The 2014 Formula 1 season is upon us, with the opening round this weekend in Australia. Opinion; F1 is and has always been the absolute pinnacle of motorsport. F1 attracts the best drivers, the best teams, and easily has the most money. The last couple of years have been dominated by Red Bull, but this season sees a slew of new regulations that are sure to mix things up, and might open the door for a new champion.

A Brief History of Formula 1

Formula One (the formula in the name refers to a set of rules to which all participants and cars must comply and was originally and briefly known as Formula A) can trace its roots back to the earliest days of motor racing. Outside of soccer, more people in the world watch Formula One than any other sport.

Currently run under the Federacion Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) banner of intercontinental racing championships, Formula 1 has existed as a championship since the 1950s. The rules change slightly almost every year, and more dramatically every decade or so. The formula was dominated by major pre-war manufactures such as Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Maserati and Mercedes Benz at the sports outset with other manufacturers coming to the forefront over the years, be they road car manufacturers like Renault, Peugeot, Honda, and Toyota, or privateer constructors like McLaren, Williams, and Sauber.

Bernie Ecclestone, the current CEO of Formula One Management, went from an average car salesman to a very wealthy man by rearranging the management of Formula One’s commercial rights, the television rights to broadcast Formula 1. In 1971 he bought the Brabham team and so gained a seat on the Formula One Constructors’ Association (FOCA) and in 1978 became its president. n 1979 FISA (Fe’de’ration Internationale du Sport Automobile) was formed and almost immediately clashed with FOCA over revenues and regulations. FOCA boycotted a race and threatened a breakaway. In return FISA removed its sanction from races. a truce came with the 1981 Concorde Agreement.

The first seasons of Formula 1 were run using pre-war cars like Alfa’s 158, front engined, with narrow-treaded tyres and 1.5 litre supercharged or 4.5 litre normally aspirated engines. From those original cars the sport has seen the introduction of ground-effects technology to glue the cars to the track, turbochargers have come, gone and come back, electronic drivers aids began to emerge and by the early 1990s semi-automatic gearboxes and traction control were a natural progression. More recently the addition of a kinetic energy recovery system (often known simply as KERS) has pushed F1 technology to new limits.

The sport has hosted some of the most memorable names in motorsports including; Ayrton Senna, Juan Manuel Fangio, Michael Schumacher, Alain Prost, Sebastian Vettel, Niki Lauda, and Lewis Hamilton to name a few.

I really like this brief visual history of F1:

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2014 Formula 1 Season Rule Changes

There are a lot of changes this year, the FIA pretty much completely tore up the rulebook and started fresh.

Engines

After almost a decade of 2.4 liter naturally aspirated V8 engines, artificially limited to 18,000 RPM, a newly designed 1.6 liter V6 turbo limited to 15,000 RPM will be the standard. The FIA is requiring a more efficient racing series, now limiting each car to 100Kg of fuel per race. The old V8 would consume around 150Kg of fuel in a race. 2013 V8 engines produced around 750 horsepower, 2014 spec turbo engines will make about 600 horsepower.

Hybrid Systems

Some of the power lost in the engine regulation change has been won back with the increased power of the new spec Energy Recovery System. A system similar to last year’s KERS will do a lot of the work along with “electric turbocharger technology” that captures waste exhaust pressure to help charge the batteries. The turbochargers can also be actuated electrically to reduce the boost threshold, cutting down turbo lag, coming out of slow corners and between gear changes.

The KERS system takes wasted kinetic energy produced during deceleration and stores it in a battery pack, which is then used to power rear-axle electric motors again under acceleration. Basically, a super awesome Prius. Previously, KERS was allowed to be deployed for up to 6.7 seconds per lap, and could only produce 60kw worth of forward motion force. For 2014, the power output has been increased to 150kw, and it can be used for up to 30 seconds per lap. Previously drivers “deployed” their KERS via a push button, for 2014 the KERS system is actually included in the engine mapping, backfilling the gaps in power at lower revs and aiding with acceleration automatically.

The Bodywork

F1 fans are notoriously a bit finicky about how the cars look. A repeating cycle of hatred, acceptance, then admiration before another style comes out is fairly typical. So it’s no surprize that 2014 is no exception.

