Marcus Ericsson and Sauber score again!

Marcus Bahrain

Today’s GP in Bahrain was entertaining, as is almost always the case Bahrain, but especially so for Swiss and Swedish F1 fans, as Marcus Ericsson finished 9th, scoring two points for his Swiss Sauber team. Even better, he did not do so because of a mass crash, but rather as the Sauber car with its new partner Ferrari (in Alfa Romeo disguise) is actually becoming increasingly competitive, and at least on this circuit managed to keep the pace of the middle field of teams. This bodes well for the future. Before today, Marcus had a stint of 49 races without scoring a point (since Monza in 2015), hopefully it won’t take another 49 for him to score again!

The race was won by Vettel (but the way his 49th win by a funny coincidence) ahead of Bottas (who would probably have won had the race lasted another couple of laps) and Lewis Hamilton, who had started 9th due to a replaced gearbox.


Senna – the movie

If you haven’t done so yet (and I fully realize I may be close to the last petrol head in the world here), I can strongly recommend the movie “Senna” about the life and career of the greatest F1 driver of all times, from the early beginnings over his great successes and rivalry with Alain Prost until the bloody weekend at Imola in 1994 that cost him his life. You can access the movie on Youtube over the link below. A large part covers what I would call the golden age of F1, i.e. the last years of the truly mechanical era from 1988-1991.

To quote the great man: “if you see an opening and don’t go for it, your not a racing driver. If you’re happy with 2nd, 3rd or 4th place, you’re not a racing driver”. That’s how he saw it, and that’s how he drove – and it’s maybe something some of today’s driver should take note of.

Ayrton Senna will come back on this blog soon on another topic and in another section – so stay tuned!

F1 season start 2015 – all you need to know!

As one of the most reliable and best signs of the coming spring, the F1 season 2015 kicks off on 15 March in Melbourne, Australia. So what’s new and what’s to expect in F1 2015?

Starting on the mechanical side, none of the rather small changes for the 2015 season come even close to the radical change that took place in 2014. Unfortunately that probably means that the engine sound will tend to be the same as in 2014 as well. Chassis have also largely remained similar except for some added protection around the driver’s head following Jules Bianchi’s dreadful accident at the end of the 2014 season.

On the regulatory side, many will be pleased to note that the double points rule for the last race of the season will no longer be applied. We will also see the introduction in some  yellow flag phases of something called the virtual safety car, and this year in qualifying, 5 cars will be eliminated in Q1 and Q2 respectively, leaving 10 of the total 20 cars allowed for qualifying to Q 3.


Button on McLaren and Hamilton on a very similar looking 2015 Mercedes – why change a good thing?

So what’s with the teams? That remains to be seen although pre-season testing gives reason to think that at least the start of the season will be as dominated by Mercedes as last season was. The MB driver line-up is unchanged with Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, and both have done very well in testing. Behind Mercedes we will of course find the usual suspects, including Ferrari that by hiring Sebastian Vettel were behind the biggest transfer of the season (Kimi Räikkönen has kept the second seat), Red Bull with last season’s big surprise Daniel Ricciardo who will be joined by the upgraded ex-Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kwjat, and McLaren that has welcomed Fernando Alonso and kept Jenson Button. Looking at budgets it is also these teams that lead the pack, from the largest (Red Bull / EUR 425m) to the smallest (McLaren / EUR 230m).


Vettel trying out his new car, and Ricciardo doing the same in a heavily masked Red Bull

Other teams this season include the middle pack with Lotus (Grosjean/Maldonado, EUR 160m) and Williams (Massa/Bottas, EUR 150m) and the ones that at least on paper will struggle to keep up: Sauber that have hired Swedish Marcus Ericsson alongside Brazilian Felipe Nasr (EUR 85m), Toro Rosso (Verstappen/Sainz jr., EUR 80m) and Force India (Perez/Hulkenberg, EUR 75m). Oh yes, and Marussia, who against all expectations are somehow still there but have yet to present a car but say they will run with an adapted -14 car in Melbourne and present the -15 car later this season. Pozjivem uvidim, as the Russians would say (those who live will see).


