As Ferrari will confirm next week when it becomes the first constructor to pull the wraps off a 2009 F1 car, the sport is about to enter an era unrivalled since its creation for producing simply hideous racing cars.
If the testing shots we’ve all seen are anything to go by, this year’s crop of Grand Prix cars is going to make even some of the distinctly unlovely offerings of the late ground-effect era seem positively gorgeous by comparison.
Of course, they do at least offer the hope that their static ugliness will be more than offset by their dynamic beauty, but I have my fears about even this. In the early part of the 2008 season, I had a conversation with a senior member of an F1 team who said they had already recovered 85 per cent of the downforce the ’09 regs were supposed to lose and that the the fitting of slick tyres meant the cars would go quicker than ever.
His prediction was that, when faced with this increased speed and the accompanying safety issues it implied, the only thing the FIA would be able to do at short notice would be to re-impose grooved tyres, somewhat defeating the point of changing the rules in the first place.
I hope he’s wrong, because if these cars are even half as balletic as they used to be back in the days when slicks were preposterously wide and downforce a dark and unmastered art, they can look like dancing pigs and I, for one, won’t give a damn. In the meantime, anyone care to nominate the best-looking F1 car of all time? For me, Dan Gurney’s 1967 Eagle-Weslake has it by a mile.