Today, F1 is rewarding different skills in relation to the golden age. In the past, it was the speed to be one of the most important thing to obtain. During some test, pilots were forced to stop after three laps due to the intense physical strain.
Today: one hundred laps during the winter test ? Fantasy… Yesterday: race in Monaco ? A mystical experience… It is not a mystery that those cars used int eh ’70s and ’80s were really difficult to physically manage. Montecarlo was requesting an amount of 3.700 gear shift in one single race. This was done without any command on the wheel steer but with a classical gear change lever. Alain Prost is one of those pilots who did many races with those cars and now he talks about the changes of modern cars if compared with the old ones:
These kind of cars are very easy to drive. They are less demanding from a physical point of view. Ergonomics is perfect. When I was driving a F1 in 1983, I can not even remember how we could do it in Montecarlo . During Winter if we stopped just one month, when we were coming back to perform some test at Estoril we were out of use during 3 days
Alain Prost driving a McLaren
Cars were more difficult to manage, tires were bigger and training was not even closer or professional to the actual level. A concept introduces by Senna and later by Schumacher of a pilot athlete, it was not considered in 1980. Modern pilots focus very carefully about their training and what system is used to do it: Prost named the teacher, remembers like modern F1 is requiring different skills to his pilots while in his times those things were not necessary at all:
Sometimes during one test, we were doing three laps after which we were forced to stop. If we were capable to perform 30 laps in one day, we were lucky. That was the maximum amount possible. No young pilot might do that with our cars. Today, what is request to a pilot in radically different from what they were asking is to do. We were requested to take care about fuel consumption, brakes, gear and so on. I was talking about everything to my engineer but he never jumped into my car. Today, all is managed by those boys sit on the wall. Modern pilots have to focus about analysis and technical details while during my time this was not going to give any specific advantage. It was more important to be faster and to attack constantly. This job changed and it is the fault of technology as well as modern rules. Performance obtained today are diabolical if compared to those of older times