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Monday, March 3, 2014

Pre-Melbourne Musing

I know it's been a long time between posts but with all of the rule changes and the pre-season testing fiasco's out of the way I have one or two thoughts about the season to come that I thought I'd commit to paper (well e-paper!).

The first obviously concerns Red Bull who have suffered three disastrous tests in Jerez and Bahrain.  The Renault engine would appear to be the least competitive on the grid over the pre-season but there's no question but there are other problems affecting the car in terms of its packaging.

We all know that Adrian Newey is fastidious when it comes to packaging all the various elements of an F1 car under the skin and this space-saving has, in the past, created problems which the team have had to overcome. Invariably they have done so and have come out the other side stronger than ever. Why should we expect it to be any different this time around?

Red Bull: not a pre-season to write home about!
(Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

It is likely to be a difficult start to the season for them but I would be confident that, by the time they get to Europe, Newey will have expelled the gremlins from the machine.

Based on pre-season times, which tend not to be indicative of true pace, the Renault engine will not be the fastest on the grid but I would expect Red Bull to be leading the French Marque's charge by mid-season.

The other possibility is, of course, that Red Bull suffer the way McLaren did last year.

Seeing another top team suffer an Annus Horribilis as they struggle to keep pace with the front-runners is not a prospect that I look forward to. I would prefer to see the teams at the back catch up to the front four rather than watch one of the front four fall back into the pack: the latter is a temporary spectacle that does nothing for the sport whilst the former represents a marked improvement that can result in spectacular and unpredictable races.

The pre-season engine has definitely been the Mercedes with both the Marque team, Williams and Force India indicating that it will be the engine to beat in the coming season. But what of McLaren?

Mercedes Engines have been looking good in pre-season
(and of course Bahrain will be under lights)
Photo copyright of Mercedes
I'm not sure that they are getting the same level of co-operation from their engine supplier as they did over the course of the last few years.  I've seen the reports where Mercedes have been saying that their commitment to the team is as strong as ever and that it will remain so until such time as it is in their interests to distance themselves from a team which is taking on Honda engines next year but I have to wonder, on the strength of pre-season if Mercedes attention has now refocused onto Williams. After all Toto Wolff has a history with Frank and his wife is third driver for the team and will be given FP1 time this year.

Perhaps McLaren will have to endure another depressing year struggling to keep up with Williams and Force India before finding their feet in 2015 with the new Honda Works engine. That of course is predicated on the expectation that Honda will come out of the box at a sprint. All other engine suppliers will have had this coming year in the cars to learn and improve, Honda will be starting from scratch.

With such a strange preseason the joke has been going around that most of the cars won't see the chequered flag in Melbourne but underneath the pithy tweets and news reports there is an underlying seriousness which wonders if the event that we are all looking forward to, the 2014 season opener, will be less spectacle and more fiasco!