From top left: Hulkenberg (Force India), Verstappen (Toro Rosso) and Marcus Ericsson on Sauber, that kindly even adapted the color of the car to him!

Will the Mercedes dominance continue in 2015? Will Sebastian Vettel adapt as well to life with Ferrari as Schumi did (albeit after a few years)? Which of the smaller teams will surprise on the upside? All those questions and many more will seek to be answered in the 2015 season starting next weekend!

World champion title will be decided this weekend in Abu Dhabi!

The final GP of the 2014 season takes place this Sunday in Abu Dhabi, and as many of you know the world champion title has not yet been decided. Lewis Hamilton holds a 17 point lead over his team “mate” Nico Rosberg (334 against 317) which would under normal circumstances be quite a safe margin. However for the first time the last race of the season will count double, meaning the winner goes home with 50 rather than the usual 25 ponits. This means that if Nico wins and Lewis finishes third or worse, Nico takes the title. Under any other scenario, Lewis does. Given the story this year has usually been Mercedes 1st and 2nd Lewis is certainly still the favourite, but it obviously ain’t over ’til it’s over.

The idea with double points has not gone down well with everyone, but it has at least ensured excitement up to the last race – which was probably the (only) point.

Good news for Marcus Ericsson as Mercedes wins another double in Austin

It was more of the same at the US GP in Austin yesterday, as Mercedes won their 8th double of the season and are now only one double away from equalizing the record set back in the days (1988 to be exact) by Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost for McLaren. As so often however it was Lewis Hamilton that had a bit more to give and now has a 24 point lead with three races left. Ricciardo finished third on Red Bull, again beating Vettel who came in 7th having started last, and spent most of the race complaining about the car to the pits. It definitely looks like he has mentally already left for Maranello!

Caterham and Marussia didn’t participate in the US (it seems the cash ran out), but last week still brought good news for Swedish Marcus Ericsson (currently on Caterham) who has secured a seat with Swiss Sauber for next season. Not that Sauber has made anyone happy this year either (it shares last place among the teams with Caterham…) but it’s one of F1’s oldest teams with lots of tradition, and the fact that they go for Ericsson and not a driver bringing lots of money also seems to indicate that financing for 2015 has been secured. Sauber is also known as an excellent team for young drivers to develop in (none more famous than Schumi of course), so fingers crossed for Marcus!

originalCheer up Marcus, things can only get better!

Mr Ferrari says arrividerci

A couple of weeks ago it became clear that Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, president of Ferrari since 1991, had lost the power battle against his boss and arch rival Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, and will leave the company.

Montezemolo was hired by Enzo Ferrari as his PA in 1973, 41 years ago (!) and could well be described as the last Ferrari man of the old school and also the man that since 1991 led the company from close to bankruptcy through ist commercially most successful period in history. In his 23 years as CEO, Ferrari launched 19 new models and became F1 world champion six times under the F1 leadership of Jean Todt, Montezemolo’s most successful hire. He developed new businesses for Ferrari including personalized cars and Corse Clienti, where old racing cars were sold to (very wealthy!) clients. He was key to re-shaping Ferrari into the company it is today.

The lack of success in F1 since 2007 did however increasingly become a burden for Montezemolo and a good excuse for Marchionne to push him out. Marchionne already started the process a while ago when recruiting Marco Mattiacci as new F1 boss, who at the time claimed never having seen an F1 race and was as far from Montezemolo’s style as you can get.

Montezemolo leaves a very big pair (no doubt hand-sewn) Italian leather shoes to fill, as he himself moves on to try to achieve the same wonders with another Italian company close to bankruptcy – Alitalia. Ciao Luca, we wish you the best of luck, it seems you may need it…

British GP at Silverstone – or the day Felipe saved Kimi’s life!

There are different types of excitement in the sport we all love so much, but the kind of excitement we got yesterday in the first lap of the British GP at Silverstone is one we could definitely do without.

