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New rules and regulations: a spanner in the works for F1

March 23, 2010

Guest Columnist and armchair critic Craig Davies is left frustrated with his test drive of the new Formula 1 season –

Sleep-inducing and coma like symptoms followed the curtain-raising Bahrain Grand Prix last week. After all the pre-season hype and excitement which promised everything,  nothing was delivered. The new raft of rules and regulations brought in by the FIA have left many viewers clambering for the remote already. Even Lewis Hamilton’s mum admitted she was bored. Bernie Ecclestone take heed; the new system of no refueling has lead to widespread criticism because what was brought in to increase overtaking on the track and not in the pit lane, has led to no overtaking at all. The one stop that is almost mandatory lasts a mere four seconds and is simply in place to change tyres. Drivers, and especially fans, have called for an immediate change.

Fernando Alonso won an underwhelming Bahrain Grand Prix

Where as in previous years drivers would always be on the edge of their seats with low fuel loads and a fresh batch of tyres at every intersection of a race, they now have to nurse the tyres and roll trudgingly home to the checkered flag. The lap times indicated just how slow the pace was, with the fastest lap being equal to a Formula 3 pace. Lewis Hamilton, who finished third for McLaren, said: “You start with fuel, you do one stop and it’s pretty much a train all the way.”   Seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher voiced his concerns about the changes to F1’s rules for 2010 after his comeback in Bahrain: “Overtaking was basically impossible unless somebody made a mistake. That is the action we are going to have with this kind of environment of race strategy.”

A knee-jerk reaction had been discouraged by a number of people, as one dull race does not mean the end of the world. The hope is that drivers will hone their talents once again, with different variables such as weather and circuit formats to take into account, that differ from the monotonous, self-indulgent tripe that Herman Tilke seems to spill out in copious amounts (excuse my venom). This will hopefully encourage more wheel-to-wheel racing. Former world champion Alain Prost, who was around in F1 the last time no refueling was introduced, believes things will get more exciting as the season progresses: “They have got used to a sprint, in free practice, qualifying and race. And having 60kg of fuel or 10kg makes no difference. When you start with 160kg you have to think differently, and they are not used to that. After a few races, I am sure the good drivers, the top drivers, will like it.”

Michael Schumacher has questioned F1's rule changes

So on we head to Melbourne for this weekend’s Grand Prix. With the eyes of the world seemingly ready to rip Formula 1 apart, will this race be a hit or a miss? I wait with bated breath. But with the hype of four former world champions on the grid still lingering in the air, there is surely something to look forward to. The in-team fights are ready to burst into flames, with Michael Schumacher raring to take his mantle back as the world’s greatest driver and Niko Rosberg hoping to keep the upper hand in “an intriguing phsyical and phsycolgical experiment”, as David Coulthard put it. It is quite simply old against young and brains against brawn.

Most see McLaren’s ‘Battle of the Brits’ as one in which Button will be mauled, and in Bahrain there was little to disprove this theory. Button, after claiming the world championship last year with Brawn, left for pastures new in the shark-infested waters of McLaren, the team which Hamilton has molded around himself since the age of 14. The couragous and somewhat ill-advised move has brought him to a team where increased motivation will do little to turn the tide, a tide that at Brawn he could sway anyway he wished.

Championship-winning Brits: Hamilton and Button will both represent McLaren this season

Ferrari have Alonso and Massa, with Alonso the early favourite to take the World Drivers’ Championship. Nonetheless, Massa out-qualified Alonso in Bahrain so it is still pretty close to call. Massa, who returns after a life-threatening crash in last year’s Hungarian Grand Prix, has my support over the supreme, yet cocky and seemingly dictatorial General Franco Alonso. At Red Bull there seems to be eyes only for ‘baby Shumi’, Sebastian Vettel. He has the world of F1 in his hands, or as Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone said: “If I could design a superstar, the result would be Sebastian Vettel. He’s just what F1 needs; young, super-talented, intelligent but with no trace of arrogance. And he’s popular with the public and good with the media.” Good luck with your season Mark Webber, and that goes for the rest of F1.

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