The 2014 Formula 1 season is set for arguably the biggest set of rule changes the series has seen.
With a few teams releasing first images of their 2014 challengers, the appearance of the cars has changed considerably from last year, and – to the dismay of many fans – not for the better.
Here’s what’s changing this year…
Engine and recovery units
The 2.4-litre naturally aspirated V8s which have been used since the 2006 season have been replaced by a 1.6-litre V6 turbo power unit. The term ‘engines’ are now a thing of the past as we enter into the sport’s endeavour to embrace green technology.
A new fuel limit has been introduced that will see drivers complete a race with just 100kg of fuel (approximately 130 litres). While there was no limit to the amount of fuel a car could carry throughout a race last year, the average fuel load for a Sunday race was typically around 150-160kg.
Engines will not be allowed to consume fuel at more than 100kg per hour. This seems like we’re headed towards economy racing, however, it’s worth keeping in mind that the V6 will use less fuel due to the energy recovery systems and it being rev-limited to 15,000rpm.
Now to the recovery units…
A much larger proportion of the cars’ power will come through the ERS – Energy Recovery System. It’s a second electric motor that will harness energy from the turbo that would otherwise be wasted heat. The energy generated in this way is unlimited, so it can be stored in the battery or used for acceleration.
The existing KERS, which harvested kinetic energy expelled from the rear axle during braking, was maxed at 60kw and 6.7s per lap. This year, it will produce 150kw for 30 seconds per lap. In recent seasons, drivers would press their KERS button for the 60kw of boost, but the new ERS will be controlled by the engine management computer, cutting the boost in and out as necessary to mean it’s no longer button-activated.
The turbos of yesteryear had a slight throttle lag, which meant there was a delay in power until the turbo got up to speed; this too has now been eliminated with the help of the electronic motor unit. All the new engine regulations will now place reliability to be the highest priority of the teams, given each car is limited to just six power units for the whole season.
“I would say that this year reliability is going to be absolutely fundamental.” Ferrari technical director James Allison told the Italian team’s official website.
Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner believes that the attrition rate in the early races could be as high as 50%.
Foreseeing just how complicated these new systems will be, teams have been given six ‘jokers’ to break the mechanics curfew, which will allow the mechanics to work longer hours to help prepare (or repair) the fragile machinery. As the V8’s of 2013 were so reliable, teams were allowed just two exemptions last year.
No doubt one of the biggest talking points of this season will be the front of the car. The nose has been lowered 550mm to 185mm to increase safety in two ways.
The FIA had already lowered the minimum height of the nose to reduce the danger of T-bone accidents. The aim is to eliminate the chance the nose of a car could hit the driver on impact. The second safety measure was to prevent a car being launched into the air when the nose hits the rear wheel of another car (Mark Webber – Valencia).
The bulkhead – the part of the car where the nose cone attaches itself to – has been lowered by 10cm. The aim here was to help create a long, slim nose from the cockpit down to the tip of the nose.
However, teams will want the least amount of obstruction under the car so they’ll be able to channel air underneath it to drive underbody aerodynamics and create more downforce, and that’s why we will see big steps in the chassis’ (for example Ferrari’s F14T). So far, teams have opted to use a vanity panel over their ‘finger noses’ to try and get more clean air under the car.
The front wing width has been reduced by 15cm – 75mm either side – while the removal of the rear beam wing and the restriction of exhaust exit points will mean the 2014 cars have greatly reduced downforce.
The change that will affect most teams will be the inability to utilise the exhaust gases through the diffuser. Cars will now have a single central exhaust pipe located behind the rear axle line. Additionally, no bodywork is allowed to be placed behind the tailpipe, this will see an end to blowing the diffuser and subsequent solutions like the Coandă effect.
The minimum weight of the cars has been increased from 642kg to 690kg to compensate for the weight of this year’s powertrain. Some teams have appealed to the FIA to increase the minimum weight even further, as some of the grid’s taller and/or heavier drivers could be disadvantaged. They were unsuccessful this year but will see a 10kg rise in 2015.
Image via Craig Scarborough, Formula1.com, Renault