Driven by data; ridden with liberty.
F1 teams are now unveiling their 2014 cars, in a year with one of the biggest set of technical rule changes ever. These new regulations aim for the pinnacle of motorsport to become the pinnacle of technology and innovation once again.
The monumental change is the engine: the 2.4-litre naturally aspirated V8 engines – used by Formula One cars since 2006 – are replaced by 1.6-litre V6 turbo engines. The fuel limit has been lowered to 100kg, and engines must not consume more than 100kg of fuel per hour. Fuel consumption will be reduced, since the Energy Recovery System (ERS) combines the established KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) and a second electric motor fitted to the turbo. This new system may be initially unreliable; Red Bull principal Christian Horner expects race failures of about 50%.
The second seismic change is to the car’s nose, which has been lowered by 415mm to a mere 135mm above the car’s floor. The new nose regulations are motivated by safety concerns, so the car’s nose would be less likely to hit a driver in the event of T-boning incidents. Dimensional requirements on the nose will potentially produce cars with ‘anteater’ noses, compared to the ‘platypus’ noses seen last year. Whilst Williams and McLaren have adopted such an ‘anteater’ design, the Ferrari F14T has a long, slender and dipping nose. The Lotus E22’s design features a nose resembling an asymmetric tuning fork. Functionality overrides form.
The new technical regulations also demand a narrow front wing, gearboxes with eight forward gears and fixed ratios, a single exhaust, a higher minimum weight for the car and driver together, and wider side-pods.
Due to on-going issues within the sports’ hierarchy and decision-making processes, a number of new racing regulations were rubber-stamped into existence. In 2014, the final race in Abu Dhabi will deliver double points. It has been near-universally unpopular with fans, drivers and managers. This change has been described by Sky Sports commentator and former F1 driver Martin Brundle as “an answer to a question no-one was asking”. The principle of a global cost cap has been adopted; drivers will now use permanent numbers throughout their careers; and there will be five-second penalties for minor infringements.
There have been significant movements within F1’s driver market. Only Mercedes and Marussia have fully retained their 2013 line-ups. Mark Webber’s move to the FIA World Endurance Championship prompted the promotion of fellow Australian Daniel Ricciardo, from Toro Rosso to Red Bull. Ricciardo’s replacement at the Italian team is reigning GP3 champion 19-year-old Daniil Kyvat. Former Lotus ace Kimi Raikkonen has reverted to Ferrari, whilst Felipe Massa shifted to Williams, and Williams’s last race-winner Pastor Maldonado now accompanies Romain Grosjean at Lotus. The pairing of two World Champions at Maranello promises to be explosive.
Kevin Magnussen, son of former F1 driver Jan Magnussen, has propelled through the McLaren Formula One Driver programme take its highest seat. This decision originally left Sergio Perez without a drive, but Perez has been accepted by Force India. Popular Scot Paul di Resta secured a place in the German touring cars series DTM with Mercedes, and will not race in F1 this year. Despite his clear talents, Nico Hulkenberg was unable to secure a place outside the midfield teams, swapped his Sauber seat with Adrian Sutil, and returned to Force India. It is all change at Caterham, where team principal Tony Fernandes has said: “This is it – the final chance.” Kamui Kobayashi spent a year in the FIA World Endurance Championship, but comes back to F1 with Caterham. Kobayashi is joined by Marcus Ericsson, who placed his DAMS in 6th place in the 2013 GP2 series.
The sport is entering a brave new world, focussed on delivering fantastic energy-harvesting technologies, which will have a great impact on cars around the globe. This year should have fast, wild and unpredictable racing. I can’t wait for the lights to go out in Melbourne.
Outside the fervour for the new season, seven-time F1 World Champion Michael Schumacher had a skiing accident in the French Alps, hitting his head hard. Schumacher was put into a medically-induced coma; doctors are no longer describing his condition as “critical”, only “stable”. Get well soon Michael.