Ten things we want to know about the 2014 season

2014 F1 season

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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106 comments on Ten things we want to know about the 2014 season

  1. OmarR-Pepper (@omarr-pepper) said on 2nd January 2014, 12:44

    With Bernie’s tantrum of 3 double-pointed races “or nothing”, I hope it marks the beginning of the end for that rule. When in January is the League of Injustice… the Strategy Group meeting?

  2. SeaHorse (@seahorse) said on 2nd January 2014, 12:52

    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

    The prospect (whether plausible or not) of Red Bull going down the order is so mouthwatering.. ;)

    • crr917 (@crr917) said on 2nd January 2014, 14:28

      just 1%

      There is somewhere in the internet an audio recording of a lecture by William Toet(maybe someone else I don’t remember well anymore but should be a Sauber emplyee if my memory is decent) where he said that 10% engine power difference translates to 1% (or 1,5%) lap time.

      • Robbie said on 2nd January 2014, 15:51

        I think there should be enough new variables for 2014 that it is possible that a specific engine could be better than the rest, but the engine/chassis marriage might not work so well from one team to the next. Ie. I expect, and I’m assuming F1 expects, that is not just going to come down to a 1% difference in engines…if that turns out to be the case then I think everyone should be disappointed at the massive expenses F1 just put itself through. Ie. if the product is no different and only the running order is, and it was all only meant to put RBR back, then that will be as artificial as DRS.

  3. AbeyG (@1abe) said on 2nd January 2014, 13:05

    I am really waiting for the car launch…am excited for that as that would be the begining for the feeling that F1 is back!! I am still worried Michael and hope he gets well soon. Dont want any bad news *crosses finger* on what could be a great season this year!!

    On the other hand, I do remember that we had participated in a F1Fanatic prediction for the 2013 season before the season began last year. Did we get the result on who won that, @keithcollantine ?

  4. VettelS (@vettels) said on 2nd January 2014, 13:35

    For the teams, the new engines are surely going to be the most challenging factor of the 2014 season; the new front wing specifications will make for obvious visible differences from last year’s cars. But it’s unlikely that either of these will lead to a significant improvement in the racing this year, which is after all what we care about the most.

    The most worrying change to 2014 is of course the 100kg fuel limit. Lots of people regard DRS as an overly artificial overtaking aid that removes some of the reward for passing the guy in front. But the fuel limit surely has the potential to have a much greater effect on the racing (especially at those races that are already close to 2 hour limit)?

    I don’t deny that fuel management should be part of the drivers’ job, in the same way that tire management is. But to enforce an absolute (and reduced) fuel limit, particularly when we already see drivers having to coast the last couple of laps of long races in order to make the chequered flag (and lose positions in the process), completely ridiculous.

    F1 should be taking steps to make the sport more affordable, and some people would say (I’m not one of them) that it should also be attempting to appear more environmentally friendly. But F1 is still a sport, and its existence is reliant on spectators being excited enough to tune in/turn up. The last few seasons have attracted criticism because its arguably becoming more predictable and less exciting; the introduction of a fuel limit is at best ill-timed, but at worst detrimental the chances of F1′s long term success.

    • VettelS (@vettels) said on 2nd January 2014, 13:42

      I should add that one change I particularly welcome are the narrower front wings. In 2009, when the front wings were widened to the width of the tires, the amount of drivers getting them knocked off increased dramatically. Since then, drivers have got used to them so we don’t see this quite as much, but I still welcome any change that will allow drivers to race closer and harder.

    • Juzh (@juzh) said on 2nd January 2014, 14:35

      tbh, i don’t think there will THAT much fuel saving. 160kg is typical for a current (or past should i say) v8, while next year we have downsized 1.6 turbo which will consume massively less fuel. Less revs, less power, less displacement, less cylinders –> less fuel consumption.

    • Datt said on 3rd January 2014, 8:01

      I doubt we’ll find driver cruising to save fuel. MotoGP has been using a fuel-limit for a while now which is accurately managed bij the ECU

  5. craig-o (@craig-o) said on 2nd January 2014, 14:16

    I want to see how Kimi shapes up against Alonso. It’s just mouthwatering seeing them two against each other.

    Also really looking forward to seeing Kevin Magnussen in the McLaren!

