FIA approves Formula 1 qualifying changes for 2014 season

The FIA has rubberstamped proposals to alter the Formula 1 qualifying format ahead of this weekend's season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
AUTOSPORT revealed in February that adjustments for qualifying were likely for the 2014 season to alleviate issues that had arisen with the Q3 spectacle.
F1 team managers met with the governing body during pre-season testing in Bahrain last month to discuss concerns some drivers would continue to sit out the final segment of qualifying to save tyres for this season's races.
Last year it was common to see some drivers strategically fail to set a time in Q3 in order to start grands prix on newer tyres than rivals further up the grid.
The FIA has now approved plans to give every driver that makes it through to Q3 an extra set of Pirelli's option tyre, which must be returned to the tyre supplier after the session.Additionally, Q1 has been shortened by two minutes (from 20 to 18) and Q3 extended by two minutes (from 10 to 12) to allow drivers to complete an extra run in the final session.
All drivers that make it through to Q3 will now start the races on the set of tyres they use to set their best time in Q2. Previously, every driver that made it to Q3 had to start the race on the tyres they used in that session.
F1 teams hope these rule changes will remove any strategic advantage to skipping the final segment of qualifying and thus improve the Saturday show for fans.

McLaren to run special livery in Australian Grand Prix

McLaren will run with a special one-off livery at this weekend's Formula 1 season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
With the team hoping to announce a new title sponsor later this season, it has decided to run in Melbourne with a unique colour scheme to honour the 20th anniversary of its technical partnership with oil supplier Mobil.
The sidepods and rear wing of the MP4-29 will feature the logos and branding of Mobil and its Mobil 1 products.
Artis Brown, global motorsports manager of Mobil 1, said: "We are proud to celebrate our relationship with McLaren this weekend and we are looking forward to an exciting season."

Vettel predicts Mercedes win in Aus

Melbourne - Four-time defending world champion Sebastian Vettel Thursday tipped Mercedes to win Sunday's season-opening Australian Grand Prix - but he warned Red Bull would soon recover from their pre-season problems.
Vettel dominated last year winning the last nine GPs, but the German was not optimistic about his chances in Melbourne after severe problems in testing as Red Bull adapt to a raft of technical changes.
But he said the Austrian team, led by their design guru Adrian Newey, would soon be back in the hunt as the season unfolds.
“For this race probably Mercedes based on winter testing,” the German told reporters, when asked who would win the season opener.
“For the season, after three or four races we'll know a little bit more.”
“Our testing and preparation hasn't been ideal and we are not in the best position for this race, but there's a long way to go,” Vettel added.
“It's obviously a tough step for all the teams and the drivers, there's a lot of new regulations to get used to.
“We know we're not in the best shape yet. There's a lot of things we need to solve, and unfortunately you can't solve them overnight.”
Vettel is bidding to emulate compatriot Michael Schumacher's five consecutive world titles for Ferrari from 2000-2004, and would set a new record if he can win his 10th race in a row.
Despite Red Bull's difficulties in integrating a new engine, he is far from putting up the white flag and insisted he would “push to the maximum” in Sunday's race.
“It's difficult to have any sort of expectations for most of us,” he said.
“But it's a long season so I'm going out here not trying to just to make it round. I'm going out here to push to the maximum and do the best I can and then we will see where we are.
“The target for sure is to finish and to finish in the best possible position.
“For the rest of the year we are a strong team, we have a lot of good people on board and we have strong resources so I'm confident we should progress as the season goes on.”
Mercedes's Lewis Hamilton, the 2008 world champion, is the nominal pre-race favourite and he appeared to be sizing up team-mate Nico Rosberg as his big rival.
“It's very technical this year and everyone is in the same boat and everyone is trying to see where the advantage is going to be between the two drivers,” he said, referring to Rosberg.
“From race to race I think you're going to see one time he's ahead, and another time I'm ahead, the same that you saw last year. The goal is to be ahead on the track.”
Ferrari is another team feeling its way after inconclusive winter testing but with a super-competitive driving team in former world champions Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen.
“It's very difficult to tell how competitive we are at the moment and we will know some answers in the next 24-48 hours,” said Spanish driver Alonso.
“I think the car itself and the technology that Formula One has brought this year is a little complex for everyone and we are learning and developing the car every day.”
The F1 cars take to Melbourne's Albert Park circuit on Friday for the first of two practice sessions ahead of Saturday's qualifying for grid positions for Sunday's race.

