Has Formula 1 in 2014 Been Boring so Far?

Matthew Walthert@@MatthewWalthertFeatured ColumnistApril 11, 2014

SAKHIR, BAHRAIN - APRIL 06:  Valtteri Bottas of Finland and Williams leads from Fernando Alonso of Spain and Ferrari during the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit on April 6, 2014 in Sakhir, Bahrain.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Formula One fans like to complain. Not all of them—many are able to enjoy the sport for what it is—but there is a vocal minority, at least, for whom it seems nothing is ever right.

The 2014 Bahrain Grand Prix was one of the most exciting F1 races in recent memory. Even before the safety car was deployed following Pastor Maldonado's crash into Esteban Gutierrez on Lap 41, there had been plenty of close battles, varying strategies and overtaking up and down the field.

But even such a great race on the oft-maligned Sakhir circuit was not enough for everyone. For example, Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko told Servus TV (via grandprix247.com) that, "Only after the Safety Car was it a really great race."

But is that just Red Bull being Red Bull, complaining when things don't go their way? Or was I really not as excited watching that race as I thought I was?

In other words: Is the new F1 boring?

Mercedes has had plenty of reasons to celebrate in 2014.
Mercedes has had plenty of reasons to celebrate in 2014.Mark Thompson/Getty Images
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True, Bahrain is only one of three races so far this year, and Mercedes has won all of them in commanding fashion. Even with safety cars in Australia and Bahrain to bunch up the field, the gap from the lead Mercedes to the highest finisher from another team has been just over 24 seconds in all three races.

This has led to some complaints that we are just seeing a repeat of 2013, when Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull ran away with the championships, with Mercedes taking the place of the Bulls.

Oh, for the good old days of, say, 1951—the second year of the F1 World Championship—when the average gap from first to second place was over one minute! In fact, the smallest margin of victory that year was at the Italian Grand Prix, where Alberto Ascari beat Jose Froilan Gonzalez by 24.6 seconds.

As for the comparisons between 2013 and 2014, there are significant differences between the two years.

First, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg appear to be a much better match for each other than Vettel and Mark Webber were last season. Even if Mercedes is unchallenged for the Constructors' Championship, there is every reason to believe that the Drivers' title will be a fight to the finish.

As well, the relative unreliability of this year's cars ensures that no driver can feel secure in his position until he takes the chequered flag.

Reliability is another area where Mercedes-powered cars have an advantage over the competition—just three mechanical retirements and one Did Not Start—but even Hamilton had to drop out of the Australian Grand Prix with an engine problem.

In addition to the battle at Mercedes, there are several other fascinating intrateam rivalries to keep an eye on: two former world champs struggling to return to glory at Ferrari, two young guns looking to make a statement at Force India and the most experienced driver on the grid trying to hold off a fast rookie at McLaren.

Force India's Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez go head-to-head.
Force India's Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez go head-to-head.Paul Gilham/Getty Images

For those more interested in the technical side of the sport, the new regulations have forced a complete overhaul of the cars. The hybrid power units are obviously completely new and incredibly complex. They are also astonishingly efficient—yes, even the Renault one.

Over a race distance, the cars are not a lot slower than last season. In fact, in a straight line they are quicker. And they accomplish that while using significantly less fuel than in previous years. Teams used approximately 160 kgs of fuel per race last season, according to the official F1 website, in contrast to the maximum of 100 kgs allowed in 2014.

Yes, the engines are quieter and Mercedes seems untouchable, but both of those things will change. The FIA is already looking at options to make the cars sound louder, and the other teams will eventually close the gap to the Silver Arrows.

For now, just enjoy everything this season does have to offer. At this point, the races may seem predictable, but boring? No way!

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