Considering the now four-year-long dominance of one outfit and one driver on the Formula 1 grid, many fans and teams are looking forward to the major changes in the sport’s regulations for 2014, hoping they will reset the current supremacies and weaknesses and balance out the playing field. On the other hand, the sceptics and topic experts expect the differences between teams’ performances to widen even further, pointing out that those who did well early in 2013 had more time to work on their technical developments for next season in the meantime. And they have a point.
The sheer number and nature of the rule changes in Formula 1 from 2014 – denoted “extreme” by some of the sport’s figures – will cause some headaches for the engineers and drivers themselves. Let’s take a look at the major developments that will bring F1 into another era of racing – and what challenges will they pose.
ENGINES A 1.6 litre V6 turbo-charged engine will substitute the current 2.4 litre normally-aspired V8s. The new engines will produce around 150bhp less than the current 750bhp engines, with additional power coming from Energy Recovery Systems (ERS). The ERS units will generate around 160bhp for 33second per lap from braking and the turbocharger’s waste heat.
Currently only three engine suppliers remain to cater with the all-new development for all 11 teams on the grid: Ferrari will supply its own team, Marussia and Sauber; Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Lotus, will use Renault engines and Mercedes will provide their outfit, Force India, McLaren, Williams and Caterham.
Not only do these suppliers have to build these new engines from scratch – they will also face a freeze of power unit technology, starting with certain parts of the engine in 2014, then 8% frozen by 2015, 23% by 2016, 35% by 2018 and 95% by 2019. The worry here is that if some of the suppliers don’t strike gold with their original set-ups, they will be limited in their ability to make amendments – especially that some companies have a lesser budget to spend than others – hence the popular call for a spending gap among the smaller teams in the paddock.
“Renault has got a great track record and we have achieved some phenomenal things with them,” Christian Horner, Red Bull team principal, told AUTOSPORT.
“They perhaps don’t have the budget of some of the others but they have been prudent in how they spend it. We are pretty confident that we will have a competitive power plant.”
The arrival of Honda a year later to fulfil their contract with McLaren, albeit a welcome return to the sport, has raised concerns among other suppliers that the company will have a huge advantage over the rest of the pack, having a whole extra year to develop its power package and to learn from its competitors’ mistakes.
Four time world champion Alain Prost told AUTOSPORT: “[In 2014] the best combination of chassis and engine will have the best result,” praising the new regulations which, he hopes, will restore some competitiveness the sport has seemed to have lost.
FUEL On the other hand, the cars’ competitiveness might be dimmed by the fuel limits introduced in 2014. To promote fuel efficiency, the cars will be limited to 100kg of fuel per race; although there are no limits in place at the moment, the teams typically use around 160kg per race. The cap might require teams to reduce their speeds for fuel preservation – which suggests a perfect engine+chassis combination might not be enough to make a winner.
CHASSIS Alongside slight changes to the front and rear wing designs, the new nose design has caused the most controversy among the teams. With the new maximum height set at 185mm – currently at 550mm – the worry is that the cars will simply look ugly with the new design, as the teams will look to narrow the tip of the nose as much as possible for aerodynamic reasons – which will result in a “drooping nose” effect.
You can view how the 2014 cars will look like with all new developments in an AUTOSPORT video by Giorgio Piola.
Still subject to ratification, it is highly likely that the last race of the season – or a few more if the Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone has his way – will be double-scored, meaning the winner would claim 50 points for that particular race, second place would score 36 points and so on. The reasoning behind this motion is to extend the championship fight for longer, following from two of the last four years’ championships being claimed a significantly early before the end of the season. Whilst the supporters of the idea claim this is a good way of turning up the championship heat, the majority of the paddock considers the notion ludicrous and unfair on teams who work hard throughout the year. If the rule had been implemented a few years ago, the 2012 title would have gone to Alonso, who would have ended up 7 points ahead of Vettel and the 2008 title would have gone to Massa, who originally had only missed out to Hamilton by a single point.
According to AUTOSPORT, despite the general disagreement with the rule across the paddock, teams were pressured into supporting the move to satisfy television companies and race promoters looking to ensure the world title battle was kept alive for longer.
Although Ferrari could use its veto vote to overrule the notion (given to it by the former F1 boss Max Mossley to stop the team from leaving the sport), the team’s boss Luca di Montezemolo said the matter was too trivial for such a move.
Unlike some other motorsports, Formula 1 drivers used to inherit a racing number based on their team’s previous year classification; and so, for a few years now Mark Webber would carry a 2 on his cap, having partnered the world champion at the winning team Red Bull; at the beginning of 2013 season Fernando Alonso drove a number 3 and Felipe Massa a 4 as Ferrari had finished second in the constructors championship in 2012 – and so on.
