- The Inside Line
Easy is relativeKate Walker January 31, 2015
As something of a professional spectator (is that what you call it when you get paid to watch races?), I've been intrigued by recent attention on 1000bhp engines and the widespread desire to make the cars more difficult to drive.
From my seat in the press room, F1 cars never look outright easy to drive, and last year's looked to be particularly troublesome. And that's when you ignore the fact that the massive regulatory overhaul led to the introduction of tricksy brake-by-wire systems that took many of the teams and drivers a good chunk of the season to get on top of.
Thanks to 2014's move to hybrid turbo power units, the loss of downforce, and harder tyres, last year's cars looked to be something of a handful. During winter testing, when men and machines were all bedding in, even the most experienced drivers sometimes looked to be driving on an ice rink, so much were they sliding around the track.
But as the season went on, and drivers became accustomed to the new demands that 2014 heaped upon them, that the cars themselves presented a greater challenge became less and less obvious through the lens of the on-board camera.
As part of discussions aimed at finding a way to increase the sport's appeal to fans, F1's power players have raised the possibility of 1000bhp engines in future, with representatives from the sport's biggest teams all coming out in favour of making the sport more visually and aurally spectacular via a boost in power.
"We have head room at the moment - we can make the cars go quicker," Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said on Tuesday. "We need to use that. We need to make the cars more spectacular, harder to drive, so that the difference in drivers becomes more apparent. At the moment, the difference in drivers is marginal, because the cars are… To mere mortals, they're obviously incredibly difficult to drive. But at a certain level it's difficult to have too much of a variance between the drivers because the cars are relatively simple to drive because they've become so good."
Speaking at Red Bull's media day this week, Daniel Ricciardo gave his thoughts on the possible horsepower upgrade.
"I think in every motorsport, if you asked the guy 'would you like to go a 50k an hour faster?', they would say yes," he said. "Even the MotoGP guys, and they're going ridiculously fast. We're all obviously up for going faster and having more power; it creates adrenaline at the end of the day and that's a big part of why we all do it. That'd be fun. Maybe it could separate a bit more the guys with a bit more commitment than others, but I think just going faster is always a good thing for us young kids.
"For sure, in the high speed corners we're not as fast as we were a few years ago, and definitely before my time they were cornering a lot quicker. So I think that would be nice - to get that back. To have some corners on the calendar where real good guys are taking it full, and the ones who just don't have that bit of commitment are having to lift. It would be nice to get that back, definitely.
"There are always two sides. That would be awesome, but at the same time - even if the cars now are maybe a bit easier to drive physically and for the speeds - I think the racing's been really good. And that's just as important. We get just as much fun from racing as we do from the speed. I always say, all of us drivers could hop in some rental karts, and as slow as they are, if we were all banging wheels we'd have a great time. If we could go faster and still have the good racing, then that's perfect."