New engines, weight limit and fixed gear ratios are all part of the 2014 regulation changes. We also have a big change to the driver lineups. I’m going to look at the regulations first (warning, this post will probably be bloody enormous).
Weight limit -
F1 cocked this up. In essence, the weight limit’s too low which means taller drivers (Button, Hulkenberg, maybe Grosjean) will be penalised, and dinky chaps (Alonso, Massa) will benefit by quite a bit. We’re talking 0.2-0.4s per lap, give or take. That’s a huge chunk of time. However, it may matter less than it otherwise would due to the significant changes made in other areas. The weight limit is likely to be increased for 2015.
“That means a smaller driver such as Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, who weighs 68kg, is at an advantage over a taller one such as Force India's Nico Hulkenberg, who weighs nearly 80kg, to the tune of 0.42secs a lap if the team cannot reduce the car by the amount of their weight difference.” - http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/formula1/25310485
Yes, undoubtedly an exciting part of the rule changes. The F1 bigwigs are trying to stop exhaust gases being directed in such a way as to produce downforce at the rear, which greatly enhances cornering speed. This is, more or less, why Red Bull have dominated in recent years.
All aboard the power train -
Engines are not the only source of power in F1 nowadays. In 2014 we’ll have them referred to as power trains. This is because, as well as the V6 turbo replacing the V8s we have now, there will be ERS (Energy Recovery System). This includes a souped up version of KERS, but also recycles waste/excess heat from the turbo. The ERS is to KERS as a sabre-toothed cat is to Mr. Tiddles. KERS offered 6.7s of 60kw (or none, if you were Mark Webber). ERS provides 33s of 120kw (160bhp). In addition, that’s not fixed, so you could double the time and halve the power available. In that way it’s comparable to the way that drivers now (and still will) alter fuel mixtures for more or less power. It won’t, however, function using a button but, (I think) it’ll work automatically having been set up pre-race.
The theoretical bhp of the engine itself is meant to be 600 or so. I’ve heard rumours the Mercedes is significantly more powerful, up to 100bhp, than its rivals, with Ferrari ahead of Renault in power terms. This will dictate qualifying pace, to a very large degree. However, reliability and fuel efficiency given the much reduced (by about 40kg) fuel tanks will be critical to winning races. No point having a 700bhp monster engine if you have to run at 50% power for half the race. We may see a significant divergence in performance between qualifying and race pace.
Ugly cars will return -
I don’t care about this personally, but we’re likely to see stepped noses as we did in 2012 due to regulations lowering the front end of the car. I imagine people are still thinking of how close Grosjean came to permanently retiring Alonso in Spa 2012, and it’s good they’re taking safety seriously.
Reliability is expected to be a serious issue, especially early on. Whilst I expect the tyres (see below) not to be as much of a problem as this year just about everything else will decline in reliability. The ERS is as complicated as an explanation from Sir Humphrey Appleby, and if it breaks then (unlike this year, when it was inconvenient) you may as well switch the car into reverse. Packaging the ERS will be different too, as you can’t split it (Red Bull did this with KERS which enabled a smoother car but did lead to reliability issues).
Fixed gear ratios -
Gear ratios must be selected prior to the season starting. Now, I’m not a technical chap so apologies if the following summary is a mound of horseshit. Basically, a longer set of gears means your top speed is higher. Shorter gears improve acceleration but cut down on the top speed. This means we could see some interesting changes in the pecking order at more unusual circuits. In addition, teams can change their ratios once during the season. This could be negative (to correct cocking them up originally) or positive (to take account of the changing nature of circuits as the season progresses).
With more torque Button has expressed a fear that spinning up the tyres could become quite easy. This may be a problem for the more aggressive drivers. Due to this, and also the disintegration of tyres at various races this year, I expect Pirelli will make the tyres as hard as they can. This will reduce lap times, but hopefully improve safety as well as giving the teams one less problem to deal with.
Double points -
In a moronic decision, some bigwigs have decided that the final race (sadly in Abu Dhabi rather than the excellent Interlagos) will award double points. Yes, a win in Abu Dhabi is now worth twice that of winning Spa. Bloody cretins. This has been criticised by just about everyone except Sergio Perez, who spoke immediately after getting a Force India seat, and which I suspect is the Force India opinion. In betting terms, there may be a chance of a very long shot coming off regarding something like top 3 in the drivers’ title race or suchlike, but that’ll depend on circumstances.