Zero tolerance over Formula 1's 2014 fuel limit rules

Formula 1 teams will be given no degree of tolerance over the 100kg fuel limit this year, the FIA has warned.
Ahead of the first race under F1's new efficiency regulations, there is great uncertainty about just how close to the limits teams may get in the Australian Grand Prix.
But F1 race director Charlie Whiting has made it clear that teams that step even marginally over the 100kg limit allowed from race start to chequered flag face disqualification.
"The 100kg is the maximum and, if they go over, they have exceeded the limit and there is no tolerance," explained Whiting.
"We are confident of the [fuel flow measuring] meter's accuracy. It will always be correlated with data we have from injectors to make sure there is not a wide divergence, but from what we have seen so far that will not be the case."Whiting said that the FIA was satisfied the meters would work satisfactorily to avoid disputes - and that the governing body had prepared contingency plans in case of a failure with the devices.
"It is very apparent right from the beginning whether or not that sensor is going to work," he said. "It is either very, very good or a long way out, so you can identify whether or not that meter should be used.
"We monitor them all the way through the race and, if we see a fault, we have a fallback solution.
"For example, we would know what the fuel used was at the end of lap 24, and that is the starting point for our new calculation. So we are in good shape there."

Williams F1 race team manager Dickie Stanford leaves role

Williams stalwart Dickie Stanford has left his role as race team manager of the Formula 1 outfit ahead of the 2014 season.
The Briton is one of Williams's longest-serving members, having originally joined the Grove-based outfit as race mechanic to Nigel Mansell in 1985.
He moved up through the ranks and first took on the race team manager role in 1995 - staying in that position for 10 years before taking a factory-based job so he could spend more time with his family.
After returning to a travelling position as test team manager, Stanford took over the race team manager position full-time again in 2010.
Deputy team principal Claire Williams said Stanford would be moving to a different role within Williams.
"Dickie has unfortunately decided to step down at the start of this season," she said.
"He got us through testing, he did a great job, but wants a different role within the team.
"So we are now talking to him behind the scenes to decide exactly what he wants to do and what we want to do. We are working on that.
"Once we have got an idea of what that will be, we will let everyone know."
Former McLaren technical co-ordinator Peter Vale has been appointed by Williams as its new race team manager.

Classic Australian GPs on Sky Sports F1

Classic F1 returns on Monday night with memorable races in Australia each night of the week to put you in the mood for the new season.
First up on Monday at 9pm is Australia's debut on the Formula 1 calendar with the 1985 race from the streets of Adelaide. Ayrton Senna started from pole, but with just three drivers finishing on the lead lap and eight classified finishers, it certainly was a race of attrition.
On Tuesday you will be treated to a three-way title fight at the final round of the 1986 season as Nigel Mansell, Nelson Piquet and Alain Prost all headed to Adelaide with a chance of the Drivers' Championship. Mansell qualified on pole for Williams, but who would be leading at the chequered flag and take the title?
The championship may have been decided heading to Australia in 1987, but Adelaide served up another storming race, with just seven drivers classified as finishers! You see that race a 9pm on Wednesday.
It was a little wet at Adelaide in 1989
Next up on Thursday at 9pm is the 1989 Australian GP where a dark cloud was hanging over McLaren following Senna and Prost's collision at the preceding Japanese Grand Prix and the Brazilian's subsequent disqualification. That wasn't the only cloud hanging over the circuit, however, as heavy rain ahead of the race lead to some drivers questioning whether the race should go ahead - Prost withdrew from the race after just one lap because of the conditions. The race went ahead though and you'll have to tune in to see who was leading as the race reached its two hour limit.
On Friday night we move to Melbourne for the 1996 grand prix and the first on the Albert Park Circuit. Williams locked-out the front row in qualifying, but it was Martin Brundle who made the headlines with a spectacular crash after just three corners.
Martin Brundle's Jordan breaks in half in 1996
On Saturday we head back to Adelaide for the 1994 showdown between Williams' Damon Hill and Benetton's Michael Schumacher. Mansell started on pole in the second Williams, with Schumacher and Hill just behind in second and third.
Finally on Sunday, it is the 1990 Australian GP and tensions between Prost and newly crowned World Champion Senna were once again high after the pair had once again collided in the preceding Japanese GP - this time at the first corner, handing the title to the Brazilian. Senna lined-up on pole ahead of McLaren team-mate Gerhard Berger, with the Ferrari's of Mansell and Prost completing the second row.

