Skill Not Diminished By 2014 Rules Reckon Formula 1 Drivers – Well Of Course It Isn’t…

From Autosport

Formula 1’s new regulations for 2014 will not diminish the skill needed to make a difference behind the wheel, reckon leading figures from the sport.

The hugely complicated new turbo V6 regulations have put a premium on engine performance, with reliability already singled out as a key factor in the fight for title glory this year.

The importance of fuel economy in the new rules and the greater role of teams in deciding when and how energy recovery systems deliver their power boosts have also been cited as reasons why drivers’ roles could be minimised in 2014.

But Nico Hulkenberg is one man who thinks that the contribution of drivers should not be underestimated, and he reckons that the best ones will help their teams to progress quicker.

“As a driver there is more to learn and a lot of stuff to do,” he said. “The workload on the steering wheel will be more.

“There are also a few more tools with the ERS in terms of what you can play with, and a good flow of information is important.

“Then you need to process the information and what you learned right away. You have to have good communications with your engineers and your team in order to progress as fast as you can.”

World champion Sebastian Vettel suspects that drivers are going to have to learn to compete in a different way, which means the more adaptable stars may benefit.

“For sure there will be new elements of driving skills, and different skills generally, that you’ll have to get on top of and you’ll have to adapt,” said the Red Bull driver.

“It’s a new car, and it will feel different. Of course, if you drive it the way you drove it last year, in the race for example, you won’t see the chequered flag.

“That’s a very simple one to understand, but which way is the best? Every driver needs to find his own way.”

Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost reckons that the more intelligent drivers stand to gain the most because of the extent of the changes needed this year.

“It’s not easy this year, but it’s always the same story,” he said. “The cleverer a driver is, the easier he adapts to any changes.”


It was not my intention to start the week off in a slightly cranky mood but reading this over the weekend got the best of me. Will someone please explain to me how on earth the driver will become less relevant in this new formula? How the fact current F1 drivers now will have considerably more to think about during a race means less skill will be involved behind the wheel? How, due to the new power band (the area of the revs that deliver the best tork for the exit of a given conner) a driver will not be fighting wheel spin and thus having to learn and concentrate on such an important element of their driving – if Felipe Massa is to be believed.

Was not Alain Prost called the “Professor” due to the fact he could manage his fuel consumption in such a deft way during the race that come the closing laps and the checkered flag he was victorious?  Was he not a thinking man’s driver and was it not just about applying as much pressure as possible to the gas pedal, but a true skill set to drive in a way that allowed him to reach the podium on a regular basis? Is Prost’s skill set any less diminished because of the way he managed fuel economy?

Why is it that everyone thinks when new technology is coupled with speed somehow things get easier inside the cockpit? This was a common complaint during part of Michael Schumacher’s heyday at Ferrari. The continuous adding of driver aids (that is a loaded term if you ask me) was not well received by some of the purists of the sport. Schumacher defended this particular element of F1, and I think rightly so. Schumacher many times explained he was in favor of anything that allowed the driver to find as much speed as possible. To be as unencumbered as possible to find the absolute edge.  Does this sound like driving got easier and is Michael’s records any less diminished because of these so called driver aids?

Think what you will about the ease or the difficulty of driving modern day F1 machinery. Then think about how many times a driver must shift during a race (it is commonly over 4000), how many times and where to harvest the batteries for the KERS system over each lap, how many times he uses the DRS system on each lap if possible, how many times the brake bias has to be adjusted, how many times the differential setting are changed, how many times the engine revs are increased or decreased, how many times an engine mapping program needs to be changed, the number of times a system needs to be rebooted while at speed, all the other things I have missed, and oh yah and I almost forgot, all this has to be done at break-neck speed racing and keeping other drivers behind, all the while trying to pass the cars in front. I rest my case.


