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10 Things To Watch Out For In 2014

Sunday 9th March 2014

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10 Things To Watch Out For In 2014

10 Things To Watch Out For In 2014

New engine rules, new aero rules, new sporting rules, new drivers and one new race - there is more change in 2014 than ever before...

1.There will need to be a premium on marshal safety
The cars have new Safety Light systems for 2014 to show the state of the ERS (Energy Recovery System). In testing, when cars broke down, marshals weren't required to handle them and teams dispatched mechanics from the pits to pick their own cars up. This isn't going to happen when we get to Melbourne and so new safety proceedures will need to be implemented so that marshals don't run the risk of an electrical discharge from the car. There are lights by the roll hoop to ascertain the safety of the system, but as in all things F1, there might be the odd occasion when it doesn't work properly. And if there has been accident damage, then how do you assess the safety of the car quickly?

With the new powertrains delivering more torque than the car has traction, then there may be a few more car/barrier meetings than we've seen in seasons past. The need to keep marshals safe may mean a lot more Safety Cars and almost certainly longer recovery times than in recent years.

2. The pattern of grands prix will change
In the past couple of seasons we've been 'treated' to the spectacle of Sebastian Vettel qualifying on pole, establishing a big lead on Lap 1 to get clear of any DRS entanglement, then opening up a steadily widening gap. With the fuel load being reduced to 100kg, there will be much less of an incentive to race off into the distance, knowing that the second there is a Safety Car, the lead will be gone, and the cars behind might have saved more fuel.

So potentially the races could be a lot closer...

Now because teams couldn't run many race simulations in Bahrain, nobody has established whether Ferrari, Mercedes or Renault have the most fuel efficient engine. So if one is radically better than the other two, this might create its own race pattern.

3. Qualifying will be all out, especially Q3
Now that the F1 Strategy Group have tweaked the regulations to give teams an extra set of tyres for Q3, plus a few more minutes, we should see two runs for every car that has got into Q3. Gone will be the tentative stab at a few sectors then scurrying back to the pitlane to save tyres for the race.

Also, with Marussia kicking on in performance terms, with their brand new Ferrari engine and gearbox, there will be significantly more jeopardy about escaping from Q1

4. Lap times may increase on some circuits
Fernando Alonso has already said that the cars aren't as interesting to drive because they are slower through the corners. But the cars make up lap time by being quicker on the straights. On circuits with a great many high speed corners it's unlikely that the lap times will get faster, and right now teams aren't concentrating on the fine-tuning of set-up, they just want the cars to get to the finish in reasonable shape - not overheat and not run out of fuel four laps before the end. But on circuits with big straights and slow corners - say, Canada - times could improve.

The engines won't be so loud either, but a lot of that's because the power is delivered at much lower revs, whereas with the old V8s, all the power came in at the top of the rev range.

5. The teams pecking order will change
At the end of 2013 it was: Red Bull, Mercedes, Ferrari, Lotus, McLaren, Force-India, Sauber. With the stuttering start of the Renault teams we may have a sudden fall from grace for Red Bull and Lotus, with Williams and Force-India (both running Mercedes engines) rushing forward to take their place.

With a team as well-financed as Red Bull that situation won't last long, but after four races the constructors' championship could take on a whole new look.

6. There will be breakdowns
With engine development locked down on the old V8s for so many years, reliability reached a peak over the last three seasons with 20+ cars finishing races, and on the odd occasion, the entire grid making it to the chequered flag. This is not going to happen in 2014. The first time Red Bull and Lotus achieve a race distance in 2014 will be in an actual race.

In the past, when there was a failure of KERS and it needed to be re-set (often through overheating) it would only knock off around half a second a lap. With ERS-K and ERS-H systems contributing five seconds a lap to lap time, it will become very obvious when there is an ERS failure.

Even the best-of-the-bunch Mercedes team brought out red flags in Bahrain, we are heading into a brave new hybrid world in 2014 and there will be multi-car and multi-team failures.

7. Cars may not bother to fight as much
When the Pirelli tyres became critical last year we saw many examples of drivers being told not to fight on team radio because the overtaking car was on a different strategy. With both tyres and fuel needing to be managed in 2014 there are likely to be many more discussions between drivers and teams about picking which cars to battle.

With drivers not being able to see the full picture of who they're actually fighting, there might be some very fraught conversations over team radio when drivers can't understand why they're being told to ease off etc. The kind we heard a lot with Lewis Hamilton in 2013.

8. Cars will be sliding more
There is more driver skill needed in 2014 because testing has shown that when drivers put the power down they have to be very smooth to avoid spinning up the back wheels. The new energy recover systems have delivered far more torque and controlling it will sort he men from the boys.

9. This could be Alonso's last season at the Scuderia.
Fernando Alonso's long-tern loyalty to Maranello took a wobble in 2013, which was swiftly countered by Ferrari boss Luca Montezemolo. Alonso wants to be given a winning car and when the season starts it may become rapidly clear if he has one or not. He's already got a team-mate with whom he'll have to compete a lot fiercer than he did with Felipe Massa. If it becomes clear he can't be a contender in 2014 then he's going to be steering a path towards a team that can deliver a car that matches his abilities.

10. We will see what kind of a World Champion Sebastian Vettel is.
Sebastian Vettel has won all his World Championships in the fastest car. He hasn't done an Alonso or a Raikkonen and dragged a good-but-not-great car up to the front. He has dominated from the front. Pundits have always said that the test of Vettel will be how he performs in a less-than-great car and the assumption was that it would happen away from Red Bull. The RB10 looks like it will provide that test and give him a taste of what Lewis, Kimi and Fernando have all been through.

FH

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