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Written by @Damien_Marquez   
Wednesday, 12 March 2014 00:07

The F1 season start is just round the corner and you need a refresher on what happens since Brazil in November? If you have kept up-to-date all winter via Autosport.com, JamesAllenOnF1.com or any other serious website then this recap may not be for you. Unless your special one likes to tag along at the races or in front of the TV and wants to know some of the changes in under five minutes.


Photo: BERNARD ASSET for Renault Sport F1

The rulebook for the car specifications has drastically changed. The last time this happens, McLaren and Ferrari were on top of their game fighting out for honours at the end of the 2008 season, only to fall back in the mid pack behind BrawnGP (now Mercedes AMG) and Red Bull Racing.

 

So what has changed?

  1. The old normally aspirated 2.0 litre V8 engines have been replaced with 1.6 litre V6 turbo 'power units' which include a sizeable electric output harvested from the kinetic and heat energy recovery systems (ERS). If you are familiar with last year's KERS push-to-pass style system, just think of it as an upgraded system that is about ten times more powerful despite a much quieter powertrain.
  2. The major aerodynamic changes include a narrower front wing, a lower nose and front bulkhead as well as a single exhaust, which has been placed in a way it can no longer be used for blowing hot gases into the diffuser.
  3. The usual musical chair of drivers and teams:
    • Dan Ricciardo replaces Le Mans bound Mark Webber at Red Bull
    • Kimi Raikkonen moves from Lotus to Ferrari
    • Pastor Maldonado replaces Kimi at Lotus after leaving Williams
    • Felipe Massa goes from Ferrari to Williams
    • Sergio Perez was pushed out of McLaren and landed at Force India
    • Rookie and Formula Renault 3.5 champion Kevin Magnussen gets his big chance at McLaren
    • Nico Hulkenberg (Force india) and Adrian Sutil (Sauber) have swapped seats
    • Daniil Kvyat graduates to Toro Rosso to take up Daniel Ricciardo's seat
    • All change at Caterham with F1 returnee Kamui Kobayashi (previously driving at Toyota and Sauber) and rookie Marcus Ericsson replacing Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde
    • Paul di Resta moves on to DTM after spending three seasons at Force India.
  4. Williams will be powered by Mercedes after spending two years with Renault, Toro Rosso leaves Ferrari power to join its Red Bull stable mate in the Renault fold and Marussia switches from Cosworth to Ferrari.
  5. Each car is limited to 100 kg of fuel for the Sunday race, down from approximately 160 kg.
  6. Pirelli tyres are now much more durable thanks to the increased torque generated by the new power units.


Image: MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team

 

The likely impact of these changes?

After the three winter tests, it appears that the Mercedes powered teams are in a much better place than the Renault ones. The expected form book for Melbourne is:

  1. Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg will fight it out at the front. One of these two drivers should become world champion, so expect fireworks at some point in the season.
  2. Williams will probably be their closest competitors at least until the fifth round in Spain. Massa is eager to rediscover the form of his winning days and Valtteri Bottas is a star of the future. Watch this space.
  3. Ferrari benefits from a well integrated power unit in their car design. In Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen, they have an experienced pair of hands that will collect many points on a regular basis. Expect them to challenge Mercedes for the constructor title.
  4. McLaren looks solid and in better shape than last year. Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen should be fighting for podiums, if not wins.
  5. And this is where the picture starts to get a little blurry. Te Renault powered teams suffered from so much unreliability during testing that it's hard to even see them crossing the finish line in Melbourne. Sebastian Vettel, however gifted he may be, is not going to make it happen without the car underneath him. By the time Renault and RBR work out a solution, it might be too late for a championship assault. Expect Lotus, Toro Rosso and Caterham to struggle as well.
  6. Force India and Sauber should remain in the midfield.
  7. Marussia should have the upper hand on Caterham at the back of the grid, thanks to its more reliable power unit.

Another point worth noting is the lack of rear downforce and grip. The double coanda effect exhausts have been exhausted which will make the cars a lot more unstable. Expect to see some spectacular driver errors during the season.

There is also a lot more to do in the cockpit and fuel saving will be at a premium. Thinking drivers will be even more rewarded in 2014. This should play in the hands of the likes of Nico Rosberg, Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen or Sebastian Vettel.

We hope this will bring you up date with the the current state of play in F1. Just a few more sleeps until it all starts again!

What do you think? Who will reign supreme in 2014? Please leave your comments below.

A catch up guide to F1 2014
 

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