I personally don't think the grids of today are any better then years gone by. I think what we are seeing is simply a result of the following huge advancements in electronics and materials.
1. Manual Gearbox vs. Sequential gearbox with electronic paddle shit. Ridiculously short gear changes. Impossible to miss a shift.
2. Steel brakes vs. Carbon/Ceramic/Whatever compounds used today. Ridiculously short braking distances. Next to no brake fade.
3. Serious reliability. Cars are simply built to much higher standards and don't break down.
4. ECUs with serious engine mapping and anti-tire slip technologies.
5. Tire technology. Next to no marbling off line.
6. Track layouts. Chicane's and huge run-offs not penalizing mistakes made on track. Years gone by, you went into the marbles or into the sand/gravel and that was it.. pretty much resulted in an end of race.
7. Engine # limits. Drivers can push for max any longer as engine reliability is a very very serious concern so they need to baby them (both in driving style and engine mapping).
8. Testing Limits. Drivers are getting very limited time to exploliate a cars subtle nuiances due to such short amounts of track time outside of race day.
Success in F1 now is almost only a result of the engineers within a team, eeking out an advantage in the design rules (ie diffuser fights of the past years) and not the driver. A team's success is probably now 90% engineering, 6% luck (weather, keeping your nose out of pile ups etc), 4% driver.
That said, drivers of today are more equal in preparation and training vs. years gone by. Their level of fitness is more equal where drivers of days gone by were less fitness oriented (JPM) and driver development is much more focused in development series. So they are coming into F1 more even so an individuals impact is less as they all pretty contribute equally as they've come through the same development program for the most part.
I personally dont believe we will ever see a Jacques Villeneuve 1st race scenario ever again were a new driver to a series comes in and blow the doors off of the established driver by a huge margin.
I personally feel F1 needs to go a bit retro in some of it's ideas to make it more interesting:
1. Drop the BLUE FLAG rule as it currently stands. Make it so that only if a lead driver follows another backmarker for 10 laps should the backmarker have to move aside. Force a driver to get by with their skill and force the issue and not a blue flag after 2 corners of following. Insane rule. Image how different races would play out if the leader got stuck behind a backmarker for that long and #2 and #3 were stuck behind as well..
2. Get rid of this crazy long life engine format. Teams should be allocated 1 engine per race and 1 engine per test session pre season and 1 engine per 2 test sessions during the season testing.
3. Increase the number of test session preseason: Jan 15 - March 1; test sessions every 7days for the 1st 4 weeks, then every 10days until the start of the season.
4. Increase the number of in-season test sesssions. 1 / month.
5. Make Friday 3 - 1hr test session (9:30 - 10:30am, 12:00 - 1:00pm, 2:30-3:30pm). Ensure 3 sessions on Sat (1 of which is qualifying).
6. Eliminate the drop out qualifying format. So what if a driver gets stuck in traffic, mixes up the grid leading to more action on Sunday!
7. Removal of most track chicanes ;-)
The simple fact is, modern formula 1 as it currently stands simply doesn't allow Michael to show his true worth to a team by simply looking at Sunday's results. I still believe he'll be a major part of helping bring car up the grid fast and Merc is better having him but more cause of his approach, leadership style and feedback to the engineers. As for eclipsing his teammate, I think it will always now be close and only a hair seperating them on Saturday and Sunday's becuase of points 1-6 above in the 1st list.
Edited by Paco, 24 February 2011 - 10:31.