Kimi Räikkönen’s Ferrari came out a bit wide onto the Wellington straight after the start on the first lap, and he lost control of the car when it crossed back onto the tarmac. The car went into a spin, hit a wall on the right side of the track and was then thrown back onto the track just as the last cars on the grid came through. After a catastrophic start Felipe Massa came almost last onto the straight and saw Kimi’s car practically being thrown at him, just a few metres in front. Through experience, amazing reflexes and presence of mind, he hit the brakes and steered right, voluntarily causing the car to spin and thereby making sure only the tail hit Kimi’s car rather than driving straight into the side of him, as would otherwise have been the case. Whether he saved Kim’s life or just saved him from being badly injured doesn’t really matter, it was in any case a move that is worth high praise!


When the race really got going an hour later, all looked pretty much the same as always this season, with Rosberg leading before Hamilton, but then Nico’s gearbox broke down in the 28th lap and Lewis took over the lead, holding onto it until the end. As a small consolation to Williams, having lost Massa’s car in the incident in the first lap, his teammate Valtterri Bottas finished second before Daniel Ricciardo on Red Bull in third. In the championship this means Nico’s lead over Lewis is now only 4 pts before the German GP at Hockenheim gets underway on 20 July!

Same same but different at Austria’s GP

With two Williams in the first row on the starting grid and Mercedes only qualifying as 3rd (Rosberg) and 9th (Hamilton), it looked like we were in for a somewhat different race yesterday as the F1 circus returned to Austria for the first time in 11 years. At the end though it looked pretty much as usual, With Rosberg winning before Hamilton, and Bottas (Williams) finishing 3rd.


Rumors were that the issues with the Kinetics power system that has caused Mercedes problems in Montreal were still not fixed and that the team was therefore not running at full power. Perhaps that was the case in the qualifying but as the race started and we all could witness how Hamilton overtook five (!) cars in the first lap to claim 4th place, any such doubts were dissipated.

In terms of comeback Hamilton was thus the man of the day even though Rosberg was clearly the winner in many aspects as he both won the race and increased his championship lead. Probably just as important was also that he overtook his father Keke in F1 race wins, being now at 6 wins in his still young career… As for other teams Williams are looking better and better, Ferrari is at least relatively stable, whereas Red Bull still struggles big-time, with Vettel losing all power in the 2nd lap, then somehow regaining it, only to have to park his car around 30 laps later. Toro Rosso didn’t have a great day either and neither of the teams will be able to challenge Mercedes this season.

Nico Rosberg takes his second straight win in Monaco

Nico Rosberg on Sunday celebrated a double in Monaco, winning the race just like last year having lead from the first of the 78 laps. Lewis Hamilton finished second just before Damien Ricciardo, and had this been any other circuit than Monaco, the ”second” Red Bull would probably have finished second, being massively quicker on the last laps. As for the other Red Bull, Sebastian Vettel had to retire early in the race being stuck in first gear around most of the circuit, something that actually produced an interesting engine sound in this otherwise quite muted season.

As usually Monaco didn’t disappoint and was together with Bahrain this year’s most exciting race so far. Whoever said you can’t overtake in Monaco didn’t know Adrian Sutil on Sauber, who managed to find quite new places to pass on but finally passed himself after half the race and had to retire. Ricciardo as mentioned did a brilliant race to finished third, but lots of credit also go to Rosberg, who under massive pressure from Lewis Hamilton managed to keep his cool during the 78 laps and reclaim the lead in the drivers’ championship.

Image                                                    Due to the extremely efficient work of the track marshalls in Monaco, Bernd Mayländer only had to take the wheel once in the safety car.

Mercedes have now not only won every race this season but actually been in the lead for each of the laps so far this season. The dominance does not seem to be close to being broken, although Red Bull are getting closer but still struggles with reliability, as was illustrated by Vettel’s car. 

Yesterday’s race was also historic in that for the first time, Marussia through Bianchi finished ninth and thus managed to score its first world championship points ever, something that will perhaps help the team to survive financially until next season. Caterham also had a good day with Marcus Ericsson finishing just outside the points in 11th place. Exactly 40 years ago, legendary Swede Ronnie Peterson won in Monaco and for the occasion Ericsson wore a helmet in Ronnie’s legendary blue-and-yellow design. Whether that did the trick remains to be confirmed if Marcus keeps that helmet over the coming races, the next being in Montreal in two weeks!

