Early season form no longer pivotal amid F1’s ‘arms race’

Bayden Westerweller Roar Guru

By Bayden Westerweller, Bayden Westerweller is a Roar Guru


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    Daniel Ricciardo is the best of the next generation. (Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool)

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    What once represented the hallmark of a successful campaign now looms as inconsequential, with the impending developmental “arms race” set to grip Formula One as it enters its latest iteration.

    In years past, a championship contending outfit’s fate rode considerably on its fortunes at the early season ‘flyaway’ events, with notional deficits proving too substantial to overcome across subsequent races.

    This is set to change with the renewed aerodynamic emphasis heralding an unprecedented upgrade cycle, which has the potential to negate previously decisive advantages from one weekend to the following.

    While this is unlikely to propel McLaren into, ahem, race finishing contention overnight, the advent of rolling development is a dual carriageway which will allow no outfit to rest on its laurels, lest competitors will supplant the indiscriminate status quo.

    Drawing parallels to an instance of a team seizing an advantage coinciding with a regulation overhaul, the aforementioned Woking concern stole a sizeable march on rivals in the happier days of 1998 at pre-season testing.

    With a package crafted unsurprisingly by Adrian Newey, the MP4-13 boasted field-lapping pace at Melbourne. While this figure diminished as the season developed, with unlimited testing at the disposal of those possessing the means, its sole challenger that year was Ferrari, and only then, courtesy of Michael Schumacher’s ability to outdrive the car, was its superiority jeopardised.

    Fast forward to 2014 when the hybrid era commenced, and Mercedes, which had invested the majority of its time and resources since returning to the sport in 2010 in its bid to pioneer the new regulations, established and maintained a soul crushing dominance, lasting through 2016.

    Kudos must be afforded to Brackley and particularly Brixworth – on account of the engine dependent age, for reaping what they sowed.

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    This in contrast to the stubborn attitudes on display at Renault, and later, Honda, with each paying the price in varying degrees, yet it must have been galling to realise that, having failed to do their homework, entire campaigns for its customers were effectively stillborn.

    Returning to the present, it’s true that the rise of the continuous development process is likely become soul crushing in itself, though it’ll be reassuring for personnel to fathom that the reward for toiling away many evenings will be more readily tangible, rather than waiting until the following season, when the chances are that most concepts are already rendered obsolete.

    Carlos Sainz of Scuderia Toro Rosso

    Despite the relaxation of the derided power unit ‘tokens’, in tandem with reduced engine emphasis, this will arguably be of commensurate significance to outfits languishing in power as the restless aerodynamic innovations, the latter which will be impossible to track from weekend to weekend.

    Not that victory should be diminished, it could be that salvaging an ugly fifth place in the early events is a crucial result once the tables are turned at subsequent races, thus rather than viewing the outcome objectively as a failure, they could amount to the silent victories in the dynamic ‘arms race.’

    Perhaps Mercedes will continue its ascendancy, though it’s an appetising prospect to envisage nominal challengers Ferrari or Red Bull delivering upgrades on any given weekend which places them ahead of the Silver Arrows, only for the former to strike back at the next event.

    Now they have been granted the opportunity, it shouldn’t be too much to ask for a team which craves success badly enough to work itself into the ground, the spectacle will be utterly fascinating.

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    The Crowd Says (14)

    • March 16th 2017 @ 3:11pm
      steve said | March 16th 2017 @ 3:11pm | ! Report

      I would suggest after testing, this year is going to be a Mercedes Ferrari battle, with Red Bull the next best a little off the pace going on testing times alone.

      I was of the opinion last year that Daniel Ricciardo should have done all he could to get out of Red Bull and land himself at Mercedes or Ferrari. I think its going to be another season for him of fighting for those minor placings 3 – 6 again, stuck in a car that just isn’t quick enough on most circuits. I really think this guy has the talent to bag a World Championship, it isn’t going to happen with Red Bull, with seemingly Mercedes and Ferrari better than Red Bull is. We all know he can beat Vettel using the same equipment and I dare say he would do the same to Hamilton in the same car.

