Formula 1 in 2014
The 2014 season of Formula One sees major changes and revisions with regards to drivetrain, car design and race regulations, all of which can have drastic effects on the outcome of races and the championship. Find out what they are.
NEW ENGINE REGULATIONS
Perhaps the biggest change for the 2014 season is the engines. In an attempt to improve fuel efficiency of the race cars and to cut down overall costs for the teams, 2014 will see turbocharged engines returning for the first time since 1988. Apart from being turbocharged, the engine displacement and cylinder count has been reduced as well - down from a 2.4-liter V8 to a 1.6-liter V6. Additionally, the rev limit has been brought down from 18,000 rpm to 15,000 rpm. In all, the new smaller turbocharged engine is expected to be 20% to 30% more efficient than last year’s naturally aspirated unit.
Even if teams are able to extract the same or even more power from a smaller engine, the shift from a naturally aspirated V8 to a turbocharged V6 will have significant changes on the cars’ handling characteristics. Typically speaking, normally aspirated engines have quicker throttle response than turbocharged engines, this is because turbos often require some time to spool to get its operating rpm to generate boost, which also means that power output takes some time to change when throttle applied. This can make the car less predictable and trickier to drive, especially when exiting out of corners.
In addition to the new engines, teams will also be faced with new engine regulations that promote efficiency. For 2014, each team is limited to 100kg of fuel per race - previously it was unlimited, although teams often consume about 160kg.
Engines must also be used for at least 4,000km before they can be replaced and each driver will only be allowed to use just five engines over the course of an entire season. Last season, engines were replaced after 2,000km and drivers could use up to eight engines a season. Changing engines too early or using more than five engines will result in the driver starting races from the pit lane instead of the grid.
For spectators, the smaller engines, reduced cylinder count and lower rev limits would mean a different aural experience at races. Gone are the high pitched V8 wails that have become such an iconic and integral part of the Formula One experience; in its place instead are more the slightly more muted howls of the turbocharged V6 engines.
ENERGY RECOVERY SYSTEMS
Formerly known as KERS (Kinectic Energy Recovery System) and renamed to ERS (Energy Recovery System) for the new season, these technologies will have a greater role this season and help the race cars to be more energy efficient. The new ERS will consist of two units, one that generates power from braking and another heat-based system that is connected to the turbo and generates power using waste heat from the fast spinning turbos.
The second generator that connects with the turbo operates a small motor that helps to quickly spin the turbo after braking to improve its responsiveness and efficiency. As we mentioned earlier, turbo engines generally suffer from a phenomenon called turbo lag and this motor can help keep the power and torque curve as linear as possible.
The net result of these changes is that the ERS will generate more power and drivers too will be allowed to use them for a longer period of time. Specifically, what this means is that drivers will be able to use ERS to generate around 160hp more power for up to 33 seconds per lap; this compares to the last season where drivers could use KERS to generate an additional 80hp for just 6 seconds per lap. This change will have a profound effect on how races play out as drivers can now call on more additional power and for longer periods of time.
Another consideration is the failure of these energy recovery systems. In the last season, incidents where a car’s KERS failed was not uncommon, but considering they could only be used for 6 seconds a lap, the lost was not that great. For 2014, with ERS generating more power and be able to be deployed for longer periods, failure would reduce the competitiveness of the car to a far greater extent. If you caught the first race of the season - the Australian Grand Prix - you would have noticed that the cars looked radically different from last season. This is due to a number of aerodynamic regulation changes and the one that is most talked about is the reduction in nose height. For 2014, the nose must not exceed 185mm from the ground, a reduction of a whopping 365mm, and this has had a dramatic effect on how the cars look. The reasons for this change is primarily for safety as the FIA wants to reduce the dangers in incidents of T-boning and also to prevent cars from being launched into the air when the high nose hits the rear wheels of the car in front.
Other crucial aerodynamic changes for 2014 also include narrower front wings, with widths being reduced from 1,800mm to 1,650mm, thus making it harder for teams to redirect air to the outside of the tires. The new Formula One season will also see shallower rear wings and an outright ban on lower beam wings, which are small wings mounted above the diffuser to generate low pressure and create more downforce.
Finally, the position and number of exhaust outlets have also been changed. Cars will now have a single exhaust outlet instead of two and it must be angled upwards towards the rear wing instead of downwards to face the rear diffuser. This is to prevent teams from blowing the hot exhaust gases over the rear diffusers to generate more downforce.