LONDON (Reuters) - Sebastian Vettel urged his Red Bull team to “enjoy this moment” as they celebrated his record ninth win in a row and the quadruple world champion knew what he was talking about.
Formula One will look and sound very different when the 26-year-old German returns from his well-earned winter break in search of a 10th successive win and fifth consecutive championship.
The glamour sport has seen many eras declared over and Sunday’s season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix was another such moment, even if Vettel is at the peak of his powers and with many years of racing ahead of him.
The 2.4 liter normally aspirated V8 engine has departed the scene, Red Bull’s joyfully revved into oblivion by Renault in the garage after the race, to be replaced by a 1.6 liter turbocharged V6 with energy recovery systems.
So radical is the change that the engine itself has become an outdated concept. In 2014, cars will be equipped with a ‘power unit’ with fuel economy and hybrid systems much more to the fore.
Who of the three remaining manufacturers - Renault, Mercedes and Ferrari following the departure of Cosworth and pending the arrival in 2015 of Honda - will have the best is anyone’s guess at present.
“It’s a massive regulation change for next year and of course it’s the end of an era with the current car and beginning of a new era that pretty much starts tomorrow,” said Red Bull principal Christian Horner on Sunday night.
As of Monday, Vettel has a new team mate in Australian Daniel Ricciardo moving up from Toro Rosso to replace departed compatriot Mark Webber but the same old urge to succeed remains as strong as ever.
“It’s almost like a drug,” said Horner. “It becomes addictive and you always want to do better, you’re always looking inwardly, you’re always trying to push harder.
“(Designer) Adrian (Newey) hasn’t attended this race, he’s been back with the factory, with all the guys and is pushing so hard for next year.”
One of the reasons Vettel has enjoyed his most dominant season so much, with tire-smoking ‘donuts’ for the crowd after his last few wins, is the knowledge that one day, sooner or later, it must stop.
Mercedes, second overall and with huge resources on the engine side, Ferrari and Lotus all won races this year and the first two at least will be throwing everything at 2014.
The only driver ever to win nine races in a row in a single season, the man who has equaled Michael Schumacher’s 2004 record of 13 victories in a year, Vettel takes nothing for granted.
“You never know what’s going to happen, next year is an unknown,” he had said after winning the penultimate race of the season in Texas.
“I’m sure we will push very, very hard and I’m sure we will fight a lot to maintain our position but there’s no guarantee that next year will be like this year.
“With the new regulations coming in, I think nobody really knows where he will stand. You will have the big teams in front but the question is who...”
Early reports have indicated that the cars will look different, with ‘droopy’ noses, and also sound quite unlike the screaming V8s introduced in 2006 when the V10 era ended.
Just how different remains to be seen, with the only audio released so far being of engines in factory environments rather than out on the racetrack.
“We’re used to this linear rise of noise with rpm, whereas next year you’re going to have one motor doing 125,000 rpm, another electric motor doing 9,000 rpm, you’ve got the engine itself doing 10-15,000 rpm, turbos that are doing 100,000 rpm,” McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh told reporters last month.
“So you’ve got all sorts of noises coming and going and changing....it’ll be quite a strange cacophony of sounds and noises coming out of these cars next year, but in a way that increasingly we are seeing on road cars.”
Damon Hill, who won his 1996 championship at the wheel of a Williams with a 3.0 liter Renault V10 in the back, looked forward to it.
“It’s all about change, F1 moving forward,” said the Sky television commentator on Sunday. “I’m looking forward to hearing what the turbos will sound like.
“I think with the turbos we’re going to get a much deeper, satisfying growl.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Justin Palmer