Mark Hughes Q&A: The sound and spectacle of 2014 as Formula 1 goes turbo
The Sky F1 commentary expert looks ahead to the 2014 season
By Mark Hughes. Last Updated: 10/03/14 11:01am
The Sky F1 commentary expert on how F1 is starting afresh in 2014 and what it may mean for the spectacle as the sport goes green...
How different is F1 going to look in 2014?
Mark Hughes: "Very different. It's going to sound very different. The racing is going to be very different too - particularly in the early stages when everybody is working it out, because there are an immense amount of variables.
"It's all going to be about the most efficient use of your fuel. You are limited to 100 kilos and a flow-fuel rate of 100 kilos per hour so it's going to be about how much electrical power you can generate because the more electrical power you can generate the less fuel the engine wants to use and the less fuel the engine wants to use the more turbo boost you can use. So there are three different elements to it.
"That's the new part but within that you're going to very much have the question of when do you use the power because there could be moments where it's advantageous to get track position to go into deficit, which happened previously with the fuel but it's much more complex when you have the variables of electric power and also the turbo as well."
The way this energy comes in, and the fact we're hearing these engines are going to be torquey, it's going to make the cars handle very differently as well, isn't it?
MH: "Very - there is going to be quite a bit less downforce and an awful lot more torque with the rear wheels. They are going to be driving them in higher ratios than the V8 engines, again multiplying the torque even more, so on a slippery surface they're going to be a handful. It's going to be quite interesting to watch.
"Another thing that's going to be interesting to watch, or hear especially, is the cars through the slow corners. There are going to be certain sections, like through chicanes maybe, where you're going to be accelerating using all of the electrical power and none of the engine. So you're going to hear the engine hardly at all at those points and yet the car will be accelerating very hard.
"There are going to be all sorts of different sounds coming with the wastegate, in the turbo while the V6 itself is going to make a very different noise. It's very different and nowhere near as loud, it's not as screamy because it's not revving as high. But I don't think fans will be disappointed with the quality of the noise."
Are we able to say how much the changes are going to slow the cars down?
MH: "From talking to engineers, they're estimating initially maybe three seconds a lap slower than what we were in 2013. But F1 being what it is I wouldn't think it will be three seconds by the end of the year, it will be a lot less than that."
And are the tyres going to be as critical as they have been in recent seasons?
MH: "As things stand at the moment, Pirelli are saying unless they can get more testing they are going to make a very hard, conservative, tough tyre. Should that be the case then the strategies as we know them based around tyre wear will more or less disappear. The strategies will be based more around fuel and energy usage and as the tyres will be hard, it will make the cars even more difficult as they've got less downforce, harder tyres and a lot more torque."
We had a lot of talk last year that the heavier drivers, such as Nico Hulkenberg, could have been squeezed out of the sport by these new regulations. Why are the heavier drivers being penalised?
MH: "They have increased the minimum weight limit by 43 kilos but the initial estimates for the increase in weight from the bigger electrical packs, the turbos, the cooling necessary, is in the region of 75 kilos. So you can no longer afford to have a driver that is beyond that because you can't get the car below the minimum weight limit, which you could in 2013.
"If you had a heavier driver it just meant you carried a little bit less ballast than a car with a lighter driver. But with the 2014 weight limit it actually means you're going to be over the limit so it will actually be costing you direct lap time rather than just less favourable placement of the ballast."
Of course somebody like Hulkenberg is as lean as they come, it's just he's taller than the rest...
MH: "Yes, it's not that he's fat - if you look at him he's like a rake! Nico hasn't been squeezed out but it's definitely been a factor in a lot of teams when they have been looking at driver choices. They are looking much more closely at weight and height."
It really could be an engine formula in 2014 couldn't it?
MH: "It will very much be an engine formula - especially at the beginning. They've taken a lot of power out of the aerodynamics and there is a lot more emphasis on how effectively and how efficiently you can use your various energy sources. That was the intention and that will happen."
Can we make a prediction on what the spectacle is going to be like?
MH: "I think initially the spectacle is going to be surprise results because reliability is probably going to be very poor at the first. You may well have a car that is not very fast but keeps going which is the winner of the race. So we might see a big jumble up of surprise results.
"Also, while you're not going to run out of fuel with these cars as they're too closely monitored for that, but you might find the pace drops off dramatically at the end of races - a lot more dramatically than before. So the closing stages of races are probably going to be very exciting."