Formula 1 2014; the times they are a changin’

Posted on 29 Jan 2014 by David Farrow

The Manufacturer's local Formula 1 guru, David Farrow, shares his thoughts on the massive changes to the cars this season and how he thinks the teams will react.

2014 will definitely be remembered as the season for change in Formula 1. Teams and drivers alike will have to adapt to a multitude of technical regulations induced to lower costs and to make the sport more of a spectacle. Engineers, technicians and aero-dynamists have been working tirelessly for nearly a year to create new cars, predominately in the UK, to win races and show off great British innovation. The new regulations see changes to engines, gearbox, front and rear winds, increased fuel efficiencies and a new lower nose.

The McLaren MP4-29 nose cone is not the prettiest, but how it affects the car's performance is still to be seen. Image courtesy of McLaren Formula 1

For the first time since 1988 turbo charged engines will return to the grid. Gone are the 2.4-litre normally-aspirated V8 engines and in will come 1.6-litre V6 turbo engines, revving to a maximum of 15,000rpm. To save costs these new power packs will have to last 2,500miles before being replaced compared with 1,200 miles of the current engines. For fans this means the roar of normally aspirated engines thundering around circuits will be gone. For drivers they have to adapt to a completely different driving style with a vast amount of torque being delivered to the rear wheels. The smoother drivers on the grid, should definitely reap the benefits of this.

Getty Images
Infiniti Red Bull Racing launch their new RB10 Formula One car at the Circuito de Jerez on January 28, 2014 in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain. Getty Images

Power is down from 750 bhp to around the 600bhp mark, however a new KERS system has been introduced for 2014. Renamed ERS-K this new Energy Recovery System will be heat-based and is designed to capture waste heat as it is dispelled from the exhaust turbocharger. This system is designed to add 160 bhp for a maximum of thirty-three seconds per lap compared to the 80 bhp for 6 seconds previously seen in 2013. Indy Car calls this a ‘push to pass button’ and if used effectively should certainly add to the excitement of over-taking seen in 2013. The smaller engines will have to be far more fuel efficient with only 100kg of fuel allowed each race, down from 160kg – a saving of 37%.

The Mercedes-Benz PU106A Power Unit

This year also sees the end of Cosworth engines from the grid after Marussia joined Ferrari’s customer programme with Ferrari providing the team with both engines and powertrain for 2014 and beyond. This only leaves three engine manufacturers on the grid in 2014, although this will increase to four when Honda returns to the grid with McLaren to reform the successful partnership last seen in 1992. Visual changes will see smaller front and rear wings, but it will be the lower nose cones that will make this a year to remember for design. Now that every team has revealed their cars, even if Lotus only released a few images via Twitter on the same day as the McLaren launch, it is clear that without a design benchmark for the nose cone, every team has taken a different approach. Red Bull’s RB10 seems to be the ‘normal’ nose on the grid, some may say the most photogenic car on the grid, however last year’s McLaren had this accolade too. With Jenson Button describing last year’s car as ‘This year’s car is the best we’ve ever made’, we all know how the season ended for McLaren – the worst since 1980.

Over the year’s we have seen some unique or ugly, as some would say, cars on the grid. This year the front end of some cars look like truly awful. Whilst innovation and thinking out of the box for solutions must be a prerequisite in F1, the different solutions must surely make you wonder about the job security of the aero-dynamists involved. This year will be a case of revolution not evolution for all teams. For one, I’ll be watching in anticipation. McLaren Mercedes MP4-29 Infographic