and Ferrari have won 3. No matter how you look at it, that is a horrific disparity considering this is supposed to be a competition. Even during the Ferrari era in the early 2000s, there were times when another team was able to at least put up a fight. This era of Mercedes dominance has been absolute.
This point is more hope than expectation. I would not be at all surprised if Mercedes come out at the end of Q3 and unleash their true performance to the dismay of the entire Formula 1 universe.
However, I am remaining positive that we could be set for a much more competitive season. We could have at least three teams with a car capable of taking the chequered flag. At this stage, Ferrari are officially the quickest team of 2017, having set the quickest time on each of the four available tyre compounds. They are a team seriously overdue a Championship challenge.
Given the circumstances, it would be irresponsible to overlook Red Bull. We all know how good Adrian Newey is. He will certainly have found any aerodynamic designs that yield an advantage. I am expecting their car to be in with a real chance.
Plenty of discussion about how hard the tyres are
It has already begun. I feel so sorry for Pirelli. They were asked to develop ‘soft’, fragile and temperamental tyres that would generate unpredictable and action packed races. When they delivered their product, they received three years of abuse and discontent from all directions. So now, they have been asked to introduce harder, more durable tyres that these new quicker cars can lean on for extreme grip. They have delivered again, but there has already been talk of the tyres being too hard and too durable. Seeing as last year we saw a majority of two-stop races, with the occasional three-stop, the only way Pirelli could go any harder would be to move to a one-stop. Surely that was the only possible outcome?
Thank god Ross Brawn is here to provide a brain for the rule makers to consult.
Plenty of discussion about whether the new regulations are a good thing
Unfortunately, Ross Brawn was not in the job two years ago. The use of his brain was not an option when the rule makers got together to try and make an intelligent decision. There is no denying the drivers have been bored out of their minds for the last three years, driving cars that would struggle to win a GP2 race. So the decision was taken to make the cars faster. The trouble is, the speed of the things was not the only problem.
The racing has been a point of negativity for a long, long time. I’m not sure the criticism has been entirely fair at times, but certainly for the last 3 years, the level of domination has been too much. It’s not just the domination of the Mercedes that has taken away from the competition though. The on-track competition has been a huge problem for the sport. The entertainment factor has been missed by the majority of fans in recent times, the racing has rarely captured the imagination.
So, the regulations were changed to invigorate the show. The cars have been made quicker and, by extension, more exciting to watch. But the question remains, are these cars going to be raceable? Because if they’re not, then there has been a huge mistake. I’m really hoping the fans are not being taken for a ride here. This entire process was supposedly kick started as a reaction to fan feedback, it would be seriously disappointing if the dream has been miss-sold.
A ridiculous amount of development
With new cars for this year, the early designs we saw in testing will not last very long. The cars are very much in their infancy, we can expect to see some radical developments arriving as early as Melbourne. As this season progresses, these teams are going to be looking for, and most likely finding, some pretty substantial performance gains.
However, this will come with a price. It’s likely that the teams with the largest budgets will begin to sift towards the front of the grid as development hits full flow. The likes of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull will be looking to press their advantage.
It will be interesting to see if any of the smaller teams can make a substantial jump up the grid. Gaining a performance advantage over rivals will be a real possibility this season. With the emphasis now placed on aerodynamic performance, one good design could provide a real advantage for a team. It’s definitely exciting to see how this year is going to unfold.
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