Say what you want, 2014 will certainly be interesting
"Like it or not, we live in interesting times," noted Bobby Kennedy at his affirmation address in 1966, and how appropriate his words seem on this eve of a new F1 season. Kennedy had in mind matters of greater importance than the anxieties of the gifted throng charged with making their cars as fast as possible under a new set of technical and sporting regulations. Yet the sentiment holds true: support for the 2014 F1 reboot is not universal, with criticisms levelled at the complexity of the new powertrains, the ugliness of the cars, and the cost of change. Yet, "like it or not", this is what we've got and this season is going to be all kinds of 'interesting'.
Unreliable cars? Check. Unruly chassis? Check. Driver tantrums? Check.
Red Bull and Renault struggled most at the first pre-season test, with Mercedes (and Merc-powered chassis) emerging as pacesetters. But a month is a long time in F1, and with two tests still to go as we close for press, much can change. Back in the day, McLaren's Ron Dennis would delight in noting the futility of reading too much into winter form before his then-dominant team went on to wipe the floor with the opposition.
Yet things do feel different, and excitingly so. When was the last time Red Bull looked anything other than unstoppable? By our reckoning it would have been 2009, and even then they were floored only by rule interpretations of much-challenged legality. When was the last time Ferrari had such a strong driver pairing? Er, maybe never - as you can read in Jody Scheckter's analysis of Fernando vs Kimi on page 80.
And there are further encouraging themes for the year ahead. McLaren, after their annus-truly-horribilis of 2013, seem to have taken a long, hard look at how and why they tripped up, and have emerged with an elegant, innovative, quick-looking new car. The return of Ron Dennis to an executive role within the company he led to greatness has apparently galvanised the team. Suddenly, we hear, McLaren's a less comfortable place to work, though undoubtedly 'interesting'.
This can only be good news for the title hopes of Jenson Button, who, at 34, is now F1's elder statesman and its most experienced active driver. What a brilliant coda a title charge would be to a volatile career - one never less than (ahem) 'interesting'. Jenson looks back over his F1 years with us on page 96.
What, then, of our cover star? Well, Lewis Hamilton tells Peter Windsor (p68) that he's simply "going to have to drive better than ever" to beat not only his rivals, but also his team-mate, Nico Rosberg. The prospect of an on-fire Lewis in one of the few cars that thus far hasn't shown a propensity to self-immolate is one that should give rivals pause for thought, and the smart money seems to be on Mercedes for a title or two this year.
But then, what do we know? For these "interesting times" are, as Kennedy also said, "more open to the creative energy of men than any other time in history..."