Formula One 2014 was always going to be important for a number of reasons, not least because the new regulations, partly governing fuel flow, meant the playing field was levelled.
Smaller 1.6-litre V6 turbo engines and a bigger emphasis on hybrid energy boost also meant more efficiency, with teams forced to use up to 40% less fuel than before.
So, after six races so far – around one third of the way through the season – how have the new rule changes played out?
MERCEDES DOES A RED BULL
We hoped the changes would mean closer racing. Unfortunately, that’s not been the case so far.
The car is clearly the class of the field and so is the engine. The Mercedes power unit – complete with its clever split turbo for extra power – has been the most reliable motor so far.
Although there’s been a battle at the front of the field, the two cars dicing it out have been Mercedes. Red Bull, Ferrari and Lotus haven’t been able to get near them.
It’s a shame that one team is totally dominating again, when everyone thought the rules would increase the level of competition throughout the field. But with this era of Formula One very much in its infancy, it’s going to take a while for teams to find their vein of performance and the cars and drivers to telescope back together.
We’re sure it will happen though.
RED BULL RELIABILITY WOES
If the Mercedes domination so far this season wasn’t expected, then the terrible reliability problems Red Bull has experienced certainly weren’t. Unlike Mercedes, Red Bull doesn’t build its own engines. Instead, it uses Renault power.
On a number of occasions so far this year – including last time out at Monaco – engine trouble has meant a DNF for Red Bull. Not good when your driver has won the world championship for the last four years in a row.
At least Red Bull has managed to pick up some podiums with new boy Daniel Ricciardo. Ferrari on the other hand have been poor by their own standards.
It seems the car simply isn’t quick enough – both in a straight line and through the fast corners that require downforce.
BEST OF THE REST
Lotus and McLaren haven’t set the world light with their speed, either.
Although it was a promising start to the season for our local squad from Woking, with McLaren drivers Jenson Button and rookie Kevin Magnussen scoring a double podium at round one in Australia, things have slipped away since.
Even a package of aerodynamic updates that were applied to the car in Barcelona didn’t improve performance all that much.
Ok, so Williams aren’t literally winning races, but there performance so far this season has to have lifted spirits at the team. The catalyst? Well, there is a Mercedes engine under the bonnet…
Finn Valtteri Bottas has outscored his more experienced teammate Felipe Massa, but that first podium finish is looking elusive – especially with only one place up for grabs really, such is the dominance of the Mercs.
TAIL END CHARLIE
If the new rules have shaken things up at the front and restored some level of glory to past greats like Williams, the 2014 regulations haven’t really changed things at the back of the grid.
Caterham and Marussia are still fighting over the scraps – but credit to both teams, they are developing. This was shown in Monaco, with Jules Bianci scoring the Marussia team’s first points in its Formula One history.
BUDGET STILL RULES
What the above does prove (Mercedes and Red Bull at the top, the usual culprits at the back of the field) is that money still rules in Formula One.
It’s no surprise that the two teams with the biggest bank balances are at the head of the field and on the front few rows every other weekend.
So, looking at the rules, it seems that yes, some thing shave changed. But its just the teams that are dominating, rather than the quality of the racing that’s altered.
It’s great that technical innovation and improved efficiency is being given a world stage, but this is the cream of global motorsport, so shouldn’t the championship be closer?