The Mercedes star shines bright at the Spanish GP in Barcelona

As was clear after the practice sessions, anything but a 1-2 win for Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg on Mercedes at today’s GP in Barcelona would have been a big surprise, and today was not to be the day for suprises. It took the two Mercedes cars five laps to take a 10-second lead on the rest of the field, a lead they were able to grow throughout the race, lapping everyone but the other five drivers among the top 7.

The race itself was unspectacular for the first 60 (of 66) laps, when the team-internal fights we have gotten used to this season started. Alonso was able to pass Räikkönen meaning the two Ferraris finished 6-7, Vettel who made a brilliant race went from 15 to finishing just behind his team mate Ricciardo in 4th place, and had the race been a lap longer, Nico Rosberg would probably have been able to pass Lewis Hamilton and win the race. As it happened, Lewis took his fourth win in a row (his first ever in Barcelona) just before Nico.

Mercedes thus again confirmed their superiority, and Lewis was again faster than Nico, something that is probably slowly but surely starting to put some pressure on the German. It is also clear that the Red Bull upward trend is confirmed, and Ferrari is also looking better. Williams also does well, with Bottas this time finishing 5th, whereas McLaren still struggle.

Unlike his team mate Kobayashi, Marcus Ericsson on Caterham managed to finish the race, but only in last place. It emerged over the weekend that Caterham and Marussia have not secured their financing for next season and their participation is thus doubtful. Obviously bad news for the Swede, whose time in F1 could come to a quick end.

Next we’re off to Monaco in two weeks, where as we all know everything can – and does – happen!

Racing back on the menu in the Bahrain GP!

Fears that the excitement in F1 was gone forever after the sleeper we witnessed in Malaysia a week ago were firmly put aside in today’s race in Bahrain, with a wide margin the most exciting one so far this season! The excitement didn’t come from other teams having gotten closer to breaking Mercedes’ dominance – actually the contrary. But the various teams seem to have realized that there was a clear risk of the interest in the sport dying off if something wasn’t done, something that led to a healthy absence of team orders. Racing was on the menu, whether it was between Hamilton and Rosberg (Mercedes), Ricciardo and Vettel (Red Bull) or Massa and Bottas (Williams). And boy, did they take it seriously!

images                                                                 So far this season, this is a sight the other teams have had to get used to…

If you missed the race, make sure you watch it afterwards, you won’t regret it. Rather than a summary, below just a few points to summarize some of the key takeaways.

  • The Mercedes team’s dominance this season is breathtaking. In the first 40 laps of the race, both Mercedes cars took a 40-second lead over the rest of the pack. Even more impressive, with ten laps remaining after the safety car phase, in 3 laps, they went into a 10-second lead. It seems doubtful whether any team will be able to challenge Mercedes this season, but obviously there is still a long way to go.
  • The safety car phase between lap 42 and 47, caused by Pastor Maldonado (yes, him again) driving straight into the side of Esteban Gutierrez who did a vertical 360 degrees spin in the air, thankfully without getting hurt, led to none of the teams having to think about fuel consumption. All teams therefore went to full power in the last ten laps, something that on one hand reconfirmed Mercedes dominance, on the other however showed Red Bull far closer to the top than they had been so far in the race. Red Bull’s main issue therefore seems to be one of power and fuel mix, something they should be able to get to grips with during the season, one may assume.  As for Pastor Maldonado, he gained a 10-second stop-and-go penalty, a 5-position grid penalty in the upcoming race in China and a 3 championship point penalty. A suspension for the rest of the season would be better, and safer, for all!
  • Force India and Williams reconfirmed their position as the principal challengers outside of the top teams for the season, led by Sergio Perez finishing third and thereby securing the second podium for Force India.
  • After his podium position in the first race of the season in Australia from which he was later disqualified, Daniel Ricciardo again showed that at least in his eyes, Sebastian Vettel is by no means the number one driver in the Red Bull team, pushing him very close to the limit in some great takeover scenes after the safety car phase. Ricciardo finished fourth, Vettel sixth, and it does seem that slowly but surely, Red Bull are getting there.
  • Last but not least, after some hairy scenes between Hamilton and Rosberg (Mercedes)  earlier in the race that didn’t lead to a single word from the team over the radio, Mercedes couldn’t help themselves making it clear to both drivers during the safety car phase that the first priority was to get both cars across the finish line. Rosberg said ok, Hamilton didn’t comment, and the moment Bernd Mayländer parked the SLS AMG safety car in the garage, the both caught sudden amnesia and showed us some of the best racing scenes in quite some time!

