Formula 1 cars 08.01.15

Crime 1

There are few things more graceful than a classic sports car. So why are today's machines so spectacularly vulgar?

The last decade has seen some of the ugliest Formula 1 cars ever to take to the track. These are not just ugly in a functional, don't-give-a-damn way, but in the "international bling" mode of Dubai hotels and certain kinds of high-tech trainers.

The crop of 2014 is perhaps the worst ever due to a particularly disastrous coming together of aerodynamics and safety requirements. This has resulted in the "ant-eater" nose, a dangling protuberance that also suggests more obscene associations.

Formula 1 is only marginally a sport in the conventional sense. While hitting a ball against a bat is a simple proposition pretty much immune from change, the technology involved in F1 not only transforms the spectacle – fatter, grippier tyres and the manipulation of downforce mean that cars no longer slide – it also tends to design out faults.

The cars rarely break down any more and the performance differential between the fastest and the slowest is measured in fractions of a second. There are no dramatic contrasts in design approach or engine specification, and none of the mad technological one-offs and spectacular failures of the past, such as the six-wheeled Tyrell or the Rover gas turbine.

Instead there are just a lot of very efficient, very clever pieces of kit driven by increasingly interchangeable drivers. The tracks too have suffered from a combination of labyrinthine safety regulations and commercial vulgarity. Where once we had the spectacular 14km Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium – a track so long that it can be raining at one end and sunny at the other – we now have the corporate hell of Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dubai.

Formula 1 is a crime against quite a lot of things. Not only does it involve obscenely expensive gas-guzzling machines, it also tends to favour despotic regimes and disreputable billionaires. It's difficult to imagine a sport and a promoter better suited to each other
than Formula 1 and Bernie Ecclestone.

Most unforgivably, the one thing that was its saving grace, the beauty and elegance of the cars, has been lost. Watch footage of Juan Manuel Fangio lapping the old Nürburgring circuit in a Maserati 250F and you can still admire the exquisite lines and beautiful balance of car, driver and circuit. Just don't look too hard at the latest Sahara Force India, with its phallic nose cone and colour scheme to make the eyes bleed. And under no circumstances try to watch a modern Formula 1 race: you'll never get those hours back.

In July 2014 we featured a gallery of images of "dream cars" from an exhibition in Atlanta

 

Words

Charles Holland

 

Image: Sahara Force India Formula One team

quotes story

A particularly disastrous coming together of aerodynamics and safety requirements has resulted in the "ant-eater" nose, a dangling protuberance that also suggests more obscene associations

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