January 27th, 2014 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - 2014 sees perhaps the most significant regulation changes in the history of Formula One. That’s not an exaggeration. The 2014 Formula One cars will look and sound markedly different from anything that has come before them. More than that, what goes on beneath the bodywork has changed dramatically. Let’s take a look at what’s going on in a 2014 Formula One car, compared to what was seen last season:
Smaller, Greener Engines
Of all the changes, the most significant is in the engine regulations. Gone are the 2.4 litre V8 engines that revved to 18,000 rpm. They’ve been replaced by hybrid 1.6 litre V6 turbo engines with a rev limit of 15,000rpm.
In 2013, the Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) unit in a Formula One car provided an 80 bhp boost that could be used for up to 6.7 seconds per lap. In 2014, the Energy Recovery System (ERS) has two components – the ERS-K system that recovers energy under braking and the ERS-H system that recovers heat from the turbocharger – that combine to provide an approximate 160bhp boost for up to 33 seconds per lap.
From a driving perspective, the role of electric power has changed from 2013 in that the driver will no longer press a button to deploy the ERS unit. Instead, the engineers will map the use of ERS into the behaviour of the engine, so that it responds to the driver’s throttle inputs.
In Formula One’s efforts to become greener, not only has the role of the electric motor been increased, the efficiency of the petrol engine has also been emphasised. The engines are limited to just 100kg of fuel per race (compared to a typical fuel load of 150kg in 2013). The engines are not permitted to consume more than 100kg of fuel per hour at any point in the race.
The limits to race fuel have prompted fears that Grands Prix may become economy runs rather than races, but those fears are not really justified. The 2014 engines are smaller in capacity and have fewer cylinders than last year’s engines. In addition, they are turbocharged. All of that adds up to greatly improved fuel economy. Add the increased role of the electric motors and it becomes inevitable that the engines will use much less fuel than before.
The New Ferrari F14-T
Mercedes Turbo Engine
There have been changes to the gearbox regulations. In previous seasons, Formula One cars used seven forward gears and one reverse gear. For 2014, they are required to have eight forward gears, and they must nominate the ratios of those gears before the start of the season (previously they could be changed from race to race). Significantly, that means that the same gear ratios must be used at Monaco and Monza (the slowest and fastest tracks on the calendar respectively).
No More Exhaust Blowing
In the last few seasons, the role of exhaust gases in generating downforce has been a talking point in Formula One. For 2014, the regulations require that each car has a single exhaust that exits at the rear of the car (as opposed to permitting exhaust exits in the sidepods as in 2013). This effectively prevents the teams from using complicated exhaust configurations that blow exhaust gases across the rear bodywork to create downforce.
The team that exploited exhaust blowing to create downforce most effectively was Red Bull. They will have to find their performance advantage in other areas of the car now that that particular avenue of development has been closed off.
Changes in Appearance
Other changes at the rear of the car are seen in the rear wing. The lower beam wing that was previously located just above the gearbox of the car has been prohibited for this season. The DRS opening has been enlarged and the profile of the rear wing is required to be shallower than before. Those changes should combine to increase the role of DRS in overtaking and to reduce rear downforce in normal racing circumstances.
Moving forward on the cars, the crash structures in the sidepods have been developed in such a way that the sidepods will likely be wider. The increased cooling requirements of the turbocharged engine and ERS battery make wider sidepods inevitable. Significantly wider sidepods have been seen on all of the cars unveiled thus far.
Looking further forward, the height of the chassis in front of the driver (the part of the car that encloses the driver’s legs) has been reduced, and the height of the nose has been significantly reduced for safety reasons. That means that the drivers’ feet will be lower than before (the drivers will effectively be sitting more upright) and there will be greatly reduced risk of cockpit intrusion in a t-bone impact. It is also likely that the drivers will have increased visibility, as the chassis will no longer be in their line of sight to the extent that it was in 2013.
Unfortunately, the aerodynamic challenge of a low nose has resulted in some unfortunate-looking designs emerging in the past few days. It is likely that the regulations for 2015 will be modified to improve the appearance of the nose of an F1 car.
The final noticeable change at the front of the car is in the front wing, which is required to be 150mm narrower than in 2013.
Aside from the technical changes, there have also been changes to the sporting regulations.
From 2014, Formula One drivers will carry a car number for their career, with the exception of the World Champion who will be permitted to use the number 1 instead of his regular number. This is a change from previous seasons in which car numbers have been determined by finishing order in the Constructors’ Championship.
Five-second penalties have been introduced for minor offences. These penalties can be taken at pitstops before the team starts to work on the car.
In addition, a penalty point system has been introduced for the drivers, who will earn points on a sliding scale for their offences. A driver who racks up 12 penalty points in a calendar year will be banned for a race.
For the season finale (which is in Abu Dhabi in 2014), double points will be awarded (i.e. 50 for the win, 36 for second place, etc.). This is in an attempt to keep the championship open until the final race of the season.
While the double points rule has been met with some criticism, it would not have had a significant effect on the results of most of the seasons in F1 history. Most recently, it would have changed the result of the 2008 World Championship, in which Lewis Hamilton triumphed while Felipe Massa won the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix.
The 2014 Toro Rosso STR09