2017: Formula 1's licence to thrill
Get set for the fastest f1 machinery in years, as the sport overhauls its 2017 regulations
It's all Max Verstappen's fault: the way that spindly-but-brilliant rookie, 17 on his debut, has made F1 look so easy. Is it right that anyone so young is able to perform with such aplomb at motorsport's highest level? Since the start of 2014, digital-age F1, with quieter, hybrid powerplants, may well have required both manual and mental dexterity, but does it demand enough resolve? Are the cars spectacular enough? Do they ask drivers to venture far enough into the unknown? Do they thrill? Are they breathtaking, or are they merely magnificent monuments to engineering excellence that have forgotten their mission to entertain in what is still, yes, a sport?
Where now can a modern race fan experience, for example, the scary edge of Keke Rosberg's
1985 British Grand Prix pole lap - the very first to crack the 160mph lap average? Or the drama of Nelson Piquet going sideways around the outside of Ayrton Senna into Turn 1 at the Hungarian Grand Prix one year later?
Amid such concerns that Formula 1 has lost something of its essence as the original extreme sport, there has also been mounting disquiet that since one engine manufacturer, Mercedes, nailed the hybrid engine regulations far better than any other, they have achieved a position of dominance that is detrimental to the sport's overall health.
In the context of these related anxieties, the F1 Strategy Group last year decided a change in the rules was needed to help recapture some of the lost magic. Antipathy towards the existing regulation package has come from the top: Bernie Ecclestone has long been one of the sternest critics of Formula 1's hybrid PUs, citing their expense and related 'token upgrade' system as being at the heart of F1's alleged lackof drama.
"So we decided we wanted to make the cars look better, make them five to six seconds a lap faster and make them more physical to drive," says Charlie Whiting, F1's 1 race director.
And thrillingly, if somewhat more expensively, the engine development restrictions in place since 2014 will be loosened from next year to let all manufacturers make in-season performance upgrades.
Fans of hard racing rejoice: these are by far the most exciting developments in Formula 1 for many years.
After two decades of speed cuts, the governing body has now decreed that the current crop of F1 cars are in need of a 'hurry up'. Hybrid PUs will be retained, but there's now the mouthwatering prospect of a nascent 'power war' between Mercedes, Ferrari, Honda and Renault, plus, potentially, independent suppliers, aided by lighter cars, increased downforce, different bodywork and bigger, grippier tyres.
FIA-ratified discussions during Technical Regulation Meetings (TRMs) to finalise the 2017 package were ongoing as F1 Racing closed for press, but they can't carry on forever: the final 2017 regulations must be published by 28 February 2016. And, dear reader, we've been able to gain exclusive insights into these discussions to present to you some of the alternative visions for a future, faster Formula 1.