When fans of Formula One are introduced to a new evolution of the sport, it’s fair to say that it’s regularly met with disapproving grumbles from people who either don’t like how the cars look, hate how they sound or just generally think the new rules are going to be the death of the sport. The FIA have seen fit on several occasions to try and control the speeds of the cars, either by reducing vehicular grip – aerodynamic or mechanical – or by reducing the output of the power units.
This year, we’ve seen one of the biggest shake-ups of the rules ever seen in Formula One, where further aerodynamic restrictions have been put in place and, most controversially, the introduction of the new V6 turbocharged power units. This was mostly to do with the FIA’s plan of making the sport appear ‘greener’ and promoting improved energy recovery devices, something which has already started to filter down onto the latest road cars.
This is all pretty reasonable really – it gives the engines suppliers an even greater reason to explore these new technologies and gives the fans a (much needed) mix up of the grid, with many anticipating a 2009-esque shuffle, where some top teams struggled and midfield runners flourished. It was all looking very promising – until they turned the cars on…
As pre-season testing got underway, the response to the new engine sounds was pretty damning. The decibel levels were nowhere close to their V8 predecessors and the inclusion of the turbocharger meant many people found the noise comparable to a vacuum cleaner.
This prompted swarms of fans to take to social media, forums and any other computer-based outlet they could find in order to express their disgust at the latest Formula One soundtrack, with many comments along the lines of ‘Bring back the V10s/V12s!!!’, ‘This isn’t like Formula One anymore!!’ and the ever present chestnut:’I miss the old days!’.
It’s hard to ignore people daydreaming back to the ‘good old days’ of Formula One, but, was it actually better? How come so many people prefer the previous generations of the sport?
In terms of competitiveness, you can take a look at almost any result from 20 to 30 years ago and see that there is often a runaway leader, and there can be as little as four drivers who remain on the same lap as the race winner. The gulf in performance was often huge. Sure, we may have the odd runaway leader in modern F1, but were still likely to have a solid number of runners on the lead lap.
That’s not to mention the reliability. Whilst Formula One was becoming faster, it appeared finishing a Grand Prix would become an afterthought. It was common to see over half the field retire from a race with underdeveloped cars, sometimes to the extent where it could be thought that points were going to be awarded to drivers already having their post-race shower. A case can be made for mechanical issues adding to the drama of a race, not least at the Canadian Grand Prix a fortnight ago, but it can be argument-inducing when you’re trying to determine which driver has had the better championship year, only finding you have to do a mental count-back of ‘who’s had what failures’. In the days of improving reliability, we’re having to make these mental assumptions less often, so we can concentrate on the racing just a little bit more (despite 2014 being a slight exception because it’s a bit of a new formula).
Granted, the old schools Formula One cars sound fantastic, and it was ‘in the good old days’ of the 90’s when I first fell in love with Formula One, but the quality of racing is so much more consistent across the entire field and it appears that the days of having a driver win by 45 seconds are gone. Drivers missing races due to injury (or worse) is a lot less likely to happen, the difference in pace of the field is only 3-4 seconds – not 10-12 and we don’t have teams plagued with season-long reliability issues. No, we shouldn’t forget the heritage, but it may be that some of us may just be looking at it through slightly rose-tinted spectacles.