While they admit that change will initially be tricky to get used to, there is a general consensus amongst F1 engineers that the much-hyped ban on help that can be given to drivers will not have a long-lasting effect on the pecking order.
The aim of the ban, which began in Belgium with a crackdown on the instructions that could be fed from pit to cockpit in the run-up to the start of the race, is to put greater control of a driver's destiny back in his hands, but the fact that only Nico Rosberg admitted to a poor getaway suggests that the majority of the grid is already capable of leaving the grid without the hand-holding previously administered.
“If it has its intended effect, it will make it so that the drivers who are most on top of their game can do a better job than the ones who needed to be led a little bit more by the hand,” Ferrari's James Allison confirmed, “I think, on the whole, the drivers are all pretty good in F1, so I imagine that, within six months or so - or maybe sooner - it will feel very much like it did before. Maybe, in the transition to that, there will be a few mistakes made, and maybe some interesting events as a result.”
Rosberg's fluffed getaway at Spa dropped him to fifth on the road and allowed Mercedes team-mate – and title rival – Lewis Hamilton to run untroubled at the front of the pack, but the German still recovered to second by the chequered flag, limiting the damage to his championship ambitions and showing that a good car could still overcome a bad start. Ironically, bad starts by the Mercedes drivers, pre-ban, at Silverstone and the Hungaroring, enlivened proceedings, although Hamilton eventually came through to win at home.
“I think everybody wants to see the drivers being in charge of their own starts, so I can see why it has come in,” Lotus' technical director Nick Chester added, “But I'd echo the comments [that] I think people will get used to it very quickly. There might be a few little mixes early on, but it will settle down fairly quickly.”
With stricter control on all radio messages also being enforced from the start of the 2016 season – with a list of permitted and banned subjects issued for the sake of clarification over the Spa weekend - Rosberg's Mercedes colleague Paddy Lowe admitted that there would be less confusion on the pit-wall during races, even if it meant that less assistance could be given to drivers as they battled for position.
“It's actually quite tricky,” he confessed, no doubt referring the 31-phrase document issued by the FIA ahead of 2016, “We police ourselves on the intercom - people often ask: 'Can I say that? Can I say that?', but we will work our way through it and get used to it in time. I think we will see a little bit more variability, but the big thing for me is that, to a larger extent, if a driver has a good or a bad start, that will be down to his skill and less dependent on the team's performance on configuring the start.”
The starts remain the main focus of the changes, with no outside assistance now permitted when it comes to tweaking clutch settings, and Red Bull's Paul Monaghan appears less concerned by the ban on feeding mid-race information to the drivers.
“I think you'll see a little bit more variability, the odd fluffed start,” he agreed, “We'll see a bit of a shuffle of the grid order approaching turn one [but], mid-race, I think, when the drivers get used to it - and depending on how the teams treat the level of automation - there will be subtle differences maybe in ultimate performance you can extract from the car. After that, I think it will settle out. What the fans will see? A little bit at the starts maybe but, once you're in the race, I'm not sure there'll be much other than less radio traffic.”
While the ban is designed to have the side-effect of making the racing more entertaining and unpredictable for the spectators, Sauber's Giampaolo Dall'Ara admitted that it was hard to see how they would benefit as teams would inevitably look for a way around the restrictions. Cars will still be permitted to run two clutches next season, although only one will be allowed for use at the start, before a standard unit is introduced for 2017.
“Judging the perception on the spectators is very difficult from where I sit,” he confessed, “I can tell you about the engineering side of it, as it changes quite a bit the way we work, approaching the issues involving the driver more and the engineering side of the car. Eventually, I think the result is what has [been] mentioned - the driver will be more in charge of what he is doing.”