      I’m not certain mid season upgrades will get Red Bull closer to what appear to be the two quicker manufacturers at this point. Obviously I’m basing my assessment of testing, but Red Bull needed to have the mid season upgrades ready for the start of the season, to put real pressure on Mercedes and Ferrari straight up. I think mid season will be too late for either Daniel or Max to launch a real challenge for either title, Drivers or Constructers.

      • Roar Guru

        March 16th 2017 @ 4:40pm
        Bayden Westerweller said | March 16th 2017 @ 4:40pm | ! Report

        On pure times, Ferrari and Mercedes are the teams to beat, though Red Bull might have been extremely conservative at testing.

        Ricciardo is certainly a future World Champion, a dream collaboration with Maranello is an appetising prospect for the future, especially if Ferrari is legitimately rejuvenated.

        The unknown of the rolling upgrades could see variable advantages from race to race, one upgrade might be worth a second, the following only a tenth or two whilst opponents make greater inroads.

        • March 18th 2017 @ 11:35am
          Buffy said | March 18th 2017 @ 11:35am | ! Report

          I don’t think Ricciardo has that killer instinct. He’s a good driver but he is missing something–that extra ruthlessness that Max & Hamilton have. He lacks race pace too and he isn’t great in the wet. Most of the truly great drivers can really cut it in the wet. Can’t see Ricciardo as a WDC. I think Max is far more naturally talented and will blossom to surpass Dan Ric..

          Not looking forward to any podium appearances from Dan-those shoeys are uncouth and disgusting,

          • Roar Guru

            March 18th 2017 @ 3:00pm
            Bayden Westerweller said | March 18th 2017 @ 3:00pm | ! Report

            This is a big season for Ricciardo. The Red Bull machine will churn him out unless he convincingly edges Verstappen, a la Webber alongside Vettel. There’s no reason to suggest why the Australian won’t have his team-mate’s measure though, we need to see how they stack up across a complete campaign prior to drawing any conclusions.

            His podium antics may not be for everybody, though they are much more desirable than Hamilton’s selfies and celebrity posse embraces, and generally acting as though his competitors are dirt that he can’t associate with.

            • March 19th 2017 @ 11:13am
              Buffy said | March 19th 2017 @ 11:13am | ! Report

              Keep Hamilton’s lifestyle out of this, If he hangs out with celebs etc-it’s no one’s business but his own. And what makes you think he acts as though his competitors are dirt? just because he prefers to keep himself to himself on the drivers parade, doesn’t mean he views his competitors with disdain. You should heed Dan Ric’s words when he said of Hamilton-“-He keeps himself to himself but that’s fine as we are not here to make friends and he has never said anything bad about me”.. Now he’s an Aussie with a bit of sense……..

              • Roar Guru

                March 19th 2017 @ 2:03pm
                Bayden Westerweller said | March 19th 2017 @ 2:03pm | ! Report

                It might not be per se, though when he brings them trackside and gives them preferential treatment over anybody else, or his brooding press conference tweeting and Instagram shtick instead of taking part, regardless how mundane the process is, isn’t a good look which the ‘shoeys’ have nothing on.

                Ricciardo has a point when he says they’re all there to win rather than make friends, though it seems at times that Hamilton doesn’t want to be sighted anywhere near other drivers.

    • Roar Guru

      March 16th 2017 @ 3:42pm
      Jawad Yaqub said | March 16th 2017 @ 3:42pm | ! Report

      One hindrance though with the power-units is still, that any prospective upgrades must be introduced within the confines of the four PUs that each car is limited to per season. Some new regulation also plugs that loophole of stockpiling too, so teams are still going to have to be tactical about how they implement their upgrades.

