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Feb 21

Formula 1 2014: New Technical Regulations and their Impact

vettelll

2013 saw an unprecedented fourth consecutive F1 title victory for Sebastian Vettel and also the fourth consecutive constructors title for Red Bull Racing. The Bulls were just unmatched in almost every department, and displayed resilience during internal conflicts to come out on top. Mercedes were promising at the start of the season with Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton enjoying some blistering qualifying sessions. Unfortunately, they could not convert most of those poles to race wins. Still, the German team finished second in the constructor’s standings, 6 points ahead of Ferrari. The Italian prancing horse had a mixed season, with Alonso trying his best to salvage whatever he could after Vettel, and managed to grab the silver medal for the season.

The major issue teams faced last season were the management of tyres. Pirelli had to go back to the drawing board to subside the criticism from drivers and teams alike. Apart from Red Bull, other top teams faced power issues, as they were not anywhere near the consistent pace of Sebastian Vettel. The conversion of power from Engine and also the integration of the ERS system was the major obstacle for McLaren and Ferrari, while Mercedes occasionally matched the Bulls they weren’t consistent. All things were going to change for good though.

wheels off

Tyre bursts were a common scene in 2013.

FIA, the governing body suggested that there would be wholesale changes to the sport in the upcoming 2014 season. Expectations all around were that, those would again be limited to chassis adjustments and tyres, but the FIA went about replacing the whole Engine itself, in its bid to impose stricter environmental regulations. We now take a deeper look into all of the changes the new 2014 car has undergone and discuss their impact on performance.

Engine: 6 cylinder, 1.6 Litre, Turbocharged

To ensure increased efficiency and durability, the F1 cars in 2014 will run on 1.6 litre V6, turbocharged engines, as compared to the 2.4 litre V8’s used in the last 5 years. This shift back to turbo-powered engines after almost 26 years, has not been received positively by the fans. Much of that discontent can be attributed to the difference in sound the new turbo engine produces compared to the naturally aspirated V8’s from last season. Sound will not be the only change that can be observed by the fans, the new engines will bring about a completely new experience.

engine manifold

The 2014 Renault Engine unit

The 1.6 litre engine unit solely produces 600 bhp, and to cover the power deficit from previous season’s engines, the turbochargers crank up the power output by about 160 bhp, with the revs limited to 15000 rpm. This additional power coming from the turbo unit will vary for different teams. Apart from this, there is a new battery unit which works in tandem with an ERS unit to recover the energy losses and provide further power to the car. On the books, the new engine unit is a tad bit superior to the old V8’s in terms of power, but how the drivers will use the turbo to their advantage, while nullifying the lag will be interesting.

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Exploded view of the engine components, MGU-H : Motor Generator Unit – Heat, MGU-K: Motor Generator Unit – Kinetic

When we talk about turbocharged engines, one thing that always flashes across the mind is, lag. Compared to supercharged engines or naturally aspirated ones, which don’t have any lag while transferring the power, turboed engines present this unwanted feature, which on an F1 stage could prove disastrous. The lap times will surely fall down by about 2 seconds, so one might not see any of the track records being broken any time soon. One solution to compensate for the lag during the initiation of the turbo boost would be to use the power from ERS in that fraction of a second and maintain the acceleration.

Narrow Front Wing, Curved Edges

2013 cars had massive front wings, spanning the whole width of the car. This was probably the weakest part of the car, as it didn’t have enough support for it to be considerably stiff. Also, the extruded noses along with the wide front wings resulted in unwanted accidents, and untimely pitstops. To curtail these undesired incidents, the width of the wings has been reduced by 75mm on each side, from the previous season. This means the tyres will now be wider, and will come in the way of the natural air-flow over the car. This creates a lot of drag, which is calamitous on the lap times.

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Top: 2013 Front wing
Bottom: 2014 Front wing (150mm less)

So, in order to avoid this drag, the edges of the front wing will be curved outwards. This makes the air flow from the outside of the tyres, and in-turn contributing to the aerodynamics of the car. Teams will have to work hard and design an optimal front wing to feed the best possible air-flow to the rest of the car, while sticking to the regulations. The shorter wings at the front will keep a check on silly accident count in the new season.

