The sport might now be called “formula engine”, at least in the early phase of 2014, according to Mercedes’ Niki Lauda.
The German marque has got a jump on its rival suppliers Ferrari and Renault after the revolutionary switch from normally-aspirated engines to the significantly energy recovery-boosted turbo V6s.
The milder tones of the engines got the thumbs-down from the Melbourne punters on Friday, who pined for the old days of earplugs over these ‘sewing machines on wheels’.
Mercedes’ Toto Wolff is unapologetic.
“This is modern technology, this is where road cars are going,” he said on Friday. “Downsizing is the motto and I think we just need to accept that the formula has changed.”
It is not just the sport’s noise that has changed. Lauda said that even though the drivers are still in the spotlight, F1 is effectively now ‘formula engine’.
“For the first five races we’re not going to see formula one, but a ‘formula engine’,” he told the Kleine Zeitung newspaper.
“Only from the sixth, seventh race will the drivers again be driving (as before),” he explained.
What he means is that the drivers are now operating very much under the control of the engineers, who are carefully monitoring fuel consumption levels and battery recharge rates.
“You can’t overcharge them (the batteries), nor undercharge them,” Lauda said. “Not too slowly, not too fast.”
And he said a big job-list in the practice sessions is not car setup, but careful calculations to determine how Sunday’s race can be run with just 100kg of fuel.
“Without engineers there is no driving at the moment,” said Lauda.
McLaren’s Jenson Button, the most experienced driver in the field who has raced throughout the transition from V10 to V8 and now V6, said: “You are more an engineer than a racer these days.
“But this is reality,” he is quoted by the Times newspaper.
“It’s not my favourite era and I’ve been worried that the racing will not be exciting, but we’re not going back to V10s,” said the 2009 world champion.
© RIF | GMM