As Formula One moves toward a new dawn – a new era – one consisting of ever subtler aerodynamic tweaks, fuel efficiency and hybrid energy systems, edging closer to a ‘real-world’ relevance often thought missing, the sport may inadvertently begin to echo its glorious past…
An overhaul of Formula One’s technical regulations is on the horizon; as I write teams are dealing with stricter rules concerning aerodynamics – gone is the blown floor so convincingly demonstrated by Red Bull, for example. Gone too is the 2.4 litre V8 engine, now considered practically prehistoric and too rudimentary for today’s advanced world. Instead, it will be a 1.6 litre turbo-charged V6 that powers the 2014 World Championship. What’s more, for more eco-pleasing oomph the V6 will be supported by advanced energy harvesting hybrid systems – technology for greater ‘real-world’ relevance…if the real world can understand it.
For the fans the result of the changes should be spectacular – although, in the wake of a period of tedious dominance, refraining from premature celebration is advisable. The new engines – or as suppliers Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault rather pretentiously refer to them, power units – are expected to deliver roughly the same horsepower as the outgoing V8s, but with four times the torque!
With four-times the torque, slick tyres, 8 forward gears and less aero-efficiency the cars, according to the drivers, will be harder to control; time for Vettel, Alonso, Hamilton and co. to earn their salt.
There’s now an entire generation shocked whenever a Formula One car momentarily steps out of line, slides ever so slightly or drifts just an inch; such has been the balance between power and grip in recent years that no longer is it considered de rigueur to coax a four-wheeled drift out of one’s machinery – more’s the pity.
It would indeed be a sight to savour: today’s Formula One stars imitating the likes of Gilles Villeneuve, Ronnie Peterson or Ayrton Senna in a sideways assault on Monaco, Monza or Silverstone; a flex of the right foot and an armful of opposite lock to negotiate Suzuka, Spa or Interlagos.
Perhaps it is all merely the wish of a fan who over-romanticises the sport on occasion; the need for tyre preservation is still a consideration in modern Formula One after all, and a poetic, apex-clipping slide will shred a Pirelli quicker than you can say “Gilles Villeneuve”.
But speed still rules, so as F1 technologies advance and the sport does its best to move forward, it may very well do so sideways. Here’s hoping.