Tuesday, 17 May 2011

New Rules, New Spectacle

With the global economic crisis (or whatever you want to call it now) and global warming (climate change, whatever) surrounding us in the news it's easy to forget that sports are affected by such matters and to consider them exempt from the real world. Nevertheless, F1 and other sports are just as subject to money worries and green ethics as the rest of us. Formula 1 is perhaps the most expensive motorsport out there, and the sophistication of the cars doesn't necessarily mean that they are environmentally friendly. In order to try and combat this, the FIA proposed a number of rule changes for 2013 which would aim at making F1 more sustainable, both economically and environmentally.

The rules (which are fairly technical and so not for me to explain in too much detail - however you can read them here) basically hinted towards a move away from the 150kg-per-race 2.4 litre V8s which are currently in the cars to smaller turbo engines in a bid to reduce fuel consumption. In doing this, various other aspects related to the cars' aerodynamics would also be changed in order to reduce drag and gain more downforce from the floor of the cars, rather than the wings. As such, the cars would look radically different and, perhaps less important to F1 chiefs but something important to me, the sounds of the cars would change.

Is this a good thing or not? Well the sustainability factor is important, obviously. However, I don't want to see boring F1 cars. Formula 1 is about technical innovation and spectacle. Speaking on behalf of F1 fans everywhere I'd rather have an un-environmentally friendly sport which looks good than a boring sport which is kind to the planet. Selfish, I know, but I feel that there are changes that can be made elsewhere to reduce the environmental impact of F1 without losing the sound of those screaming V8s.

News from the BBC website today stated that FOTA (the Formula One Teams Association) have rejected the FIA's rules and proposed their own version - a version which wouldn't see us losing the spectacle and shouty cars but would still make the sport a bit more sustainable. While the sport wouldn't be as sustainable as perhaps chiefs would like, the sport would still see a bit more efficiency without losing the cars as they are now. While FOTA's proposed technical regulations have been approved, there's no guarantee that they will be accepted by the FIA, with Jean Todt arguing that F1 needs the new green turbo engines. What actually happens remains to be seen, but with such opposition from teams and engine manufacturers I'd be surprised if a compromise wasn't reached somewhere.

A new feature on the official F1 website asks drivers about their 'Formula 1 Fantasies', including what they would change on the cars. I loved this example of the differences between honest drivers and drivers who are perhaps saying what people (i.e., teams) want to hear. Sebastian Vettel and Nico Rosberg have both taken part in the F1 Fantasy interview, and the differences in what each driver would change to the cars are hilarious. Nico Rosberg proposed that he would like to see F1 cars with electric engines in order to make the cars more sustainable. Sebastian Vettel's suggestion? V12 engines. There's a reason why he's my hero!