Michael Bailey: F1’s reliable present and greener future
It became clear a few races ago that we are approaching an age of supreme Formula One reliability.
Maybe it is because the current rules make it harder to push the boundaries, to break the mould. All of which leaves the sport's cleverest people to make sure the bits and pieces they can produce last.
Four times this season there have been more than 20 cars finish a race: China, Turkey, Spain and Sunday's European Grand Prix.
All 24 cars made it to the chequered flag at the now notoriously dull docklands circuit in Valencia – only the third time an entire field has finished in the sport's history, with 24 cars being its highest ever number crossing the line.
It is good things are finally sticking – and some way from the wastage of teams running an engine solely for qualifying. Nowadays those gearboxes and power units have to last.
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And given F1 is starting to acknowledge its environmental conscience, that is only right.
However, while there are big changes in the pipeline to make the sport 'greener', it is going to take a little longer for them to come to fruition.
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Originally, the landscape was set to change dramatically in 2013, with revamped restrictions on the cars' chassis and – most importantly – the introduction of four-cylinder turbo-charged engines; a drop from the current 2.4-litre V8 units. The proposed engine's efficiency and ability to harvest energy and reuse it – a fully integrated Kers or hybrid system, if you like – would make things 'greener' and relevant.
Suppliers confirmed their interest, including a completely new company – Propulsion Universelle et Recuperation d'Energie, or Pure. They already have a plan to produce the 2013 specification. But those plans are going to have to change.
The F1 teams' informal meeting in Valencia saw an agreement to make 2014 the big moment for change – with six cylinders rather than four, mainly at the request of Ferrari.
As always, Maranello carries weight in these decisions, and the V6 should ease some of the worries over F1 losing its special 'noise'.
Renault Sport – who have been the vocal leader over the engine changes – should be happy enough with the changes too
It may be, come 2024, we will be talking about electric engines – something already mooted in some quarters; although how you would go about solving the 'noise' problem then would be interesting.
At least we will be guaranteed a bit of the unknown by the time 2014 comes along – and maybe a return to some chaotic unreliability in the process. Until then, full field finishes may well become a regular feature.
• On the outside, we would all be forgiven a little disappointment that Norfolk's Team Lotus cannot bridge the gap to the tails of Force India, Toro Rosso et al.
Tyres, Kers, strategy, development time – there will be plenty of reasons why it is just not happening for Hingham's finest. But the very fact it is not happening in the point.
Yet you will not hear any dissent from Finnish driver Heikki Kovalainen – a man who has a smile on his face most of the time anyway.
He may have driven for Renault and been team-mate to Lewis Hamilton at McLaren, but as far as the 29-year-old is concerned this is as good as he has been.
'I think I'm driving better than before and all the time I feel I'm doing a better job than I've done in the past,' Kovalainen told Autosport.
'I've learned from my experiences and the mistakes I've done in the past. I think I'm comfortably in control of the whole situation now – the way we set up the car, the way we plan the sessions, go into qualifying and the races is better than before.
'For me, the feeling is that now my career is really starting. I'm working so that whenever there is an opportunity in the future, I'm there to take it.
'It's all you can do. The last thing you should do is give up and let it go. I'm not ready for that yet.'
• Even as someone who tipped Sebastian Vettel to become a double world champion this season, the dominance displayed by the German so far in 2011 has been a surprise.
Six wins from eight races, leading more than 80pc of this season's lap tally and yet to finish outside the top two. If he wanted – Vettel could dash off for his own mid-season break for the next three races and still head the drivers' championship.
Lewis Hamilton was first to admit the title race was 'finished, really' – before those around him no doubt had a word in his ear about defeatism and its consequences.
Even Fernando Alonso – a man renowned for thinking his chances are never dead – is being realistic: 'At the moment, I don't think we can think of the championship in a proper way. We just need to take it race by race and see what happens in the last part of the season.'
At least the annual non-event in Valencia is out of the way. Let the British Grand Prix mark a return to form next weekend.