If you want a more technical/in-depth look at the regulation changes I recommend visiting this link: http://thewptformula.wordpress.com/2013/11/30/analysis-2014-general-summary/
There have been significant changes at the vast majority of teams. A handful of seats remain unknown at this time.
Vettel and Ricciardo. It’ll be interesting to see if Ricciardo retains his smile when Vettel, as is likely, crushes him. The German may miss Webber’s feedback, though, and rumours of the Renault engine being weakest in terms of horsepower could hamper his hopes.
The only top team with an unchanged lineup, and Hamilton/Rosberg could be the best on the grid. Not only are they fast, they get along and will obey team orders (or did, when Brawn was there…). For a long time there have been rumours Mercedes would massively benefit from the regulation changes and these have not abated. I backed (with a tiny stake) Rosberg at 16/1 with Ladbrokes to take the title. 20 is currently available on Betfair. I think he’s seriously underestimated (on a points per finish basis he was very slightly better than Hamilton), and his steady rather than aggressive approach could help next year.
Alonso and Raikkonen should be the best pairing on the grid (arguably, at least). I’m not sure if this will be the case. Alonso went to Ferrari for a long term deal as clear number one. Until now, he’s had that. If anything, he’s been let down by the car (and some serious bad luck in 2012). Now his number one status has gone, in a situation vaguely reminiscent of 2007 (although I think it’ll be less combative). With some good engineering hires the car may be better this year, and it’ll be fascinating to see how the two drivers get along (or not).
Grosjean’s a great driver now, but Maldonado… isn’t. The ill-favoured one (apparently that’s the true meaning of his name) can be very fast, but he’s also got a dangerous temper, lack of self-control and poor judgement on and off the track. I fear that Lotus will lose in prize money what they gain in sponsorship from Maldonado.
Button and Magnussen are an interesting pairing. We’ll have to wait and see how the new driver does, but it’s worth remembering McLaren have a lot of resources and should be a lot more competitive in 2014 than 2013. I suspect they won’t be title contenders, although I did put a small sum on Magnussen at 50/1 to win.
Hulkenberg and Perez is actually a very good lineup. Hulkenberg is probably (perhaps tied with Grosjean) the best non-world champion on the grid. Whilst Perez struggled a bit at McLaren he didn’t have a shocker, and he scored numerous podiums for Sauber, outperforming Kobayashi to do so. Fighting for the title seems unlikely, but the occasional podium and perhaps getting a better Constructors’ finish should be their aim.
Sauber will have Sutil and another chap driving for them. Sutil’s competent but won’t set the world alight. Sirotkin, a 19 year old Russian, was thought nailed on for a seat, partly to placate Russian money men, but it’s thought the team have persuaded their backers that shoving him into an F1 car straight away would harm rather than help his long term prospects. So, he may well be a reserve driver, with another (maybe Gutierrez) taking the second race seat. I think they may have a harder time in 2014 than 2013.
Update: looks like Gutierrez will indeed get the second seat.
Vergne and Kvyat will drive for them next year. Vergne’s pretty good and I think the difference between him and Ricciardo has been somewhat exaggerated. Kvyat’s a Russian rookie, and it’s hard to say how good he’ll be. I suspect fighting for points will be the height of their ambitions.
Williams have been on a downward spiral (the win in 2012 aside) since the reign of King Alfred, but there are some positive signs. As well as hiring engineers from Red Bull and Lotus they’ve got two decent drivers. Massa joins the team, and I think Bottas is a pretty skilled chap. They also have Mercedes engines, which may help. I think they may be able to get into the points more often next year.
The only confirmed driver for the pointless teams is the talented Jules Bianchi. Sadly, I suspect neither team will manage to score a point again. Hope I’m wrong, and reliability issues may help them out.
It’s pure speculation, but I think we may see a Vettel/Hamilton/Rosberg fight for the title. If so, Mercedes should win the Constructors’, but the odds of 2/1 or so currently available are far too short.
BBC F1 coverage:
Thanks to the Judas Iscariot approach to the licence fee-payers and incompetent negotiation, the BBC again only has 9 of 19 races. On the plus side, they have most of the good ones (notably missing the US and Brazil) and not Monaco or Singapore. Here’s the list of live races:
30 March: Malaysia
11 May: Spain
8 June: Canada
6 July: Britain
24 August: Belgium
7 September: Italy
5 October: Japan
12 October: Russia
23 November: Abu Dhabi
Right, that was quite the monster article to write on a Saturday morning. Hopefully I didn’t miss anything too important. I don’t plan on writing another article for some time, maybe just a single preview of the 2014 season before it gets underway.