So I have been listening and reading lots of pre-season stuff and unsurprisingly most of it talks about engines and aerodynamics. 2014 sees the biggest change in the regulations in over 20 years with a completely new power train (the new word for engine this year!) alongside significant aerodynamic modifications. Here’s the highlights of what’s going to be different once the wheels start turning in Melbourne in a few weeks time:
The “Finger” Nose
Once again the new regulations have created less than beautiful cars, after the banning of the wide wings in 2008 and the diffuser rules being fully tightened in 2010 teams have slowly sought to get their chassis height higher and higher to increase airflow to the rear of the car. This lead to safety concerns that a driver could be speared by a nose if it was the height of the car and also it increases the likelihood of cars getting airborne in crashes (Mark Webber in Valencia anyone?). Therefore after the ugly stepped noses of 2012 and the attempt to cover them up in 2013 with “vanity panels” the rules in 2014 attempted to return the cars to the sleek low noses by lowering the bulkhead (where the chassis meets the nose cone – That thing that Lotus will be changing with alarming regularity this season) by 10cm and stipulating that the nose has to end much lower. However that part of the nose can be any shape and only has to be a minimum of 10 square cm. This has lead to teams doing one of 3 things, Ferrari have created a big lolloping front to the car while the majority of other teams have a more elegant nose with then a small mini “finger” nose protruding out the front. Meanwhile Lotus have been clever and made some tusks, one longer to count as the end of the nose balanced by a slightly shorter second tusk. There could be a few more innovative designs in the coming week. Coupled with this strange new appendage is a slightly narrower front wing, which you will now notice ends in the middle of the tyres, in contrast to inside the tires prior to 2008 and at the end of the tires recently.
The changes at the rear of the car have been significant aerodynamically, gone is the lower beam wing and the beautifully named “monkey seat” and in their place is a single exhaust exit pointed 5 degrees up with a restriction on placing anything behind the exit. Therefore gone is the exhaust blowing, even if teams were going to try and use it alongside the most complicated engines in the history of the sport. Furthermore the rear wing has been made shallower reducing the down force it generates. This has all lead to a major reduction in down force compared to what Red Bull (the masters of rear down force recently) were achieving last year, so much that they allowed the cars to run with a lot of rake (i.e. the rear is higher than the front) to balance the huge amount of rear down force and get the front closer to the ground. All this is a problem because….
Leaving engines and the difficulties of them aside for this post, the biggest change with the engines is going to be the torque. Painfully lacking from the 2.8Litre V8 engines the new V6 Turbo’s will be torque machines, meaning drivers are going to have to look after that throttle pedal a heck of a lot more because if you floor it coming out of a corner your going to be facing the way you came pretty quickly. This huge amount of torque (created by the electrical side of the new power unit as the energy has already been generated and is sitting waiting to be deployed) is going to make the loss of rear down force all the more noticeable. We’re really hoping that this will count in skilled drivers favour.
Another huge change created by this regulations that hasn’t been discussed all that much is going to be the gearbox. With all the extra torque the engine will produce the teams will now have an 8th gear to deal with it, but this comes at a price. The new rules no longer allow for gear ratio changes (you’re allowed to make one change after the start of the season so you can correct it if you get it a little wrong) meaning that engines will be the same wherever we go, meaning that teams will have to compromise how best to run their cars over the season. Additionally the engineers can no longer tune the car into each circuit meaning the drivers will have to judge their use of power even more. Expect to see the drivers attempting Monaco using only 4 gears and dealing with the resulting torquey beast around the streets of the principality in the same engine setup that will tackle Monza.
Reliability and Chaos
In the past few seasons driving for one of the back of the grid teams meant turning up and finishing around 18th/19th once Maldonado or Grosjean had punted a few people off over the race distance. This year there will not be a full grid finish that’s for sure! With such a complex change some team principles are predicting we could see only 50% of the grid go the full way in Melbourne. Furthermore with the new engines, power trains and gear restrictions there are going to be cars that are faster in certain parts than others. It could lead to one team getting it spot on and streaking off into the distance, but it could also see cars that are hard to handle, that breakdown, that lack enough down force to contain the power, that need to be nursed for fuel and could create some merry chaos….. here’s hoping eh!
In 2012 we had “the step”, last year was all about vanity panels to hide the step, we’ve had the transformers of the mid 00’s and the resulting 2009 clean up. The 2014 rules however have produced the Anteater. With McLaren launching their actual car along with renderings from Force India, Lotus and the bizarre non-branded Williams sketch the 2014 cars have produced a strange set of snouts out the front of them.