Height of Chassis reduced, Nose height drops, Favorable Suspension

Ferrari Scuderia

The nose of the Ferrari has a massive drop.

Last season, cars had noses which were called platypus-noses. Their elevated and protruded profile forced more air under the car, which could then be distributed to the side pods and the diffuser at the back. This was helpful in pushing the car to its limit with a certain aerodynamic advantage. But FIA had other ideas. They argued on safety grounds that channeling more air to the underside of the car would increase the chances of the car flipping. Thus, the noses of all cars this season will be pushed down, so much so that the end of the part will be lower than 185mm from the car floor plane.

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Chassis comparison of Red Bull: Front View

Also the height of the chassis will be 100mm lower than usual, to align better with the dropped noses and add to the aerodynamics. These particular car body changes received varied responses from the teams. So, there won’t be a common fixed design profile of the nose section for all cars. One upside of a lowered front section is that, the suspension rods will not rise high from the wheels, and this aids for a better weight balance in the front.

Bigger Side Pods, Single Exhaust, No Diffuser advantage

The new car has many extra components compared last year, and those parts demand extra cooling than usual. Engine was predominantly cooled with the air coming in from the side pods on the car, that system hasn’t changed, Only that they have become bigger this season to match the increased heat buildup in the car. But there is a problem, when side pods become large. The air that gets channeled under the car from the front and sides gets reduced, thereby affecting the aerodynamics.

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Single Exhaust exit ends beyond the rear axle and rear diffuser.

The diffuser at the back of the car is a crucial component which helps maintain the singularity of the stream of air until after it crosses the whole car. Until last season, the gases coming out of the exhaust were allowed to pass through the diffuser. But now, that has been banned. The exhaust is just a single manifold rather than two exits on either side of the car, and the end of the exhaust pipe must finish beyond the diffuser. Now that the air to diffuser has considerably been reduced, teams must work on finding enough air from under the car, so that they maintain rear end stability.

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Left: Double exhaust exits, Right: Single Exhaust exit beyond rear axle

Bigger side pods don’t do any good to the above situation, so teams like Ferrari have gone for normal side pod openings, with a bigger under cut, and have opted for an inter-cooler to meet the cooling requirements. They have opted for this strategy because, their front nose shape doesn’t allow much air to the underside of the car, when compared to other teams.

Increased DRS wing height

The DRS system has been revolutionary to say the least. It has brought about more competitive racing and forced drivers to stress on driving tactics and strategies. Any sort of innovation on the DRS winglet is still banned this season, but there has been a slight change to the dimensions of the part. The width of flap has now been increased from 50mm to 70mm. This means more air passing through that gap and a bit more speed boost than usual, in the range of 20-25 km/hr.

100 Kg fuel limit, 5 engines per season

This is probably the biggest change to the rules apart from the engine, this season. Instead of 150-160 kg of fuel, cars will have to carry not more than 100 kg of fuel for the whole race. This particular development is another of FIA’s aims to make the sport more eco-friendly. The restriction on fuel will put emphasis on optimal driving and more rigorous engine tuning to get maximum mileage. Another line of thought behind this rule is the weight compensation due to the bulky new battery and ERS units. Since the cars now run with turbochargers they will be more fuel efficient, and help teams meet their mileage marks.

Also, the number of engines a driver can use over the course of the season has been reduced to 5, from 8 in the previous season. If the driver uses a sixth engine, he will start the race from the pit lane rather than a 10 place penalty on the grid. There is a restriction on individual parts such as ERS unit, turbocharger unit, battery unit to a maximum of 5 per season. This regulation will force teams and drivers to adapt stronger engine conservation measures. All in all, Formula 1 2014 season will surely witness some of the most exciting technologies battling it out on the biggest stage.

About the author

Sai Kumar

A Sports fanatic. I watch almost every sport, even golf. A core Germany and Chelsea fan. Ferrari and Schumacher in F1, Federer and Sampras in Tennis, Lakers in basketball and Yankees in baseball. Zidane, Ronaldo(Phenomeno), Beckham, Drogba, Kaka, Ganguly are my idols.

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