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