Ig­nore the crit­ics: F1 2014 is a clas­sic in the mak­ing

Anthony Rowl­in­son / 05.14

F1 Racing - - FRONT PAGE -

The rush to judge, the will­ing­ness to blame and the keen­ness to find fault that are sadly en­demic within and with­out For­mula 1 never cease to amaze.

“The cars are too quiet,” said Bernie Ec­cle­stone be­fore he’d even heard one. “They’re too slow,” griz­zled Fer­nando Alonso – com­ment­ing, pre­sum­ably, on his own Fer­rari F14 T rather than the Mercedes W05s of Lewis and Nico. “The fuel me­ters aren’t fit for pur­pose,” opined Chris­tian Horner – boss of the only team to have fallen foul of their me­ter­ing re­stric­tions. And on it goes – a lament al­most loud enough to drown out the buzz of pos­i­tive en­ergy that’s cur­rently cours­ing through the sport, rein­vig­o­rated, as it has been, by new reg­u­la­tions, fresh faces and a more rel­e­vant vi­sion of the fu­ture.

Al­most loud enough – but not quite, for F1 it­self has de­liv­ered the best pos­si­ble ri­poste to the naysay­ers. This year’s Bahrain GP was a breath­tak­ing race and a timely re­minder of why F1 re­mains a fan­tas­ti­cally com­pelling sport. It served up great en­ter­tain­ment with plenty of pure rac­ing and did so within the ‘con­straints’ of a rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent tech­ni­cal frame­work.

And we should pause to re­flect on the scale of the tech­no­log­i­cal achieve­ment the 2014 grid rep­re­sents. Eco-con­scious, ef­fi­ciency-driven F1 con­sti­tutes an era change, not merely a rules tweak, and it should be con­sid­ered in that light, not sniped at be­cause it doesn’t deliver pre­cisely the same fix as the aero-dom­i­nated, rev-ad­dicted frame­set that went be­fore. Same drug, a subtly al­tered high, you might say – yet nev­er­the­less a com­pre­hen­sively dif­fer­ent chal­lenge.

It’s one that has ex­posed pre­vi­ously hid­den vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties, while of­fer­ing up new he­roes. Who could have fore­seen, for ex­am­ple, that Re­nault, win­ner of four straight con­struc­tors’ ti­tles with Red Bull, would have started the year on any­thing less than full power? (See page 72 for an anal­y­sis of their trou­bles.) And who would have put money on the feisty Force In­dia crew sit­ting at P2 in the con­struc­tors’ ta­ble af­ter the first three GPs? Mean­while, a promis­ing clutch of young ty­ros are emerg­ing in the form of Kvyat, Mag­nussen and Ric­cia­rdo. We catch up with Dan in this is­sue (p48), hav­ing shad­owed him through­out his Aus­tralian GP weekend. Not much seems to knock the perma-grin off his face, al­though if he car­ries on in his cur­rent form, he could well dis­lodge the smile from team-mate Seb.

That po­ten­tially tense in­tra-team ri­valry is just one of many great sto­ry­lines thrown up al­ready by the re­jigged rule­book and off-sea­son reshuf­fle; there are doubt­less more to come (Hulk vs Pérez for Force In­dia supremacy, any­one? Or “Valt­teri is faster than you…”?).

What is un­savoury about 2014 is the di­et­ing forced on many driv­ers to en­sure they hit the 691kg min­i­mum to­tal weight limit. Adrian Su­til, whose fight­ing weight is 75kg, tells us he can’t af­ford the weight penalty of a full drinks bot­tle in his car. For­get the noise about en­gine noise – there’s a prob­lem that needs fix­ing.

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