As the 2008 Formula One season approaches its conclusion, there has been much discussion about what is in store for the 2009 season. In the name of cost-cutting and in an effort to add more excitement to F1 many of the rules have been changed.
The recent revamping of the technical regulations by the FIA has had a profound impact on the way constructors handle the 2008 season. They will have the arduous task of designing and building a car from the ground up versus just re-freshening last year's model.
In the world of Formula One, where engineers analyze the benefits of using one screw over the other, deciding whether or not to spend money pursuing a win now or later is weighed heavily; the dilemma is made especially more important with 2008 upgrades not applicable to next year's car.
Car development is now the equivalent of tight-rope walking dental floss.
To inject more overtaking into the sport for 2009, fans will see the return of slick tires and the elimination of "aero bits," among other changes. Slick tires have an increased contact patch and allow the driver to carry more speed through a turn and accelerate and decelerate faster; both teams and fans will welcome their return.
The lack of aero bits attached to cars will adversely affect the amount of downforce produced by as much as 50 per cent, according to some teams. In comparison, the reintroduction of slick tires at the same time nearly creates a wash as far as performance goes.
However, the reduction of aero bits will greatly reduce development costs due to the reliance of very costly wind tunnel testing in creating aerodynamic advancement.
The FIA officials have also increased the amount of rubber on the ground, made sections of the front wing driver adjustable from the cockpit, and will introduce KERS, or Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems.
KERS is a major introduction into F1 and many teams are mixed in regards to its benefits and impact on the sport. Some complain of the reliability issues they will face when integrating this radical new technology into the cars. Others hail it as a boon and the biggest factor in determining who will be in front next year.
In addition to all the technical changes, the absence of tire warmers in the pits for the next year will slow the rate at which teams get their rubber up to optimal operating temperatures.
The practice of purchasing a premade racing package, i.e. "customer cars," has also been outlawed. If the goal of the new rules is to create more overtaking, having more teams means more cars, and more cars means more overtaking. This seems like a step backward.
The chance to bring more fans to the sport via the creation of new teams would help the promoters. But, to all but the front runners, customer cars represent another roadblock to reaching the podium, which is why the practice was fought so heavily.
And as if to flex its regulatory biceps, the FIA will be able to review at the end of the year any new technological innovations made by the teams and in turn deem them allowable or not, based on the contribution to Formula 1.
The veto capability gained by the FIA and the general overhaul of the regulations might be seen as over aggression towards the teams, in light of last years championship coming down to one point and this years close title chase being anything but dull.
The new rules were approved by the newly formed FOTA, or Formula One Teams Association, so go figure.
All in all, I think we can look forward to a very exciting racing season for 2009 and the clean slate provided to the teams will definitely shake up the order of dominance.