Changes – Part 3 – Formula 1

Action during the US Grand Prix at in Austin, TX.  [Photo courtesy Circuit of the Americas]

The modern era of Formula One racing began in 1950 at Silverstone, England and for 2014 the series is celebrating its 65th season with some of the biggest, wide-ranging changes ever seen in the sport.

During 12 days of pre-season testing in Spain and Bahrain the Mercedes and Williams groups seemed to have the most success in avoiding reliability issues that plagued most teams. Ferrari and a surprising showing by Force India were closely behind in laps run, while four-time champion Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull squad, so dominant in recent years, had serious issues with endurance, running fewer laps than most others.

So, what are some of these myriad changes that are affecting the most innovative, technically advanced series in motorsports?

  • Engines: For the past eight seasons a normally-aspirated 2.4-liter, 18,000 rpm V8 has powered the F1 field. But for 2014 the power will be supplied by a turbocharged, 1.6- liter V6, generating 15,000 rpm, with two forms of energy recovery built in as F1 continues to push a green agenda that could find its way to your garage soon. There has also been a 35% reduction in available race fuel-140 liters vs. approximately 225 liters in 2013. Also, semi-automatic gearboxes will provide eight forward gears as opposed to seven in the past. Gear ratios must be selected prior to the first event and used for the season no matter which circuit is being run.  One change in ratio choice can be made during the season.


  • Aero: A single-pipe exhaust system must be angled up so as not to direct exhaust gasses toward the rear diffuser. In the past a two-pipe system aided with down force. Red Bull used the old system with great success and will likely wrestle more than other teams with the new regulations. The nose cones have also been lowered in order to stop cars from launching into the air when the front end comes in contact with another car. This lowering (550 mm to 185 mm) has resulted in some odd looking designs as each team has a different take on how the nose configuration should look. Changes have also been implemented to both the front and rear wing units; generally providing less grip. With a larger power plant in place, engineers are having trouble fitting the engines/transmissions into an acceptable aero design for the body. Much tweaking in this area will likely occur during the season.


  • Tires: Pirelli remains the sole tire supplier to F1 teams in 2014. Teams will receive two harder compound choices, rather than three, which will provide less degradation of the tires, resulting in a two or three stop race. Teams will also be issued an extra set of prime tires for each race.


  • Circuits: Korea and India are off the 19-race schedule for the near future. A new event has been added to be run in the Olympic area of Sochi, Russia, while Austria’s Red Bull Ring returns to the series after a 10-year absence. New York/New Jersey and Mexico would like to be scheduled in 2015 and there may be more news about a return to Long Beach, CA, replacing Indy Car, if the city decides to spend very large amounts of money to bring the F1 circus back. Breaking news from England also states that F1 may soon be racing in Azerbaijan if Ecclestone has his way.


  • Drivers: Nine of the eleven teams have at least one new driver for 2014 (Force India and Caterham each have completely new rosters). Prime among the changes are Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari), Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull), Felipe Massa (Williams) and Nico Hulkenberg (Force India).


  • Points: Double points will be awarded for the season-ending race in Abu Dhab, designed to create extra drama for the championship by giving (it’s hoped) more drivers a chance at the crown. Some see this as a direct attack on Vettel and his string of four wins. CEO Bernie Ecclestone liked the idea so much that he pushed for double-points for the final three races, but that idea was rejected.


  • Future: With several of the eleven teams reportedly on somewhat shaky financial ground, F1 is looking to possibly bring in one or two new teams for 2015 or beyond. One interested group is headed by NASCAR’s Gene Haas of Stewart Haas Racing. The U.S. does need a team and driver in the series, but Haas hasn’t received much encouragement from the F1 community in his effort to join the grid.


  • Finally: Tongues wagged and heads shook when Vettel celebrated his 2013 championship with joyous doughnuts on the track before returning to the garage-a no-no in the stodgy F1 world. For 2014 the race winner will finally be allowed to celebrate.


Many of the questions regarding these and other changes in Formula 1 will soon be answered, beginning in Melbourne on March 16th. Other answers will have to wait until later in the season as teams get their reliability issues worked out. But one thing is becoming clear and that is with Bernie Ecclestone nearing the end of his management of F1, even more changes are likely in the upcoming years. Tighten your seat belt, it could get interesting.



Share Button