Jan 02, 2014

    F1's winter break is no holiday

    AFTER a long 19-race season, we are finally into the winter break for the teams and drivers.

    While it would be natural to presume that the Formula One world might be taking it easy, it's actually far from the truth. The winter break leads to an intensity that is very different from the actual race season.

    There may not be any travelling, which would be a relief to team members who have had to go to all 19 races, but there is still the race to get this year's car out.

    With such big rule changes compared to last year, this will be even more critical than ever.


    The design team will be hard-pressed to make the first test next month and, with a completely new power train, I think reliability will be key to having a good start this year.

    That's not to say that reliability isn't as important in other years, but it's going to be hard to achieve that with so many changes.

    I don't see any of the teams not struggling with this - it could even have an impact on the championship fight.


    I remember that, a couple of years ago, Jenson Button said he even had to skip dessert on Christmas Day.

    That's a good indication of how hard the drivers will be working during the off-season. And with a heavier car this year, the drivers will certainly be working hard so that they don't carry any excess fat or muscle.

    The car-and-driver combination must come in at under 695kg this year, and the bigger drivers such as Button and Nico Hulkenburg will struggle to be light enough.

    It is estimated that drivers will, on average, have to weigh 75kg or less with all their gear on if they don't want to be overweight.


    The many tyre failures during last year's season were a worry, but the teams and the FIA - motorsports' governing body - really need to try and give Pirelli more testing time so that these do not happen again.

    Pirelli was kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place, trying to get the tyres to degrade enough during a race, while still being strong enough to not deflate - all with minimal testing on an up-to-date F1 car.

    McLaren need to step up, too. This is a team that should not have had such a poor season last year. It is imperative that they bounce back strongly in the new season, or team principal Martin Whitmarsh will really feel the pressure.


    We also saw some interesting new rules from the FIA.

    Double points will now be allocated for the last race this year. I'm not sure how I feel about this, because it certainly feels like a showbiz trick.

    The thinking behind it is to try and make the last race of the weekend interesting, but I don't know anyone who likes the idea. It certainly seems to diminish the integrity of a year-long championship.

    One other change being proposed for this year is to make double pit-stops compulsory.

    Again, this does not quite sit right with me. F1 is mostly about being a pure technical challenge, and to try and put in too many showbiz tricks to make it more entertaining doesn't quite fit.

    Former F1 driver Alex Yoong is an F1 analyst and presenter on STAR Sports' Race Day and Chequered Flag.