F1 2014: Hybrids, turbos and slides

The new Grand Prix season got underway at Melbourne over the weekend and, for a long-time fan like myself, a lot of changes were visible. I’d been pretty slack at keeping up to date with the new changes over pre-season, so my first sight of the cars was on Saturday.

So what are the main changes for this season? Gone are the naturally-aspirated V8s in favour of blown 1.6 V6s, now producing around 750bhp and redlining at 15,000rpm. A new Energy Recovery System (ERS) makes the cars almost fuel-efficient, and allows the cars to switch power sources almost seamlessly. Despite that, over the weekend, there were problems with the new technology. Lewis Hamilton’s car failed to fire on all six cylinders and reigning World Champion Sebastian Vettel reported numerous problems with his car’s battery.

I, for one, have my reservations about the new power units for 2014. Comparison videos on YouTube have shown that the cars have lost a bit of their high-pitched shriek in favour of a lower-pitched buzz, emitted from all six cylinders via a single tailpipe. In a perfect world, I’d go back to the yelpingly loud, naturally-aspirated V10s of the late-90s and early 2000s. What is undeniably cool about the new cars, however, is that the onboard cameras reveal a little woosh of air from the blow-off valve after every gearchange. Nice. (Video credit: Krookzeh)

The new ERS programme will allow each driver 33 seconds of boost per lap and this, coupled with a much looser rear setup, should mean lots of opposite look coming out of corners. A perfectly-caught slide by one of the Toro Rossos during Sunday’s race gave a thrilling glimpse at the twitchiness of a on-boost, hooked up F1 car. Hopefully in wet conditions we’ll see an even trickier challenge for the drivers.

It pains me to say it, but I have an eerie feeling that Mercedes will become the team to beat this season. Despite Hamilton’s early retirement, Rosberg dominated the race from start to finish. An honourable mention must be made for Kevin Magnussen, with the rookie Dane notching up a third-place finish on his debut.
Daniel Ricciardo’s move to Red Bull from junior team Toro Rosso resulted in a second-place finish, but he was disqualified for a fuel consumption infringement early in the week. I’m confident enough to assert at this early stage that 2014 will finally mark the end of Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel’s domination of the sport, as throughout pre-season the Renault engine has suffered reliability issues.

As a devoted Ferrari fan, I was pleased with the Ferraris’ solid performance. Returning wheelman Alonso finished 5th and Raikkonen – who last won the title for Ferrari in 2007 – finished 8th. Fingers crossed Alonso can challenge for the driver’s title yet again, as both 2012 and 2013 have seen him in close contention for the silverware. For now, I’ll sign off with a picture of what will hopefully be the championship-winning team of this year. Bring on Malaysia on March 30.

Ferrari F14-T . Picture credit: Getty Images/BBC

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