Will the change in regulations be a boon for smaller teams, or something only the ‘Big Four’ – Red Bull Racing, Ferrari, Mercedes and McLaren – can sink their teeth in?
Deputy Team Principal Claire Williams has declared that the 2014 F1 regulation change has come just in time for the struggling Formula 1 team with whom she shares the name.
Williams F1, which came a woeful ninth in the Constructors’ Championship standings in 2013, have reshuffled a number of key roles, including that of their drivers, in an effort to rekindle their competitive drive.
They have also moved to using a Mercedes engine which is rumoured to be doing well in development.
The regulation change gives Williams the unique opportunity to start afresh, according to her.
“I don’t think that the [competitive] form will change too significantly, but what it does offer is an opportunity for teams who are a second or more off the pace to look at what they are doing and look at doing things in a different way,” Williams stated recently.
“That’s what we are trying to do and all of the changes we have made this year have been about making the most of the resources we have to embrace the rule changes for next year.”
The addition of Felipe Massa as the team’s lead driver replacing Pastor Maldonado is something that the Williams seems positive about, particularly given the experience he brings to the team after eight years driving for Ferrari, where he racked up eleven wins.
Massa is an interesting choice: a little older and a proven, but often inconsistent quantity, perhaps Williams offers him a redeeming chance?
She spoke highly of the addition of the Brazilian driver.
“One of the things that we were so impressed by when we first started talking to Felipe is his enthusiasm to help build the team and drive performance,” she added.
“He was so enthused by that [and] that is what we wanted. It’s about coming into the factory as much as he can, talking to the engineers all the time.
“So yes, obviously, we expect him to do that at the racetrack but we also expect him to be back at the factory helping to develop.
“He is not one of those guys who just wants to turn up at the race track – he is an integral part now because of the experience he has. He should be able to help the process.
“He wants to muck in, get his hands dirty and everyone knows we love those kinds of drivers at Williams.”
However, more broadly, speculation is rife as the season approaches whether these regulation changes are actually beneficial for smaller and less resourced teams, or not.
Caterham Team Principal Cyril Abiteboul, conversely, does not share Williams’ enthusiasm that this levels the playing field.
“There is a reset but the midfield will be quite far away from the leading teams because I see the amount of resources that some teams are capable of putting into this. The other thing is that in 2015, you will have four players – Ferrari, Red Bull with Renault, Mercedes and Honda [which will partner with McLaren in 2015] – that have an obligation to be successful,” he said.
“They need to justify the level of spending that is currently being put into it—and that obligation to win is going to create a massive arms race between them. That is a big danger for Formula 1—that it will be those four and the rest of us behind.”
The cost cap that the teams have agreed to beyond 2015 looks to go ahead, but whether or not that will actually be effective remains to be seen.
Teams such as Ferrari will find ways around it, as President Luca di Montezemolo clearly said recently.
“You know why I have doubts about the cap – because it is very easy to cheat –particularly for [manufacturer] teams,” he said.
“And Ferrari could be one… I could go to Chrysler in Detroit to ask them to do something for us.”
Regardless, it seems di Montezemolo thinks the idea is something worth pursuing but in a manner that will be realistic.
“We have to find something that is credible but the cost is the problem number one,” he added.