The front wing has been narrowed by 150mm, and the rear wing has had the lower element mandated to be removed. Decreased downforce along with a lack of engine power have resulted in slower lap-times. The narrower front wing has also affected the teams’ ability to deflect air around the front tires, increasing drag. The front wing has also been lowered by 415mm for safety reasons, as it avoids driver injury in t-bone incidents. This has reduced the effect of the floor tray, reducing downforce.

The exhaust exit is mandated to exit above the gearbox in a single centralized pipe. No longer will teams be able to take aerodynamic advantage of spent exhaust gases by way of blown diffusers or other technology.

Most disturbing to fans, however, are the dimensional requirements this year which have caused the cars to grow protuberant noses. Penis noses to be more exact.

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With every rules change, one team will likely find room for massive advantages that others don’t see, opening up the opportunity for one team to be well ahead for the start of the season. But, that’s part of the fun.

TL;DR? Check out Red Bull’s helpful guide to the rule changes.

Donuts

Donuts are legal this year! If you win, and you want to celebrate, you won’t be fined for doing a donut like Seb Vettel was.

Double Points

In a move to “increase the excitement” of Formula 1, the FIA have introduced a double points race for the season finale in Abu Dhabi. This should help viewership numbers in the latter half of the season. And the double points GP at the end should decrease the number of drivers being mathematically ineligible by the finale.

2014 Formula 1 Drivers

  • 1 – Sebastian Vettel – Red Bull Racing
  • 3 – Daniel Ricciardo – Red Bull Racing
  • 4 – Max Chilton – Marussia
  • 6 – Nico Rosberg – Mercedes
  • 7 – Kimi Raikkonen – Ferrari
  • 8 – Romain Grosjean – Lotus
  • 9 – Marcus Ericsson – Caterham
  • 10 – Kamui Kobayashi – Caterham
  • 11 – Sergio Perez – Force India
  • 13 – Pastor Maldonado – Lotus
  • 14 – Fernando Alonso – Ferrari
  • 17 – Jules Bianchi – Marussia
  • 19 – Felipe Massa – Williams
  • 20 – Kevin Magnussen – McLaren
  • 21 – Esteban Gutierrez – Sauber
  • 22 – Jenson Button – McLaren
  • 25 – Jean-Eric Vergne – Scuderia Toro Rosso
  • 26 – Daniel Kvyat – Scuderia Toro Rosso
  • 27 – Nico Hulkenburg – Force India
  • 44 – Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes
  • 77 – Valtterri Bottas – Williams
  • 99 – Adrian Sutil – Sauber

How to Watch Formula 1

In the United States, F1 is broadcast on the NBC family of networks, most of it will be on the NBC Sports channel. Live broadcasting means you’ll have to rise early in the morning or stay up late if you don’t have a DVR.

Four events will broadcast on the regular NBC network; Montreal, Sao Paulo, and Austin, TX, and Monaco. Three races; British, German, and Hungarian grands prix, will be televised on CNBC.

The broadcast team here in the US is pretty interesting. No changes to the lineup are scheduled or expected, so I again look forward to hearing the excitable play by play of Mr. Leigh “Olympic Louge Announcer” Diffey, the exquisite engineering talent of Mr. Steve Matchett, and the ever present and increasingly senile David Hobbs.

For us cable cutters you have to get a bit creative. A British VPN + BBC iPlayer should do the trick.

2014 Formula 1 Schedule

1
Mar 16
Australian Grand Prix
12:00 AM (in 3 days)
2
Mar 30
Malaysia Grand Prix
2:00 AM
3
Apr 6
Bahrain Grand Prix
9:00 AM
4
Apr 20
Chinese Grand Prix
1:00 AM
5
May 11
Spanish Grand Prix
6:00 AM
6
May 25
Monaco Grand Prix
6:00 AM
7
Jun 8
Canadian Grand Prix
12:00 PM
8
Jun 22
Austrian Grand Prix
6:00 AM
9
Jul 6
British Grand Prix
6:00 AM
10
Jul 20
German Grand Prix
6:00 AM
11
Jul 27
Hungarian Grand Prix
6:00 AM
12
Aug 24
Belgian Grand Prix
6:00 AM
13
Sep 7
Italian Grand Prix
6:00 AM
14
Sep 21
Singapore Grand Prix
6:00 AM
15
Oct 5
Japanese Grand Prix
12:00 AM
16
Oct 12
Russian Grand Prix
5:00 AM
17
Nov 2
United States Grand Prix
1:00 PM
18
Nov 9
Brazilian Grand Prix
9:00 AM
19
Nov 23
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
6:00 AM