Personally I think they look okay besides the strange noses with the Lotus render having the best of the bunch so far with a twin pronged approach. The cars look more balanced with narrower front wings alongside clean lines and a single beam rear wing. There have definitely been worse looking beasts over the past 15 or so years.
Also Eric Boullier is moving to McLaren, expect an announcement soon alongside possibly a sponsor announcement to add to that grey rather barren livery of the MP4-29.
With the Caterham drivers line-up expected to be announced today (They announced it while I was writing this!) Giedo Van Der Garde has popped up at Sauber as the test and reserve driver for 2014. A surprise considering after hiring Adrian Sutil from Force India to partner Esteban Gutierrez for a second season, the team was widely expected to name Sergy Sirotkin for the majority of the In-season testing and Friday practice runs. Instead the 2013 Caterham pilot will fill this role and has confirmed that he will get Friday running in the new improved FP1’s (where there is an extra set of tires for the first 30 mins and driver swaps are allowed) alongside driving some of the 8 days of in-season testing permitted in 2014. While Van Der Garde does bring with him fashion brand McGregor with him Sirotkin is backed by a lot of Russian investment in the team, so maybe the new pay masters have either not paid up or have been talked down.
Marcus Ericsson and Kamui Kobayashi have completed the field in F1 alongside Robert Frijns swapping from Hinwil to Leafield to be the test and reserve driver.
In the spirit of reunion’s the DTM roster has been filling up now F1 has slotted into place and Paul Di Resta has announced his return to the series he won in 2010 with the works HWA Mercedes team. He could yet drive F1 machinery this year as he could have landed a Mercedes test/reserve role alongside his drive. He will be joined in DTM by stalwart Gary Paffet, Timo Glock and Red Bull outcast Felix Da Costa, who missed out on the Toro Rosso drive to GP3 Champion Danill Kyvatt.
Expect a lot more movement this week with test/reserve roles now looking slightly worthwhile in F1 and a few spots left to fill in DTM, WEC and Indy Car.
The FIA has confirmed that three teams have submitted applications to be considered for entry in 2015, once again allowing existing teams one year of running before new entrants are allowed in – a la 2010.
Eternal optimists Stefan GP have entered again alongside an entry from ex-HRT boss Colin Kolles with Romanian backing. However the biggest surprise was the application of the Haas racing team, a serious US racer who runs Stewart-Haas and is apparently looking to create a proper state side F1 entry. This is no USF1.
Haas already own a F1 standard wind tunnel which is often rented out by teams to assist them in development and apparently will use Dallara to build a chassis for use with Ferrari engines. There has been some derision of Dallara after their dressing down from HRT – who were cronically under-funded, developed etc. and tried to portion the blame on the Italian company. First off Dallara is a great starting point if only used for construction as they currently make the chassis for Indy Car, Indy Lights, GP2, GP3 and World Series – their previous F1 trips have been relatively decent aside from HRT. There is no word on funding but its a serious entry from a serious racing guy.
Kolles is surely the second best option on the list as Stefan GP has had a series of dubious failed bids to enter the sport which have not endeared him to the FIA, CVC or fans. There is theoretically another two places up for grabs with the maximum number of teams currently set at 13 and after the demise of HRT 2013 saw only 11 squads take to the track.
First off apologies for the lack of posting recently, I have been rather busy with the real world. As for racing news – deep breath here we go:
First off Im sure everyone has read the sad news that John “Papa Smurf” Button passed away aged 70 at home of a suspected heart attack. A huge figure in the racing world and the F1 paddock (and UK TV coverage!) has been lost and my condolences to the entire Button family.
Secondly Bernie has been indited in Germany on Bribery charges and proceedings will likely start in a few months requiring him to divert his attentions there. It is likely that CVC will quickly line up a replacement now as its not good for business having criminal proceedings being pursed by governments against your CEO! Even if it turns out to be temporary (although at Bernie’s age unlikely) someone will have to take the reigns.
Next up the buzz has all been about testing and Lotus not testing in Jerez. Furthermore I have exclusive rumblings that McLaren are seriously considering testing in a traditional Orange livery before a switch away permanently from Mercedes silver next year to their original colours alongside Honda engines. No other teams have come out and stated non participation in the first test but with it being so early this year its likely that some other teams will join Enstone in sitting it out, whether by choice or by force. Furthermore even if the majority of teams do go to the first test its likely that some may pack up early when they encounter problems.
Next week will see the wraps coming off the 2014 cars, with almost all launches going to be online. Exciting times 4 wheel fans!