This weekend concluded the pre-season testing for all of the F1 teams. The first race will be on Sunday, March 16th from Melbourne, Australia. The coverage of the pre-testing seems to suggest that Red Bull Racing (four-time constructors' champion), who have absolutely been dominating the sport in recent years is really struggling with reliability. This is uncharacteristic of the team who regularly have mathematically won the season with a good number of races left on the calendar.
To help keep all the teams in the fight through to the end, this year they decided to implement a rule change where the last race of the season will count for double points.
I believe Red Bull is taking a rule change that was designed to make the competition more fair for their rivals and use it to their advantage to swoop in at the end of the season and catch up to win a fifth constructors' championship (and possibly Sebastian Vettel's fifth consecutive drivers' championship). Here's my guess on their strategy:
RBR has built a car with superior performance right out of the gate, but in the pursuit of performance they had to sacrifice reliability. They are betting that most teams will want to take the safe route and focus a little more on reliability and lose performance out of the gate. This is a good bet with such a large rule change this year as we can probably expect to not see one clear team picking up all the points in the first few races.
RBR is going to use this time, while the points are more scattered amongst the various teams to build the reliability element into their car, knowing they have a huge opportunity to re-gain those lost early season points in the final race.
Brilliant. Sacrifice reliability when you know others will struggle and design a car you know will have the out-right performance you need in the long run. Other teams will struggle to alter their cars to try and add in the top end performance, which could prove more more challenging that just figuring out how to keep that already high-performance machine running consistently.
That's just my guess, but I'm dying to see how this season pans out. I'm no technical expert but I really admire those guys that push the engineering and rule book RIGHT up to the limit.
If you'd really like to nerd-out with us, feel free to check out this excellent summary of the key rule changes for 2014 on the Formula One official website here.