Why Vettel’s rivals may be disappointed in 2014

F1 history

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Singapore, 2013Rivals of Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull are increasingly vesting their hopes in the 2014 engine rules shake-up as being their best chance of closing the performance gap.

“We will put all our effort and hopes into 2014, because starting from zero is our best opportunity to close the gap with all the top teams,” said Fernando Alonso after the Singapore Grand Prix.

But while F1′s periodic changes in the engine rules used to bring about major change in the competitive order, in recent years it hasn’t been the case.

Early years: New engines, new winners

1952-53: All change in the F2 interregnum

Alfa Romeo dominated the first two years of the world championship. But their withdrawal at the end of 1951 led several race organisers to change their events from Formula One rules to Formula Two, and the championship was therefore run to F2 rules in 1952 and 1953. That was followed by the introduction of a new Formula One in 1954.

Alfa’s departure made the emergence of a new winner in 1952 inevitable, but even so the scale of Ferrari’s dominance was remarkable. Alberto Ascari won nine races in a row at one point, a record which still stands.

The new F1 rules tempted Mercedes back in mid-1954. From that point they were the team to beat until they made an abrupt withdrawal at the end of 1955 following that year’s fatalities in the Le Mans 24 Hours.

1961: Ferrari capitalise on 1.5-litre switch

Phil Hill, Ferrari, Spa-Francorchamps, 1961Concern at rising speeds prompted the introduction of smaller 1.5-litre engines from 1961. While several of the British engine manufacturers opposed the move and tried to block it, Ferrari perfected their new V6 and dominated the season.

The drivers’ championship contest was an all-Ferrari affair, but was settled in tragic circumstances when Wolfgang von Trips was killed at Monza. Ferrari also won the recently-introduced constructors’ championship for the first time.

The only races they failed to win that year were in Monaco and Germany, both due to inspired drives by Stirling Moss, and in America, where they did not compete.

1966: Brabham benefits from return to power

Just two years after the 1.5-litre engines were introduced the Commission Sportive Internationale (fore-runner to the FIA) decided engine capacities would be doubled to three litres in 1966.

Once again the spoils went to the driver and team who had made the best preparations for the new rules. In this case they were one and the same: Jack Brabham won the title driving his own car, the first and only time anyone achieved the feat.

Brabham encouraged Australian automotive components manufacturer Repco to develop a V8 engine for the new formula. While Ferrari were disappointed by the power-to-weight ratio of their V12 and Lotus persevered with BRM’s monstrously heavy H16, Brabham reeled off four consecutive wins in the middle of the year to claim the title.

The modern era: Sustained dominance

1989: McLaren-Honda stay on top as turbo era ends

Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, McLaren, Montreal, 1989The new engine formula of 1966 also included a provision for turbocharged 1.5-litre engines. By the middle of the eighties these had become ubiquitous, but concerns about expense and safety had arisen.

For 1989 they were finally banned and a maximum capacity of 3.5 litres imposed. Not that it did anything to put the fearful combination of McLaren and Honda off their stride.

In the last year of the turbos they won all but one of the 16 races. In 1989 they won another ten races – a total which would have been even higher had Alain Prost not driven into team mate Ayrton Senna at Suzuka to take back the drivers’ championship.

1995: New engines no problem for Benetton

A cut in engine capacity was ordered for 1995 following the deaths of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger at Imola and other dangerous accidents during the season.

But that didn’t stop Michael Schumacher successfully defending his drivers’ title for Benetton. The team’s switch from Ford Cosworth V8 to Renault V10 power proved a wise one, as Renault’s engines won all bar one of the races in 1995.

Schumacher easily swept aside Damon Hill’s Renault-engined Williams while Benetton claimed their first constructors’ crown.

2006: Alonso champion again as V8 era begins

Fernando Alonso, Renault, Montreal, 2006Fernando Alonso ended Schumacher’s five-year dominance of the championship in 2005. His season-ending victory in China was also the last win for a V10 engine in F1, as a new V8 formula was mandated for the following year.

Renault were unfazed by the change. Alonso won first time out in their V8-engined car and by round nine Renault had chalked up seven victories already.

