The 2014 Formula 1 season is upon us, with the opening round this weekend in Australia. With it, we continue our series of articles covering the various road racing series and important races all over the world. Previously we covered The TUDOR United Sports Car Championship, the 12 hours of Sebring, and the Bathurst 12 hour and this round is all about Formula 1.
While the U.S. racing season started back in January at the Daytona 24 hour, the true start of the international racing season comes when Formula 1 gets back at it. Agree or disagree, F1 has always been the absolute pinnacle of motorsport; it absorbs the best of drivers, the best of teams, and the most money. Huge budgets do not always equal great racing, and the last couple of years have been dominated by Red Bull. Leading into this season, indications are that the new regulations will throw a wrench in the works, and it just might be anybody’s game.
Without Formula 1, there would be a much less interesting history to international motorsport. F1 is the original professional motorsport which exists only for the enjoyment of the fan. The cars are constructed and shipped all around the world simply for the fact that people enjoy it. Outside of soccer, more people in the world watch Formula One than any other sport that exists; there are hundreds of soccer matches in a year, and only 19 F1 Grands Prix.
Currently run under the Federacion Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) banner of intercontinental racing championships, Formula 1 has existed as a championship since the 1950s. The rules change almost every year, and over the years several manufacturers have come to the forefront, be they road car manufacturers like Ferrari, Renault, Mercedes, Peugeot, Honda, and Toyota, or privateer constructors like McLaren, Williams, and Sauber.
In recent years Formula 1 has been ruled by a few very brilliant people. Bernie Ecclestone went from an average car salesman to a very wealthy man by selling something which did not expressly belong to him, the television rights to broadcast Formula 1. He is the current CEO of Formula One Management, making him the single most influential man in the sport. The current head of the FIA, Jean Todt, also has a say in how F1 is run, as the president of it’s sanctioning body.
There are so many changes this year, it is difficult to know where to start. The FIA has completely torn up the rulebook
After almost a decade of the stalwart 2.4 liter naturally aspirated V8 engines, artificially limited to 18,000 RPM, they are being replaced by a new-design 1.6 liter V6 turbo which are now limited to 15,000 RPM. The new engines are in response to the FIA requiring a more efficient racing series, now limiting each car to 100Kg of fuel per race, where the old V8 would consume around 150Kg of fuel in a race. Where the 2013 engines produced around 750 horsepower, the 2014 spec turbo engine will only make about 600 horsepower. The new engines are not as piercing as the old high-rev V8s, but they do have a certain sound that isn’t necessarily unpleasant, just different.
Some of the power lost in the engine regulation change has been won back with the increased power of the new spec Energy Recovery System. In addition to a system similar to last year’s KERS, the new system also introduces “electric turbocharger technology” that captures waste exhaust pressure to help charge the batteries. Interestingly, the turbochargers can also be actuated electrically to reduce the boost threshold (commonly referred to as “turbo lag”) coming out of slow corners and between gear changes.
The KERS system takes wasted kinetic energy produced during deceleration and stores it in a battery pack, which is then used to power rear-axle electric motors again under acceleration. In past years, KERS was allowed to be deployed for up to 6.7 seconds per lap, and could only produce 60kw worth of forward motion force. For 2014, the power output has been increased to 150kw, and it can be used for up to 30 seconds per lap. Recent years have seen the drivers “deploy” their KERS via a “push to pass” style button, but this year, the extra energy boost will be built into the engine mapping, backfilling the gaps in power at lower revs and aiding with acceleration automatically. This means less work for the drivers, and it will be much less gimmicky than it used to be.
As always, F1 fans are a bit finicky about how the cars look. It seems like every time a new chassis design is launched, it is met with hatred, then acceptance, then admiration before another style comes out and the cycle starts all over again.
The front wing has been narrowed by 150mm, and the rear wing has had the lower element mandated to be removed. Lower levels of downforce, compounded by the lack of engine power have resulted in slower lap-times. The narrower front wing has also affected the teams’ ability to deflect air around the front tires, which will have a significant effect on drag.
The front wing has been lowered by 415mm for safety reasons, helping to avoid driver injury in t-bone incidents. This has reduced the effect of the floor tray, further reducing downforce.
The exhaust exit has been mandated to exit above the gearbox in a single centralized pipe. The outcome of this change is that the teams will not be able to take aerodynamic advantage of spent exhaust gases (ie. “blown diffusers”).
The dimensional requirements this year are somewhat strange, meaning that the cars have grown protuberant noses that have been likened to genitals (we wouldn’t be so crass). **muffled tee-hee**
As occurred with the 2009 rules change, one team will likely find a much better advantage than others, and there will probably be a clear head-and-shoulders-above team for the first handful of races. Whether their advantage will be large enough to win them the championship as Brawn GP did, we won’t know until they run. As they say, “That’s why we run the race.”
