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Change: the formula for success

The number one racing category in the world has been constantly changing and adapting to new realities.
Saturday, April 19, 2014

April 19th, 2014 (F1plus/Katie Grimmett).- When it comes to change, some Formula 1 fans can be rather stubborn. Last year, social media was abuzz with fears that F1 in its current form would soon suffer a rapid demise but those sceptical of the recent rule change will be relieved to know that 2014 is proving to be one of the most enthralling seasons of the decade.

But should we be surprised? Indeed, change is not a new occurrence and an adaption of the rules is a regular fixture throughout F1 history. Without significant development, surely F1 would, technologically speaking, remain stuck in the twentieth-century?

Certainly, the tougher approach towards safety is difficult to ignore.  If anything, the improvements implemented by the late Sid Watkins prove that the FIA does listen to its audience and drivers. Just ask Esteban Gutierrez who walked away from a highly-dangerous crash unscathed and ready to race in China. Or Jackie Stewart, who fought for justice following the untimely death of his teammate, Francois Cevert in 1973.

The lack of fatalities in the last twenty years is testament to the hard work and innovative improvements made by those in charge and the people before them, who campaigned for such heroic progress.

Alright, I admit, not all rule changes are so popular and void of controversy, but that does not necessarily mean they were a bad idea in the first place. In 2005, the FIA adapted the regulations significantly which was met with anguish from some fans. However, it does pose the question: how can we stop one team from dominating unless the specification is changed? That year, the FIA hoped to answer this question and to bring to an end the dominance Ferrari and Michael Schumacher had imposed on the rest of the field.

Cue the introduction of new 2.4 V8 engines, which must complete at least two consecutive races, and a significant reduction in down force – in some cases, more than 20%. The loss of the V8 engines felt, to some, like the end of F1’s famous and addictive soundtrack but the sport adapted, as it always does, and the strength of the V8’s roar soon became deafening. With regard to the desire for increased engine life, some critics noted that the driver would suffer at the hands of their team if this rule was to be breeched.

However, in an elitist sport, an element of ‘capping’ is required in some form or another; after all, the best way to judge a driver or car is to compare them to a rival on equal terms. Fernando Alonso and Renault were certainly not complaining when championship glory fell their way in 2005-2006 – it seems attitudes to some rule changes can be relative.

In 2009, innovation and alterations were to return, helping to crown Jenson Button as the surprise victor for Brawn GP. The Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) and the Drag Reduction System (DRS) were largely rejected upon their arrival but are rarely discussed in conversation anymore.

 

Jenson Button celebrating his championship in Brazil in 2009 (LAT Photo)

Now an accepted part of the sport, races like the Bahrain GP this year prove that overtaking manoeuvres are popular, enthralling and maybe, just maybe, something should be done to make them an ever-increasing fixture on the race calendar. I will let you decide that one for yourselves.

Rule changes bring great pressure on the hard-working staff behind the scenes as they attempt to push their title challenger to a new, innovate level. If they can adapt to the rule changes, amidst sweltering heat and in spite of their spouts of jet lag, we all can too.

Now we are in an era of V6 engines and an era where the F1 models of today sport questionable nose jobs. Despite all the scepticism, I get the feeling Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and the team behind their race winning car will not be complaining about the WO5 anytime soon.

2014’s latest developments have some to worry that the quieter voice of F1 would be lost alongside cheers and boos from the honest race crowd. Their new sound may not translate well when invited into your homes every other weekend but the core of the racing specification remains – one driver and one car competing against all the odds to defy the seemingly impossible and become the best the world has to offer. Formula 1 is still about racing and the desire to win is still as intoxicating as ever.

As for double points? Let us reserve judgement for now. This new era of Formula 1 deserves a chance to prove itself worthy to those still sceptical of change.

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