The Evolution of Formula 1
January brought changes for the 2019 Formula 1 season: a wider, higher and much simplified front wing; a smaller and repositioned barge board; a higher, wider and simpler rear wing; a simplified design of brake ducts and… my personal favourite – biometric gloves!
Safety is improved season upon season and although the halo may have polarised opinion – it certainly benefitted Charles LeClerc at Spa-Francorchamps when the halo saved him from being hit on his visor by the front wing endplate of Fernando Alonso's airborne McLaren.
Despite what some may have you believe, as F1 becomes safer - its popularity has grown!
Nielsen released data stating how the F1 fan base has increased by 3 million people in a year to a mighty 506 million throughout the world. A staggering achievement for a sport which will celebrate its 1000th Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit this April.
Formula 1 racing, as we know it these days, started after the second World War. There had been many races in the 1930s but during the war everything came to a halt. By 1950 it was felt the time was right to start racing again and this is what we know as the ‘modern era of F1’.
Most of us can only view grainy footage or read historical accounts of the racing back then to have an idea of what the spectacle was like. That unique time of families having picnics along the side of the race track (most of the time a normal public road) whilst these magnificent machines raced by in the colours of their country: British racing green; Germany’s stunning silver; and Italy’s ravishing red…that sounds familiar.
Drivers back then, as many a Jackie Stewart documentary has told us, were a different breed. Choosing to jump from an out of control vehicle when catastrophe approached – hence the lack of any need for a seatbelt. As for the cars themselves, spectators enjoyed the sound of super-charged engines whether it be a Ferrari V12 or the L8 of an Alfa – it is great having the latter back in F1…and the former still with us.
Any fan visiting an F1 Grand Prix event this year will not see a small transport lorry with space for two cars but instead a behemoth of a motor home. A motor home which is the first to arrive at the track and will be the last to leave – due to the two days of initial construction and then a subsequent de-rigging at the race weekend’s conclusion.
Our sport, has come a long way from the days of a man at the side of the road waving a chequered flag to signal the conclusion of a gripping race. So much so that the 2019 F1 season will (for now at least) still show the traditional chequered flag but the official signal to indicate the end of the race will be a chequered light panel at the finishing line.
With so many technical improvements, enhancements, reductions, breakthroughs (delete as applicable) the one thing that will never change is the purpose – who can finish first? No matter how many people may be behind the scenes, that is why we watch.
That is why millions attend a race weekend in person or have the race beamed to their home in high definition. It is all about the skill of the drivers – as any fan who has queued six hours in blistering heat (or torrential rain) to catch a glimpse of Kimi Raikkonen would attest to.
It is the unknown, the spectacle, the bravery and whatever changes come - I am so grateful to be able to witness it.