Only a late-season resurgence from Schumacher and Ferrari took the title down to the wire, though a Ferrari engine failure in Japan all but killed off Schumacher’s hopes of an eighth crown.

Over to you

Have the growing resources available to top F1 teams helped them stay dominant despite changes in the engine rules? Do you think Red Bull will stay on top next year?

Have your say in the comments.

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Images ?? Red Bull/Getty, Ferrari, Honda, Renault/LAT

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115 comments on Why Vettel’s rivals may be disappointed in 2014

  1. Rob Wilson (@rob-wilson) said on 25th September 2013, 13:33

    I get the feeling if McLaren & Ferrari don’t seriously contend for the championship next year, heads will roll. I think there is massive pressure on Whitmarsh and Domenicali to deliver the goods and it certainly makes it impossible to predict who will come out of the blocks fastest next season as Mercedes & Red Bull will no doubt build strong cars as well.

    Here’s hoping for a 2010 style 5-man battle for the championship next year.

  2. Didn’t Vettel’s Toro Rosso at Monza 2008 still carry a V10? And that was just as important for that victory as Vettel’s talent, if not more?

    I seem to remember them and Super Aguri using old units with a rev limiter.

    So if I’m right, that would be the last win for a V10 engine in F1, not Alonso’s in 2005?

  3. While It is true that the rules are changing and everybody is starting from the scratch, it is really hard to believe that everyone will produce a good car and Newey will design a Lemon. In fact with regulation changes in 2009, Newey had the best car off the block, if not for the the Brawn’s double diffuser loophole.

    The only question is- Will there be a loophole that certain team/engine maker will exploit that will leave Red Bull & Renault Pants down ? Otherwise it is quite predictable that red Bull will have a decent car in 2014, even if is not a dominating one.

  4. sumedhvidwans (@sumedhvidwans) said on 25th September 2013, 14:03

    Great article @KeithCollantine.

    That engine change does not make much difference can also be aptly demonstrated by the experience of Honda / Brawn in 2008-09. The team fit in an entirely different engine in just 4 weeks with virtually no loss in performance.

  5. WilliamB (@william-brierty) said on 25th September 2013, 14:09

    I’m not sure if this is applicable. OK, comparing the 2014 shift in regulations is all very well, but you have to be sure you’re comparing apples with apples. All we really know about F1 in 2014+ era is that initially at least it’ll be an engine formula. Guaranteed – one engine will hit the track in Melbourne and be marginally more competitive than the others. That essentially gives Red Bull a one in three chance of being the fastest team in 2014. However, it’s not as simple as that. The odds are further stacked against Red Bull by the fact that Ferrari and Mercedes, who build their engines “in-house”, can integrate engine characteristics with chassis more intimately. Mercedes were also the manufacturer who pushed the engine change which infers a certain confidence. OK, if Renault build a decent engine there is nothing stopping Vettel doing the “full Schumi” and waltzing to his fifth consecutive title, but right now the smart money is not with Red Bull. Although it’s sheer speculation, I would wager that Ferrari, with their new technical team and V6 “culture” (the Ferrari V6 in the Lancia Stratos is one of my favourite engines ever, which is completely irrelevant but proves that a V6 powered car can still get a petrolhead excited), are the favourites, although you could quite easily point at the progress seen between the W03 and the W04 and say that the technical momentum is with Mercedes. Whatever, all I do know is that history, in this instance at least, can do little to help us ascertain who will be the ones to beat in 2014.

    • Mercedes were also the manufacturer who pushed the engine change which infers a certain confidence.

      Maybe they pushed for V6 but:

      Caubet also confirms that Renault threatened to pull out of F1 altogether if the new generation 2014 engine wasn’t introduced, “We pushed the FIA to conclude on new regulation – concluded in June. Either the new regulation is clear and we will stay in F1 or we keep the same engine and Renault will stop,” he said. 


      Quote from 2011.

    • Integration of the chassis and engine is overrated. Remember 2009. Brawn fit a brand new Mercedes engine on a chassis that was integrated with the Honda engine

    • Nissan/infinity/renault also build a pretty handy V6 turbo in the Skyline GT.

