Everything changes in 2014, yet some things stay the same. I always say the teams split into groups, they always have. Occasionally teams move from one group to another and wholesale rule changes usually provide that opportunity.
My groups? Championship Contenders, Upper Midfield, Lower Midfield, Slowcoaches.
Those Rule Changes
1.6 litre turbos with 100kg of fuel and a big step up in energy recovery systems – the new ERS is 10x more powerful than the old KERS – as well as harder tyres, bigger DRS flaps, and personalised car numbers. Throw in a load of new drivers and a lack of testing and this year looks to be the most exciting in years, especially the early races!
Here are a couple of great videos explaining the new rules. Red Bull’s is brilliant as ever, and good to see F1.com stepping up this year.
After seeing some practice and qualifying at Albert Park it is clear the new cars are much harder to control. This is brilliant! The drivers are really having to work hard. We could see drivers making errors and losing positions, even retiring, because they lose control. This adds to the uncertainty – no longer can we assume a car ahead of another will just stay there.
Here are my predictions for 2014:
Mercedes and McLaren will steal a march in the first few races. Ferrari and Red Bull, and maybe Lotus, won’t be far off but some won’t get their heads around finishing races until Barcelona. Interestingly, this year unlike so many in the past, there is no testing data at all for these cars at Barcelona – all the testing was done at Jerez and Bahrain.
In the summer, maybe before the summer break or maybe after, we will see the order shaken up. I see Red Bull having sorted their problems long before then and putting in a charge in the many, many races after August to cut down Mercedes’ lead. I still can’t get my head around that from September 1st there are still 8 races to go, which changes everything compared to what we were used to a few short years ago when it marked the end of the final 1/3rd of the season.
Drivers and Constructors titles will be between Mercedes AMG and Red Bull. Ferrari drivers will take points off each other and that will be the only reason they aren’t in contention but Ferrari could compete for the Constructors’. After summer I expect McLaren to slip back as they turn their attention to Honda 2015.
Lotus and Force India will be rejoined by a resurgent Williams, who’ll score several podiums. In theory Lotus shouldn’t even be in this group but their testing was woeful, and they skipped the first test entirely. If they can sort out their car by mid-year they’ll score enough in the latter half to make up any deficit they’ll lose now. Really though I wouldn’t put it past Williams to top this group, that’s how much they’ve improved. They’ll certainly score the points in the early part of the year. The continuing saga of Force India’s money will roll on and on.
Sauber and Toro Rosso could be joined by Marussia who look to have a promising car (unless they were running low fuel all winter to attract sponsors, in which case they’ll be Slowcoaches again). I see Marussia scoring a few points here and there especially if the car lasts to the end and others don’t. Mind you, after the first practices in Albert Park it seems they’ve dropped to plum last again – so who knows. The only way Sauber & STR will get out of this group, at least in the points standings if not the timesheets, is if they are reliable and faster cars are not.
In testing Caterham didn’t seem to have caught the others at all, which is a shame. But still they could score a point or two with the odd 10th place if their car can finish and others do not. They suffered terrible luck in testing, except in the final test – will that be enough? It’s possible Marussia and STR will drop to the back here.
I think instead of pushing it and having cars not finish races we will see teams turn the settings down and have the drivers cruise. They did that early in the season, especially Melbourne, when the switch from V10s to V8s happened, I expect Melbourne this year to be the same. So instead of cars dropping out they’ll slow down. Prepared teams will still take advantage and take the points. By the time we get to Silverstone it won’t be so much of an issue.
Champion Driver: Lewis Hamilton
Champion Constructor: Mercedes AMG
Most Wins: Lewis Hamilton