Classic Australian Grands Prix on Sky Sports F1

Monday March 10
9pm - 1985 Australian GP
Tuesday March 11
9pm - 1986 Australian GP
Wednesday March 12
9pm - 1987 Australian GP
Thursday March 13
9pm - 1989 Australian GP
Friday March 14
9pm - 1996 Australian GP
Saturday March 15
9pm - 1994 Australian GP
Sunday March 16
9pm - 1990 Australian GP

Red Bull boss Christian Horner warns Mercedes may lap field in the Australian GP

Red Bull boss Christian Horner has predicted that Mercedes could win this weekend's season-opening Australian GP by two clear laps.
With the World Champions enduring a torrid winter after failing to extract either pace or reliability from the brittle RB10 and, in sharp contrast, the Mercedes W05 consistently impressing throughout pre-season testing, the Silver Arrows team have arrived in Melbourne as the clear favourites to prevail as the sport embarks on a slate-cleaning new era of turbo engines and ambitious energy recovery systems.
Horner's declaration midway through the first Bahrain test that Mercedes were favourites to prosper was dismissed by Lewis Hamilton's as F1's version of mind games, but Horner is adamant that the Brackley team could be driving in a different league to the rest of the field on race day this Sunday.
"You could see a higher level of domination than we had last year," he told The Daily Mail. "Looking at Mercedes' race simulation, it wouldn't be a surprise if they finished two laps ahead of everyone in Melbourne. They have a massive advantage. What we know about Lewis is that he is extremely talented and naturally fast. And he's in a good team, so he's probably got to be the favourite going into the season."
The RB10's winter woes provoked plenty of head scratching
While Hamilton has indeed been installed as the favourite for this year's Drivers' Championship, the prospect of the two W05 cars twice lapping the field in Australia seems remote - especially with rain forecast for Sunday's grand prix, which starts at 6am UK Time and is exclusively live on Sky Sports F1.
Instead, the solitary racing certainty appears to be that, after four years of domination and nine successive victories at the end of 2013, Red Bull will start the new campaign cut far adrift of the frontrunners.
The RB10 was a frustrating and perplexing model of unreliability during winter testing and while the team have denied they intend to launch a b-spec car, Horner has acknowledged that it could be months before the car - described at its birth as "the most complicated car in the history of F1" by the Red Bull chief - challenges for victories."We believe it is inherently a good car," Horner said to The Daily Telegraph. "I have every confidence in the team. There's no panic. There are engineering solutions and there is no better set of engineers in the pit lane. By the time we get to the European races in May, we should be OK."
Until then, however, points - rather than podiums and victories - may be the extent of the team's ambitions with Horner adamant that engine suppliers Renault are chiefly responsible for the car's uncompetitive state.
"Adrian [Newey] and his technical have done an excellent job. We had some cooling issues early on, but we've worked hard to address those. The main bit we need to get on top of is with our engine partner," Horner maintained.
"They [Renault] will catch up, they quite simply have to. We would hope by the time we arrive back in Europe that we're seeing significant improvements."
The iconic image of pre-season testing as Vettel pushes his broken-down car back into the Red Bull garage
Whether Sebastian Vettel's aspiration of a fifth successive title can survive a two-month barren spell at the start of 2014 remains to be seen, with the reigning World Champion bluntly admitting last week "we cannot do the times that the guys at the top of are doing but at the moment we have bigger problems to solve than just the pace."
After rounding off F1's era of V8 engines with a record-breaking run of nine consecutive victories, the likelihood is that Vettel will commence 2014 in the curious position of having little hope of winning on track but finally in a sufficiently lowly position to win over the critics who have refused to acknowledge his talent until he impresses in an uncompetitive car.
"Of course, this is an opportunity for him where he's going to be on the back foot in the first few races, but I'm sure he'll rise to that," mused Horner. "It's an opportunity."
That, though, is unlikely to be of consolation to Vettel if he finds himself being repeatedly lapped by the Mercedes cars on Sunday.