5 Comments on “Skill Not Diminished By 2014 Rules Reckon Formula 1 Drivers – Well Of Course It Isn’t…

  1. I agree… but not.
    It’s not that the skills are any harder or easier, they are just different. The biggest difference between today’s cars and cars of 30 years ago is this. If a driver goes over the line today, the car may be able to be recovered, if not, then he is into the wall of tyres or sand trap and his day is ended. The drivers of past had to find the same edge of control in order to beat his opponent, but if he crossed the line, it was a real possibility that it could end his life, not just his day.
    The talk of drivers today in video game mode are not that far off. In a simulator he may take more risks, on an F1 car of today maybe not quite as many risks but to try the same risks in a 1977 Lotus at Nurburgring and???? It takes a totally different man to do that. I’m not saying the likes of the top 6 drivers couldn’t or even wouldn’t do that if put into a time machine and travelled back to the 1977 F1 season, but the fact remains that they don’t and won’t ever have to.
    The skill-set today will be different. The cars will be different. Just as Jacques Villeneuve never had to drive his dad’s Ferrari and yet he still won a WDC in a totally different car. Both are respected for different reasons, just as today’s drivers will be respected for different reasons.
    If you yearn for the past, then go watch old races. If you are excited for the future then Australia can’t come fast enough.
    That’s my view from up North.

    BTW here is a topic for debate, V6 Turbos, drop the RPM limit and let them rip. Let’s see who can build the best, the fastest, the most reliable engine in F1. That would have real world implications.

    • Doug

      that was a great sum-up of the what i was trying to say. any one ever tell you you should start a blog ;-). and i think you are spot on, not any easier but very different. However i want to agree with your point about going over the line and the real possibly of life loss. When i really think about what has changed from the era in which you mention and today, it is without a doubt safety, and without really knowing it, this one issue changed forever two aspects of F1. one was cost, and two was the romanticism of F1, the danger, the sexyness of the sport, the men (that actually looked like men, not kids with back complexions or that look like they have just finished the 12th grade… real men got behind the wheel. prior to all the safety regs anyone could build a car (in your garage for that matter) stick in a cosworth ford engine in it, ask some of their like-minded friends to help out and you could go racing. But the cost now to develop a car that can pass the FIA crash tests must be massive. Of course no one wants to see anyone die in a race car especially in the horrific ways some did in the 60’s and 70’s, but there is no denying the safer the cars got, the less that was at stake, the less personality the drivers have had (i.e. robots), the younger the drivers became, and at least the image is that the drivers have less to do with racing than with pushing buttons and becoming mouth-pieces for big sponsorships. on a side note maybe that is why the Alonso and Hamilton affair was good for F1, just as the Multi 21 incident was also good for F1. (hey there might be a post here on this very subject, hum.. I’m going to think about that one for a bit). Maybe all the alonso haters should really be thanking him and lewis for having such a dust up that year at McLaren, the same goes with mr. finger and statement that he would did the same thing again if presented the opportunity. LOL.

  2. I think you “resting your case” is the exact reason the new rules have turned off so many people. It’s the Lauda/Hunt argument. Most people don’t want “professors” behind the wheel. Professors are boring. People want excitement. Max attack. Always on the limit. Willing to put your life on the line. Going for it. This whole pushing buttons and fuel economy is so…technical and boring. I respect what the drivers have to do to win now, but I don’t love it. It’s too much academics and not enough romance.

    • hey David
      I am in general agreement with what your saying although i think the corporate sponsorship has a little more to do with the romance being taken out of f1 as appose to the button pushing. that being said because a driver can not drive at the limit as you suggest the “max attach” my people are being turned off. this was the exact reason Mark Webber gave to go and race porsches, although seems to me that endurance racing is more about finding a groove and cranking out some consistent laps and not stuffing it into a slower car as opposed to driving on the limit. we will see what he thinks later this year. I think your right about the boringness in F1. Jacques V. alluded to this recently and my feeling is this is what Kimi brings to the table as a driver and why everyone loves his demeanor. F1 has a high wire act going forward. technology will not cease and the speed of this technology with which it is moving is very fast indeed. is F1 losing its image? for some clear it is, but others maybe not so much and for the fans that have yet to discover it, not at all. at the end of the day i think Doug Armstrong is right, It’s not that the skills are any harder or easier, they are just different.

  3. The line you took from Doug is exactly it. Great and multiple champions are usually the best at adapting/bending the rules and mastering new equipment though. So in many ways the cream of the crop should still rise to the top, regardless.

    I noted the reply line about ‘drivers in video game mode’ and it put me in mind of this article on Formula 3 straight away – it’s the future and it’s happening!

    ‘PlayStation whizz-kid on track for Formula 1 career after winning a competition on his computer as daily four hour gaming sessions pay off’:

    Fiction becomes reality!!!

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