2014… About two months, two months and you’ll know – we’ll all know – just what the shape will be for the brave new world of ‘eco F1’.
The turbocharged, Energy Recovery System-equipped, smaller fuel-tanked, larger-radiatored, lower-nosed, narrower-winged, single exhaust-piped, hybrid thoroughbred machines will be ready to roll for January ’14 pre-season testing.
One word: Efficiency.
The ‘E’ word will govern all. Engines, power, fuel, cooling, weight, tyres, aero; all will be affected by a team and driver’s ability to maximise what’s possible within the parameters laid down for the road ahead.
Sure, it’s likely we’ll see mid-eighties F1-like flames licking rear bodywork and plumes of white smoke billowing from a car or three over the first few races, but reports of team and driver order-shuffling are – I fear for all of you bored by Red Bull’s brilliance – nothing more than hopes and dreams.
With both 2013 titles in the bag before Abu Dhabi, Austin and Sao Paolo, work at Milton Keynes has been ramping up to ensure a year of RB10 domination.
Red Bull’s significant gains in straightline-speed aero and rear-tyre-wear management – both important to 2014 success – have been evident recently; add to that Renault’s class-leading fuel efficiency, Adrian Newey’s brilliance, Sebastian Vettel’s application and talent, and you may want to tone down those hopes of change.
Let’s hope not!
I like so many would love to see a season with as many different race winners as possible, but I’m a realist and am happy to accept that those who work hardest will win out. If that happens to be Red Bull then fine, but I’m trying to remain optimistic that others will take up the fight.
How will the new cars look?
During a recent shoot at one midfield F1 team I was fortunate to see – but not photograph! – about 60 per cent of their 2014 car.
My overall impression was not particularly positive. The power unit of course is a significantly different lump of architecture in terms of the size of the internal combustion engine, the relatively large turbocharger assembly, the exhaust configuration and the increased ratio gearbox, but bigger than all of these is the cooling challenge.
The radiators looked akin to something one would expect to see in a ’90s IndyCar. Large, crude, boxy-shaped lumps that bear little in common with the thin, curvy-lined wafers employed now.
As all F1 designers will tell you, to come up with a solution that will cool is reasonably simple, but to have a system that will cool and give the optimum aerodynamic performance is the challenge.
The lower noses are a welcome change, producing cars that look more like racers of old. Just 185mm off the ground (down from 550mm currently), the noses have a more ‘attached’ silhouette – and are so low that this year’s front jacks won’t fit underneath them!
Of course with all these changes will come variation, as different design teams settle on differing answers to the many challenges they face.
We’re probably correct not to anticipate late ’60s/early ’70s-like car dissimilarities, but it’s very likely the 2014 Australian Grand Prix will play host to a number of distinctions in car design.
Not just because he’s the greatest F1 car designer ever will Adrian Newey’s RB10 be the most eagerly anticipated 2014 machine of all. We’ll all want to see just how neatly packaged and aero-influenced his newest title challenger can be. No one has ever squeezed more speed into such a small space as he so regularly has.
Just ask Daniel Ricciardo.
Word has it that Red Bull’s new Australian number two’s head size has caused Newey a few design headaches. Large crash helmets don’t make for increased aero efficiency!
So look forward to F1 2014. It’s a brave new world that all of us should be happy the sport has embraced…
Just don’t expect that much to change!