    • petebaldwin (@petebaldwin) said on 2nd January 2014, 15:52

      Yeah I agree – Fernando vs Kimi would be in my top 3 of things I’m looking forward to in 2014. I think Alonso is going to start of stronger but Kimi has the knack of regularly scoring points and ending up there or thereabouts at the end of the season.

      If the Ferrari is decent, I imagine Alonso will probably win more races but may finish behind Kimi in the WDC.

  6. Lucas Wilson (@full-throttle-f1) said on 2nd January 2014, 14:21

    Even though I expressed my doubts in my above post about if F1 will get better, I am still looking forward to this season. So much change is great.

    Lets just hope its not a Red Bull-Vettel walkover again.

  7. Robbie said on 2nd January 2014, 14:22

    For me the key question is ‘How will the new cars change the racing?’

    After all, isn’t that what it is all about? Why the rules have been changed so much? Why they brought on DRS? Why they’ve been curbing EBD? Why they’ve been using aggressive tires to try to manipulate things? Etc etc…

    I think F1′s biggest fear should be that after having the teams go through all this expense to deal with the new technical regs, we better not still have one team running away from the pack. I think expectations are quite high that we shouldn’t see RBR making a cakewalk out of it, but at this point I’d be happy to see them at least challenged, and have the Championship come down to the last race with 3 guys as potential WDC’s. I don’t care if one of them is SV…as long as he had a long hard fought battle throughout the season to get there.

    So to me, what to look for is whether or not the racing is close. As long as the racing is close I think most people should be happy with that, but then again I think that as long as they have DRS, I question how close the racing will ever be. And for me it won’t suffice if the cars can somehow be close and just exchange DRS passes lap after lap. Those aren’t real passes of the type that create legends that we will talk about for years to come. At least they’ve shown a little willingness to change to front and back wings so hopefully that helps, but ultimately I think they need to make much bigger restrictions to the wings and rid themselves of DRS if they want the quality of F1 to improve.

  8. Colm (@colm) said on 2nd January 2014, 14:33

    How long before on-track item boxes are introduced so?

  9. Enigma (@enigma) said on 2nd January 2014, 15:54

    I’m also very interested in which drivers will be carrying which numbers. We’ve heard about some but it’ll be interesting to see the whole grid assigned them.

  10. If you thought Valencia could ever be worse, the Russian track manages to do just that.

  11. Calum (@calum) said on 2nd January 2014, 16:21

    It’s all about Mercedes for me!

    This is it.

    The budget from Stuttgart has increased.
    They have recruited heavily to improve all areas of their F1 car development.
    The team will be making their own turbo engines around their own chassis!
    The star driver has been recruited and had a season to bed in.

    Their modern F1 works team presence has been building up to this season.

    Will Mercedes-Benz live up to the potential and hype? Will they flop like big spending Toyota or can they gun down RedBull?!

    I can’t wait to find out!

    • Robbie said on 2nd January 2014, 18:31

      I’m with you, and can only add that I think both drivers will make for a pairing perhaps second only to that at Ferrari with their two WDCs, so I hope we will see both LH and NR giving Ferrari and RBR fits.

  12. Glenn (@glennb) said on 2nd January 2014, 17:10

    My concern is around the 100kg fuel limit. What’s that, 100 litres? To complete 300 Kms with 100 litres of fuel works out at ummm 3km per litre. I’d hate to see a car win all because it was more economical on fuel. We already have that with tyres. I just hope it’s not as bad as I think it will be.

    • Marciare_o_Marcire (@marciare-o-marcire) said on 2nd January 2014, 17:28

      Rest assured it will be far worse than you suspect. Cars are going to be:
      1) heavier
      2) less powerful
      3) more fragile
      4) uglier
      5) less loud
      6) less agile
      7) otherNegativeThing
      8) otherNegativeThing
      9) otherNegativeThing

      31) otherNegativeThing

      74) otherNegativeThing

      N) Abu Dhabi 3rd place will be worth more than a win in Spa.

