2013 sees the dawn of a new era in Formula One with the dispensing of the 2.4 Litre V8 engines that we’ve become accustomed to over the last 5 seasons or so as spectators. These will be replaced by supposedly more environmentally friendly 1.6 Litre turbo-charged 650-700bhp engines. But do remember that F1 wasn’t exactly Greenpeace’s best friend in the first place…
With the thought of a new era in mind, it begs the question “Should there be a changing of the guard in terms of drivers?” It seems that some teams have already taken heed of this. The most experienced man in history in Rubens Barrichello has been replaced at ailing Williams by the promising Bruno Senna, who showed his potential with some impressive performances in the second half of last season at Renault (now Lotus), when he replaced another old hand in Nick Heidfeld. The experienced Adrian Sutil has been displaced at Force India by the impressive Nico Hulkenburg, who was unlucky not to secure a drive in the 2011 season. He will partner Rookie of the Year in 2011 Paul Di Resta. More recently, one-lap specialist Jarno Trulli was sacked from the newly named Caterham outfit, to be replaced by podium finisher in Malaysia last year Vitaly Petrov.
The driver market also proved how fickle it can be when the departure of 21-year-old Jaime Alguersuari and 23-year-old Sebastien Buemi from Toro Rosso was announced. They have been replaced by the talented Daniel Ricciardo and rookie Jean-Eric Vergne. However, some veterans of the sport have been trusted with drives for the 2012 season, notably the struggling HRT team lineup of Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan. Michael Schumacher looks certain to complete his third and final contracted year of his comeback this year with Mercedes, where he will hope to achieve that seemingly illusive 92nd victory that has managed to avert him for the last two seasons.
Jerome D’Ambrosio this year joins the rather long list of “One Season Wonders” that have graced F1 for an all too short time and get relegated back to other forms of motorsport. Does anyone remember Yuji Ide or Nicolas Kiesa? Wasted talent… But others have got a reprieve from that list this season, this being the return of Nico Hulkenburg and Romain Grosjean to Force India and Lotus respectively.
Rumours are already rife about the future of popular Australian 35-year-old Mark Webber and whether he will continue beyond this season with high-flying Red Bull. Both of the new Toro Rosso drivers Ricciardo and Vergne have been previously linked with the seat if and when Webber decides to call it a day. With the departure of so many young talents from the sport after seemingly not acclimatising quickly enough to the fast-moving world of motorsport, there is a perfectly good substitute in GP2, the main feeder series into Formula 1. The Young Driver tests in Abu Dhabi are also a very good part of getting the young crop of drivers into what it’s like to drive a Formula 1 car. But to prevent more “One Season Wonders”, I believe that there should be a feeder team in F1 which leads to a guaranteed second season in the sport. And with an unprecedented SIX World Champions on the grid in 2012, who wouldn’t want to be out on the track?
If the sport was to be a field of rookies or Under 30s, the sport would be duller by comparison, and for no other reason than the excitement of seeing an old hand go wheel to wheel with a young gun for the first time and seeing who has the measure of who. There wouldn’t be any of those intense rivalries that spread across the years either (Prost/Senna, or even Mansell/Piquet). Seeing rookies succeed against those that have been around for a long time (Hamilton and Alonso spring to mind in 2007!) is something that makes the future of the sport even more exciting. Every so often, a special driver appears that changes the guard of dominance in the sport, and it’s defined by simple overtaking moments (Alonso on Schumacher at 130R in Suzuka, 2005 and Vettel on Alonso at Curva Grande, Monza 2011 spring to mind). So in all, without the blend of youth and experience in sport, everyone is at the same stage in their career, and that isn’t very interesting at all, really!