Friday, November 20, 2009

2009, End Of An Era

So with 2009 winding down, we really do appear to be looking at the end of an era in Formula One. In the last year we have lost Honda, BMW, and Toyota. Renault hasn't decided what to do yet. This leaves Mercedes and Ferrari as pretty much the only major "manufacturers" still in the sport.

Toyota's departure was probably inevitable. Much was made of Toyota's goal to be in Formula One to beat Honda; and while Toyota managed to do that, Honda didn't make that a very high bar to clear. This year the word was that Toyota would have to win or be drummed out. While they came close at the beginning of the year, their challenge faded again as it has every year. When word came down in Brazil that Toyota was releasing their drivers to make other arrangements, the writing was pretty much on the wall.

I liked Toyota in Formula One even though they never really came to grips with the sport. I enjoyed watching them, and their participation was one factor which helped decide one of our car purchases.

I think that Formula One loses some of its legitimacy with the exodus of manufacturers from the sport. The presence of globally-recognized names helping to develop the cutting-edge technology needed to compete raised the level of prestige. The idea is that if a manufacturer has smart people who can make competitive race cars, they have smart people to make road cars, too. This may be totally faulty reasoning, but it is what I went with.

Next year will be a different year, with more private teams joining the sport. The levels of money in the sport will drop, and we will probably end up with a larger performance variation between the front runners and the back of the pack. If Renault does indeed withdraw, engine choice will be reduced even more (unless Renault does another Mechacrome/Supertek-style technology sale).

It will be interesting to see where Formula One goes from here.