There is change aplenty coming for the 2014 Formula One season with new driver line-ups, new rules, shifts in the status quo and more. Here’s a look at some of the major talking points for next year.
Ferrari Teammates: Friends or Foes?
Ferrari rehiring Kimi Raikkonen, whom the team released from his contract to make way for Fernando Alonso to replace him in 2009, and pairing him with Alonso in 2014 is going to an intriguing aspect of next season. Naturally, both drivers and the team say everything is going to be fine and everybody will be friends.
The last time Ferrari had two equal number one drivers was in 1995 with Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger. Michael Schumacher reigned supreme from 1996 through 2006 including 1999 when he broke his leg and made a half-hearted attempt to aid teammate Eddie Irvine’s championship bid. Raikkonen was number one at Ferrari in 2007 to the point where Felipe Massa had to give up victory in his home Grand Prix of Brazil so that Raikkonen could win the championship.
Massa came very close to winning the title in 2008 – marking the only time Ferrari switched focus away from its number one driver – and then after things fizzled out in 2009 the number one system was restored when Alonso joined Ferrari in 2010.
Mind you, Ferrari’s current structure has not worked for years. With the exception of 2007, when McLaren’s Alonso and Lewis Hamilton tripped over each other (and when Alonso thought he’d been promised number one status) and Raikkonen sneaked by to snatch the crown, Ferrari hasn’t won the drivers’ world championship since 2004. Having two drivers capable of consistently earning big points – something that has not been the case with Massa in recent years – certainly will put Ferrari back in the frame to win the constructors’ championship for the first time since 2008.
Raikkonen and Alonso are two of the fastest drivers on the grid but their approach couldn’t be more different. The Iceman is laid back. Alonso is intense. Raikkonen doesn’t shirk work but he doesn’t hang around the track late into the evening. The workload will be massive next year because of all the new technical rule changes. Alonso won’t be pleased if he stays late at the track working with the engineers while Raikkonen strolls back to the hotel.
If things get tense, Alonso will quietly smolder and Raikkonen will just shrug his shoulders. But the real talking will be done on the track as both push to higher limits to become the big red one. It is going to be fascinating to see how this one plays out.
Can Ricciardo Stand the Heat?
Landing the most desired seat in F1 was the easy part. Now Daniel Ricciardo has to prove he is worthy of the job. As team boss Christian Horner says, Ricciardo has big shoes to fill replacing Mark Webber at Red Bull. The pressure to perform well is going to be immense, especially because Ricciardo will be going up his teammate multiple world champion Sebastian Vettel.
Sergio Perez knows what Ricciardo will have to deal with because he is currently going through exactly the same scenario. Ricciardo will have spent two-and-half seasons with junior teams – HRT and Toro Rosso – before graduating. Perez drove for Sauber for two years before making the jump up to McLaren where he partners world champion Jenson Button.
“The pressure rises a lot,” Perez notes. “There is a lot of pressure in a team like McLaren or Red Bull. For sure more pressure than where he is at Toro Rosso or where I was at Sauber. But as a racing driver you have to focus and deliver 100 percent. That’s the way to handle it. If you cannot handle pressure when you come into a big team you will not succeed and you will only last a couple of years before someone else comes. It is very important to prepare yourself and not think about it and just give your best.”
Damon Hill’s first season with Williams – one of the dominating teams at the time – was partnering Alain Prost who won his fourth title in 1993.
“Ricciardo’s had a bit of a warm-up,” Hill says. “He’s been in F1 for a while and knows the game; he is also with a protective group. He is part of the Red Bull family, so they know him, he knows them, and he knows how it works.
“I think he will be very good because he will be given a little bit of comfort and support to start with. Helmut Marko is not exactly warm cuddly kind of person and neither is Christian Horner. But they will know how to deal with Ricciardo. He will probably have to put up with Sebastian firmly establishing the pecking order. I think he will do well. He will be a good driver. Competitively do I think he can really, seriously offer a threat to Vettel? Certainly not yet. We will see how it grows.”
Ricciardo has had pressure for years: do well in each series going up the ladder or get kicked out of the Red Bull program. And now he faces the ultimate test at the pinnacle of the sport. Rather than look at the big picture, he plans to take things one day and one lap at a time. Perform each step correctly and things will fall into place.
“That is the approach I’ve had since I got to F1 and since I’ve been with Toro Rosso,” Ricciardo tells PRN Ignition. “Long term goals are too difficult in this sport. You just have to take it day by day and it is what I’ve been doing and what I’m will keep doing.”
He relishes the pressure.
