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Mar 12

F1 2014 Season Preview

3670This weekend marks the beginning of the 2014 F1 season.  Hit the jump to get a leg up on the new regulations and our semi-expert opinions in our F1 2014 Season Preview.

Tyres being cleanedI had a plan to do an elaborate and in depth review of what is changing for the 2014 F1 season.  Fortuanately, so many sites are doing it better I thought I’d just link to the details and then speculate on each teams potential.

Fundamentally the biggest change is the switch to V6 turbo engines.  After years of running normally aspirated V8s every team and engine builder has had to make dramatic adjustments to adapt to the new engine regulations.  RedBull covers all the changes with the help of Daniel Ricciardo and current champion Sebastian Vettel, in the video below.

For a less glossy overview of the changes for 2014, including the big rules changes, check out this great post over on f1fanatic.co.uk.

So what does it all mean?  It probably comes as no surprise that the normal order of things has been shaken up.  In preseason testing a few of the favorites have struggled and a number of mid field teams seem to have come to the fore.

Because the focus of this year’s development has been on the engine (or more accurately “power unit”) the pre-season testing can be quickly summed up:

  • Mercedes powered cars are quick and reliable
  • Renault powered cars have serious issues that need to be resolved
  • Ferrari powered cars are still an unknown, though they have shown pace

For a little more in depth F1 2014 season preview we’ll go through each team.

Caterham:

Tyre warmers on a Caterham F1 carAfter five years in F1 without scoring a point no one would have suspected that the Caterham would be the only Renault powered car to complete the most test mileage. With what is perhaps the ugliest nose in a field of “unique” looking cars the Caterham appears to be a very conservative design overall.  While they might have spent a lot more time on track than the other Renault powered cars Caterham’s best chance to score points will still be determined by how many teams fail to finish a race.  On out right pace they are still well behind the mid-field and not even in the same country as the top cars.

 

 

 

 

Ferrari:

A Ferrari F1 car on trackFielding the potential dream team of Alonso and Raikkonen Ferrari remains an enigma.  They appear to have a good power unit and their aero package seems competitive but they haven’t really shown a lot of brillance in testing.  Alonso’s lap times have been within a second of the fastest laps that we’ve seen so far but pre-season lap times aren’t very good indicators of performance during the season.  For my money Ferrari is the biggest mystery in the days leading up to the first GP in Australia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Force India:

Nico Hulkenberg (Sauber) sets the fastest time on day 1 of testing in BahrainWith one of the best looking liveries of the 2014 field the Force India team has show good speed and reliability during testing.  Solidly in the mid-field for the last couple of years, Force India has shown that they should at least be able to maintain their position and potentially improve it during the 2014 season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lotus:

Romain Grosjean (Lotus) on track with P Zero Orange hard tyresWith the most unique nose on the grid Lotus is easily the quirkiest team in both looks and attitude.  The fact that the fourth place team from 2013 has had trouble finding sponsorship remains a mystery.  With the undeniable talent of Grosjean and the hard to ignore talent vacuum that is Maldonado matched with a unreliable Renault engine, Lotus is bound to struggle for consistency throughout the season. They are well behind the other teams in test mileage and their best lap times are much slower than Caterham and Marussia.

 

 

 

 

 

Marussia:

Jules Bianchi (Marussia) on track with P Zero Yellow soft tyresThe other team that normally makes up the back row is hoping to score points this year and elevate themselves to a mid-field contender.  After running only half as many miles as their rival Caterham the Marussia car has shown much more pace with their best laps being dearly one and one half seconds faster.  Even with their improved pace their best hope for points is a race with high casualties among their competitors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

McLaren:

CN7E8872After suffering a disastrous 2013 season Mclaren looks to be on the rebound in 2014.  Their Mercedes power unit automatically moves them to the front of the field and a few innovative aero tricks have given the second oldest F1 team a pretty serious shot at the title.  With a very talented rookie in Kevin Magnussen and a veteran driver in the likes of Button McLaren seems to have a well balanced team and more than a few are predicting that the new cars will suit Button’s smooth and reserved driving style.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mercedes:

Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) on track with P Zero White medium tyresThere is little that remains to be said about Mercedes.  At this point everyone is predicting that Mercedes will run  not walk away with the 2014 title.  To a degree it is hard to argue.  Mercedes cars have spent the most time on track, had the fewest problems and consistently posted the quickest times.  Granted testing is not the same a racing but their utter dominance during the last few weeks at Bahrain must be intimidating for the other teams.  To put it in perspective Mercedes has completed almost 1000 laps or nearly 5000km of testing.  Last year’s champions, Red Bull, have only managed a little over 300 laps or about 1700km.  3300kms worth of data is a pretty big advantage.

 

 

 

 

Red Bull:

Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) on track at the Bahrain International CircuitWhat happened to Red Bull?  It’s hard to say, some are blaming Adrian Newey’s overly aggressive design.  The fact that all the Renault cars are having serious problems points to something more than just a lack of cooling due to Newey’s signature tight aero packaging.  Arguably Red Bull is still the best team from a technical standpoint, and Vettel brings a proven set of tools to the starting grid, so it would be foolish to count them out but at this point it looks like they have quite an uphill battle if they expect to take the title again this year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sauber:

Esteban Gutierrez (Sauber) on track with P Zero White medium tyresAnother team with money problems Sauber seems to have stayed the course and they look to once again be a solid Mid-field team.  Sutil and Gutierrez have put in reasonable lap times and the team’s test mileage is right in there with their nearest competitors.  Sadly, at this point it looks like the best Sauber can hope for is to be the fastest non-Mercedes powered car.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Toro Rosso:

Daniel Kvyat (Toro Rosso) on trackAs the fastest of the Renault powered cars, up to this point, Toro Rosso has the dubious distinction of being the tallest midget in the field.  Still well off the pace of the front runners and having what has become the typical Renault related reliability issues it would be hard to imagine Toro Rosso doing much more than surviving the season.  Add the fact that their new driver Daniil Kvyat is still coming to grips with driving an F1 car and it wouldn’t be stretch to think that second Red Bull team might not score points this year.

 

 

 

 

 

Williams:

What of Williams?  After a tough 2013 season the historic team seems to have bounced back with a vengeance.  The lucky switch to Mercedes engines, a seemingly rejuvenated and quick Felipe Massa, the continued speed of Bottas and a new sponsorship from the legendary Martini company have all worked to put Williams back at the top of the field.  Easily the prettiest car on the grid, the Williams FW36 could also be the fastest with Massa setting the fastest lap of all during testing.  Lets not forget that the car appears to be reliable as well with Williams completing nearly the same amount of laps as the Mercedes team.  What a Cinderella story it would be if Williams could come back to prominence in 2014.

Who will take home the title in 2014?  Right now it is impossible to say but I have no doubt that it will be the most interesting season in recent memory.

Now that you have all you need to know, thanks to our F1 2014 season preview, take a moment and join our F1 fantasy league. Follow the link for the details.

Infinite Garage F1 Fantasy League