FEATURE BY MAX NOBLE
Each explored aspects of recall and how we are shaped that turn us into what we are today. And that gentle flowing of the river of constant change will bring everyone aboard the World Ship Earth to the future at the Einsteinian rate of 24 hours to each day, and 365 days, occasionally plus one, to each year into the undiscovered country of the future. Where we often find it is not as different as we projected, and that, in general, death, taxes, and continuing change are the only constants.
So what of F1 season 2020? Indeed, with the soothsayers around the F1 marketplace already peering into questionable crystal balls for 2021 and beyond, what of the F1 future in general, built, as it will be, on the actions, decisions, and outcomes of today? Looking at the start of 2020 testing one can elect to make a few modest assumptions, and then in a joyful tour de force of folly, continue building on these modest assumptions until one has a wobbling monster of a tower of questionable assumptions and assertions, that as surely as Williams follows Haas, will become in due course, the bananas of our future.
Ready to build that tower with me Old Fruit? Here we go...
Our first fruits are the pomegranates of our immediate foundations. True, it is normally English Banks that are built of 'Pommie Granite', but so too are our assumptions about season 2020.
Mercedes, Lewis and Bottas 3.0 Platinum Edition (or is that Porridge Edition?) have leapt into an early start such that betting against them would probably be foolish. They have a remarkable, largely unchanged, team, a breathtaking baseline design, and the best driver pairing on the grid. By which I mean Bottas is a highly talented and capable driver, just not quite good enough to rattle Lewis and cause inter-team issues, which is just how Lewis and Toto like it. Missing both titles this season would take a mighty round of podiatric shooting that I believe is simply not possible for the team. Even if they miss the constructors' trophy, due to Bottas 3.0 needing a serious rebuild and reboot mid-season, most reasonably agree it will take something exceptional to beat Lewis at the top of his game. So our first future fruits will be watching Lewis dance around everyone in the dry, the wet, and everything in between.
Being a Williams press officer will be less of a trauma than 2019, and not just because they are now used to a robust kicking. The car shows far more promise than last years'. Let us hope it is more ripe avocado and less blackened banana and all shall be good at the Williams stall.
Speaking of stall, just a letter or two away we have Mr Stroll, team owner, Aston owner, and Chap with More Money than Most. The next Briatore? Possibly. Doing better this year than last year? Quite probably. Neatly this all means that Lance is no longer a pay driver, since as they own the team I'm sure he doesn't pay himself to turn up, or does he?
Ferrari are about to mark their 1,000th Grand Prix weekend this season, that is assuming the Coronavirus or similar malady does not cancel any more races. Go Ferrari one must say! As long as the car is not a lemon I believe both drivers will win races this season. That one of them is driving to confirm he is more passion fruit than pumpkin should spice up proceedings nicely for us the dear fans. Having said that I am rather a fan of spiced pumpkin soup, so I think it will be an entertaining year at Ferrari no matter what happens.
Red Bull? Podiums and japes for sure. World Champions? Not this season methinks...
Everyone else? Well it could be a bit of a cucumber sandwich all around I'm afraid. Jolly finger food, avoiding the crust, and a 'participant' badge is all most of them can hope for.
2021? Well my guess is the look, feel, and general vibe of F1 will be more-or-less exactly as it has been since Mercedes out-developed everyone at the start of the hybrid era. Lewis will keep winning until he stops, or joins Ferrari, whichever happens first.
Bottas 155.5 will keep following Lewis home. And the other teams will all form an orderly queue behind these two, with the odd elbows out jostle from Ricciardo and Verstappen along the way for giggles.
Has it ever really been different dear reader? Fangio made them all look off the pace. As did Senna, as did Moss on his day, as did Stewart. As did Prost, Schumacher, and now Lewis.
They all cried for more power and reliability. They all praised their teams, and questioned track safety. The team that won last season and had the wooden spoon this new season would decry the resources of the larger teams.
Everyone says it so too expensive, and then spends every dollar they can find down the back of the sofa faster than a rabbit in an organic carrot shop. Cost cap? Sure. It's set above the level of the existing budget of several smaller teams, and excludes so many items it is the cap one has, when one does not wish to have a cap.
I've previously written about the world class quality of the lawyers and accountants at the big teams. I did not need to worry, silly me. The big teams do not need sneaky accounting (yet) to avoid the cost cap. They got in early, shaped the rules, and are laughing all the way to the vault as they shovel gold to suppliers as fast as they possibly can. Brilliant thinking! That's why they remain the big teams. They out think the others, which in turn leads to more money, which attracts the best thinkers, which... I think you get what I'm driving at here.
Fresh apples for the top of the grid, and over-ripe bananas down the back once again.
FormulaE I hear shouted from the back. Well yes the electrics are coming. But somewhat slower than one would have anticipated. The big oil companies, rabid to hold onto the need for their distribution and storage capabilities are keenly backing anything that needs processing, storing, and transporting. Hello hydrogen, LNG, and gee, anything that keeps them in business.
I would be surprised to learn that the big oil companies are buying up battery startup companies as fast as possible to simply close them down and feed their founders bananas wrapped in non-disclosure papers until the end of time.
That is why the planet needs Elon Musk to succeed. He has zero ties to big oil, and for anyone that has failed to notice, he is not adverse t opening his mouth and repeatedly placing his foot in it, while performing the remarkable act of not tripping over. Long may it be so, because it is due to him, and him alone, that the large car companies have been forced to make electric vehicles that actually work. Sure they have not rushed to market, they over-price them, and the battery life is still questionable at best, but all the large marques (other than Mazda for some curious reason) now have passable electric cars on the market. I would cheerfully roll around in a Jaguar I-Pace or Tesla right now if they were just a touch cheaper.
So sometime after 2025 F1 will go electric but it is some way off just yet. Or, if Elon fails and big oil wins then F1 will go Hydrogen, LNG, or whatever big oil dumps on us. That will mean continuing reciprocating engines for many years to come.
If Lewis continues to “do a Federer” he could be winning for another decade yet. If Mercedes elect to remain in F1 they could dominate for another 25 years. If Ferrari continue as they are they will have endless podiums, and no end of season trophies for many, many years to come.
And in between it all, and around the politics, and through the rain and global challenges, we will still have races that burn themselves into the pages of history and then legend. We will have drivers that achieve the 'impossible' overtake. We will have a delightful parade of heroes, villains, cads, cards, and everything in between.
And the future will unfold just as intended, regardless of what our personal dreams and desires might be. How do you think we are going to like those bananas once we have digested them and can once again apply the hot source of hindsight for enlightenment?
Amor Fati dear reader. Love (your) Fate. It is coming for you with a tray of bananas, so why not smile, and prepare to make the banana smoothie of the future.
Learn more about Max and check out his previous features, here