Life In The ‘Not So Fast’ Lane

Formula One has reinvented itself this winter as new regulations have turned the sport upside down. With many of the team’s party tricks taken away from them this season, cars were always set to be markedly slower. However, with harder tyre compounds and heavier weight slowing the cars down yet further, Jenson Button has suggested that this seasons cars could be close to their GP2 counterparts. This estimation might not be far from the truth, all things considered.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/pcw/12254503433/
Image Credit: p_c_w (via flickr)

The Outlawed “Tricks of the Trade”

It is a constant evolution of Formula One. A set of regulations are introduced which make the cars slower, before teams begin to understand the regulations and the inevitable loopholes within them. As the technology becomes more advanced, the FIA looks to slow the cars down to preserve safety and this is partly the reason for the latest regulation overhaul. 
The most poignant tools taken away from teams this year are in the aerodynamic department, as narrower front wings, outlawed lower beam wings and a ban on exhaust blown diffusers are the most notable changes. Some of these alterations effect some teams more than others. Red Bull have been greatly hampered by the aerodynamic restrictions, as they had mastered the coanda exhausts in particular and now need to find more gains to reach the same advantages that they enjoyed last season. The fact that the regulations should in theory draw the field closer together is seen as a positive aspect of the regulation change.   
Meanwhile, the 2014 cars will also be slower due to Pirelli’s harder tyre compounds supplied this season. The compounds are set to be more durable, with fewer stops per race as Pirelli look to avoid the construction issues faced earlier on in 2013. With the 2014 specification cars being significantly heavier than there predecessors, the speed deficit is not only caused by aerodynamic restrictions.

As Slow As GP2?

With the regulations in GP2, (Formula One’s primary feeder series) remaining relatively static as 2013 become 2014, Jenson Button has voiced his belief that the 2014 F1 cars could be close to their GP2 counterparts. With the GP2 series closely following the premier series, it will be interesting to directly compare the two when they both feature for the first time in Malaysia.
“They will be a lot closer on certain circuits,” Button acknowledged in an interview featured on PlanetF1. “We’ll be quicker, but not that much quicker. By the end of the year we might not be that far off (2013 pace), maybe a couple of seconds, which will be pretty good when we get a real handle on where we are.”
However, will waiting until the end of the year prove too long for Bernie Ecclestone. If F1 cars are only marginally faster than their GP2 counterparts, the spectacle of the event could be reduced – This is Bernie’s worst nightmare. A reduced spectacle means reduced revenue as spectator interest declines. Ecclestone has already expressed his distaste at the quieter V6 engines following Jerez and if the cars are as slow as predicted when they are finally run at maximum potential, Bernie could have more cause for concern.
Personally, I do not see a slower era of Formula One as too big a deal. Watching how the teams deal with the challenge of a new set of regulations is always intriguing, as we wait for the next revolutionary design. The double-dip diffuser inspired BrawnGP to glory in 2009 – Will the 2014 title be won by a similar pioneering design?    

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