When did Formula 1 stop being about the pursuit of speed?
Since the beginning of the world championship changes have been made to the formula in the name of safety and cost controls.
But those needs have become increasingly dominant and, as a result, the sport has never been as tightly regulated as it is today.
Somewhere along the line the governing body decided it wasn’t enough merely to limit the rate of development. Now the goal appears to be fixing the cars at their current performance level.
That much is clear when you look at how average lap speeds have stagnated in the last decade. Monza, a circuit which has changed little in 35 years, provides a good indication:
Fastest lap speeds at Monza, 1976-2010
|Average Speed (kph)||206.019||212.887||214.11||220.765||223.394||236.004||234.286||241.153||245.405||248.341||250.18||242.864||249.403||252.989||257.415||253.949||257.209||249.033||245.933||247.135||250.295||244.413||251.989||248.953||253.658||259.827||258.564||262.242||260.031||256.753||256.34||248.682||251.398||254.444|
Juan Pablo Montoya’s 262.242kph (162.95mph) lap of Monza in 2004 set the high watermark. Today’s F1 cars lap around 10kph slower.
To the prior constraints of safety and costs we can now add a third, as Formula 1 faces growing pressure to be more environmentally responsible.
The consequences of that for the regulations are already known: in 2013 engine capacities will be cut from 2.4 litres to 1.6, and hybrid technology will play a greater role in engine design.
But can designs like this only exist in the virtual world? It’s an idea I explored here a few years ago.
Would anyone dare to create a rival to Formula 1 that could usurp its claim to have the fastest racing cars in the world? And where could they race that would be safe enough?
Have your say in the comments.
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