So with Ferrari and McLaren's cars for the 2014 F1 season already revealed I woke up early to see what Red Bull is bringing to the table, and I have to say I think a team has finally outdone them, that being Ferrari. They're overdue for a dud of a road car and I think they may have finally made another subpar car with the LaFerrari (I mean they named it The Ferrari -_-) which means their engineers just might have been busy on the F14-T. They also have Kimi back now which, as much as I want to see Vettel tie Schumacher's record within a decade, (and hopefully break it in 2015) puts a smile on my face, and though it's not commonplace to cheer for someone to place 2nd, I hope he does just that. McLaren's MP4-29 will undoubtedly have the most fuel efficient aerodynamics, but they lack the drivers to put it on the podium. I'm already a huge fan of Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bulls novice Aussie, and hope to see him push Seb enough to get his 5th championship and hopefully have some success of his own, but see fuel consumption being a big potential issue for the Renault powered RB10.
I was also pleasantly surprised to see that my favorite of the smaller teams, Caterham has also unveiled their four wheeled example of automotive engineering and while it's phallic front end has already been subject to scoffing, I think spectators need to see that unconventional design is going the be a massive factor this season. As we've seen in the past, with engine regulation and gearbox regulation changes, come (often drastic) changes in the shape of the cars.
A friend of mine also reminded me that Mercedes still have Hamilton on board this season. Being the third and only other team that can tailor fit a chassis to an engine in house, I think we'll see some massive improvements from Mercedes relative to the competition. They were already running the fastest times at testing at Jerez this morning, that is until Hamilton stuffed it into the barrier (no fault of his own) after a front wing failure. Raikkonen was right up his trumpet with the second fastest lap in his shiney new Ferrari, but as I'm writing this, we have yet to see anything from either McLaren or Red Bull and we are all, of course, anxious to see how Vettel will get on in his new #5 RB10.
Specific teams aside, I think with the new regulations we can expect to see the obvious changes of lower top speeds and possibly an all-around slower season, but I think we can also expect this season to royally f#@% up the driver standings as fuel consumption becomes one of the largest issues. More versed drivers like Fernando, Kimi, Lewis, Sebastian, and Jensen will most likely adapt to this more readily, where the younger and newer drivers will have a hard time keeping the throttle balanced, and most likely have a hard time coping with the heap of torque the ERS systems will now be giving them out of the corners. The combination of a smaller rear wing and the elimination of KERS will, I predict, go well together. Eliminating KERS, which was available at the push of a button and was better suited for getting off the grid quickly or raising the top speed on the straits, will make cornering more important. The ERS system, which if I'm not mistaken is going to be set up in such a way that the power is dispersed throughout the race by the on-board computer, will most likely be sending some of its extra torques to the back wheels as drivers exit corners. Finally, there is the issue of the new smaller front and rear wings, which will also make things more interesting through the corners. Engineers will undoubtedly be able to find virtually the same amount of down-force even in a smaller rear wing, which they'll need to keep their drivers tidy through the bends, but it's the front with that I think will change the season most. The shorter front wing apparently leaves the end-plates of the wing directly in front of the front tires. In past seasons, the guys in the wind tunnels were able to use the front wing to send air over the front tires. Now however, they have to channel it around them, which is not only a lost opportunity for down-force, but also affects how air will find its way around the rest of the car. The new fixed gear ratio regulation will also test (and probably frustrate) both the drivers and engineers, but I think as the season progresses we'll see drivers becoming more familiar with their cars than they have in previous seasons as a result of the increased predictability of the engines. That is, of course, assuming they can adjust to the new ERS setup easily. It's going to be an interesting season in this transition year as F1 becomes more fuel conscious. I hope my long-winded debriefing has been informative and factually accurate. Good luck to everyone's favorite teams and drivers!
On a similar note, looking to the 2015 season I'm willing to bet that regardless of who takes the drivers championship, Red Bull will struggle with the new gear ratio restriction and we may just see Vettel make the switch to Ferrari he mentioned a couple years back. For the time being I can only dream of him and Raikkonen driving for the best team in history as teammates at Ferrari. Only thing to do is sit back and see what happens.
***As both a Formula 1 fan and an avid skier, I'd like to remind anyone reading this to keep Michael Schumacher in their thoughts and prayers. Losing a member of the skiing community to an accident is always a big blow, but you never expect to lose an F1 driver that way, especially not the most loved and decorated driver in history. We all hope he'll keep fighting and I think Vettel put it best, "I pray and hope he will come back and the miracle will happen and he will be the person he was before."
Update: Raikkonen has set the fastest lap so far of the testing session. Vettel still waiting to go out.