The controversial new rule for 2014 awarding double points for the last race is likely to have unintended consequences, like influencing the way that the smaller teams in F1 design the cars. This is one of six key points to look out for in 2014, according to JA on F1 technical adviser Mark Gillan.
“The smaller teams could well completely change their design process in an attempt to secure these points, as it could make a significant difference to their constructor’s position. If I were running operations for one of the smaller teams I would definitely do it,” said Gillan, former head of track operations for Toyota and Williams.
As the last three places in the table are separated by just a few points there is a clear gain to be had from developing the optimum package for the car around the Abu Dhabi circuit, which could make or break a season.
Teams are due to meet the FIA next week to finalise cost controls and other rules voted through by the F1 commission last December. Although the double points rule has proved a real turn-off for fans, many commentators and even senior figures like Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo, it is not clear how much of an airing it will get in the January meeting as the cost control discussion looks set to take priority. If the double points finale remains for this year, the smaller teams will have to react. (NB – Promoters of some other Grands Prix are unhappy about Abu Dhabi appearing more important than their race)
Whereas in the past teams might place resources into on a specific Monza package, for example, which would give them a strong performance on the one-off low downforce track, now the double points on offer at the final race make it a priority.
But teams have to be very crafty about how they plan their aerodynamic development this year.
With a significant reduction in the amount of wind tunnel and CFD time that teams are allowed to do, the development process is going to change this year. With radical new rules the need to react is going to be greater than ever, but the ability to do so it less than ever, because even the top teams can only have their wind tunnels and CFD computers working a maximum of 30 hours a week.
The reduction is a cost saving measure which is likely to save millions, not least in electricity costs from running these 4/5 megawatt tunnels for less time. It is also making the leading teams feel more inclined to share their tunnels- or lease them out at least – with other smaller teams, thereby raising some additional income.
The cost control measures, such as the wind tunnel restriction, are now in the FIA Sporting Regulations, which means that they are FIA regulated and therefore policeable, not subject to a FOTA gentleman’s agreement. Hopefully this will open the door for further cost controls under FIA control which should lead to more sustainable costs and teams surviving.
With the elimination of straight line aerodynamic testing, the four two day tests and especially the Friday practice sessions at Grands Prix are going to be crucial for aero development work and this could be a decisive factor in doing well this year.
Weight is still an issue . Despite lobbying from drivers, the teams failed to agree on raising the minimum weight at the end of last year. This means that there is a real penalty for running a heavier driver. Many teams are struggling to make a car at the minimum weight limit and to run overweight means being uncompetitive.
“With these very complex new cars, teams will want to run a lot of instrumentation, to measure things,” says Gillan. “And this adds weight. If you also have a heavy driver, then you can’t afford to have the instrumentation.”
Fuel flow is another new factor that will be well worth watching for. Teams have to cover a 300km race with one third less fuel. This has given rise to fears that F1 will become an “economy run” with engines turned down and drivers running slowly to save fuel. The reduction in fuel is in line with the reduction in cylinders (8 to 6) and capacity (2.4l to 1.6l)
Crucial to this is the fuel flow sensor, which is an FIA part common to all cars. There has been pressure on the supplier to make this part reliable and there could be some chaotic races if the sensor encounters problems on some of the cars.
There has been debate about how many teams will be in Jerez from January 28-31, following Lotus’ announcement that they will miss the first test. Lotus boss Eric Boullier has said that he is certain a number of others will also be forced to miss the test. For Gillan, missing Jerez is a much bigger penalty than in previous years.
“You have to be there (Jerez),” he says.” The racing this year is going to be dominated by reliability, at least for the first part of the year, the power train is very complicated. There are a lot of new operations to control and some very difficult cooling decisions. If you lose track time early on where those decisions get made you lose ground. These engineers will be operating well outside their comfort zone at the start of 2014 with all this new technology. It was easy with the old V8 normally aspirate engine, but developing a cooling system for a turbo engine is a big job and with quite a few hot races early on you need to be on track for as much of the testing time as possible. Missing a test in 2014 is MUCH more of a problem than in previous years.”
There are believed to be some great innovations on radiators on the new F1 cars, with a huge amount of research into making bigger radiators with finer internal tubing to allow for optimum packaging.
As a short-cut guide, here are the JA on F1 six key points to watch out for in 2014:
1) The power unit change – much more road manufacturer-relevant going from 2.4 V8 60kW KERS boosts (for 6secs/lap) KERS to 1.6 V6 turbo with 120kW ERS boosts (for 33sec/lap). Convergence with Le Mans engine technology. Turbocharged unit revving at a max 15,000rpm through a new 8 speed gearbox (with fixed ratios for the season). Only one exhaust tailpipe exit allowed. No more exhaust blowing the diffuser. Cooling could be a major issue.
2) Resource restriction into Sporting Regulations – new limits on the Wind Tunnel/CFD (30 hrs wind on time/CFD Teraflops/wk, 80 runs/wk, 60hrs occupancy/wk )and no aero test day allocation – Friday practice at GPs will be even more aero test biased.
3) New penalty structure for power train use over a season. Now max 5 units per year instead of 8 – reliability will be key.
4) Car weight increase from 642kg to 690kg. It is likely that Teams will struggle to hit this target – ballast for weight distribution, additional electronics (for e.g. tyre monitoring) may then become punitive to run in terms of weight. Penalty for heavier drivers.
5) 100kg fuel mass limit usage during the race with max fuel mass flow of 100kg/h above 10500rpm, which is down from approximately 150kg in 2013. The mass flow sensor is now the most important sensor on the car – reliability of this sensor is paramount.
6) Double points for final race of the season – smaller teams will completely change their design process in an attempt to secure these points as it could make a significant difference to their constructors’ position.