24 July 2018

Digital Watches and Formula One Road Relevance

If I may use an analogy; back in the 1970's and 80's we were able to purchase a digital watch.  This was a marvelous piece of technology because not only did it tell you the time, you could also time sports events and even time the egg you were boiling.  The fact that you needed two arms, one to wear the watch; and, one with the hand that pressed the buttons so you could read it, mattered not.

At the same time we had arguably the best period of regulations for Formula One, in fact these regulations, which started mid-sixties, lasted well into the 80's.  With 1.5 litre turbos or 3 litre normally aspirated engines.  Of course it was Renault in 1977 who developed the first turbos for formula one use.

Anyway what has this to do with anything?  

Well going back to the watch, we now have "smart watches" which not only tell the time; help with that boiled egg; and time laps, they also monitor heartbeats, steps, exercise etc.  Clever stuff and considering our stressful lives, quite probably good things to wear.  And of course all this represents a vast improvement on the original, although it still does the same job.

Not so the current formula one power units.  These power units incorporate some heavy components, KERs etc.  which, although they provide power in terms of electricity, they take a lot of lugging around.  What is the point?  If you can produce a normally aspirated 3 litre, or turbocharged 1.5 litre engine that only needs 100 litres of fuel to push a lighter, more nimble Formula one car around at speeds in the region of 200 mph for 200 miles then why carry all that hybrid junk? As to road relevance.  We are after all talking about 9 mpg whether it's a hybrid or a "normally aspirated" engine.  Already the majors are moving towards plug-in electric rather than hybrid power, so the road relevance argument is somewhat flawed.

Not to mention the vast savings in cost, coupled with the ability for smaller independent engineering companies to build engines thereby increasing the competition.  What's not to like?

I believe reality is starting to bite.  Formula One TV audiences are diminishing; assisted by the inexplicable need for penalties for engine/gearbox changes; something that a reduced cost, more simple engine regulation would obviate, since nobody will be paying umpteen millions of Euros for an engine deal.  

The cars look like leviathans, nothing agile or indeed nimble about them.  Whilst nobody is going to unlearn aerodynamics if the overall size and weight  of the car were reduced, together with a limit on size of wings there would be more interest in my opinion.  Who hasn't heard the spectators expressing their pleasure at seeing the historic formula one cars that perform at a few of the Grands Prix?

We need to go back, to progress the sport.

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