      For someone like McLaren at the moment, they probably are beyond worrying about limiting themselves to the four units. Whilst Red Bull who’ll be in the thick of the championship (you’d hope) would have to be mindful, as they wouldn’t want unnecessary penalties that would gift results to the opposition.

      • Roar Guru

        March 16th 2017 @ 4:44pm
        Bayden Westerweller said | March 16th 2017 @ 4:44pm | ! Report

        It was a pragmatic call to close off that loophole, which essentially defeated the purpose of the resource restriction initiative, it was being rendered impotent.

        Fortune favours the bold, the gambit for those willing to make the commitment to an aggressive upgrade is that failure might be the outcome, though the payoff of success in a critical championship situation would negate the risk.

    • March 16th 2017 @ 8:08pm
      SonOfLordy said | March 16th 2017 @ 8:08pm | ! Report

      I think Mercedes were sandbagging in testing. Hopefully they start to feel the loss of Paddy Lowe soon.

      Even though a title fight between Vettel and Hamilton isn’t much of a fight. A guy who has been matched by a geriatric Raikkonen and blown away by Ricciardo up against the guy who could only win 2 out of 3 titles with the most dominant car in the history of the sport. Plus Vettel and Hamilton are maybe the two most obnoxious people on the grid. They have the emotional maturity of hormonal teenage girls.

      Need some fresh blood fighting for wins.

      • Roar Guru

        March 16th 2017 @ 9:52pm
        Bayden Westerweller said | March 16th 2017 @ 9:52pm | ! Report

        It’d be alarming if they weren’t sandbagging based on the innovations which have been speculated.

        We’ve had enough Hamilton for a lifetime, though Vettel appears to have come around since his Red Bull days which were as you describe, so long as he’s got something to work with otherwise he remains prone to impetuous behaviour.

        Either of the Red Bull drivers in contention, even Bottas despite his vanilla personality, would be extremely refreshing.

        • March 16th 2017 @ 10:39pm
          SonOfLordy said | March 16th 2017 @ 10:39pm | ! Report

          I actually find Vettel more obnoxious as a Ferrari driver. His frequent emotional outbursts are an embarrassment. Imagine Schumacher on team radio telling Charlie to go “—- himself”. Or a Hakkinen. I can’t. It’s pathetic.

          For all the complaints for years about Red Bull being a soda company and not a racing team, they’ve been a breath of fresh air over the last few seasons. They’re the only team that doesn’t play it safe with their driver line-up. Verstappen was the story of the season and it was all because of RBR’s boldness in elevating him. Even Ricciardo came out of nowhere and he’s been more than a match for Vettel and Verstappen as a teammate to both guys.

          • Roar Guru

            March 17th 2017 @ 11:59am
            Bayden Westerweller said | March 17th 2017 @ 11:59am | ! Report

            Certainly last season he had his moments, not least Mexico. The tension of Ferrari’s perennial title ambitions resting on his shoulders clearly took its toll on the German.

            Red Bull boasts the most dynamic line-up on the grid and nobody could suggest the controversial decision to dismiss Kvyat for Verstappen was ill advised as ruthless as it was.

            • March 17th 2017 @ 4:43pm
              SonOfLordy said | March 17th 2017 @ 4:43pm | ! Report

              Red Bull got it right with Verstappen for sure. I thought at the time they were looking to invent a reason to stitch up Kvyat — and they probably were. It was justified in the end.

              Imagine how stale F1 would be right now without Red Bull. All the other big teams or what were once big teams like McLaren have management which are too conservative and scared of making the wrong decision.

              • Roar Guru

                March 17th 2017 @ 6:35pm
                Bayden Westerweller said | March 17th 2017 @ 6:35pm | ! Report

                They would have been anxious for the outcome to justify itself, though as the extreme sports brand, it’s in their nature to take such risks.

                So long as Red Bull doesn’t bleat about Renault or the regulations if they’re trailing this season, they need to buckle down and get on with the job, which will be relentless until the flag drops in November.

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