- Martini is back in F1 with the Williams team. That’s awesome!
- Donuts are legal this year! Like, if you win, and you want to celebrate, you won’t be fined for doing a donut like Seb Vettel was last year.
In a WWE/NASCAR move to “increase the excitement” and “enhance the show” of Formula 1, the FIA have introduced a “double points” race for the season finale in Abu Dhabi. The logic here is that this will help viewership numbers in the latter half of the season. Supposedly, the double points GP at the end will decrease the number of drivers being “mathematically ineligible” by the finale, and make things more “fun”. I really wish they’d stop mucking about with this mumbo jumbo, and just get on with the racing.
So who’s driving this year?
For the first time, in 2014 drivers have been allowed to choose their own car number. I’ll run down the list in numeric order.
1 – Sebastian Vettel – Red Bull Racing
3 – Daniel Ricciardo – Red Bull Racing
4 – Max Chilton – Marussia
6 – Nico Rosberg – Mercedes
7 – Kimi Raikkonen – Ferrari
8 – Romain Grosjean – Lotus
9 – Marcus Ericsson – Caterham
10 – Kamui Kobayashi – Caterham
11 – Sergio Perez – Force India
13 – Pastor Maldonado – Lotus
14 – Fernando Alonso – Ferrari
17 – Jules Bianchi – Marussia
19 – Felipe Massa – Williams
20 – Kevin Magnussen – McLaren
21 – Esteban Gutierrez – Sauber
22 – Jenson Button – McLaren
25 – Jean-Eric Vergne – Scuderia Toro Rosso
26 – Daniel Kvyat – Scuderia Toro Rosso
27 – Nico Hulkenburg – Force India
44 – Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes
77 – Valtterri Bottas – Williams
99 – Adrian Sutil – Sauber
How to watch:
In the United States, F1 is broadcast via the NBC family of networks with the vast majority of the season broadcast live on the NBC Sports channel. While live broadcasting means you may have to rise early in the morning or stay up late at night to view some events, it becomes almost experiential that way, and only enhances the experience.
Four events will broadcast on the regular NBC network itself. Three of those are in our hemisphere; Montreal, Sao Paulo, and Austin, TX, while the fourth is just an incredibly important race taking place in Monaco.
A further three races, British, German, and Hungarian grands prix, will be televised on CNBC for some inexplicable reason.
The broadcast team here in the US is pretty interesting. No changes to the lineup are scheduled or expected, so I again look forward to hearing the excitable play by play of Mr. Leigh “Olympic Louge Announcer” Diffey, the exquisite engineering talent of Mr. Steve Matchett, and the ever present and increasingly senile David Hobbs.
Race 1 – Rolex Australian Grand Prix – Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia. March 16th
Race 2 – Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix – Sepang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. March 30th
Race 3 – Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix – Bahrain Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain. April 6th
Race 4 – UBS Chinese Grand Prix – Shanghai Circuit, Shanghai, China. April 20th
Race 5 – Gran Premio de España Pirelli – Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain. May 11th
Race 6 – Grand Prix de Monaco – Circuit de Monaco, Monte Carlo. May 25th
Race 7 – Grand Prix du Canada – Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal, Canada. June 8th
Race 8 – Grosser Preis Von Österreich – Red Bull Ring (née Österreichring), Spielberg, Styria, Austria. June 22nd
Race 9 – Santander British Grand Prix – Silverstone Circuit, Silverstone, United Kingdom. July 6th
Race 10 – Grosser Preis Santander von Deutschland – Hockenheimring, Hockenheim, Germany. July 20th
Race 11 – Pirelli Magyar Nagydj – Hungaroring, Budapest, Hungary. July 27th
Race 12 – Shell Belgian Grand Prix – Spa, Spa, Belgium. August 24th
Race 13 – Gran Premio d’Italia – Monza, Monza, Italy. September 7th
Race 14 – Singapore Grand Prix – Marina Bay Circuit, Marina Bay, Singapore. September 21st
Race 15 – Japanese Grand Prix – Suzuka Circuit, Suzuka, Japan. October 5th
Race 16 – Russian Grand Prix – Sochi International Street Circuit, Sochi, Russia. October 12th
Race 17 – United States Grand Prix – Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas, United States. November 2nd
Race 18 – Grande Prémio do Brasil – Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace, Sao Paolo, Brazil. November 9th
Race 19 – Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Yas Marina, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. November 23rd
Andy Blackmore has said that his Formula One Spotter Guide should show up in the next 24 hours or so at this link.