Sebastian Vettel up against it as F1 season starts

MELBOURNE: Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel has swept to four straight Formula One titles but a comprehensive shift in technical requirements threatens to leave him trailing when the season starts on Sunday. 

A disastrous pre-season has left even the upbeat Vettel fearing the worst at this week's Australian Grand Prix, after the decade's dominant driver was just 18th fastest over four days of testing in Bahrain. 

"First of all, just getting to the finish would be a success," the 26-year-old German grumbled to Servus TV. "If half the drivers fail to finish, then maybe we could take a few points." 

Chief among Red Bull's problems is the change from 2.4-litre V8 engines, whose distinctive high-pitched whine has been the soundtrack of Formula One, to turbo-charged 1.6-litre V6s. 

In another nod to eco-friendliness, cars are limited to 100 kilos (220 pounds, about 135 litres) of fuel per race, about two-thirds of the biggest loads carried previously. 

While all teams are grappling with the new rules, the overheating Red Bull has been one of the worst affected, logging just 1,705 kilometres (1,060 miles) in testing while Mercedes and Williams clocked nearly 5,000km. 

Lotus, which like Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Caterham have Renault engines, are also struggling badly, with one official saying they would need luck just to cross the finish line at Melbourne's Albert Park. 

But the predicament is more serious for Red Bull as it threatens to end their era of dominance and torpedo Vettel's bid to match Michael Schumacher by winning five titles in a row. 

Vettel was initially a fierce opponent of another innovation this year: the controversial decision, aimed at prolonging the title race, to award double points at the final race in Abu Dhabi. 

But double points -- introduced after Vettel cruised to his fourth consecutive title, with three races to go -- could come to the German's rescue if he gets off to a slow start this season. 

Mercedes's Lewis Hamilton and a resurgent Williams, who last won drivers' and constructors' championships in 1997, will hope to make the early running after a positive session in Bahrain. 

Felipe Massa, discarded by Ferrari, topped the aggregate timings for Williams, ahead of Hamilton and Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg, with Valtteri Bottas fourth in the second Williams. 

"I think we're as ready as we can be for Melbourne and I'm more fired up than ever," said Hamilton, the 2008 world champion, according to the official F1 website. 

"With all the changes within the sport and the hard work that's been going on within the team, I believe this can be our year to really show what we're capable of." 

McLaren, who have 20 drivers and constructors titles but failed to reach the podium last year, will expect a big improvement after part-owner Ron Dennis returned to a more hands-on role. 

McLaren, described by the bullish Dennis as Formula One's "Manchester United", also have a new driver with Danish rookie Kevin Magnussen partnering Jenson Button. 

But the most closely watched pairing will be Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen, after Ferrari took a gamble in bringing two strong-willed former world champions into the same garage. 

Sweden's Marcus Ericsson will make his debut with Caterham, while Russia's Daniil Kvyat is another rookie this year driving for Toro Rosso after Australian Daniel Ricciardo joined Vettel at Red Bull. 

The 19-race season will make a new stop in Russia's Sochi and will return to Austria, Red Bull's home country, for the first time in 11 years -- giving the champions even more incentive to fix their current problems. 

Away from the track, a bribery trial in Germany involving F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, 83, will be closely watched as speculation builds about the sport's future leadership. 

And enthusiasm over the new season will be mitigated by concerns over seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher, who remains in an induced coma following a skiing accident in late December.

