ATLAS F1   Volume 7, Issue 8 Email to Friend   Printable Version

Atlas F1   Season of Transition

  by Karl Ludvigsen, England

The 2001 Formula One season will be one of transition - an uncertain year in which change will be the norm. It will in fact be a year of preparation for what should be a knock-down, drag-out season of Grand Prix racing in 2002.

One area of transition concerns tires. With the entry of Michelin a new unknown is inserted into the Grand Prix equation. No one at Michelin is forecasting a win or even great success in 2001, but we can be sure that the French firm will put all its considerable resources behind its F1 tires. And we will see both Bridgestone and Michelin throwing new compounds at the challenge in the course of the season.

Transition is the order of the day in the new rules designed to curtail downforce and improve safety. Designers have had to deal with drastic new limits on front and rear wings and with new side crush requirements. The configurations that we see in 2001 will be only their first interpretations of the best way to master these requirements.

We are in transition as well at several key teams on the grid. Benetton Renault has made it clear that this is a year of consolidation with a new engine, preparing for a more mature attack in 2002. Toyota is in transition from theory to practice, starting to run its complete new package in the spring. Several teams are adapting to new engine suppliers; Prost to Ferrari, Arrows to Asiatech and Jordan to Honda among them.

Jaguar is in transition with a whole new management, looking to gain credibility in a year in which they have to demonstrate that they have what it takes to make progress. McLaren has launched a completely new car and engine which it admits will take some time to mature; the real test will come in 2002. Sauber has technical continuity but has gambled on transition in its drivers.

The main teams for which transition is not an issue are Ferrari and BAR. This is one of the principal reasons why I expect both to do well in 2001. They have strong continuity from 2000 in technology, engines, tires and personnel both in and out of the cockpit. I think that the transitions being experienced by their main rivals will allow these two teams to show to excellent advantage this year.

There's also a danger that transitions in the control of the sport will overshadow anything that happens on the track. The SLEC Trust's relations with EM.TV and its backer Kirsch are an ongoing saga, as are the intentions of the major European auto companies to invest in SLEC. There are also ructions in the relationship of SLEC to the FIA that could allow the latter to revisit its arrangements with the Ecclestone-led organization. This is one that is set to run and run - just like the racing cars that are the money-spinners for SLEC, the FIA and the sport's sponsors.

Karl Ludvigsen© 2007
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