The 2014 Formula 1 season is almost here following 12 days of winter testing. Here are eight things to look forward to from the sport this year:
F1 has gone through a major transformation in 2014, with a number of modifications to the Sporting and Technical regulations. V6 Turbo power-units replace the previous V8s, KERS moves to ERS, downforce levels have decreased and there is the new brake-by-wire system.
The cars look completely different to comply with the new lower nose tip rules, the exhaust is now positioned at the back of the car and there are new fuel limits. On the Sporting side, permanent numbers and a pole trophy have been introduced. The new double points rule has caused controversy and there are a range of new changes to the penalty system.
2014 will see the debut of three promising young talents. Kevin Magnussen will be hoping to mirror Lewis Hamilton’s incredible debut season for McLaren, as the Dane also competes in his rookie season with the Woking-based outfit, and Daniil Kvyat will be hoping to impress for Toro Rosso.
The 2013 GP3 champion was a surprise replacement for Daniel Ricciardo at the Italian team. Meanwhile Marcus Ericsson has plenty to prove after four underwhelming years in GP2.
Fire and Ice
The grid looks very different this year. There are several exciting driver pairings – including Vettel and Ricciardo at Red Bull, Button and Magnussen at McLaren and Hulkenberg and Perez at Force India – but Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen make up the strongest line-up.
The Iceman re-joins the team for a second stint at Maranello and will be looking to cement himself as equal number one. The battle for inter-team supremacy will surely be an exciting one to watch both on and off track.
Some expect half of the field (or more) to retire in Australia. Reliability will certainly be a major theme this season as the teams continue to get their heads around the new technology. Testing showed that all 11 teams still have a long way to go, so expect plenty of unexpected failures and late-race retirements.
Shake-up of the order
The rule changes look set to shake-up the competitive order, for the first few races anyway. It helps to level the playing field and could give backmarkers Caterham and Marussia the chance to score points – particularly with the high attrition rates that are expected.
Red Bull and Lotus struggled in winter testing and could struggle early on. Meanwhile Williams and Force India looked strong and reliable in Jerez and Bahrain. They could both move up the grid this year.
A new location
Formula 1 will debut in Russia this season at the Sochi International Street Circuit, which weaves around the 2014 Winter Olympic Park. The track layout looks fast and challenging, with unforgiving walls ready to punish the slightest mistake.
Meanwhile the Red Bull Ring – formerly the A1 Ring – in Austria returns after 11 years off the calendar.
The iconic red and blue stripes of Martini will return to the grid this year with Williams. The two illustrious brands have joined forces, with the Mercedes-powered FW36 now sporting the best livery of the 2014 machines.
A new sound
Not only will there be a new look to this year’s F1 cars, but there will also be a new sound. The screaming V8s have been replaced by the lower, raspier tone of the 1.6 litre V6 Turbos. They also have a distinctive new sci-fi like whoosh sound underbraking as the new ERS system kicks in.