  6. Is it true that there are rumours going round that Ferrari are supposedly behind both Mercedes and Renault in their powertrain development for next season? Ted Kravitz made a comment in a video on the Sky F1 website in which he said they are. Since then I have been trying to find information to back this up but I can’t find any.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 25th September 2013, 14:41

      @geemac There was a rumour that Ferrari had enquired with the FIA about raising the fuel limit from 100kg to 110kg, which would suggest they’re having difficulty meeting the proposed limits. But I’d take that with a whopping great pinch of salt.

    • @geemac There is also a rumor during Hungary grand prix, in which Pirelli met with teams to discuss the size of the tires for 2014. Mercedes was one asking for larger tires because their engines were producing more power. The rumor came from Pirelli who stated that they had seen the sheets of power output and Mercedes had 100hp more than the others. 100hp is huge, so I don’t believe it.

      • Mike Dee (@mike-dee) said on 25th September 2013, 15:39

        Wasn’t it 100hp more than Pirelli had expected rather than 100hp more than the other engines? Which means that Ferrari and Renault could also have more than Pirelli expected.

        In the end, with the fuel flow restriction, it is all about producing an as-efficient engine as possible, as this will result in maximum power. Since engine manufacturers have for decades optimised engines for efficiency when it comes to road cars (well, maybe not Ferrari), I can’t see them coming up suddenly with engines that have much different power output. Sure, marginal differences matter in F1, but if it is only a marginal weakness in the engine, this can be compensated elsewhere.

        I think more important will be the integration of the ERS into the package. Hybrid is much newer technology and I am not sure to what extent hybrid road car knowledge will be useful for F1.

      • That was roughly the figure that Kravitz touted and it sounded like it was far to big to be true, but I suppose only time will tell. If they were down by that much there would be little point in them turning up! Back in the mid nineties people would often say “engine X is way more powerful than engine Y” because there was a 10 of 15 bhp difference between them. I seriously doubt that Ferrari, the sport’s most successful team, will be 100 bhp down on Renault and Mercedes.

        • @mike-dee @geemac If I remember it correctly, someone from Pirelli said that ” a certain manufacturer has 100hp more than others, but not willing to say who was it”. This started the rumor because on the other hand it was known that Mercedes asked for larger tires. But as I said, I don’t believe it. It is a huge huge difference. If such difference would be true, Mercedes wouldn’t even bother to participate on Saturday qualifying :)

    • mantresx (@mantresx) said on 25th September 2013, 16:32

      Rumors say that the Mercedes engine will be the most powerful, Renault will be the most efficient and the Ferrari…
      Who knows, maybe it will be the most reliable? if that’s the case then it has the same chances to win the championship as the others.

  7. Wouldnt it be cool if some engine manufacturers get it right and some dont? we might see different philosophies where one team – like Red Bull for example – have the highest downforce but a weaker engine. So they focus on cornering speeds. Whereas someone like Mercedes who create a more powerful engine and more efficient ERS would have much better acceleration and top speed. We could see something like we did back in the old days of the BTCC where there were American muscle cars with powerful engines and small Minis who were faster in the corners. The racing was fantastic.

    Hopefully the engine regulations leave some room for innovation. I haven’t read them but it sounds like they will be very restrictive.

    Nevertheless, I’m glad that SOMETHING is changing. I dread to think how many “fingers” we would see from Seb if the rules stayed the way they are for another several years. *Shudder*

    • But then with a strong engine they wouldn’t need to worry so much about aero efficiency as a car with lower power. So in your scenario, Merc could end with MORE downforce then the others and maintain a competitive straight line speed.
      In BTCC the powerful cars weighed more and handled worse then the light and nimble, but sluggish, small cars.
      That is not going to be the case in F1 where weight and so on is the same. Unless the powerful engine has massive drive-ability issues, which could make the handling unpredictable, and therefore get a little bit of the 60-70′s BTCC effect.

  8. I think more than the V8 to V6 change, the rule limiting the maximum fuel in the car will have a higher impact next year.
    I think because of that low limit, cars will be driving at much less speed than the theoretical highest possible. So even if Mercedes is producing an extra 100 HP (as the rumor goes) if they are burning more fuel doing so, it will amount to nothing.

