September 18 2014 Latest news:
Michael Bailey, Formula One correspondent
Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Here it comes then – Formula One. Just not quite as we know it, and off the back for a winter that saw the sport occupy plenty of media outlets through what were supposed to be quiet months.
• Pole position – Mercedes: Far from shoe-ins for the silverware, there is no doubting the silver arrows look best placed to take advantage of the 2014 spec from the word go.
• Stalling – Red Bull: Due to their push last season or not, the dominant outfit in F1 for four years already looks like missing the boat this season – even before a wheel has turned in anger.
In truth, it’s more like weeks these days. The 2014 cars have been in testing since January – barely two months since the previous season ended.
And that testing has been fraught. Renault, Mercedes and Ferrari have been working hard to ensure their new V6 turbo hybrid engines not only meet a whole host of new efficiency rules, but actually work.
That has been a major issue for Renault, and while they caught up as the pre-season tests in Jerez and Bahrain (twice) progressed, they are still some way behind their rivals.
It spells trouble for those relying on Renault power this term – Lotus, Caterham, Red Bull and Toro Rosso – even before they figure out the teething troubles on their car. As expected, there have been a lot of those.
"Some of what Red Bull is experiencing is self-inflicted. I’m sure Red Bull have (engine) concerns – however, they have other issues too"
The most obvious change in this year’s cars is the nose – and while they may not be the most pleasing to look at, it’s at least nice to see teams come up with different and distinctive solutions to the new regulations.
But the big changes are more subtle. Like having one, central exhaust that effectively removes using its gasses to increase downforce and make the car go quicker – something Red Bull were sublime at extolling, and that propelled all their recent success.
Ers has replaced Kers – kinetic removed; the new power boost at the drivers’ disposal now far greater.
But things are tending to come back to the engine. The long-held belief constructors who are also engine providers will prosper seems set to come true – although maybe only for Mercedes. Lewis Hamilton must be licking his lips, even if their own reliability issues could linger.
The first race in Melbourne this weekend is likely to be carnage – who knows how many cars will finish. No one is ready.
But for now, that’s the attraction. What won’t hopefully be an issue for 2014 as a whole is that recent domination continues – just with at different marque and man at the front.
• Bernie Ecclestone may have endured trials and tribulations this winter, but he’s still the F1 supremo for now – and it’s hard to imagine him going anywhere anytime soon.
• One team’s pain is another’s gain – and that could be exactly how it works for the Norfolk links this year.
Once again, Enstone will carry the iconic Lotus marque – for how much longer is anyone’s guess. The financial situation at Enstone is dire. If the right opportunity to raise funds arrives, then expect change.
Romain Grosjean will lead and prosper, while Pastor Maldonado has a lot to prove. Lotus have lost technical experience while Gerard Lopez is now team principle following Eric Boullier’s McLaren departure. The year looks set to be difficult.
But Hingham-backed Caterham may well be looking at something more special. The green marque had a relatively promising testing schedule and will fancy picking up that first point in the likely opening chaos.
Add to that Kamui Kobayashi back in F1 to help lead rookie team-mate Marcus Ericsson, and things might be a lot more lively from Caterham this time around.
• There’s even good news in F1 feeder series GP2, where Isport are back – running Russian Time’s operation. Caterham Racing will still be in action too, so all in all it looks set to be a decent year for Norfolk’s finest.