If Bahrain is a sign of things to come, in spite of Mercedes dominance, we are in for an exciting season!

Chaos as the F1 season kicks off in Melbourne

It was not as much the driving as what happened around it that led to a chaotic start of the F1 season in Melbourne yesterday. As the pre-season results had led us to believe reliability was indeed the major issue, with especially the Renault teams far from ready from a technical standpoint. For the first time ever in F1, several drivers including Swedish Marcus Ericsson had to retire before anything broke but to save their engines… As for the engine sound in 2014, we’ll be diplomatic and let everyone form their own opinion…

When the chequered flag dropped Nico Rosberg on Mercedes had won the race, in the season where his car carries the same number (6) as his father Keke had when he became world champion 32 years ago, in 1982. At this point, it also seemed that Red Bull had saved the day with Daniel Ricciardo finishing second, the first podium for an Australian ever in Melbourne. A short while later however, Red Bull and Ricciardo were disqualified because of too high fuel pressure in the engine, and Kevin Magnussen on McLaren who finished third was all of a sudden second and the most successful rookie since Jacques Villeneuve in 1996. Jenson Button on McLaren was the new third, and both McLaren’s and Mercedes day was hence close to perfect, as Valtteri Bottas on Mercedes was fifth after Fernando Alonso on Ferrari, the only car with a non-Mercedes engine in the top 5.

Mercedes is hence off to a good season start, and Red Bull to an awful one as Sebastian Vettel had been forced to park his car on the seventh lap. As mentioned previously on this blog, it’s quite possible that after a dreadful 2013, Williams emerges as the surprise of the season 2014. For Ferrari, finishing fourth and seventh, it was not too bad, but Alonso still made the comment that the car was only ready to about 60%. If he is right, there’s hopefully a lot of race excitement as opposed to technical and regulatory mishaps to look forward to as the teams move on to Malaysia in two weeks!


Final testing session in Bahrain brings more of the same

The third and final F1 testing session in Bahrain over the weekend looked much like the previous two, with the Mercedes star shining relatively brightly upfront, Ferrari’s Cavallino Rampante finding at least three of its shoes, and Renault continuing to hit more troubles at the same speed as old ones are solved. Given the free training for the season’s first F1 race in Australia starts in ten days, there is no doubt lights will be on late over the coming weeks, both in the Renault and Red Bull factories.


Little did they know at the end of last season, all the challenges they would face in 2014!

Lewis Hamilton led the time sheets after the last day of training in Bahrain and over the 12 official training days that have now taken place, the MB powered teams have accumulated a total of almost 18000 kms. In spite of this, not even MB and especially the Mercedes AMG Petronas team have managed to solve all issues, but they are clearly in what looks like pole position before the season start. Interesting to see is also that Mercedes-powered Williams has done very well in pre-season training and could emerge as something of a dark horse, especially with the very experienced Felipe Massa as one of the two drivers (the other one being Valtteri Bottas). Mercedes-powered Force India has also done very well both in Jerez and Bahrain.

For Ferrari it has been a mixed bag but ever so slowly, it looks like the team is getting there. Both Kimi Räikkönen and Fernando Alonso have struggled with reliability issues in all training sessions, but talk quite confidently about the potential still to be unlocked from the F14T. Whether that happens in time for Australia or later in the season remains to be seen.

