Five Things To Look Forward To In 2008
As 2007 ends and 2008 begins, we look forward to five good things that will happen in 2008, and five things that might rear their ugly heads
1. The absence of traction control
With the FIA imposing a single Electronic Control Unit for engine management in 2008, we can look forward to the true prospect of F1 without traction control and launch control. This will mean that grand prix starts will be able to throw up some big surprises when drivers get it wrong. It will also mean that drivers who are great at starting will make up shedloads of places on the opening lap. In the past few years the starts have been a battle of the teams' respective software engineers. Not any more.
Similarly in the wet, drivers with the Schumacher-esque ability of being able to work out the maximum adhesion by taking their cars to the very limit and just easing off when the car starts to twitch, will have an edge over those who stick their foot down and let the electronics do the rest.
The obvious changes in the dry will be at the exits of corners. In the past TC has sorted out huge inputs of power through the rear wheels. Now, drivers will have to feed in the power with care. Smooth drivers such as Jenson Button should be able to take advantage.
2. Formula 1's first night race
One of the highlights of the year will be the Singapore GP raced at night. Street GPs are tremendous spectacles to witness, particularly at Monaco where the circuit is impossibly tight and close to the spectators, but having it at night will give it an extra edge.
Street circuits usually produce a high casualty rate (think Monaco and Canada), so having it at night in the year when traction control is removed from the cars could produce a dramatic result. And just imagine if it rains...
3.The Valencia GP
For years Bernie Ecclestone wanted to break Monaco's monopoly as being the jet-setter's grand prix, the place where the super-rich could park their yachts and big business could be done. He tried to line up Beirut as a possible venue, and a harbourside circuit was drawn up and promoted. In the wake of the country's plunge into political infighting it's probably a good job it never came off.
However with The Alonso Factor changing Spain from a country that didn't show F1 live on television (despite the involvement of Marc Gene and Pedro de la Rosa) to one showing fanatical levels of attention, an F1 race in Valencia became a possibility.
The city will be the home to the Americas Cup yacht race and so its harbourside facilities will be able to cope with all the new Russian billionaires who wanted to park their boats in Monaco but couldn't find a space.
4.The arrival of Nelson Piquet Junior
It will be great to see Nelsinho in F1 at long last (though thankfully not at the expense of Heiki Kovalainen). He is the latest son-of-a-World Champion to enter motorsport's highest level following Michael Andretti (son of Mario), Damon Hill (son of Graham) and Nico Rosberg (son of Keke).
Nelson Piquet Junior has the good looks of the archetypal motor-racing driver, and together with Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg will become one of the F1 glamour boys. If Bernie wants to appeal beyond the traditional catchment of F1 afficianados, then Nelsinho will help a great deal. Hamilton dragged in a host of new fans and Piquet can help drag in some more. Nelson Senior will be on hand to offer "insights" into F1 drivers who may or may not get in his son's way. It should be fascinating to behold.
5. Ross Brawn back in the sport.
After we had our fun at Honda's early season woes, it was actually quite painful to witness the slump continue, race after race. New tech boss Ross Brawn says he wasn't frozen out by Ferrari, and that because he didn't have a big enough challenge there it was "job done", time to move on. We don't necessarily see it that way considering that Ross loves working with Michael Schumacher with whom he's been paired since the early 90s.
His new challenge at Honda will be to re-shape a team that made a massive mistake in getting rid of technical director Geoff Willis and re-focus its efforts. We won't see massive progress in the first eight races, but it shouldn't be as pitiful as last year.
And five things that might not turn out quite so well...
1. The return of Stepneygate With the Ferrari team pressing ahead with prosecutions in both Italy and England, Stepneygate won't go away. Also, if the Scuderia fail to get a result in either court case, then there will be more pressure on the FIA over their handling of the affair. (Having done nothing to Toyota after two of their engineers were found guilty of industrial espionage in court and given prison sentences - and this from the manufacturer who was banned from the World Rally Championship for a year in the 90s for engineering a false carburettor)
2. A Piquet Senior vs Alonso slanging match We've seen Fernando Alonso's delicate ego battered over the course of the 2007 season, what he doesn't need is a team-mate with a vituperative father that could undermine him. Nelsinho may not say anything antagonistic, but Nelson Sr. (he once described Nigel Mansell's wife as ugly) doesn't hold back when things go wrong.
3. More slagging off of Silverstone Bernie is right to point out that with a ¬£12 billion London Olympics coming up for 2012, the British GP venue should get some immediate state support.
4. The championship turning into a one-horse race. With McLaren hampered by budget constraints and redesigns etc, there's a worry that Renault, BMW, Honda and Williams could fail to challenge what is likely to be another strong Ferrari. Last year was supposedly going to be a very open season with lots of teams in a position to win it, and it turned into another two-horse race. However, if you're a Ferrari fan you'll be shouting "Bring it on!"
5. More remarkably stupid decisions by the stewards. Last year we got some cracking gaffes from the stewards, let's hope it was an exception.
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