F1 season kicks off with new engine and new rules

In keeping with its tradition, this year's Formula 1 season too begins in Melbourne on March 16, 2014 but with twist in both rules and the cars.

This time around the authorities have introduced more efficient compact 1.6-litre turbocharged hybrid engine (harvesting heat and kinetic energy) packed with high-tech energy recovery systems (ERS). F1 racing last saw turbo engines in 1988.

By the introduction of the new engines not only the boisterous roar of the F1 cars has been slightly subdued, their speed has also been curtailed. This 1.6-liter V6 turbo engine has low horsepower (drop nearly 150 bhp of power) than the previous version of 2.4-liter V8 engines.

However, the experts think that this loss can be made up by the Energy Recovery Systems, which generates energy under braking by using wasted heat from the engine's turbocharger. It is expected to give drivers double the amount of kick for five times as long.

"I've grown up with the 'old' sound, and I loved it. Some of the old cars that had the exhaust coming under the floor, the sound was just awesome - just from the TV," Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton said. "The V10 and V8 of the last few years, with their special roar, had goose-bumps potential. When you started the engine you had to cover your ears. That's history. F1 is moving on."

In addition to new engines, cars now have one centrally-positioned exhaust compared to the previous twin outlets. This change in the technology is likely to affect current champions Red Bulladversely. Also the units, as part of a 'green revolution' in the sport, has been made more fuel efficient, it will now consume 35 per cent less fuel than the previous engines. This year each car is to get 100kg of fuel to complete the race without refueling. Last year the cars needed 150-160kg to complete the race.

The rules now specify eight-speed fixed-ratio gearboxes, one more speed than 2013. Each gearbox must now last six consecutive races instead of five previously.

To reduce the number of rear punctures, the FIA panel has suggested narrowing down the front wings by 150mm to their earlier version. And there will be no longer a lower beam wing at the rear while the upper part will be smaller. The height of the chassis has also been lowered by 415 mm, mainly to minimize accidents and it also provides safety to the driver. Due to heavier power units, the car weights have increased to 691 kg from 642 kg. This will benefit the smaller and thinner drivers.

Who will have the edge?

With the new machines, Mercedes have emerged as frontrunners while other teams failed to make any impact during the pre-season testing. Most of the teams (including quadruple champion Red Bull) found struggling with the ERS, electrical units or starting trouble. Red Bull's winter testing started drastically in Jerez and ended in Bahrain in the same way.

Despite Red Bull's failure of making any impact during their pre-season testing, Lewis Hamilton, whose team Mercedes has performed very well in the winter testing in the terms of both mileage and speed, is not ready to undermine team Red Bull as he said that they (Red Bull) have the best car. They seem to have a stunning car. Once they sort out their problems, they will definitely be a frontrunner. Britain's 2008 world champion clocked the best time of 1:33.278s on the final day of the testing in Bahrain.

For records: 

If Vettel wins the first race of the season then he would move past Alberto Ascari (Italy) as the only driver to win 10 consecutive races. Last season he has equaled Ascari's record set over two seasons (1952 and 1953). The German, who has won four successive world titles, is also in the line to equal Michael Schumacher's run of five world championships on the bounce.

In the end Red Bull's Vettel sounds optimistic despite missing on the test mileage and said they are looking ahead and in Melbourne we would know how far away we are and how our situation really is.

Double points: 

With the introduction of double points, in the season's last race (Abu Dhabi), the winner under top-10 is to get 50 points instead of the usual 25. Experts say this new bonus point system to help in maintaining the interest till the last race.

Penalty points/Driver numbers: 

A driver is to be suspended for one race if he is awarded 12 penalty points in a calendar year. However they have been allowed to choose their racing numbers for their entire careers in the Formula 1. Previously their numbers changed according to the constructors' championship standings.

