Formula One made its return to the public eye last week, bringing with it a new set of rules and a completely new look. There was lots of interest over at the Spanish Jerez circuit to see, firstly, what the cars actually looked like and secondly, how they’d sound.
With a rather low-key set of unveilings this year, there were many different designs owing to the new rulebook for 2014. The main point of note was the new cars’ noses.
A number of approaches have been taken – Red Bull has gone for a relatively conventional-looking setup, helped by the way the front of the car has been cleverly painted.
The rules state that a car’s nose can’t be more than 185mm from the floor in 2014 (compared to 550mm last season), which has caused the change in design. This year’s RB10 conforms to the regulations thanks to a new ‘keel nose’ setup – basically, the bulge is underneath.
Then there’s the group of protruding noses, as we’ll put it. These almost replicate last years’ front-end design (to a point), but to measure up many teams have grafted on a legality extension. These look rather odd, to say the least.
The new Force India, Toro Rosso, Williams, Sauber, Caterham, McLaren and Marussia all feature a similar low-nose design.
The thinking behind the new nose arrangement is that it should stop cars being launched into the air in a front-to-rear impact. The lower front end means the car in front won’t act as a launch ramp for the car behind, with the new nose absorbing the impact better.
In the case of Lotus’ new F1 challenger, it has a twin-spar front end. Look closely though and you’ll see one of the protrusions is actually longer than the other – the rules state there should only be one formal nose, the second piece is a few millimetres shorter and therefore a few millimetres higher.
The other nose designs come from Ferrari and Mercedes-Benz – both teams have gone for a configuration where the whole nose drops to 185mm, as opposed to just a small section. This again gives some interesting aesthetics, but until we see the cars racing in anger, we won’t know which setup is more effective.
What we do know, however, is that McLaren was fastest over the recent running in Spain, with rookie Kevin Magnussen setting the quickest time overall. He was followed by Felipe Massa in the Williams, Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes and Jenson Button in the second McLaren.
The good news is our local squad at Woking is showing signs of improvement after a poor showing in 2013. McLaren failed to bag a podium last year, so let’s hope it can right the wrongs of the last 12 months.
NOISE – OR THE LACK OF IT
Another area that created a lot of conversation at the first F1 test of the season was noise.
With a change from the screaming 2.4-litre naturally aspirated V8s to 1.6-litre turbocharged V6s, the exhaust noise has dropped dramatically.
This is because the turbocharger sits in the exhaust, with the hot gases used to spin a fan that then drives another fan to force more air into the engine.
This uses energy in the exhaust gas flow that might otherwise have been emitted as sound, as well as acting as a sort of block in the exhaust itself. Together this reduces the volume of noise emitted from the single-exit exhaust pipe.
The new engine configuration also means the cars sound much gruffer. Together with a 15,000rpm rev limit (it was previously a colossal 18,000rpm for the V8s), there’s even less noise.
Who is to say it’s better or worse than before? That’s up to you to deice. A lot of people have said they miss the screaming sound and the aural drama provided by the engines – is that what racing should be about?
Why not let us know your thoughts on the new-for-2014 Formula One rules. Do you like the look of the cars? Do you like the sound of the engines? Tweet to us @twwhiteandsons or join the debate on our Facebook page.