The FIA has officially announced the rule changes for F1’s much anticipated 2014 season, and the outcome – for the main part – has been an outrage from the fans of the sport. Some of the changes are quite trivial, such as the introduction of driver numbers, but others have a bigger impact on next year’s competition.
Perhaps most widely publicised (and criticised) is the addition of double points during next year’s season finale in Abu Dhabi. It’s not difficult to comprehend why the FIA has made such a move; Vettel had pretty much dominated last season, hence placing more emphasis on the final race might help keep the championship alive until the very end. Also, the added attention bodes well for the race organisers. A title deciding race means more viewers, more tickets sold, and ultimately more revenue. It also happens that Abu Dhabi is back to host the finale. Coincidence? I think not…
Fans have publicly bemoaned this change, and for good reason. Statistics show that, had the rule been in place for the past 20 years, only a couple or so championships would have gone to a different driver/constructor. Apart from that, this opens a can of worms in terms of sporting fairness. A team that has worked so hard to build up a points gap over the entire season may lose everything with a DNF in the last race. More worryingly, the dreaded trend of F1 moving away from its traditional roots continues, as Sebastian Vettel has spoken out on, calling the change ‘absurd’.
A much less talked about change is the tightening up of engine regulations. The power unit is now divided into six components, with each team allowed to use five of each throughout the entire season. Changing a component for the sixth time will result in a grid penalty, and if the penalty is negated because a car has qualified near the back of the grid, the remainder of the penalty will be carried over to the next event. Now, with engine reliability being a significant concern for next year, such rule may have catastrophic consequences on teams unable to discipline their power units. This will undoubtedly put engine reliability on the forefront of a manufacturer’s agenda, and do not be surprised if next year’s victors don’t necessarily have the most powerful power unit.
Another change is the introduction of driver numbers. Drivers get to choose a permanent number, with the No. 1 reserved for the reigning champion if he wishes to choose it. Its a slightly less dramatic alteration from the FIA, and one that I kind of like. If two drivers choose the same number, priority is given to the one who finished higher in the championship, which makes perfect sense. Also, a cost cap is to be introduced in yet another attempt to control the rising costs of operating an F1 team. It takes effect in 2015, which means at least for now, judgement is reserved.
So, a couple of remarkable changes, and a couple of less remarkable ones. Will Red Bull’s infamous reliability issues come back to haunt them at a time when it really hurts? Or, more importantly, will Sebastian Vettel choose the No. 1? The latter is a witty gesture, but one thing that’s no joke is that interesting times lie ahead for F1.