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F1 changes leaves fans guessing
The lights go green this weekend in Melbourne as the glitz and glamour of Formula 1 returns in one of the most open and anticipated seasons in years.
Under a host of new rules and many questions unanswered following preseason testing, Formula 1 fans have been left guessing as to how the season will play out and who will ultimately be crowned 2014 World Champion.
Preseason testing has suggested that the Mercedes WO5 with Hamilton and Rosberg will dominate the early exchanges, while Red Bull, the dominant force over the last 4 years will endure a tough 2014.
So what has provoked this almost uncharted mindset coming into the new season and why does Mercedes have the edge?
Well the answer is quite simple, a complete overhaul of technology, fuel, engines and gearboxes.
Former Mercedes team principle, Ross Brawn, laid the foundations for the 2014 and the new rule changes over 2 and a half years ago. Without question the strength of his focus and preparation for the 2014 season is what convinced Lewis Hamilton to leave McLaren and join the Silver Arrows at the beginning of last season and with this in mind one can understand why they have performed so well in preseason.
This season has seen a return to F1 of the turbo charged engines for the first time since 1988, last seasons 2.4 litre V8 engines have been replaced by a turbo charged 1.6 litre V6.
As a result of this change one might think that F1 has gone conservative on speed however this simply isn’t true as Kevin Magnussen showed in Bahrain by scorching Sebastian Vettel’s fastest lap time set during the race last season.
The challenge of the new engines will bring crucial new fuel strategy for the teams to develop as they will run on 35% less than last years contenders. Each car will carry around 100 kg’s or 135 litres of fuel, which means driving styles and tactics will have to be monitored by the teams from race to race.
Other critical changes sees a new Energy Recovery System, ERS, replacing the KERS. This system will provide twice the power of KERS and will not be controlled from a button on the steering wheel like before, with the power being delivered straight to the rear wheels from the throttle pedals. As a consequence, if an ERS failure occurs during the race, it will have a far greater impact on performance than KERS failure previously did.
Two separate Motor Generator Units will also provide extra power by converting mechanical and heat energy into electrical energy.
Other significant changes, the gearbox ratios would have been selected in preseason testing and will have to remain the same throughout the season. They will also have 8 forward gears for the first time and will have to last for 6 consecutive races as opposed to 5, before they can be replaced.
Last season the biggest debate constantly revolved around Pirelli tyres who will be involved in F1 for at least the next 3 years however one thinks that the addition of all the new changes will certainly shift the focus away from tyre performance this season as the teams look to adapt to the new technology.
Red Bull have struggled in preseason and look unlikely to gain any early momentum in Melbourne. Team Principle Christian Horner’s comments earlier this week certainly back that up when he suggested Mercedes could end up lapping all the cars in Melbourne on their way to a dominant weekend, something that is unlikely to occur considering the expectation of rain.
The talk around the paddock is that Red Bull will struggle to get through to Q3 during the early part of the season something that is bound to frustrate Sebastian Vettel and will bemuse many Formula 1 fans around the globe.
McLaren endured a tough campaign last year however the early signs are that the Woking based outfit, with Ron Dennis back at the helm, have adapted pretty well to the new changes.
Other surprise packages this season could very well be Williams who have enjoyed their most successful buildup for some time now while Force India could be ready to step up to the F1 elite and get through to Q3 on a more consistent basis.
Come Sunday some of the questions should be answered and whatever happens 2014 looks set to be one of the most exciting in years.