Monday, March 17, 2014

2014 Season is "Go"

The 2014 F1 season got off to a thrilling start at Melbourne this weekend, though the high got tempered a bit because of a podium finisher's disqualification later after the race.

The build-up to the first race of the season was marred a bit by the shocking news of Michael Schumacher's serious head injury which has left him comatose till date. The winter testing provided confusing signs initially but later it emerged that Mercedes AMG Petronas team had the best package to take the chequered flag in the inaugural race & so did it happen. It was Nico Rosberg from the Mercedes team who took the win in Australia, while his teammate Lewis Hamilton was unlucky to retire after few laps, starting from pole.

V6 Turbo Engine - The heart of the season
A remarkable thing observed this year is the shift in the pit-lane buzzword from the "tyres" to the "engines". 2014 heralds the beginning of a new era in F1 which sees the return of the turbos. This season's cars are not powered by the normally aspirated V8 engines, but instead powered by the turbo-charged V6 engines. While the last couple of years' F1 chit-chat was dominated by the Pirelli's rubbers, this year the conversations are mostly on the power-unit, whether from Mercedes or Renault or Ferrari. Winter testing showed the dominance of Mercedes powered cars or the solidity of the Ferrari powered machines or the vulnerabilities of the Renault powered packages. The loss in the peak power (from 750 bhp to 600 bhp) is compensated by a new ERS (Energy Recovery System) which gives a power boost of around 160 bhp for almost half a minute per lap. The rule changes in the season are many - perhaps the maximum witnessed by me - in a single year. The gearbox has been changed from a 7-speed one to an 8-speed one. The fuel to be used by a car in a single race has been limited to just 100 kg from the previous norm of around 160 kg. This has been done to promote fuel-efficiency & present F1 as a more greener sport. EBD or the exhaust blown diffusers have been banned & aerodynamics tinkered with a narrower front wing & a lower nose. But this is also the first time in many years that you find a variety of nose shapes at different constructors.
The ugly "anteater" nose on McLaren
While Ferrari & Mercedes have a somewhat conventional looking nose, though some are branding them as "vacuum-cleaner" nose, most other teams have a typical "anteater" shaped nose which look very awkward at first sight. Lotus has the most unique "fork" solution with two uneven prongs. Another somewhat controversial rule added this year is that the last race of the season - at Abu Dhabi - will carry double the normal points of a race.

All these frenetic rule changes are aimed at attracting more fans to the sport who might have got put off by the utter domination of Red Bulls in the past few years. Whether or not more fans are attracted to the stands, no year passes by without attracting a few rookies to the sport. This year we have the highly rated Kevin Magnussen in a McLaren, Daniil Kvyat in a Torro Rosso & Marcus Ericsson in a Caterham. Kamui Kobayashi makes a return with the Caterham team, while there have been a few musical chairs within the drivers to the teams. Massa has gone to the Williams team, while Kimi returns to the Scuderia Ferrari stables. Maldonado moves to the Lotus, while Hulkenberg & Sutil swap places within Sauber & Force India. Sergio Perez moves back to a mid-field team - Force India - from a single year with McLaren. Daniel Ricciardo gets the most coveted seat left at Red Bull after Mark Webber vacated one of it at the end of last season.

These raft of changes both in the rules & in the driver' seats surely bodes well to mix up things at the front & the middle, but to what extent, only time will tell. Anyway, as in Australian Grand Prix, the hard-core fan will continue to be glued to the action. Bring it on!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sid! I have always been fond of your views on F1 fraternity. With above changes, the dynamics on track shall really be interesting. With above major changes, new drivers / constructors may overtake the proven one.
In such scenario, let's cheers for Force India team...