It’s always darkest before the dawn, they all say, and while the Brazilian Grand Prix plays host to two the final outings of two [relatively] historical partnerships between Felipe Massa and Ferrari, and Mark Webber and Red Bull, there is much to look forward to come 2014.
Doom-mongers set aside, the attitude heading into next season is largely positive. New technology always spawns some issues, yes, but the task of facing new environmental challenges head-on with improved technology is something the sport will have to get used to, for the times demand that adaptability is placed above stubborn longevity of the norm. The status quo is no longer an option, and that makes me even more excited to see what is to come.
Whether the sport can sustain itself financially is another matter, for while facing new challenges is noble and admirable, there is no use trying if you have no means of even starting. Where will Caterham, Marussia and other cash-strapped teams be in five, ten, fifteen years’ time? Heck, where will Red Bull even be in that time frame? No one really knows. But we do know that 2014 will be a year of growth for the sport. It is testing its limits with the new regulations, but if 2014 is successful perhaps a path for economic sustainability can be forged. Time will tell.
Technologically, next season will be a wake-up call. New V6 turbo power units replace the rather antiquated naturally aspirated V8s, while energy recovery technology reach new heights and breadths. The scope of electricity is certainly being tested next year, and that is putting the fear of God into those wary of the auditory experience of Formula One.
Certainly, the sound of these new engines will be different. Change scares people, and even for a progressive sport like Formula One, the changes for next season will come as a shock. The sound of the new V6s will still impress, no doubt. The quality of the sound, however, may not for some people. Trying to make every Formula One fan happy is an impossible task. Just ask Pirelli how easy their job has been over the past three years and you’ll get a sense of the monumental task the sport faces in retaining some fans.
These regulations are polarizing in nature. They demand a completely new approach to watching racing from fans, for not only are the engines, energy recovery systems and tires playing a vastly greater role in the sport next season, the fuel itself will create a new racing environment. Fuel conservation will be stressed in 2014, and many are concerned it will dilute the quality of the racing on track.
But the worry, when you really think about it, needn’t overpower everything.
It was not so long ago that re-fuelling was a part of Formula One, and many will rejoice in the expanded role fuel levels will take on next season. If you think about it, the fixed amount of fuel allowed for each car in a race (100 kg) is not too dissimilar to racing with re-fuelling. The overwhelming similarity between the two is that they both require some amount of fuel saving. That was not such a huge concern just a few years ago, and just like tire conservation, some cars will be better at it than others. But the philosophy of driving to a delta, just like with the Pirelli tires of today, remains unchanged. It seems to me that F1 fans should be used to cars driving to a delta by now. It’s been a part of the sport since its inception. Some deltas allow for the driver to push their limits, others not. But the notion of driving within a car’s limit, for the simple fact of finishing the race, at least, is nothing new.
Formula One fans will have a lot to get used to next year, that much is for sure. But that is no cause for concern. It is much better to embrace the changes than moan about them, because the old ways are gone for good. They are not going to, and cannot, come back. So, this is a request to all who remain wary of the changes coming in 2014. Stay positive, because while the differences may seem overwhelming, there is much that will be familiar, and much to learn to enjoy.