Congratulations to Jenson Button and the Brawn GP team for managing not just an inspiring pole position on their debut race, but also the amazing final result of first and second place on the podium. This was a great start to a new season of Formula 1. (BBC News – Button seals dream Australia win, Telegraph – Button wins in Australia)
However as I watched the race a few thoughts crossed my mind;
- If all the rules changes were to introduce more overtaking, how come the pole car finished first?
- If you stick a bigger wing on the front of a car, increasing cornering grip, but lessen the wing at the rear, giving less power over the drive wheels, you might make for slower, sharper turning cars but you also create cars that spin and skid far more easily. The first corner debacle being a good example of where too many cars in a narrow space may not just lead to the rubbing we were used to, instead the new twitch rears will cause more damaging impacts, whilst the new front wings just beckon to be damaged in any contact.
- The KERS sounds fantastic, but does make watching the racing more complex. This may just be a Speed Channel issue but in car footage lacked the usual graphics showing telemetry data, so you have no idea if the car is zipping ahead of the challenging overtaker because it is more powerful, or braking later, or using the KERS boost.
- The cars design is potentially more dangerous. I don’t care if you think they look uglier than last years cars, this is F1 where technology trumps aesthetics and the FIA trump both. However, as I mentioned in #2 above the design does appear to make the cars twitchier which is much more exciting, but also increases the risk of crashes. Add to that the fact that cars which for the longest time have not carried starter motors or power-packs to save weight are now hauling around large, heavy, high voltage batteries for the KERS it does make you wonder what additional risks have been placed upon driver safety. A car full of race fuel was dangerous, a car full of race fuel, high voltage electricity, and a chemical filled battery probably isn’t safer.
So all in all I enjoyed the race. I feel the twitchy cars were more exciting, even if there will be an obvious learning (relearning) curve as the drivers seek and find the benefits of the new regulations. I for one like the looks of the 2009 cars, the forms are more organic and less mathematical, and the removal of the vast numbers of fins and aero-effect packages has improved the smoothness of the lines. I’m excited by the inclusion of KERS since it will force the technology into further cylces of development and hopefully lead to advances that will filter down into road cars (and yes some like the Pirus already have recovery systems, but F1 will provide further development and move us on from the Prius first step).
I expect the arguing over the regulations will fade away slowly as the year moves on, and I expect McLaren and Ferrari to rapidly make advances in the technology and be more competitive. That being said I also hope that the changes to testing sessions and the engine limitations will allow the teams with more limited budgets to remain competitive.
Now on to the Malaysian Grand Prix on April 5.