Teams and drivers:

S.No.TeamPrincipalTechnical Director/DesignerDriver 1Driver 2MachineEngine
1.Red Bull RacingChristian HornerAdrian NeweySebastian Vettel (GER)Daniel Ricciardo (Aus)Red Bull RB10Renault Energy
2.Mercedes AMG PetronasPaddy LoweBob BellLewis Hamilton (GBR)Nico Rosberg (GER)Mercedes F1 W05Mercedes PU106A
3.Scuderia FerrariStefano DomenicaliPat FryFernando Alonso (ESP)Kimi Raikkonen (FIN)Ferrari F14Ferrari 059/3
4.LotusGerard LopezNick ChesterRomain Grosjean (FRA)Pastor Maldonado (VEN)Lotus E22Renault Energy
5.McLaren MercedesEric BoullierTim GossJenson Button (GBR)Kevin Magnussen (DEN)McLaren MP4-29Mercedes PU106A
6.Sahara Force IndiaVijay MallyaAndrew GreenNico Hulkenberg (GER)Sergio Perez (MEX)Force India VJM07Mercedes PU106A
7.SauberMonisha KaltenbornEric GandelinAdrian Sutil (GER)Esteban Gutierrez (MEX)Sauber C33Ferrari 059/3
8.Scuderia Toro RossoFranz TostJames KeyJean-Eric Vergne (FRA)Daniil Kvyat (RUS)STR9Renault Energy
9.WilliamsFrank WilliamsPat SymondsFelipe Massa (BRA)Valtteri Bottas (FIN)Williams FW36Mercedes PU106A
10.MarussiaJohn BoothJohn McQuillamJules Bianchi (FRA)Max Chilton (GBR)MR03Ferrari 059/3
11.CaterhamCyrill AbiteboulMark SmithMarcus Ericsson (SWE)Kamui Kobayashi (JPN)Caterham CT05Renault Energy

Red Bull faces new problems - Vettel

Bahrain - Red Bull's pre-season problems showed little sign of easing in testing at Sakhir on Wednesday with four-times world champion Sebastian Vettel managing only 14 laps on the first day.
The Renault-powered team, which completed the same number of laps over four troublesome days in January’s first test in Jerez in southern Spain, said a mechanical issue sidelined the German at the Sakhir circuit.
“Obviously we're not happy with where we are now and we have a long way ahead of us,” Vettel said. “The first gut feeling from the car is OK but we need more running.
“It's not easy to find a quick fix but I think we understand the problems,” added the 26-year-old. “We sorted out the issues from Jerez and we were able to do some laps today.
“However, very often you fix one problem and another pops up - which is what happened.”
Formula One has a new 1.6-litre V6 turbocharged power unit with energy recovery systems this year, replacing the previous 2.4-litre V8, and Renault has had more problems than Mercedes and Ferrari in getting its teams up to speed.
IOL mot pic feb20 F1 Bahrain Hulkenberg
Nico Hulkenberg was fastest for Force India on day one of testing at Bahrain on Wednesday. Picture: Mark Thompson
Vettel said: “We all knew this year was a huge challenge and we knew it would be difficult. We obviously didn't want this but it is what it is and we are working flat out to solve the problems.”
Renault said ahead of the second four-day test of the year that it was making good progress on the faults that had plagued teams in Jerez.
Red Bull's race engineering co-ordinator Andy Damerum said there had been a big improvement since Spain but the team was playing catch-up with rivals.
He said the issue on Vettel's car was unrelated to the problems in Jerez.
Germany's Nico Hulkenberg was fastest on the first day for Force India after putting in 78 laps.
He was followed on the timesheets by Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, who did 64, and Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton with a healthy 74 under his belt.
Hamilton said: “It's been impressive to see us start the Bahrain test with good mileage and reliability especially when you see how difficult it is for everybody with the new regulations.”
McLaren's new Danish recruit Kevin Magnussen put in 81 laps and was fourth fastest.
Lotus showed off its new Renault-powered car with a twin prong nose but had teething problems after missing the first test; Romain Grosjean managed only eight laps.
Trackside operations director Alan Permane said: “It's no secret we're frustrated as we want to get laps on the board to understand our new car and all the different elements.
“There’s a lot of new technology in the power unit and certainly we had issues with the energy store unit today.”
Renault-powered Caterham fared better, with reserve driver Robin Frijns managing 68 laps.