Adam Cooper's Track forward

More headaches for Formula One’s boffins in 2005

As an overall package the F1 rule changes for 2005 represent the biggest shake-up since 1998 when grooved tyres and narrow-track suspension forced designers into a major rethink.

We’ve got used to them now, but most people were not impressed by the odd-looking cars that subsequently appeared. This time around there will be a similar effect thanks to aero restrictions intended to trim back downforce by 20 per cent; the clumsy high front wings of the new generation of cars aren’t pretty.

However, the biggest changes won’t be so obvious. Last year the engine men had to make their V10s last for a whole race weekend, and that’s been doubled to two meetings. It’s a much greater challenge, not least because they will also be diverting precious resources into developing 2.4-litre V8s for 2006.

Even that is not as significant as the requirement to run the same set of tyres for the whole race. True, that’s how it was in the past, but winding technology back is never easy. Teams will struggle to find a consistent performance as the tyres are used up, with the temperature drop-off created by pitstops not aiding matters. Sauber has left Bridgestone: only Jordan and Minardi are still with Ferrari’s supplier. It’s unclear whether Michelin’s commitment to the seven teams will accelerate or hamper its development.

Will all these alterations help the opposition to catch Ferrari? One theory is that since everyone has had to go back to basics, the others have as much chance as Rory Byrne and his crew of getting the key areas right. The other view is that Ferrari is stronger, full stop, and will inevitably do a better job of covering all the options. The bottom line is that this might just prove to be a fascinating season.