16 November 2013
United States Grand Prix: Reliability 'key' to early 2014
Leading technical heads agree that getting the next generation of F1 car working properly - and early - could decide the fate of the 2014 championship.
Ferrari's James Allison has pin-pointed early-season reliability as a potential deciding factor in the 2014 title race, as F1 adapts to its new technical package.
With just two races to go in the current V8 formula, the sport will soon be switching to the much-hyped V6 turbos that mark its next engine era, but, despite the teams having already diverted attention in that direction, all are wary that starting from scratch – and having only limited testing - will naturally have its drawbacks when it comes to ensuring reliability.
“As far as how next year will work out, I think that the size of the rule change means that there will be some unanticipated reshuffling of the pack in terms of where all the teams will find themselves in the pecking order,” Allison told journalists on day one of the USGP in Austin, “However, I think – notwithstanding the size of the changes –over the years, it's been fairly clear that the teams, although they're hundreds of people in different places, end up producing cars independent of one another that come together and are very competitive with one another. I would expect that to be true next year as well.
“I would also imagine, however, that the first half of next year is likely to be heavily affected by reliability. Next year's rule changes are big enough, just in terms of the configuration of the car, but they also place a much much higher burden of reliability on us as well.”
McLaren counterpart Sam Michael agreed, suggesting that the change in the rules was big enough to cause a shake-up.
“I think it's going to be a development war all the way through the season - and probably into the next year as well,” he commented, “It's such a big change, not just to the powertrain, but the aerodynamics too, and knowing that the slope that we currently have in the wind tunnel... when you have a slope so steep, then it normally means that you're far away from the optimum when you first make these type of changes.
“The powertrain is probably bigger in reality, and probably more visible, because you have such a brand new gearbox, brand new engine, completely new ERS system - and don't underestimate how developed these current powertrains are on all fronts, especially the engine, obviously, but also the gearbox. Those changes are significant as well.
“I'm sure you will see different levels of reliability, even though teams are much better now than what they used to be 10-15 years ago with dynos and simulations etc. You can't replicate almost a decade of powertrain mileage on the track across different teams, so I think that's going to be a big player in the next year - and potentially a bit longer.”
Lotus' Nick Chester is expecting to see several different solutions hitting the track in 2014 as the eleven teams attempt to find the best package for the new regulations.
“It's a bit hard to say how it's going to develop right from this point,” he noted, “The changes are so big - it's the biggest change in regulations that I've seen in 20 years in the sport - and there's going to be a lot of different solutions. It will be very interesting to see what everyone takes to the first race. There will be different solutions for aerodynamics and some cars will be better packaged than others.”
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