The 2014 F1 rulebook went through comprehensive regulation changes in the offseason. With this new set of regulations, the 2014 season may become unpredictable and could probably change the game.
Part of the new regulations is the introduction of the complex new turbocharged hybrid 'power units', the revised front and rear wing geometries, altered nose heights, and new laws on exhaust makes this year’s cars intrinsically different.
Aside from the new technical regulation, the rules on how the sport is conducted has undergone drastic changes. For this upcoming season, driver penalty points, permanent race numbers, and double points at the final race will be introduced.
The 2014 F1 season will welcome the Penalty Points system, which drivers may accumulate on their Super License as a result of race incidents and rule infringements, should the Race Stewards deem it necessary. If a driver accumulates 12 penalty points, his license will be suspended in the following event. After which, the 12 points will be removed from the license. Penalty points will remain on a driver’s Super License for a period of 12-month, then it will be removed on the 12-month anniversary of their imposition.
The controversial Double Points at the final race of the season is also part of the new regulation. Amid opposition from F1 drivers and fans, F1 Supremo Bernie Ecclestone says that 'it will happen for sure!' With the Double Points system, a victory in Abu Dhabi will be worth 50 points which should make the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix more exciting if there is a significant gap in points.
For the first time in F1, there will be a Pole Position Trophy, which will be awarded to the driver with most pole positions during the season. Also new this season is that teams will be allowed to have more than one driver per car during Friday practice sessions. Before, the driver nominated for the practice session would have to drive the whole season, but with the new regulation one or two of the Test and Reserve drivers could take the FP1 or FP2 before handing the car to one of the race drivers.
The rule covering the drivers leaving the track and gaining a perceived advantage has also been closely looked at.
F1 Drivers are now allowed to choose their own number which will remain with them for the duration of their F1 career. However, number one is still reserved for the champion if he wishes to use it. Subsequently, Sebastian Vettel opted to use number 1 but will go for number 5 if he doesn’t win this year’s season. On the other hand, Daniel Ricciardo chooses number 3.
In-season testing is also back this season. This season there will be four two-day in-session tests allowed - Bahrain's BIC (April), Spain's Circuit de Catalunya (May), Britain's Silverstone (July) and Abu Dhabi's Yas Marina (November).
A new regulation has been made regarding the Pit Stop Car Release wherein the FIA has tightened rules about cars release from pit stops. If a car is released in an unsafe condition during any practice session, the stewards may drop the driver to any number of grid positions they consider appropriate. On the other hand, if a car is released unsafely during a race, the driver will receive a 10-grid place penalty at the following race. Furthermore, if any car released in an unsafe condition is able to resume the race, a 10-second stop-go penalty will be imposed on the current race. Now, if an unsafe release of the car occurs within the last three laps of the race, the driver will receive a 30 seconds added time to his race. A penalty will also be imposed by the FIA on any driver who fails to stop when signalled to do so.
Drivers are now allowed to use only five of the six power units which can be moved between units should the need arise. Drivers will be able to use five of these six power units – the engine (ICE), the motor generator unit-kinetic (MGU-K), the motor generator unit-heat (MGU-H), the energy store (ES), turbocharger (TC) and control electronics (CE). A grid penalty will be imposed at the first event if a driver uses more than five of any elements.
For this upcoming F1 season, drivers are allowed to use gearboxes for six races as compared to five in the last seasons. Also one of the new regulations is that no car is permitted to use more than 100kg of fuel. Also, teams are given lesser time to test in wind tunnels and in CFD.
Felipe Massa and Nico Hulkenberg have both voiced their concerns about the upcoming season.
"There are so many changes for this year but everyone is in the same boat. Until we are in the car we don't know what we need to learn and what we don't. Things like how to feather the throttle with the big increase in torque, and how the new stronger ERS will affect driving. Aerodynamically the cars will have less downforce than 2013, especially in the first half the season. These are big changes which we need to understand as quickly as possible when we start testing," said Massa.
"Never before there has been a situation like this, when with just a couple of weeks before the first test nobody has any idea of where everyone is. It's a pretty unique situation for everyone. It's a challenge, an opportunity to do something special, but on the other hand it opens up the opportunity to do mistakes, so we will need to do our work well," added Hulkenberg.
Kimi Raikkonen, on the other hand, says "My feeling is that it's not going to be as different as people think, but I might be wrong. Hopefully we'll find out that it's pretty simple. For sure it is difficult for all the technical people to make a new engine, new gearbox, all this stuff, but as a driver it's not affecting the driving so much I don't think. We have new buttons and new things to follow, but let's wait and see. It'll be much easier to say after the first test."
Current World Champion Sebastian Vettel on the other hand hopes the new rules won’t split the cars too much so that it keeps the races interesting and make it a close battle between the teams.
Whatever the case may be, with the new regulations, 2014 F1 season will surely be unpredictable, hopefully in the most exciting way.