    Renault have currently the most fuel efficient engine. So may be they will still be the most fuel efficient next year.

  9. Shrieker (@shrieker) said on 25th September 2013, 17:11

    The more important point -which is missing from the article- is the definitive end of EBD. It is estimated that it grants about 2 seconds or more per lap, and Vettel won’t have it next season. The exhaust has to exit behind the rear axle line and 550 mm above the reference plane, so goodbye EBD (and Red Bull/ Vettel dominance). Vettel will probably fare better than he did at the start of 2012, but I’ll be impressed if he manages to stay ahead of the likes of Alonso and Hamilton.

    • In 2014 Red Bull will reveal the new improved “Vettel 4T” with built-in EBD feature.

    • Vettel will probably fare better than he did at the start of 2012

      Five races into the 2012 season Vettel was leading the WDC. If he fares better than he did at the start of 2012 I suspect you’re not going to like it.

      • David-A (@david-a) said on 25th September 2013, 20:30

        If he fares better than he did at the start of 2012 I suspect @shrieker ‘s not going to like it.

        +1 @jonsan , and the only point where he lost any real ground was Valencia, which was not to do with Vettel struggling.

        • Shrieker (@shrieker) said on 25th September 2013, 23:21

          I can count more than 1 occasion where he failed to make it into q3. That not struggling eh. Ok. At one point they even changed the exhausts on the car, and Vettel was dominating again only when the blowing effect was perfected past mid season. There is no shame in saying Vettel benefited the most from the use of EBD, it’s what grants him dominance and Newey has a big contribution in it. Why is it wrong to say he won’t be dominating next year when it’s taken away ? Should I be ashamed, go sit in the corner and cry for saying it ? (which is the truth by the way)

          • David-A (@david-a) said on 26th September 2013, 0:38

            @shrieker

            I can count more than 1 occasion where he failed to make it into q3

            Because you can count two occasions where he didn’t make Q3, in 20 races?

            There’s nothing wrong in thinking someone may struggle, but as @jonsan pointed out, SV led the championship after 5 races (and remained within a few points of the lead until losing out in Valencia), before coming back again late season.

          • crr917 (@crr917) said on 26th September 2013, 7:13

            In 2012 McLaren, Ferrari and Sauber already had “coanda”/ramp exhaust when they presented their cars. Red Bull didn’t. They developed their ramp exhaust during the season. They were behind the field in that area but they eventually caught up. So everyone will lose EBD next season :)

  10. Reading the comments, a lot of people don’t seem to be aware that the EBD was banned from the end of 2011 onwards. So expecting changes from the elimination of the EBD next year is a mistake. I also see some claims that Newey invented the EBD, or that Brawn did, or Honda in 2009. In fact it’s first use in F1 was back in 1983 on the Renault Re40.

    The reliability of the new engines will probably be the biggest factor next year. At least at the start of the season one of them is likely to prove more troublesome than the others, so by midway through all the cars with that engine will be out of the running. The short term result of the engine changes is likely to be increased dominance by one team over the rest. It’s hard to predict who that one team will be, but there’s about a 30% chance it will be RBR.

    • Mike Dee (@mike-dee) said on 25th September 2013, 18:48

      that the EBD was banned from the end of 2011 onwards

      Wasn’t it only the off-throttle blowing that was banned? At the same time, the rules changed to make on-throttle blowing more difficult, but using the Coanda effect, the teams still managed.

      • Wasn’t it only the off-throttle blowing that was banned?

        No. Both hot and cold blowing is currently banned. Teams tried different things to get similar results, but they are no longer blowing the diffuser. They are using “the Coanda effect” to get downforce, which is just a fancy way of saying they are using aerodynamics.

    • Jack (@jackisthestig) said on 25th September 2013, 19:41

      Whatever rule changes regarding engine mapping which were supposed to eliminate off-throttle exhaust blowing haven’t completely worked. All the cars are still doing it to but to a lesser extent than in 2011, it’s particularly audible from the Caterhams if you’ve been to or are going to a race this year.

