Hello. I ventured off from Aol back in August 2013 and have found myself working for the Telegraph, via an interview and offer from McLaren which I turned down on the day they turned 50 years old (I had my reasons). However, after nearly eight months I am now able to continue my F1 blogging journey with Huffington Post - and I am delighted to be back doing so. I have written on my own blogging site, GridTalk which has been fun to do, but I enjoyed getting my F1 musings out to a wider audience and with the way F1 has been evolving over the past few months I have a lot to say.
The F1 championship heads to Bahrain this weekend and with the 10th running of the race is being celebrated by switching to a twilight race - starts in the sunset and finishes at night time, akin to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Nico Rosberg leads his teammate Lewis Hamilton in the title race at this early stage but the threat of Red Bull lies ever closer. With no rain in sight this weekend, perhaps we will see the full power of the Mercedes-powered teams flex their muscles.
However, two races in and we are not fearing a season of Red Bull domination. We might have a season of Mercedes domination instead. Six of one, half a dozen of the other? Maybe. The main difference I see however is that Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton are very much on an even footing - they are allowed to race and there is no secret number one status. Whilst never confirmed, there was always an assumption that Red bull's golden boy, and four-time World Champion, Sebastian Vettel was the defacto number one there. Further to that, we haven't had an intra-team battle for the championship since 2007 (Alonso vs. Hamilton at McLaren) although it was Kimi Raikkonen that took the title for Ferrari. Prior to that we have to go back to 1996 when Damon Hill was fighting with Jacques Villeneuve. But the great battles of Prost Vs. Senna are heralded as some of the best championships - if 2014 is referred to as Hamilton vs Rosberg, I am all for it.
Formula One has definitely entered a new era. The cars are now fitted with a 1.6 litre V6 engine, fitted with incredible energy recovery systems harnessing speed from such a tiny powerplant to deliver mind boggling performance. With this change has gone what some people refer to as the sound of Formula One. No longer do we have the ear-piercing sound synonymous with the sport for the past 20 years with V12, V10 and V8 natural aspirated engines. Instead we have a much more throaty V6. Personally I like the sound and am excited to hear it in person.
F1 engine sound comparison - 2013/2014 Australian GP
Despite my own personal feelings on the sound, it has largely been slated on social media and high-profile figures in the sport. More recently Vijay Mallya (Team Principal, Force India) openly said the "sound of F1 has gone" and last weekend in Malaysia the current World Champion and ambassador for the sport, Sebastian Vettel described the sound as, "shit". The sad thing is no-one is really praising the work and achievements of the engineers who have managed to create an engine that is truly at the cutting-edge of technology - technology that will appear in your road car in the near future. Andrew Benson (BBC F1 Correspondent) retweeted my feelings on this very recently (see below).
F1 to me is not about a sound. It is about the best technology being driven by the best drivers in the world. If sound is your absolute number one appeal in watching Formula One, then don't watch Formula One. There are plenty of other more basic forms of motorsport to follow - take GP2 and GP3 for example, they will have much louder engines than F1 and the racing can be more...reckless (they are rookies after all) - will I have the same affinity to it as I do with F1? No.
F1 is defined by eras:
1950 to 1957: Front-engined cars
1958 to 1961: Rear/Mid engine cars
1962 to 1967: The emergence of technology, for example aluminium sheet monocoques
1968 to 1976: Ford-Cosworth DFV, sponsorship, safety and aerodynamics
1977 to 1982: Ground-effect and turbo-charged engines
1983 to 1988: 1.5 litre turbo-charged engines
1989 to 1995: 3.5 litre V10 engines, electronic driver aids
1996 to 1999: 3.0 litre engines, the fall of the privateer teams
2000 to 2004: All teams had V10 engines, Schumacher domination
2005 to 2008: V10 replaced by 2.4 litre V8 engines
2009 to 2013: Engines rev-limited, introduction of KERS, DRS and diffuser technology
2014: 1.6 litre turbocharged V6 powered through energy recovery.
We are at the beginning of a new era. In each of the time periods above, F1 has been the star of the show and even in moments of domination the sport has grown from strength to strength. What other sports out there have such huge rule changes year to year? Yet, F1 takes the challenge and still delivers. Going by the above, we will have another change in 2019 or thereabouts - probably back to naturally aspirated engines that run on water. People fear change, yet I see it as the next piece of evolution in this masterful sport.
Change is good, and F1 needed change after 2013. Let's give it a full year before we lay full judgement on whether this new era is a success.