This year’s Formula One season is about to begin, and 2014 brings an assortment of new changes to the motorsport’s pinnacle of open wheel car racing. Competing teams are reported to have mixed reactions to these new rulings. So what are the important changes that you need to know for the new season?
The biggest change for this new season would be the engine. Last year’s 2.4 litre normally-aspirated V8 is now replaced by a smaller engine. It is now a 1.6 litre turbocharged V6 unit, producing “only” 600 horsepower compared to 750 from the previous year’s V8. They rev up to just 15,000 rpm limit, which is 3,000 RPM lower than the outgoing V8. As a result, the noise will be noticeably different that last year’s car. Only five engines per season is allowed as opposed to last year’s eight.
Last year saw a twin exhaust setup with one pipe exiting on each side of the car. This year there’s going to be just one pipe repositioned to the back center of the car. Teams took advantage of last year’s twin exhaust setup to divert the hot exhaust gases into the diffuser to gain downforce, with this year’s central exit exhaust they’re not going to be able to do this anymore.
Eight-speed gearbox is replacing the previous seven, and they can’t change the ratios for the whole season. Last year teams were allowed seven different set of ratios for the whole season. Should a team set the ratios too close, the car will have better acceleration but top speed will be reduced; choose a longer gearing and the car will not be as quick but it will have increased top speed. So the teams have to decide on the best set of gear ratios to suit the different layouts of each track in the race calendar.
Energy Recovery System
Last year’s KERS is now dubbed Motor Generator Unit-Kinetic (MGU-K) will be joined by another energy recovery system Motor Generator Unit-Heat (MGU-H). While MGU-K gets kinetic energy from braking and stores them in the Energy Store (ES), the MGU-H will gather heat energy from the turbo. Last year’s KERS gave the drivers 80 bhp boost for 6 seconds per lap, but this year’s combination of MGU-K and MGU-H, they produce around 160 bhp of boost for 30 seconds per lap.
Fuel usage was unlimited last year but teams have been using around 160kg of fuel load per race. This year the drivers only have 100kg of fuel per race, and they will need to last the entire race all the way back to the pits. So drivers can’t just leave their cars on the track after finishing the race to preserve the one litre fuel sample required by the FIA for post-race scrutineering.
Some minor alterations are going to be applied, but in essence the cars will still look like an F1 car you’ve seen in recent years. Front wing’s width is reduced to 1650mm from 1800mm in 2013, while nose height is now lower at 185mm compared to last year’s 550mm. Rear wing will lose the lower beam from 2013, and the remaining top flaps are shallower too. Sidepods are wider to accommodate cooling to the engine as well as to comply with the side impact regulations. Total minimum weight is also increased from 642kg to 690kg. The numbers does not really say much, but in reality these changes will effect the aerodynamics of the car.
Drivers get to choose their own racing number to be used their entire career, but the champion will get to use number one as his racing number for the season. In-season testing is back, which will provide the teams with more time to tweak and tune their machines throughout the season. Apart from the normal reward points for the Championship, there’s also going to be penalty points introduced this year. A driver will be banned from a race if he accumulates twelve penalty points. Also, the final round in Abu Dhabi is going to be a special race, where double points will be awarded. This will give the chance to the second and third-placed drivers to claim the title. At the end of the championship, Pole Trophy will be awarded to the driver that scores the most number of pole position.
This year’s car is heavier, has less downforce, and less noisy. This might come out as a disappointment to some but we can assume the changes are done to create a more level playing field, as the new rules almost act as a reboot button for the teams to re engineer their cars from scratch. It is still unknown on which teams are going to perform this year and it’s anyone’s guess who could be the winner. Drivers also have to adapt to a new driving style combining pace and efficiency at the same time. Reliability issues have already plagued some of the teams during pre-season testing so this will be interesting to see how the progress goes along the season.
Mark your calendars, as the opening round of 2014 season is going to kick off in Australia on 14 March to 16 March. After that the F1 circus comes to Malaysia on 28 March to 30 March. You would not want to miss this as it’s going to be hot and unpredictable.