      • Blowing the diffuser is not something which can be detected by ear. The changes eliminating blown diffusers went far beyond engine mapping and include rules governing the physical location and directionality of the exhaust outlets.

        Teams have done things to try to simulate the results of blown diffusers, but they’re not actually blowing the diffuser

        • Jack (@jackisthestig) said on 25th September 2013, 22:29

          I’m not talking about the diffuser. Since the regulation changes in 2012 the area which is ‘blown’ is the gap between the inside of the rear wheel and the lower section of the rear wing end plate, where the little rear wheel mounted ‘cascade’ wings are located.

          Off-throttle blowing basically involves the throttle being open even though the driver’s foot is off the pedal. The fuel/air mixture goes into the engine only rather than being ignited at the start of the power stroke as happens during normal on-throttle operation, the air/fuel mix is ignited at the start of the exhaust stroke, just as the exhaust valve begins to open. All of the energy generated by combustion is expelled through the exhaust pipe rather than moving the piston.

          That’s why you can clearly hear a distinctive rasping noise coming from the cars under braking and mid-corner, especially from the Caterhams. Watch some of the recent fan videos compiled on this website, you can clearly hear it.

          • That’s a different subject. I said that EBD’s were banned, which they are, and that many people seem unaware of this, which they do. As for off-throttle non-diffuser blowing you describe, that is banned as well, so if you think somebody is doing it you should contact Charlie. Though I suppose he doesn’t care much what Caterham are up to.

    • EBDs will die next year because the exhaust exits behind the diffuser and nearly 2 feet above it. In 2012/13 rules were brought in to “ban” them, however solutions like coanda exhausts gained back most of the losses.

  11. Libellula (@ladyf1fanatic) said on 25th September 2013, 17:59

    Hell no! F1 2014 Championship ‘MUST’ be different…

  12. if rumors are right merc might give a good fight or even dominate, everyone agrees most recent engine change in 2006 is not really a engine formula change, it just V10 with 2 cylinders cut-off, unlike in 2014, where there is whole lots of changes and more complicated. But ferrari are known for their engines unfortunately not for efficiency, fingers crossed redbull domination ends next year :S

  13. I think that it would be a fool’s bet to assume that Red Bull will fall of the grid next season because of the rule changes. If Red Bull is good at anything (which obviously they are good at quite a few things) it’s exploiting the rules. Hat’s off to them this season, and I can’t wait for next season, too!

  14. f1freek (@f1freek) said on 25th September 2013, 20:05

    Correct me if I’m wrong but won’t the new aerodynamic restrictions implemented play as a disadvantage to Red Bull and Newey?

  15. Lustigson (@lustigson) said on 25th September 2013, 21:05

    Interesting list, Keith, thumbs up.

    However, I think that only 1989, of the more recent examples, stacks up to the 2014 overhaul.

    For 1995, only engine capacity was changed, form 3.5 to 3.0 litres. Engine architecture remained the same, hence Renault’s continued domination.

    For 2006, it was more of the same, in a way, since a 3.0 V10 engine reduced by 2 cylinders gets you a 2.4 V8, so, again, no major change in engine architecture… hence Renault’s continued domination.

    (See the pattern, by the way? You could argue that, from the outset of the 3.5 litre era, Renault has more or less dominated F1 racing throughout the current season, because the basic lay-out of the engine — fixed capacity, later fixed number of cylinders, and fixed V-angle — have remained more or less the same.)

    For 1989, engine architecture was changed dramatically, from 1.5 litre turbos — I don’t think number of cylinders were mandated, so there were, IIRC, I4s and V6s — or (the almost non-existant) 3.0 litre atmos, to 3.5 litre atmospheric engines only.

    The same goes for 2014, just vice-versa: it’s a major engine architecture change, and perhaps an even bigger change, since we’re actually talking about new power train regulations.

    So, while Honda and McLaren continued to dominate from 1988 over to 1989, despite running different engine architecture, that’s only one example from 25 years ago, while other examples — 1952, 1954, 1961 and 1966 — though ancient, point in the opposite direction, and indicate that Renault and Red Bull will not be able to maintain their position.

    I for one would welcome change at the head of the pack, although I’d be even more happy with healthy competition between engine manufacturers.

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