      • Robbie said on 2nd January 2014, 18:25

        Lol, yeah I too think it will really suck if we see delta time driving (not racing) due to poor tires replaced with delta time driving (not racing) due to fuel conservation. I think tire and fuel conservation should be left to the R&D Departments of domestic car makers, not to the best racers in the world that are supposed to be racing in the pinnacle of racing. Yes fuel and tire conservation have always played a part, but it shouldn’t be anywhere near the whole part. If we wanted to watch moving science experiments being monitored by drivers that are being limited and are capable of doing way more with the car but are not allowed that’s one thing, but I don’t think that’s what we want, and then why are we considering this the pinnacle of racing? If conservation becomes too much the story of F1 then I’m all for a breakaway series that simplifies and goes back to square one of putting the racing back into the hands of racers, not encumbered by the car so much that their talents are wasted and we can no longer categorize them as potential legends.

        • Marciare_o_Marcire (@marciare-o-marcire) said on 2nd January 2014, 18:54

          Totally agree. I’m all for a breakaway series. In the meantime, FIA WEC is a good surrogate for an F1 breakaways series. They’re always racing on the limit there, and they don’t stifle technological innovation (besides the very annoying horsepower limits).

        • R.J. O'Connell (@rjoconnell) said on 2nd January 2014, 20:21

          Because the breakaway series idea worked out so well for American open-wheel racing.

          • HoHum (@hohum) said on 2nd January 2014, 20:41

            Yes but nothing works in the USA without a big V8.

          • Robbie said on 3rd January 2014, 13:20

            Lol, I do take your point about a breakaway series not being easy, but in terms of the Indy comparison, don’t forget that was within one country, and much centered around Tony George owning the biggest by far venue, the Indianapolis 500, which is the only way his series was ever going to work.

            An F1 type breakaway would be international in scope and there’s many venues they could go. Again, not saying it would be easy but the fact that it has ‘almost’ happened (not sure how close they ever were in reality) bodes well for the idea. I think the concept is always present, so let’s see how the racing is with the drastic new regs and hope for the best for now. It will come down to the product on the track and right now there are a lot of people who are weary of the direction F1 is going.

            I personally feel F1 is currently degraded with DRS affecting the races, and I mean I even respect non-DRS passes less because DRS put the players where they are to set up the non-DRS passes too. For me, and many others F1 will not be the pinnacle until they get rid of DRS.

            Who knows…maybe there’s a sad reality for us traditionalists that in fact the new direction will attract more new audience than it will shun the old, and we’ll just have to give it up and find our racing zen elsewhere. I cling to the hope that the racing in any series should be left to the driver on the track, not done in a boardroom nor by the engineer in the pits directing how and when a driver can ‘race.’

    • Timothy Katz (@timothykatz) said on 2nd January 2014, 20:49

      Apparently, 100 kg of fuel equals about 130 litres.

    • HoHum (@hohum) said on 2nd January 2014, 20:51

      I would love to see them racing on hard,skinny tyres and an ultra low-drag setup.

  13. Jules said on 2nd January 2014, 17:45

    I love this site… most commenters are true fans with something intelligent to say and respect for others opinions. This seems hard to come by these days, especially on other sites where its mostly team, driver, and commenter bashing. We all have our opinions and its great to see genuine discussion without resorting to taking the mickey (to put it nicely). A little off topic I know but I had to say it.

    I honestly can’t wait for the 2014 season to start and I think its going to be an enthralling year. My only real gripe with the new reg’s is this double points malarky but as much as I seriously, SERIOUSLY, hope the rule is removed I still believe its going to be a fun season of racing.

  14. For me its will McLaren make another dog of a car, or will we be out in front.

  15. spoutnik (@spoutnik) said on 2nd January 2014, 21:02

    Does anyone know what are the most demanding tracks in terms of fuel? Does big acceleration like in Monza consumes high levels of fuel or is a track like Hungary most demanding?

    • HoHum (@hohum) said on 2nd January 2014, 21:53

      @spoutnik, good question, more slow speed corners require energy to accelerate the mass back up to speed but also mean more deceleration opportunities for energy harvesting to provide stored energy for acceleration.
      Long straights and high speed corners require less energy for acceleration but need more energy for drag and provide less opportunity to harvest energy.

      • ME4ME (@me4me) said on 2nd January 2014, 22:24

        I think Martin Brundle mentioned it some years ago, Monzo is actually one of the least fuel-consuming tracks on the calandar. Apparantly it’s because of the efficient layout that makes for a very high avarange speed. What takes a lot of fuel is constant accelerating and braking. Energi is effectivly going to waste, even though the KERS can recover a small bit ot it. So i’d imagine Singepore and Hungary like you mention should be on the other end of the scale, being very thirsty.

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