Finally (an order that also corresponds to all the training sessions) all Renault-powered teams and especially Red Bull continue to struggle big time. RB managed a decent 77 laps  on the final day in Bahrain but overall in the pre-season training sessions they only leave Marussia and Lotus behind them in terms of number of laps completed (and Lotus didn’t even participate in Jerez). The discussion is now on who is most to blame, Red Bull or Renault, but given that all Renault-powered teams have similar issues, clearly a lot of the blame is found with the French manufacturer. Red Bull say they have identified the issues and hope to have fixes in place for Australia, and other drivers speak respectfully about the “potential” of the RB10 (probably mostly to take the pressure off themselves…). Unlocking that potential in ten days time would seem completely unrealistic for any other team than the 4-time world champions, and must be doubted even for them. What seems certain is that it will be an exciting season start down under in the middle of March!



Mercedes continues to dominate second pre-season testing in Bahrain

The second pre-season training session in Bahrain on February 19-22 brought roughly the outcome as the first testing days in Jerez early February days. Mercedes continues to dominate the field, with Nico Rosberg setting the best time on the last training day over 1.5 seconds ahead of second placed Jenson Button (Mc Laren), and Mercedes by far completing the most laps over the three days. Ferrari did manage a net improvment compared to Jerez with Kimi Räikkönen setting the third time and the team managing far more laps than the first time around.

As for the Renault teams, it continues to be a mixed bag at best. Again (and again surprisingly), Caterham did quite well and has so far managed most laps of any Renault team in 2014, boding well for Swedish rookie Marcus Ericsson. As for Red Bull there seems to be no end to the problems, although Daniel Ricciardo managed the 7th best time during the last day. There are however still lots of issues it seems, both in software and mechanically, with reliability currently being close to zero.  Red Bull thus have high hopes for the last pre-season training session, again taking place in Bahrain over the next weekend. Whether the world champions will be ready in time for the start of what looks like a highly interesting season is no doubt the big question!


How much energy will be in it at the start of the season?

Jerez 2014 – French frustration, German satisfaction

The 2014 F1 season’s first testing week in Jerez had been much anticipated given the number of changes to the cars and the power units for the new season. And in terms of action, it certainly didn’t disappoint. The potential reliability issues we brought up when describing the rule changes for the new season (see here) hit especially the Renault power units with a vengeance, and none more than Red Bull. Engine cooling was the big issue, and RBR’s new car RB10 therefore spent most time off the track whilst rivals were collecting both laps and experience. At the end of the week, the three Renault teams had managed 151 laps, however of these RBR only managed 21. In contrast, the four Mercedes teams completed 875 laps and the three Ferrari teams 444.

You can leave the cover on, boys...

Too much should not be read in to the season’s first testing week, especially not to lap times, but it is fair to say that RBR has a lot of work to do before, and a lot to prove during the next testing week in Bahrain on February 19-22.

Judging by the drivers’ comments there was a lot of satisfaction with the new cars. The torque provided by the new engines make them feel very powerful and the new 8-speed gearbox along with thew new breaking system also contribute to making the experience different. Finally the number of buttons on the new steering wheel will take some getting used to, and the wheel was by many likened more to a smart phone.

Right, let’s see, was it the red one or, eerrr, the green, or…

Jerez was Swedish F1 rookie Marcus Ericsson’s first showing for Caterham, and at least Caterham was the Renault-powered team that managed most laps. It was however another Scandinavian who stole the attention; Mc Laren’s Danish rookie Kevin Magnussen clocked the fastest lap of the week!

Ferrari quickest on first day of F1 testing in Jerez

Räikkönen in the Ferrari F14-T was quickest on the first day of pre-season testing on tuesday.

Ferrari F14-T

Only eight cars set times in a session where some teams didn’t run at all and other teams had serious reliability problems. Lewis Hamilton crashed due to a front wing failure.

