Mark Webber has suggested that far from spicing up the spectacle and producing a close world championship battle, Formula 1's brave new technological dawn in 2009 could in fact increase
the gap currently separating the haves from the have-nots.
The Australian is well-known and respected for his outspoken views on the sport, and after what he described as an at times sleep-inducing 2008 campaign – which worryingly was actually one of the more exciting seasons of late – he is unconvinced that the advent of KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems), the return of slick tyres and reduced aerodynamic downforce will have the desired effect of keeping fans on the edge of their seats.
“There are many changes next year – slick tyres on the cars and the aerodynamic regulations are very aggressive – and we haven't seen changes like them for many years,” the Red Bull Racing star told the BBC
“The main thought behind them is to make overtaking easier. A few races this season could have put even the most hardcore fan to sleep, such was the lack of overtaking, so changes were necessary.
“It's hard to predict exactly what effect they will have, but will it make it a more competitive title race? I don't think so. The difference between the best and worst teams might get even bigger in terms of overall timings, so I don't think it will close that gap.
“Hopefully we'll have better overtaking, but are the cars going to be closer together on the grid in terms of time?”
That is a question that will remain unanswered until the curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix in front of Webber's adoring home supporters in Melbourne at the end of March – a race the 32-year-old is confident of being fit and ready for as he convalesces from his leg-breaking mountain-biking accident during his annual Pure Tasmania charity adventure challenge last month.
One driver who assuredly will be lining up on the starting grid Down Under is defending F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton, and whilst acknowledging that the McLaren-Mercedes star's instant success in the top flight has aroused the envy of some of his fellow drivers, Webber was quick to pay tribute to the Briton's tremendous raw talent and ability.
“I think it's normal that when someone comes in and is successful pretty quickly in any sport there can be a bit of jealousy,” the New South Wales native reasoned. “For me, the way Lewis came through the ranks so quickly, he had a pretty smooth run.
“He came through the junior ranks quickly but in the best equipment – not many drivers have that option. However, his acid test came when he was appointed driver of the McLaren team – and he delivered.”