The end of an era in Formula 1



So here we are at the end of another season – and also the end of Formula 1 as we’ve recognised it in recent years.

Whether or not we like the idea of V6 turbo engines and the end of the V8 era, to make the sport less of a Vettel/Newey private party, wholesale rule changes are the way forward.

I don’t want to see the same guy winning every Grand Prix, but I don’t hold it against him and I don’t want to take anything away from him for doing so. The records he has broken this year are incredible, “but not comparable to Alberto Ascari” according to Vettel. You can’t deny that on a Saturday and Sunday, come rain or shine, he’s been at the top of his game. Even outgoing team-mate Mark Webber recognises that.

Mark Webber’s F1 wins
2009 German GP
2009 Brazilian GP
2010 Spanish GP
2010 Monaco GP
2010 British GP
2010 Hungarian GP
2011 Brazilian GP
2012 Monaco GP
2012 British GP

How much will Formula 1 miss a man like Webber? Well, you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. Mark is one of those unusual creatures in the paddock who has a wider view of the world. He can talk about all sports, news, global events, and home life. He gives respect where it’s due and he won’t hold back if something upsets him. Basically, Mark Webber is a great guy and will be a huge loss to a sport which often revels in its own self-importance.

His first win in F1, at the Nürburgring, was incredible, and there was no other driver on the grid who would have taken that away from him. It had been a very long time coming.

Who will be back?

Saying goodbye at the end of a season is always a strange business. I’m not a fan of goodbyes so I like to see who I need to see, then sneak away quietly. And let’s be honest, we’ll be back in Jerez for the first pre-season test in January, some seven weeks away.

The uneasy bit on Sunday was the number of drivers who didn’t know whether they would be walking into a F1 paddock again. There are still eight seats up for grabs as I write this: two at Lotus, two at Force India, two at Sauber, two at Caterham and one at Marussia.

Paul di Resta should be back but that means nothing in F1. Sergio Pérez, who has been dropped by McLaren, is still on the search for a seat, hoping his talent and money give him the edge. Maybe he’ll take di Resta’s place at Force India.

Nico Hülkenberg, Pastor Maldonado and Adrian Sutil all told me they would be around next year but couldn’t confirm where. It looks like Max Chilton – the only driver to see the chequered flag in every race this season – will be back next year for Marussia. Don’t forget Heikki Kovalainen, who is desperate to return on a regular basis. What that could mean for this year’s top rookie Esteban Gutiérrez, Giedo van der Garde and Charles Pic is unclear.

Over half of the grid has changed in just two seasons. Some older drivers decided to call time on their careers but we’ve also seen a new wave of ‘disposable’ drivers who turn up with money to burn… until it runs out. Then there are the drivers we’d really like to see racing who just don’t have the cash to interest teams.

The thing that many of the ‘unemployed’ current drivers are pinning their hopes on it is that a current driver will be much better equipped to handle the feedback, compare and contrast when it comes to next season’s rule changes.

More Brazilian Grand Prix coverage
Brazilian Grand Prix – epilogue
Brazilian Grand Prix report

Brazilian Grand Prix – day two
Brazilian Grand Prix – day one
Brazilian Grand Prix – prologue

I think and hope that F1 has lots to look forward to. So many teams are counting on the pressing of the reset button as the lifeline they need. Reliability won’t be the same, they say, the cars will be trickier animals to control and drivers really will make the difference. That’s a lot to live up to but it’s a positive start.

New engines, new faces, new dreams. See you in 2014 and thanks for your company throughout the year.

Click here to read more from Lee McKenzie

f1  Stress in Austin

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