Newey: stable regulations will prevent team domination

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We mentioned this in our latest podcast and it’s a nice piece by AUTOSPORT on just how tight the 2012 season was and 2013 could be even more tight as far as competitiveness goes in Formula One. Adrian Newey, long considered the king of F1 design, says that the lack of regulation changes since 2009 will be even more of an issue heading into the 2013 season.

When regulations don’t change or remain static, the field has time to exploit the nuances of the current specification and close their performance gaps. This doesn’t mean they are cheating, it simply means they have time to look at every possible performance gain on the chassis and aerodynamic efficiency of the car. As Newey told AUTOSPORT, there were 8 different winners in 2012 and while tires played a part, the stable regulations have been designed to a point where even the slightest change in temperature, track or development could mean the difference between winning and being mid-field or worse.

One could look at Williams F1 as a perfect example of this given the up and down season in 2012 that was replete with a win in Spain. Sauber’s on again off again performance as well as Mercedes and Lotus. you could even cast a discerning eye on Red Bull and Mclaren as well as they surged and drifted in the performance category all season long. Newey said:

“Each race, you have so many variables that can cause swings between the cars.

“The tyres have been talked about a lot and they are important and each car will work its tyres slightly differently compared to its competitors.

“Sometimes, a particular track layout and temperature might suit a particular car more than its immediate rivals.

“Whether it’s a predominantly high-speed corner circuit like Silverstone or a slow-speed corner circuit like Abu Dhabi, for instance.

“Those factors mean that it has been difficult for one team to dominate.”

While Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton said:

“It’s going to be hard to beat Sebastian next year,” Hamilton said. “I think Sebastian’s going to have another amazing car.

“The car he had this year was fantastic. It’s going to be an evolution of that next year. Adrian only seems to get better with age; I think he’s going to do something pretty special next year as well.”

According to Newey, that may not be the case and Mercedes have been working hard on developing a car that can win over the last three years so it will be interesting to see if they are still 1.1 seconds off the pace come March 2013. While Ferrari were known for playing down their dominance in the early 2000’s only to come out of the shoot winning everything, I tend to believe Newey that the teams may close the gaps even further in 2013.

Many folks in the Formula 1 paddock have said for years that the changing regulations are the most expensive impact on the sport and when you stabilize them, things get more interesting from a racing perspective as well. This seems to be the case and I would presume that if 2013 goes off with a bang, the FIA and FOM’s Bernie Ecclestone will be keen to keep F1 relatively stationary as far as regulation changes go for the pure entertainment value alone.

It’s a fine line between the drive to keep Formula One on the cutting edge of innovative technology or stationary for the pure entertainment factor  In the end, fans fell all over themselves in F1 fan surveys to say that they want the sport to be a source of entertainment or a “show” more than simply racing by bringing in more passing (not necessarily overtaking) and other gadgets and baubles that make F1 invisibly exciting. I say invisibly because fans can’t see KERS, DRS or other constructs in F1 as readily unless there is a graphic on screen explaining that someone is using a construct and that’s why they may be doing something slightly more exciting.

As for tires? Fans can see that in simple lap times as the rubber degrades and Pirelli have done a fabulous job of making a critical piece of kit in any racing series a bit more challenging in F1. That’s an element of F1 that is the same for everyone and each teams car will use the tires differently. That element makes sense, the others less so.

It will be interesting to see what becomes of 2013 and while throngs of fans are claiming 2012 as the best season ever in modern F1, I have my reservations. It was certainly entertaining and I really enjoyed that but ultimately I can name several seasons that were more thrilling for me due to pure racing, overtaking and relatively stable regulations.

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