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F1

The two winter tests are done and dusted. The cars have been back to their factories, dismantled and evaluated. The data has been analysed. We, of course, know nothing at all except the colour of the cars, who will sit in them and what changes in various regulations have done to their look. We've had endless interviews and soundbites from teams and drivers and we've learned nothing of value except that Bottas has had enough of playing second fiddle and plans to shed his Mr Nice Guy image and he's got chiselled features and a bovva-boy haircut to prove it. Does that mean the season opener in Melbourne next weekend is just a prelude to the season proper? Or are the teams actually ready?

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In his Newbury and Hobbes series of novels, author George Mann writes fantastical stories about where the Victorians' obsession with developing new technologies might go. They provide a bleak and terrifying future where automatons are available to pretty much anyone with money to spare and a will to kill. There are no benevolent butlers, no automated beauties as Hollywood portrays - only clunky machines with the single purpose of destruction - some with a worrying tendency to act alone once given instructions. Set 100 years ago, they are a parable for what some now want to ban. But the tech is only part of the problem. What about the people?

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One of the pluckiest teams in F1 for many years has been the outfit created by Peter Sauber and which has, more or less continuously, carried his name since (there was a short period where it appeared to be known as BMW). But now it's been adopted by the Fiat group which has gone from sticking the Alfa Romeo logo on the fin in return for money to a rather more involved - and stable - relationship. The announcement that the team would be renamed "Alfa Romeo Racing" made much of the long term funding. So does that mean the Sauber name is gone for evermore?

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There will be some in Formula One who will miss Force India but there will others who won't. It's a name that has close to zero connection with the team and that's been the case for a while, even before the companies behind it collapsed and were rescued by, amongst others, Lawrence Stroll. This week, it was made clear: the misnomer will come off the cars at the first opportunity and Stroll's will, at least to a degree, appear on one of them.

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F1 is a team sport and that means that, sometimes, hard decisions produce results that prejudice one or other side of the garage. Team orders are both a necessary evil and a despicable trick. Gamblers hate team orders (serves them right for trying to fly in the face of the nature of the sport then whining when it goes against them), fans of pure racing hate them (but those who are fans of the sport, per se, acknowledge their importance) and casual watchers don't understand them. Yes, they interfere with the spectacle and yes, they leave a bad taste in the mouth. And the 2018 Russian Grand Prix in Sochi left a taste that even the victory champagne could not wash away for either the man who came in second nor, importantly, the winner. And that's sad for the events eclipsed a truly great race, but that's not this story.

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The 2018 Russian Grand Prix got off to a farcical start minutes before qualifying began. Five cars parked in the pit lane, engines off, drivers in, waiting to restart the cars shortly before the session started. Why, who gained and who lost out?

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In 2010, in the Italian Grand Prix in Monza, Jenson Button's McLaren Mercedes did not have the pace of Fernando Alonso's Ferrari. At his best, with a car that is good enough, Button was one of F1's fastest drivers and he proved it with a pole position that took everyone, including his team-mate Hamilton, by surprise. His only chance for victory in the race was to get in front before the first corner and hold position for the entire race, knowing that he would be under constant pressure from the Ferraris in particular....

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Some months ago, we produced a series of our views of some of the ways that Formula One could be improved to avoid it becoming a high-speed procession around circuits that are, often, not very interesting from a spectators' point of view. One of those was a system where the fastest drivers were rewarded for being fastest but started at the back. In the past few races, without the incentives, that's what we've seen and yesterday's German Grand Prix demonstrated why it's such an excellent concept, even when the stewards act to spoil it.

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If there's one thing more certain in Formula One than that there will be in-fighting between the teams, it's that every few years some kind of financial scandal will engulf at least some aspect of the sport. And if there's an allegation of cheating, there's always an Italian aspect to it. Put the two things together and you get the worst-kept secret in the sport, but one that could not be openly told because of the way the investigation is conducted: the Italian authorities have been investigating financial affairs connected to the Italian Grand Prix at Monza for more than five years.

er.. Wow. I thought I'd miss the Grid Girls (amazingly, I didn't notice they weren't there until someone pointed out that the parade as they left the grid carrying their signboards aloft didn't happen) and I thought I'd hate the halo (I did, until the racing started and then, except for one novelty moment, forgot it was there). I thought I'd be confused by the names of the tyres (I was, so I ignored it and it became irrelevant chatter) and I thought I'd be bemoaning yet another procession (actually, that was kind of true but it was a procession with enough drama to keep it interesting). Aside from the obvious colour changes, team changes and the halo, what's so different? The answer is "lots."

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Here we are at the last part of this five part series on reform of Formula One from 2020 to improve the spectacle, decrease the cost (and so allow more entrants) and to keep the competitive spirit alive for both the manufacturers' and drivers' championship, while not touching on the commercial aspects of the sport.

To read the previous four parts, click on 2020 Vision in the tags list.

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We ended last week noting the problem of "marbles," those small bits of rubber that fly off racing tyres and line the track. There is nothing good about marbles, although there is an argument that the cause of marbles is potentially a good thing.

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While aero helps the car at the front of a queue to remain stable both in a straight line and under braking, and it helps the car behind to go faster using less power, that's the only good news. Aero creates a range of problems for both cars and, if there are others behind the second car, those problems are compounded.

In Part 3 of Bryan Edwards' look at a 2020 vision for F1, aero is both hero and villain.

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Bryan Edwards examines Formula One, explains some of it in very simple terms and suggests ways to improve the racing. Continued from Part 1 yesterday.

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In this series, Bryan Edwards looks at the state of Formula One and comes up with some radical ideas that could be brought into effect as soon as 2020 and would actually reduce the cost of the sport while improving the spectacle and technical benefits outside F1.

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