Formula 1 teams believe the sport is heading into the unknown as it is impossible to predict how the Australian Grand Prix will play out this weekend. The major changes to the rules for the 2014 season appear to have shaken up the order, and the combination of the new 1.6-litre turbocharged engines and the 100kg-per-race fuel limit has left most drivers and teams in the dark heading into the season opener. While some people in the sport have voiced concerns that the races will become fuel and tyre economy runs, others are predicting that the mixed up nature of the racing will be exciting.
Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali believes it is wrong to judge the new formula before a race has even been run with the new cars. “Maybe people are saying that Formula 1 is a disaster, when in a couple of races you could have people saying Formula 1 is fantastic,” he said. “We need to make sure the racing is really exciting and let’s wait and see at the end of the year how the situation will be.”
Lotus driver Romain Grosjean – whose team was one of a few that did even get to run a race simulation in testing – says things will be “complicated” for the drivers this weekend. “There will be a lot to think about in the car, and a lot of things are going to be asked of you by the engineers,” he said. “It’s not going to be nice to change all the settings on the steering wheel but this is the situation we are facing. Sometimes you have to change things four or five times a lap and it can be quite messy. It’s hard to get everything working together, but then it gets more normal and you get on top of it.”
Caterham team boss Cyril Abiteboul reckons that even the squads that carried out race simulations in testing will not have a clear picture of how the races will play out. “The race will be strange,” he said. “The one thing you cannot test before you actually do is the race. Yes, you can do a race simulation but you are not racing against anyone. Racing against the others, finding the right compromise, the right tradeoff between properly racing and preserving energy, is something that we will have to see how it works. The way the race will unfold, it might be extremely interesting.”
Grosjean added that he thinks that fans will be happy with the product as long as the racing is close. “We love the sport, we are passionate about Formula 1,” he said. “But the main thing is there is a good show. It is a big change of regulation and it’s quite extreme. Everyone said the cars look funny and they will get used to them. As long as there is competition between the cars then people will be happy.”