From 2014 the drivers will be carrying a number between 2-99 chosen by them, subject to availability and handed out on the privilege of last season’s results – which means that the higher-scoring driver of 2013 would have the priority of choosing a popular number. The chosen number will stay with a driver until the end of their F1 career. Number 1 will be reserved for the current champion if he wants to carry it.
So far Alonso has opted for number 14, his future team-mate Kimi Raikkonen has chosen 7, Massa has opted for 19 and his Williams’ team-mate Valtteri Bottas has chosen 77.
Every new season brings some surprises into the driver line-up and 2014 is no exception. Two of the biggest news of last year were Mark Webber’s departure from the sport – leaving a desirable seat at Red Bull, which was fairly early filled in by the protegee’s team Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo; and the signing of Kimi Raikkonen to partner Fernando Alonso at Ferrari in pursuit of finally overthrowing the standing constructor champions via the arguably strongest pairing on the gird.
This decision meant an end to Felipe Massa’s eight year career at Ferrari and, more significantly, to his supporting role to title-seeking Alonso. While the Brazilian can now be his own man at Williams – partnering a 2013 rookie, he can finally consider himself the lead driver in the team – Ferrari will have a tough challenge sticking to their traditional structure of a “first” and “second” driver, with two world champions in their cars. Some believe the pairing will expand the crack in the team, which became visible in 2013 in a series of spats between the team bosses and Alonso; others are confident the presence of Raikkonen will fuel further the Spaniard’s competitiveness – either way, there’s bound to be a lot of emotion in that garage (and spilling out onto the track) in 2014.
But this in not the only new driver set-up that is sure to overturn the championship standings to some degree; Jenson Button has gained a new team-mate after just one season of being partnered by formerly Sauber’s Sergio Perez – and he is looking to once more play the “older brother” – a role he resented throughout 2013 – to a newcomer to the sport and Formula Renault 3.5 champion, Kevin Magnussen.
Perez has instead moved to Force India, together with Sauber’s star of last season – Nico Hulkenberg, who is returning to the outfit after a year of great performance in a mediocre team; which currently leaves Scott Paul di Resta without a drive in 2014.
The 2013 trouble maker Pastor Maldonado – who highly criticised Williams throughout the year for not giving him a competitive package, and even moving as far as to accusing the team of jeopardising his races – has ended up laughing in a top team of last season, accompanying Romain Grosjean at Lotus.
And after a shocking mid-2013 revelation that a hardly 18-year old driver, Sergey Sirotkin, could join Sauber turned out to be partly true, as he becomes the team’s reserve driver, another young Russian has bagged an F1 seat with Toro Rosso. 19 year old GP3 winner of 2013 Daniil Kvyat will partner Jean-Eric Vergne in Red Bull’s sister team for the next season.
Despite the planned overload of 22 races for next season, which caused a general concern across the paddock for financial reasons, 2014 calendar has been confirmed with the same amount of grands prix as its predecessor – the full list by the official Formula 1 website can be found below. But although the season will traditionally kick off in Melbourne, there are some significant changes along the way: primarily, the addition of Russian GP and disappearance of the Indian GP, and the finale of the season taking place in Abu Dhabi, not Brazil. Additionally, the Bahrain race will be held at night time, to celebrate the grand prix’s 10. anniversary .
Another important change to the calendar involving Bahrain is the addition of the Sakhir circuit to pre-season winter testing. The destination will fall in between Jerez and Barcelona in late February in response the the ongoing complaints about troubles with adjusting Pirelli tyres and teams’ cars to real-life racing conditions in unrepresentative cold conditions of Spain in winter.
An extra last-minute tyre-test was also added at the end of November 2013 to help the rubber manufacturer address the reliability issues that had been a cause for teams’ complaints throughout the year – however, only four teams attended (Ferrari, Mercedes, Toro Rosso and Red Bull) and Nico Rosberg’s run for Mercedes ended with a tyre blowout at 320km/h.
“Winter testing is going to be hilarious in Jerez,” Jenson Button told AUTOSPORT, when considering how drivers will have to adapt to the new power system in their cars and the challenging winter conditions.
And yet, Button became champion in the first year of the most recent major regulations update in 2009 with the one-off-stunt called Brawn Racing – a spin-off from Honda, who virtually wrote off the 2008 season to focus on the developments for the following year.
As Button’s example shows, the upcoming regulation changes can have a double-edged effect: they can favour teams who have so far struggled to impress, but who can work the new rules and technical outlines to their strategical advantage – but will also, most likely, hand the laurels to those who had committed enough time and resources into developing a near-perfect package for 2014 – which, unsurprisingly, points to the teams with the biggest cash.