“It is something that I enjoy,” he declares. “It is nice when somebody does not expect you do to something and you do it. I’m not the underdog, but it is nice being in that position where if I come out there and start swinging in Melbourne and fight for a race win, everybody is going to be like ‘Wow!’ And that is a feeling I really enjoy so I am hoping that will be the case.”
All New Engines
To make F1 greener and more relevant to the road car industry, the 2;4-liter normally-aspirated V8 engines with the Kinetic Recovery System (KERS) will be replaced with all-new power plants in 2014. The new units consist of 1.6-litre 6-cylinder turbocharged engines and an Energy Recovery System (ERS) that will harvest and dispense far more horsepower than the existing KERS.
This is all great for F1’s image, but it comes at a very high cost. Teams that have to pay for their power units will see the lease cost increase by $15 to $20 million a season. Costs in F1 are going up when the teams want them to go down.
“It is a concern for everybody,” agrees four-time world champion Alain Prost who is now a representative for Renault. “I don’t have the solution, but for sure I know that there are a lot of teams that are complaining and that they would like to have a different solution, a different way of running the team, a different way of getting the money.
“I was part of a team 10 years ago that could not continue because we had to pay for the engines [USD$32 million]. People are complaining about the engines today, but I was in the same situation and could not continue because of that. So it did not change, it just increased a little bit because of the economic situation. It is a bad cycle, maybe it can come back.”
New Chassis Designs
There are rule changes on the aero front as well: the front wing will be smaller; bending exhaust gases towards the rear diffuser will be no more; and there will further aero restrictions. So the 2014 car will be a design starting from scratch. What are the major challenges?
“Cooling is probably the biggest challenge in many ways,” Red Bull’s Chief Technology Officer Newey tells PRN Ignition. “From our side as opposed to the engine manufacturer’s side because the smaller internal combustion engine, if anything, needs a bit less cooling. But obviously you have to cool the charger, as in any turbo charger installation. And then the ERS needs a lot of radiator area, not because it is particularly a large number of kilowatts or a big power ejection, but because the Delta T between the temperatures that an electrical system can run in at ambient, particularly in hot countries, is quite small. So hence you have to have a big area.”
More cooling means less aerodynamic efficiency, so how difficult will it be to get the maximum out of the aerodynamics?
“It is for sure one of the conundrums of next year’s regulations,” Newey says, “and it is likely, particularly very early on with such a big set of regulation changes, that some engine packages including the electrical side will be better in that respect than others. It is difficult to know how Renault will compare to their competitors, but from our side we will just try to do the best job we can to package what is needed.”
Fans have been watching Mark Webber compete in F1 since 2002, but if they want to see the Australian ace compete in 2014 they will have to watch sports car racing as he has signed on to lead Porsche’s Le Mans prototype program.
“I made the decision,” Webber declares. “Done. I’m finished (with F1 in the season finale) in Brazil. Thank you very much. That’s it.”
“You are not going to finish your career if you are full of motivation and loving all aspects of the work. So for me, yeah, the motivation has been tricky, that’s part of the decision, another small part of the decision, and lots of things help you come to the decision where you want a change of scenery and want to do something different.”
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner told Reuters that Webber is fast and fit enough to do another couple of years in the series but he’s fallen out of love a little with F1.
“I am absolutely completely happy with my decision,” Webber asserts. “I am not regretting anything about retiring at the end of the year. But if the (F1) regulations were similar next year maybe I would have made a different decision. Months and months ago we knew that there was going to be a big change, so why not do the big change where my future (in sports cars) is going to be?”
Webber’s experience and knowledge would have been an asset to any F1 team given the extensive technical rule changes next year.
“You are right,” Webber says. “So I want to do all of that with Porsche – the experience, my future, everything. Boom. I don’t want to have another winter (of F1 testing in Spain) in Jerez. I want something different.”
Who Will Be The Best?
Going on the form of the last four years, Vettel and Red Bull Racing are the favorites for 2014. But then with so many changes coming that may change as well.
“The approach is one of risk versus reward,” McLaren’s Sporting Director Sam Michael says of the challenge of designing cars for the new rules. “And both those things will take time. It is pretty unlikely you will get it bang on; you just won’t in all areas of the car.
“Do I think it will mix things up? Probably. I’m sure there will be results that wouldn’t occur now.”
But the cream will still rise to the top next year.
“For the show, for the sport, it is not going to change,” Prost says. “The best drivers and teams are going to be the best. We may have more surprises, more things happening at the beginning of the season. We have a different way of approaching the races and the strategy, but at the end it is good to change.”