For 30 glorious laps, it appeared someone other than Sebastien Vettel would win a grand prix.
With nine race wins this season, including a current run of five in a row since the mid-season break, and the Drivers Championship all but sown up, Vettel’s domination is damaging the spectacle of Formula 1.
However, there is a solution on the horizon.
That Vettel’s supremacy has come since the summer break is no coincidence. The 2014 regulations will see a massive change from the 2013 rules, and as a result teams have had to focus more resources on preparation for the new season than on developing this year’s car.
New 1.6 litre V6 turbo engines, with double the life span (4,000km as opposed to 2,000km this season), increased KERS (or ERS-K as it will be called) usage from 80 bhp for six seconds per lap to 161 bhp for thirty-three seconds per lap, and a host of other changes will hopefully bring back a level of surprise, excitement and unpredictability that we have sorely missed as Vettel cruises to a fourth consecutive championship.
Red Bull do not make their own engines, so are reliant on Renault hitting the ground running in 2014. Christian Horner and company have previously belied the engine development freeze that left them with what they thought was an under-powered unit compared to their rivals.
Also, with KERS (or whatever acronym it will be labelled) playing a much bigger role, the Austrian outfits woes with their system, shoehorned into Adrian Newey’s precisely designed car, could become their Achilles heel. Vettel’s KERS failure in qualifying cost him pole in Suzuka and Mark Webber had numerous issues that have cost him over the years.
Naturally, one would expect a team with the resources, knowledge and personnel of the Bulls to find solutions that keep them at the top, but the new regulations provide an opportunity for their competitors to make a great leap forward.
Ferrari have signed Kimi Raikkonen and will enter the new season with the strongest driver line up on the grid. Renault’s Romain Grosjean has developed into a reliable, fast driver, while McLaren are looking to put a woeful 2013 behind them by signing up top aerodynamicist Peter Prodromou from Red Bull and are also linked with Ross Brawn.
Even the likes of Williams, whose KERS expertise is second to none, could come back into contention and any team that can challenge at the top end of the grid will add to the intrigue of the racing.
Vettel is a supreme driver but his ability allied with the speed of the Red Bull has made F1 a borefest. Even when he has a bad day, even when something breaks on his car, the field is so far behind that a win simply becomes a podium, the damage is limited, and his rivals never catch up.
2014 provides a chance for teams to make giant stride forward in terms of
competiveness and the more cars that take advantage of a Vettel/Red Bull wobble
the better for the sport.
We may have to put up with more Vettel domination
until the end of the year, but if it means 2014 is ultra-competitive then it is
a price worth paying.
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