Unofficial Tuesday test times from Jerez:
1. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1m 27.104s, 31 laps
2. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes , 1m 27.820s, 18 laps
3. Valtteri Bottas, Williams, 1m 30.082s, 7 laps
4. Sergio Perez, Force India, 1m 33.161s, 11 laps
5. Jean-Eric Vergne, Toro Rosso, 1m 36.530s, 15 laps
6. Esteban Gutierrez, Sauber, 1m 42.257s, 7 laps
7. Sebastian Vettel , Red Bull, No time, 3 laps
8. Marcus Ericsson, Caterham, No time, 1 lap

F1 in 2014 – overview of all the changes for the new season

Had someone claimed 10 years ago that in 2014, F1 cars would be powered by 1.6 l engines delivering over 600 bhp, he would most certainly have been laughed at. And yet that is precisely what has happened, one one hand testifying to the extraordinary technical progress F1 has gone through in the last decade, on the other to how difficult it is to predict the future. However it is not only the engines that will change in 2014. In fact the coming season will see the most fundamental changes to the sport since it all started, and for that reason we felt it could be useful to give you an overview of the most important areas affected, along with some thoughts on how that could influence the outcome of the 2014 championships – knowing, as mentioned, that predicting the future is difficult indeed…

They may have been less safe, but no doubt F1 cars looked better 10 years ago, in 2004…

Engine: all cars will be powered by a 1.6 litre, turbo-charged V6 engine, supported by an ERS system which replaces last year’s KERS and gives about twice the power of the latter. Max rev’s are limited to 15.000 rpm. The ERS system is highly complex and consists of two motors/generators, one linked to the engine, the other to the turbo. Not only will the power be higher, it will also be available for longer (in numbers 120 Kw during 33 seconds as opposed to the 60 Kw during 6.6 seconds given by KERS last year). The minimum weight of the whole unit is set at 145 kg. Max fuel for a race is set at 100 kg, a reduction of 40 kg versus last year.

Gearbox: made out of carbon, the ratios of the 8-speed gearbox may only be changed once during the season.

Chassis: no one has missed the more or less catastrophic look of the noses on the new cars. The reason for this design nightmare is new regulation, aimed at preventing cars from lifting off when hitting another car from behind. This is however only one of a number of chassis and body changes for 2014, mostly aimed at reducing traction and hereby lowering the cars’ cornering speed. The front wing may thus not be larger than 165 cm (-15 cm vs last year) and the whole lower part of the rear wing has been removed. The exhaust must now be mounted centrally in the back, the sideways mounted exhausts that helped aerodynamics are no longer allowed. The opening of the rear wing has been somewhat increased, helping the DRS effect. Finally the side boxes will look a bit different as the cooling system has increased in size, driven by the larger cooling need of the highly complex engine.

Weight: minimum weight has been increased by 49 kg to 691 kg, still however posing a big challenge to the teams as it only partly compensates for the increased weight of all the new components described above.

Fitting the engine with all its components into the new cars – not an easy task!

It is fair to say that the engineers have thus had a number of nuts to solve in order to fit everything into the new cars and try to meet (and optimize the outcome of) the new regulation. How well they succeed remains to be confirmed as the new season starts. Development costs money so it is probably fair to say that as always, the bigger teams, and especially the factory teams, have an advantage on paper. It is however easy to imagine that with all the complexity added, reliability will again be on the agenda, possibly along with fuel consumption. Clearly the new engines consume less, but we could well have more “excitement” towards the end of races when some drivers start to run out of fuel.

On a technical level, it seems therefore that the F1 circus will prove the Amis wrong: there is indeed a substitute for cubic inches. One question will however remain unanswered until March 16, when the season kicks off in Melbourne, and that is what 20 cars powered by 1.6 l turbo engines sound like, and whether acoustically you will still recognize this as F1 or rather think you are watching the Renault Clio cup. Let’s cross fingers and hope for the best…

Sauber C33 Ferrari – best-looking 2014 car so far!

Swiss Formula 1 team Sauber yesterday presented their 2014 car C33, if you ask me by quite some margin the best looking car of the models we have seen so far and with a remarkably ordinary nose! In spite of severe financial worries last year, Sauber has apparently managed to finance the new season mostly through its driver line-up where both the test drivers Sergei Sirotkin (RUS) and Giedo van der Garde (NL) as well as the regular driver Esteban Gutierrez (MX) have brought sponsor money. The only driver who hasn’t bought his way in, to put is somewhat harshly, is the second ordinary driver Adrian Sutil (GER).