5 December 2013
Kate Walker: No surprises after WMSC confirms 2014 F1 calendar
Kate Walker: There are obvious problems inherent in a 22-race calendar, from the expense of additional races and travel costs to logistical headaches and the need to rota in new staff. But 2014 would have presented its own unique problem had all 22 grands prix been ratified by the World Motor Sport Council...
Used to keeping her eye on the behind the scenes wheeling and dealing that makes F1 a political melodrama, here columnist Kate Walker explains why a 22-race calendar in 2014 was never going to happen - and how the new turbo engines made it virtually impossible...
Because no one really expected September's draft calendar to bear fruit, with 22 races including the logistically impossible triple-header of Monaco, New Jersey, and Montreal, the official 2014 Formula One calendar comes as little surprise.
Korea, New Jersey, and Mexico were all unlikely to make the final version, thanks to problems in negotiations with the commercial rights holder, issues with funding, and significant construction work needed, in that order. But had all been hunky-dory, it would still have been necessary to cut at least two events from the September draft.
There are obvious problems inherent in a 22-race calendar, from the expense of additional races and travel costs to logistical headaches and the need to rota in new staff. But 2014 would have presented its own unique problem had all 22 grands prix been ratified by the World Motor Sport Council.
One of the less often discussed elements of the 2014 engine regulation changes is the significant drop in number of power units available to the teams without penalty - a nearly 50 percent drop from eight per season to five. And this at a time when the new engines - largely untested on track and pushing the envelope with new technologies - are likely to be unreliable.
Running five engines across 19 races while also coming to terms with how best to maximise this new technology, how far it can be pushed within the rules to create or maximise an advantage, is already a serious challenge. The 2014 turbo engine is all about getting maximum power out of efficiency, with limited fuel and all manner of energy recovery systems, but it is also about performance and endurance, hence the drop to five units per driver, or one for every four races.
Extending the calendar to 22 races would have required either a change to the maximum number of units allocated, or for the engineers to extract more durability out of the already expensive engines without compromising on performance.
Engine component longevity is going to have a significant role to play next season, with hefty penalties for premature changes, both to the unit as a whole and to individual components such as the turbo or the ERS-K. Should a driver need a component changed before the engine has reached the end of its rulebook-mandated life, he will incur a ten-place grid penalty. Should the whole unit need changing, he will start that race from the pit lane.
Given the limited on-track testing and the fact that - however good off the blocks - the 2014 engine is not going to be as bulletproof as the V8s were, it should not be too long before engine-related penalties start having an effect on the championship standings.
Kate Walker is the editor of GP Week magazine and a freelance contributor to Crash.net. A member of the F1 travelling circus since 2010, she keeps an eye on the behind the scenes wheeling and dealing that makes Formula One a political melodrama.
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