Recession Good For Formula One?

dennis cardonaContributor IMarch 17, 2009

How do you follow  one of the most exciting finishes in F1 history?  Simple, with the prospect of one of the most exciting seasons ever.

F1’s answer to the challenges of the recession is simple: adapt and make the challenge produce something even better than what we had to start with. I believe they have succeeded.

All too often, amidst the glitter and hype, we forget that F1 is supposed to be about getting the best performance out of a package on the basis of a set of rules established to maintain a level field.

In many ways,  this sport is likely to be sanitized by the recession. I feel, however, that FI is becoming a bit too much like a soap opera, where the only thing you are sure of is that you are being scripted.

F1 has become a sport where serious doubts have risen in regard to the integrity of the sport as a whole.

Just a tad too many beautiful people (if such a thing is possible) and too little of the creative engineering, race strategy and driver genius that was once the main attraction for the sport.

Remember that setting budget limits doesn’t affect the delivery of the extreme.

If you think about it, it actually makes the sport is more exciting by leveling the playing field.  This ensure that this creativity can make it through financial barriers. This “simply pour more money into it” attitude, was on the verge of destroying the competitive aspects of the sport.

Thanks to the recession, we can now look forward to the most interesting F1 season in decades.

We have new technologies, which is a paradox when you are trying to reduce costs (but hey its F1, Eccelestone-Mosley remember?), and a severe stripping down to reality of everything else. Making sure that costs come back to earth and that the smaller teams can maintain a creditable season challenge.

Aerodynamic aids have been severely reduced, engines have to last longer, revs have been reduced, and the now famous KERS system is also in the mix of additions to F1. This to me is an exiting innovation which needs explaining.

The Kinetic Energy Recovery System is brilliant in concept. Find a way of using the energy produced during the braking process to propel the car forward.

Who knows? This could be the beginning of a process that eventually could lead to a self-perpetuating system. If only we could turn all the frictional losses into energy gains.

Sorry, got carried away already.

In reality though, there is no denying that in these days of environmental concerns, such innovative thinking is brilliant. These are just the type of engineering developments that need to cross over to mainstream car production lines.

Enough of these paddles and electronic driver aids, we need good useful engineering breakthroughs.

Not to say that paddle shifts are not more comfortable, or that electronic driver aids have not saved lives, but it’s about focus. Cars are now safer, faster and more comfortable  than ever before. 

I think it is time to concentrate a bit more on our environment.

Apart from the engineering challenge, KERS will also be an exciting new factor in this year’s season. Nobody quite knows what effect it is likely to have on strategy.  It presents new challenges for  drivers and engineers alike, since the power surge will not always be available.

Strategy developed with the new system will be interesting to see from team-to-team.

Overtaking certainly will be easier for the drivers this season. The new aero packages provide an easier way to follow cars for overtaking maneuvers.

Last year, the aero packages were so critically set up that the cars became unstable when following others closely on the track, thus making the pass virtually impossible except in the longest runs where they could steer around the problem.

The KERS's extra power surge and softer aero packages will definitely make it more fun for the drivers and spectators alike. 

But that is not the end, they’ve made it even better.

Apart from all this, teams will also have to cope with no traction control systems and dial in the development of new slick tires.

They have also been subjected to severe limits on preseason testing to make sure that the smaller teams can cope with the cost of the development pace set by the bigger teams.

So, one week from the start of the season in Australia, with preseason testing  over, just how have the teams reacted to all these challenges?

I tell you, it is just too close to call.

Two things stand out:

1. Brawn GP (previously Honda) have unleashed amazing times with just a couple of weeks testing.

2. McLaren is surprisingly out of pace after a promising start to tests.

These actually serve simply to highlight the unpredictability of the whole thing. There are simply too many unknowns to call it.

My money stays in my pocket. I favor Ferrari because they have shown great consistency, but watch out for McLaren, Renault, Williams, Toyota, Torro Rosso, Red Bull and Brawn Gp.

In short, its anyone’s game. I could just about bet that Force India are not going to win the championship but that’s about it!!

One thing’s for sure though, we are in for a treat.

Gentlemen, "start your engines”.

I just can’t wait for the Australia Melbourne to get underway March 27.