Nothing compares to the absolute rush that is Formula One racing; the deafening roar of featherweight, agile cars reaching ludicrous speeds. Picture Swan Lake performed by death metal singers with jetpacks strapped to their backs. 2014 though, looks to be a year of significant change to the sport. Changes to engines, aerodynamics, technology, and regulations are shaping this upcoming F1 season to be one of uncertainty. Thankfully, that’s not necessarily a bad thing in this sport. Have you been able to keep up with the changes?
For the first time since 1988, turbocharging will be allowed back to the sport. Turbo will be absolutely integral this time around for drivers to be competitive since they’re losing two cylinders. The naturally aspirated, 2.4 litre, V8 monsters are gone and this season will usher in the 1.6 litre, V6, turbo-hybrid engine. That’s right: hybrid. Now don’t go thinking that these cars will be glorified Priuses out on the track, the hybrid comes from a new Energy Return System (ERS), which is very similar to the Kinetic Energy Return System (KERS) of yesteryear with a new electric motor slapped on the turbo. While the KERS harvests power from the rear axle under braking to release at a later lap, the electric motor on the turbo harvests heat produced by the turbocharger’s spinning turbine. The new ERS is said to release energy ten times longer per lap than traditional KERS and make up for about 160 horsepower of the 760 these machines should be capable of.
While there are definitely serious changes to the guts of the car, the same can be said for the body. Due to new safety regulations, the front nose of the car will be lowered 415mm. This has caused designers to go to radical lengths to not only bring the car to regulation, but make sure that aerodynamics aren’t affected. The aim behind the new rules was to reduce the chance of drivers being hit by the nose of a car in a crash and also to prevent a car from being launched in the air should it hit the rear wheels of the car in front. This redesign has resulted in an immature naming of the new noses by fans. Some are as innocent as the nose resembling an anteater or vacuum, while others go as far to say that some new cars have a penis nose. To further protect drivers, the front of the car’s chassis has also been lowered.
But wait, there’s more. The front wings have been narrowed by 150mm, the lower beam wing has been removed altogether, and the exhaust has been relocated. The narrower front wings and removal of the rear beam wing will affect the entire car’s downforce negatively, posing a real challenge for engineers and designers. The exhaust relocation will put an end to “exhaust blown diffusers”, which use exhaust gases to increase downforce. A single, central exhaust pipe exiting just above the gearbox will be used instead, putting gases out of line with the floor.
Rules and Regulations
Among the new rules for the 2014 Formula One season, one will make drivers a little more like us. They have a tighter gas bill. Drivers now have 130 litres of fuel to work with each race. But the new engines have the ERS hybrid technology and don’t consume as much fuel as last year’s 8-cylinder guzzlers. ERS will also no longer be under the control of the driver. The engine management computer and crew behind the pit wall will have control over the extra boosted power, which should make for some interesting race outcomes. The most talked-about and highly debated new rule is the decision to award double points at the final race, to help prevent championships being decided too early. World Champion Sebastian Vettel claimed two of his four championship titles with at least three races remaining. There has also been an introduction of a five-second penalty for minor offences on the track. On top of that penalty, offending drivers can also see points added to their record. If a driver manages to rack up 12 points in a calendar year, they can say hello to a nice race ban.
This upcoming season of Formula One racing looks to be promising. Not just because of new ground broken and new technology used, but because of the uncertainty of it all. Races last year were predictable. Vettel would take first and then you would watch to see the battle for second. This year, there is a level playing field and a lot of unknowns. Cars will be unreliable and rules will be bent. Start your engines ladies and gents, racing is about to get fun again.