F1 Other

Modesty panels, modernism and the aesthetics of #F1 2013 regulations

F1 cars have never looked like elegant road cars, but they have always had a pleasing aesthetic of their own. There is always something beautiful about an object that does what it is supposed to and nothing else. The modern F1 car is a prime example – it is designed to take one man very quickly around a racetrack. It does that very well. Anything else it does pretty badly. But because the car is designed with that one end in mind beauty is a necessary result.

‘Form follows function’ is a dictum championed by modernist architects and artists, though it was originally coined in 1896 by Louis Sullivan. He explained his reasoning by adding ‘All things in nature have a shape, that is to say, a form, an outward semblance, that tells us what they are, that distinguishes them from ourselves and from each other. — Unfailingly in nature these shapes express the inner life, the native quality, of the animal, tree, bird, fish, that they present to us; they are so characteristic, so recognizable, that we say, simply, it is ‘natural’ it should be so.’

Sullivan had hit on a vital element of design, and it is one that F1 designers have grasped wholeheartedly. Nothing on an F1 car is extraneous. The great designers like Adrian Newey produce cars that are fast and beautiful.

This year the regulations were changed to increase driver safety, resulting in a dropped nose at the front of most F1 cars. Derided as ugly, it is only the logical outcome of a design process that has to meet certain parameters. It therefore embodies beauty.

The technical regulations for the next season have just been released and they allow for F1 cars to be fitted with ‘modesty panels’ to cover the step in the nose. This is an attempt to return ‘beauty’ to the sport, but is actually an aesthetic travesty that will ruin the essential essence of F1 design.

‘Ornament is a crime’ could have been stated about F1 car design. No one ever designs a car-part for F1 because it looks good.  For this very reason F1 cars look good. As soon as a part of an F1 car is added for a misplaced sense of aesthetics the overall car design loses integrity.

It will be up to teams to decide whether they used a modesty panel, and it is to be hoped that most will not. There is a beauty in their designs that will only be ruined by an automotive F1gleaf.


200mph in the dark – Singapore #F1 GP weekend

The Singapore F1 Grand Prix is different. Very different. It is the only race on the Formula One calendar that is run at night. 8pm, when everything is pitch black 1500 lamps are turned on around the 5KM Marina Bay circuit and the roar of an F1 race begins. The lights are as bright as daylight – around four times brighter than football floodlights. It is also the only anti-clockwise circuit of the year and the longest race – held in high heat and humidity. So it is one of the hardest tests for the drivers.

There was a race in Singapore back in 1961, which lasted until 1973, but this night-track has only been used since the Singapore GP was brought back in 2008. 25,000 people are involved in putting on the Singapore spectacle, planning for which starts only a month after the end of the previous year’s race.

So who is going to win? Vettel and Red Bull were fastest in both practice sessions, but McLaren’s Hamilton and Button kept them company at the top of the time sheets. Vettel won last year, but the McLaren is looking the car to beat and smart money would probably back one of the Englishmen to take the checkered flag tomorrow.

Debate is ongoing as to whether the Singapore GP will remain when the first five year contract is up. It has a glamour that is missing from many of the other new circuits, but it hogs a major part of the city for days and Singapore may wish to renegotiate the contract. The drivers and teams love the event though


Monza, F1 Eddie Jordan and Lewis Hamilton

This weekend the F1 circus hits the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, one of the original classic racing tracks set in Northern Italy. This week though there is an added frisson as Eddie Jordan, the BBC pundit has claimed that Lewis Hamilton is set to move to Mercedes, whilst Michael Schumacher is gong to retire at the end of the season. Is he right?

Monza is a fantastic track on which drivers are pedal-to-the-metal for the great majority of each lap. Built in 1922 but modified greatly since then, mainly owing to safety concerns. As speeds climbed the chicanes Ascari and Curva Grande were added to reduce the top speeds that were being reached.

This year the attention will be on Lewis Hamilton and Ross Brawn of Mercedes. Is Eddie Jordan right? He has been right before, and prides himself on being one step ahead. Certainly his interview with Bernie Ecclestone which was shown on the BBC suggested very strongly that Schumacher was retiring. Bernie spoke as though it was a done deal. So EJ is probably 50% right. Schumacher though has not had the return to F1 he would have wanted. His departure is no great surprise. But Lewis to Mercedes…that is a different matter.

Lewis Hamilton has been contracted to McLaren since he was 13. The team has been a welcoming surrounding in which he has grown as a driver. It will be hard for him to leave McLaren behind, knowing the faith they have shown in him. But his new management, XIX Entertainment might see a better fit for their superstar at Mercedes. F1 lovers would place McLaren over Mercedes in terms of racing teams, but Mercedes is a bigger, global brand. To be associated with Mercedes might well be the means of broadening Hamilton’s appeal that his management seem to crave.

For pure driving reasons Hamilton would be better off staying at McLaren. They are the racing team, they are not going to pull out of F1 as Mercedes might. But if Mercedes are going to lose Schumacher they will want to replace him with another superstar and Hamilton fits that bill. It is hard to see who is bluffing, but EJ has been right on these big F1 issues before. Watch this space!