By Steve Aibel, Senior F1 Writer
A new Formula 1 season always, ALWAYS brings with it a sense of optimism that roots deeply within the bones of race enthusiasts worldwide. After three seasons where both World Championships were decided practically before the cars even hit the track, this season carves out a hope of a more paralleled distribution of the points making up the Word Championship.
In 2017, there is a sense on wonder underlying the series. With new commercial control, an update to the formula, and an interesting driver shuffle, 2017 has earmarked the attention of fans even before the team roll outs and testing started this week.
It is a year to wonder!
Which direction will Formula 1 go? Is it one that is will benefit the sport long term?
In a sense, the world of Formula 1 has been turned upside down in more ways than one. Leading the pack is the monumental loss of F1’s P.T. Barnum, Bernie Ecclestone. Couple this with a change in ownership on the commercial side, introduce a new formula, and you start to wonder, is this the start of something new, something different, maybe even something better?
Let us start with Mr. Ecclestone.
Face it, the loss of Bernie Ecclestone is a seismic event. Love him or hate him ( and for the record, I love him), Ecclestone was Formula 1. The diminutive Napoleon was the voice and face of F1, making it into whatever it has become today. A former team owner, Ecclestone brought F1 into the popular eye by securing the commercial rights and bringing the sport to the forefront of the world.
For better, and sometimes for worse, the knowledge lost when Bernie was escorted out the door can never be replaced by one person, much less a group of subject matter experts. The old adage “I’ve forgotten more than you know about motorsports” fits here. Bernie’s loss was the symbolic transition of Formula 1 closing the door on the rugged and legendary pinnacle marked by the likes of Ecclestone, Ron Dennis and Luca di Montezemolo. The loss of these founders and builders of the sport has been a long time coming. The fable of their contributions will only increase as time passes and the stories pass into legend. I, for one, will genuinely miss Bernie the most.
Replacing Bernie Ecclestone, as if anyone truly could, is Chase Carey, Ross Brawn and Liberty Media. Taking over the commercial side of the F1 worldwide circus should go well for Liberty as they have extensive experience with new digital media. Liberty has already made an impact, allowing more social media in the pitlane. Nico Rosberg, while visiting the pitlane during Barcelona testing, sent out a tweet praising Liberty for easing the filming regulations in the pitlane. 3800 Twitter users liked his tweet. So Liberty is already making a positive impact on the policies that they understand. I wonder, will they be able to make the same impact on the racing issues that make Formula 1 a global sensation.
The racing will be most impacted this year by new regulations that have brought a meaner machine to the track.
With goals of decreasing lap times by five seconds relative to the 2015 pole time in Barcelona, the cars possess wider tires, wider front wings, and a lower profile on the rear wing. In general, the car is wider, with larger floors and side pods bringing a favorable response to the look of the car in general. Performance has also been developed, with faster cornering speeds ,and lower lap times making the drivers believe that these cars will be more difficult for them to master.
But the big unknown is whether the cars will race better!
Many drivers, including Lewis Hamilton, have mentioned that it may be as difficult, or more difficult, to follow and pass with the new cars. So again, we are left to wonder whether the time and effort creating a different aero package will result in different results in a formula that has been significantly engine dependent.
Preseason testing saw a very positive reaction to the updated cars from the F1 scene. But it is always easy in the early days of dating, and this is the early stage of a new romance. Liberty has shown a quick ability to take decisive action, securing the Canadian Grand Prix through 2029, allowing a social media presence in the pitlane and visibly making a positive first impression, which lays the groundwork for a positive future for the sport.
But still, we wonder, is this the right direction? Only time will tell.