Formula one is staring into the unknown as the sport’s revolutionary new era begins in earnest this weekend in Melbourne.
“We can be neither too pessimistic nor too optimistic,” said Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, “because it is likely that Australia will be a race in the dark for everyone in terms of performance.”
The Spaniard was quoted by Italy’s La Repubblica as saying “good points and even the podium” are realistic possibilities for Ferrari at Albert Park, but he is not sure even the apparent dominance of Mercedes can be trusted.
“Mercedes looks strong,” he conceded, “but it was only testing. Now we will see the reality.
“It is the same for Red Bull. Many people talk about their problems, but maybe we will get to the first race and find them in front. Everything is yet to be discovered,” added Alonso.
F1’s all-new look has divided opinions.
Former driver Patrick Tambay told France’s RMC that he thinks 2014 could be a “world championship for engines, a world championship for engineers, with the drivers in the background”.
But the taciturn Kimi Raikkonen insisted: “In the end, I think the races will be quite similar to before.
“Over the years, from time to time we’ve always had to be saving something rather than just driving flat out from start to finish,” he told Finland’s Turun Sanomat.
“So it’s nothing new really,” he added, referring to the new fuel restrictions.
“I don’t care to guess where we are or what will happen,” added Raikkonen. “Let’s see what happens on Friday and go from there.”
Expecting more drama than that, however, is the veteran British commentator Martin Brundle, who thinks 2014 could be “the wildest season I have ever seen”.
“Some teams look like they will struggle to get their car to the start of the race, let alone the finish,” he told the Daily Mail.
Indeed, Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport has even been moved to ask FIA race director Charlie Whiting what will happen if not a single car reaches the chequered flag on Sunday.
“The winner will be the driver who failed last,” the Briton explained, adding that a two-lap countback may then apply.
“So it could be that the winner is actually not the last survivor,” said Whiting.
The bizarre situation of a feasibly zero per cent reliability rate could make it wise for teams to repair technical failures and put their cars back into the race, several laps down.
“It might be worth changing an electronic box or a rear wing,” confirmed Sauber team manager Beat Zehnder. (GMM)