F1's Future: An Epitaph or Simply the End of a Chapter?

Pawel HyrkielCorrespondent IAugust 24, 2009

6th Feb 2002:  Michael Schumacher (L) of Germany and Rubens Barrichello of Brazil and Ferrari remove the covers of the new Ferrari car during the press conference held to launch the new Ferrari F2002 Formula One car in Maranello, Italy.  \ Mandatory Credit: Mark Thompson /Allsport

Banned in season testing, no aerodynamical development, engine freeze; these rules and many more have been introduced in F1 to make racing affordable.  The desired result was to be an equalized field of machines that look fast at an economical price. 

Rules pushed through for the 2008, and 2009 seasons appeared to be a genuine attempt at making the sport much leaner, exciting, and more 21st century.  The result, the same type of racing, quite possibly at the same price as the previous seasons.

Half way through the 2009 season the F1 grid is being dominated by two teams.  While there has been a resurgence of McLaren, Ferrari, and Renault performance, the team the fan is most likely to see on the podium, if not perched at the top of it is Brawn, or Red Bull. 

A question must be asked, thus; if rules were rewritten to favor a more equally competitive field, why are fans witnessing a deluge of wins by one or two teams?  Force India should be challenging for the podium, as should BMW, because the cars should not behave so differently when built according to specific rules. 

Some fans will argue that while there are specific rules dictating almost every aspect of the car design, engineers tend to push the boundary and exploit specific details governing F1 design.  Thus rules that were meant to change F1 have done absolutely nothing to the overall picture.

Yes, the players are different, but the final panorama appears the same.  Thus one must ask, what is the point of these rule changes?

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At the beginning of the F1 season the majority of reactions to the look of the 2009 machines were favorable.  The fans were very satisfied that no longer was a Ferrari or McLaren covered with chimneys, fins, double fins, and so many other features. 

F1 appeared to be rediscovering itself and its fanbase by following the simple rule of less is more. 

The rules introduced to make the cars simpler in appearance were not intended to bring smiles back to the faces of the fans, but to make passing and racing more recurrent, and exciting.  In the end, teams that were at the back are at the back, and those that once occupied the front row, are at the back ever so often. 

It can be argued that the result is proof of the validity of the rules’ success, however the more likely explanation is that specific teams were able adapt to the rules much quicker, and easier. 

Successes in the 2009 season, however will not translate into victories in the 2010 campaign, simply because rules are yet again being changed.  Since refueling is to be banned, KERS is not considered a vital part of the design, F1 cars will once again change in shape and design. 

In a sport that is concerned about its spending and image, introducing severe changes from season to season is contradictory to that very image.  All the technology, development used to perfect the 2009 contenders is not being translated into design of the 2010 contenders. 

A 2013 car will not trace its roots back to 2009, and neither will the 2010 contender, simply because the rules will have been rewritten to make the 2009 car obsolete and unusable in the new environment.  If rules change from season to season then the resources implemented towards designing a car from 2009 are completely lost. 

If a normal automobile is designed by BMW, and suddenly rules are introduced to dictate that cars no longer are permitted to travel on all four wheels, the combustion engine is no longer permitted to be used, and the driver is to sit where the passenger once sat, then BMW must completely redesign the entire car. 

The previously implemented designs are obsolete, and BMW must start anew. On the outside BMW may appear not to concern itself with having lost moneys put in to developing the previous models of cars, but in reality BMW sees this as wasted resources; while the new design and profits from the new design may justify the decision to abandon the designs and millions if not billions, but moneys are still lost.  

A team like Force India may find it difficult to go from season to season not building on their development and starting from square one.  The constant changing of rules, hence, contradicts what F1 is trying to achieve.  If F1 is attempting to minimize budgets then it must return back to its character of fluidic development.   

If one is to examine the 2002 Ferrari contender its roots can be traced back to 1997; the F2002 was the most perfect Ferrari, yet it was not the result of a few months development. To achieve perfection took several seasons.

Ferrari may not be every fans favorite team, but their successes speak for themselves.  Yes, one might argue that the budget spent over one season was enormous, yet the developed components were reused or modified on the next year’s car.  Innovations were not scrapped, ideas were built upon, and evolution occurred. 

In 2009 the cars changed dramatically; instead of building upon something developed new ideas were introduced. This revolution was bound to happen, and yet money spent today is headed towards the trash can of tomorrow. 

Instead of allowing the cars to develop naturally, bound by specific rules of design, F1 is being altered yet again because the 2009 model did not work.  The idea to abandon a course because you ended up in a different place altogether is erroneous.

If an experiment does not work accordingly those involved build on the results.  F1 needs to return to that very model, and let racing take its course.  Yes, F1 grids will not change overnight, but if one continually abandons the previous season’s rules governing design and racing, then budgets will be wasted, teams abandon the sport, and the champion at the pinnacle of motorsport be toppled.

Not only will continuation of previous season’s design, and transference of ideas, and fluidic development through the seasons save costs, it will allow the smaller teams to perfect their cars honing in on the positives and developing the errors. 

Perhaps if Force India or Williams develop the car over two or three seasons, the contender in 2010 or 2011 will be one of the serious front runners on a grid of 20 cars and not six.