Start, Melbourne, 2012

Ten things we want to know about the 2014 season

2014 F1 seasonPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Start, Melbourne, 2012With the new year upon us and the days counting down to the 2014 F1 season, here are ten things we want to know about the year ahead.

What will the cars look like?

The artists’ impressions of how the new cars will look, based on the 2014 rules, have not been entirely promising.

New rules requiring teams to lower the noses of their cars may lead them to produce unusual, needle-nosed machines to satisfy the regulations without making concessions to performance.

Two years ago there was sighs of disappointment as car after car emerged from beneath the sheets with unsightly stepped noses. We could be in for a repeat this year thanks to F1′s stiflingly tight regulations.

What will the cars sound like?

This has been a source of debate ever since the move from normally aspirated V8 engines to turbocharged V6s was announced.

Inevitably the volume is going to be a little muted compared to last year, but I doubt this year’s cars are going to sound any less racy than the last generation of turbocharged F1 cars did in the eighties.

When will we get to see them?

At the time of writing none of the car launch dates for this year have been announced yet. But with testing due to start at Jerez in 26 days’ time, expect most if not all of them to appear before then.

All launch dates will be added to the F1 Fanatic calendar as they are announced:

Will all 11 teams make it to the start of the season?

Start, Suzuka, 2013You don’t have to look very far to find evidence of Formula One’s poor financial health at the moment. To begin with there’s the conspicuous lack of new entrants to the sport in recent seasons and the well-documented problems of the teams at the back of the grid – one of which pulled out just 12 months ago.

It got worse in 2013 as it emerged midfield teams such as Sauber and Lotus were having financial problems. Faced with that, you have to wonder how long Formula One’s meagre roster of 11 teams can keep going.

It’s a sorry state of affairs which those in charge of the sport have neglected for far too long.

Who will get the remaining seats?

Assuming all 11 teams do make it to the start of the season, there are currently three seats available for drivers to claim. Caterham are yet to confirm either of their drivers and Marussia have not announced who Jules Bianchi’s team mate will be.

That assumes that the 19 drivers announced so far will still have their seats by the time the teams reach Melbourne. Last year Timo Glock was supposed to drive for Marussia, but was dropped early in the year as the team found themselves forced to hire a driver with financial backing.

Will one of the engine manufacturers have a big advantage?

In recent years we’ve become used to seeing fairly narrow gaps in performance between the teams as the engine specification has been frozen for so long.

But were one engine manufacturer to have a significant performance advantage over the rest with their new V6 this year it could massively disrupt the competitive order.

For example, based on last year’s average car performance just a 1% loss of lap time from the Renault engine would be sufficient to drop Red Bull well behind Mercedes and Ferrari, consign Lotus to the tail of the midfield and leave Toro Rosso and Caterham with little chance of ever escaping Q1.

Will reliability be a serious problem?

The other major variable which the new engine rules is likely to affect is reliability.

Car reliability has reached record levels in recent seasons. Last year mechanical failures accounted for less than 7% of all retirements. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see that double or even triple next year.

How will the new cars change the racing?

Felipe Massa, Ferrari, Circuit of the Americas, 2013With narrow front wings and shallower rear wings, the latest cars should have a little less downforce than last year. The restrictions on exhaust placement, designed to prevent teams using exhaust-blowing of the diffuser, will further curb downforce.

The power delivery characteristics of the new turbo engines are likely to be challenging, and the energy recovery systems will add a much greater boost of power. On top of that, they will have to manage a limit of 100 kilos of fuel which will be an especially tough target at some tracks.

All these new challenges should make for some interesting developments on the racing front this year – and hopefully some excitement too.

Will Russia’s new track be any good?

There are two new additions to the 2014 F1 calendar. One of them, Austria’s Red Bull Ring, was last on the schedule in 2003.

But the circuit which will host the first ever Russian Grand Prix in Sochi is an all-new affair. Built on the roads around the venue of next month’s Winter Olympics, the circuit looks a little on the slow side but we’ll reserve judgement until we’ve seen the cars in action this October.

Is the double points plan for real?

Hardly anyone has stepped forward to defend the dreadfully ill-conceived plan to offer double points at the final race of the year which has drawn howls of criticism from F1 fans – including over 90% of F1 Fanatic readers.

It is written into the Sporting Regulations for now but they have the chance to weed it out and restore some of F1′s credibility before the season begins. Hopefully those in charge will see sense, but I’m not optimistic.

Over to you

What are you itching to find out about the new season? What do you suspect the answers to these questions will be?

Have your say in the comments.

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Image © McLaren/Hoch Zwei