Billionaires, magnums of Moet, fast cars and grid girls—it doesn’t get much sexier than Formula One racing. So, how on Earth do you go about making it even sexier? That’s the question that F1 bosses have been asking themselves in the lead-up to the 2017 season. We think. Because, rule changes have been announced which are nothing short of a game-changer for the cars and drivers alike.
Fatter tyres, wider bodywork, bigger wings. Clearly the ‘bigger, better, stronger’ ethos has been adopted by the powers-that-be, in order to make the cars faster. After all, what’s more important than speed?
Watching drivers sweat, that’s what!
The new machines are set to make drivers work harder for their wins. For too long now, the viewing public have watched millionaire drivers sit back, relax and smoke a cigar while racing their finely-tuned, foolproof, racing machines and frankly, they’ve had enough.
Helmut Marko, Red Bull Racing bossman, wants a return to the bad old days, where the machine-and-driver relationship was just as important as the machine-and-engineer one. Back in Marko’s days though, it wasn’t uncommon for racers to lose their lives on the track. He himself sacrificed an eye to the sport—now that’s freaking bad ass.
“Today they [racers] grow up with their IT gadgets so they have never developed that down-to-earth race fanaticism – that fighting for every inch and sacrificing everything for it. It is a different generation.”
The one-eyed pirate magnate should know! Australian racing legend, Mark Webber, agrees; perhaps a little less diplomatically.
“The cars are easier to drive,” says Webber. “You don’t look at these guys and think ‘they are real men’. They are talented, no question, but there is less in common [with older drivers]. There is power steering now; a lot of things that make the cars easier to drive. That’s why these youngsters can get away with it. I came through the categories with gear sticks and what have you. And that was beneficial for me. But there is no point whingeing about it. They come along and do a good job for the most part. Some don’t.”
Well, the F1 governing body have been listening, it seems. Many of the current limits on weight and size have been lifted.
Extra downforce, due to increased weight limits means that drivers will be pulled from pillar to post around the corners as the G-force reaches new (and literally dizzying) thresholds. If you listen closely, you can hear the collective ‘Woo!’ of many hundreds of thousands of racing fans across the globe.
Braking distances will also play a part in making the sport even faster (and more hair-raising); as increased downforce means more grip and later braking—enabling increased speed through corners. Just the way we like it, am I right?!
Clutch control has also been largely taken away from the computer-tuning boffins and put into the hands of drivers, meaning that they are now required to be more in-sync with their machines; lest a mid-lap stall occur. How embarrassing!
These factors will each contribute to drivers’ efforts being directly related to the performance of their machines. Fatigue is sure to be a factor, with the extra exertion involved, and hence fitter athletes are likely to cope better with the races. Fit athletes? Who’d have thunk it?
Finally, the pesky wet-weather safety car starts have been scrapped. Fast cars, hooning off the start line on wet tracks? A recipe for delight and disaster! We can’t wait!