I’ve followed Formula for practically every race and many test event weeks since early 1983. Most drivers in the sport now were not yet born then. I’ve attended three races live: 1989 in Montreal for Boutsen spin and win in the rain, 1996 at Silverstone where Jacques Villeneuve took the win, and the inaugural 2012 Austin GP in Texas where Lewis Hamilton prevailed over Sebastian Vettel.
In the later 80’s Turbos were the new norm, most notably a McLaren Honda team having a success rate that remains unequaled winning 15 of 16 races. Honda is expected to reunite with McLaren for 2015. Currently though, they are running Mercedes power, and based on first week of winter testing, Mercedes is the engine to beat, with all Mercedes powered teams running more laps without issues, than any other engine. Renault which had powered Red Bull to 4 successive titles from 2010-2013, seems to have gotten the engine formula very wrong. Barely any Renault teams collected enough laps to figure anything out. Cooling is a major issue, and apparently some parts are too hard to fit precisely, often being installed the wrong way. Blame has been thrown at the teams and Renault, and they should probably share it.
The new ERS (Energy Recovery System) is a step up from the KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) of the past few years. KERS generated a battery charge under braking which could be utilized for cornering speed or passing maneuvers. ERS also takes energy from Turbo exhaust, and that also powers up their Energy Store.
The cars are heavier, slightly slower, and thanks to odd rules on nose cone heights, extremely difficult to love aesthetically. All manner of different appendages have been attached to each team’s cars, some have even been compared to sex toys, due to shapes of those appendages. The noses have been lowered to prevent cars from launching over top another when they hit a back tire. The lower noses however have the potential to send the cars under the tire and body instead. That may not be as safe as going over. They could adapt the IRL solution with their DW2012 cars, where bodywork bumpers protect the rear wheels from nose cone impacts and thus also preventing launches of cars over or under the tires. The nose limitations are meant to reduce downforce as well, thus in order to gain maximum downforce, teams have opted for narrow noses of varying degrees of not very attractive. Mercedes works team and Ferrari works team have opted for a large wide elephant trunk looking nose, while Williams and Sauber have a more bird beak like appearance. Lotus have only hinted at their design of a double tusk, as they will not test until Bahrain. Marussia and Red Bull have chosen to disguise their odd nose shapes with black paint, while black paint cannot disguise the protruding appendage of the Force India.
I think between now and the Bahrain winter tests later this month and into March, Red Bull and the other Renault teams will be reworking how their cars fit the engines, while Mercedes and Ferrari powered teams will be happy to have the jump on them for reliability and speed.
Money, periods of unemployment, and timing prevented me from ever reaching Formula 1. This was not the case for Kamui Kobayashi who is driving for the Caterham team after a fundraising effort by his fans since he left F1 for 2013 season. Perhaps I should try that to drive in the Indy 500, as that is literally open to anybody who can get a team together.
It’s too hard to predict who will be the team to beat, Red Bull have not always been at the front, but often return to the front to win the season. McLaren has so far proved to be the fastest, but this is early testing, which may not be an accurate gauge.
The F1 world will be happy to note that Michael Schumacher is slowly being woken from a coma state, that he was induced into for a brain injury from a skiing accident in late December of 2013. It may be many days or weeks, but I understand from official sources that he appears to be responding well. Please don’t take my word, all official info comes from his manager Sabine Khem.