After a generally successful revision of the sporting regulations last season, the 2004 Formula One world championship heralds the introduction of several altered technical regulations that have made each team's designers think about their new car.

The constant reassessment of the sport is designed to maintain F1's position at the pinnacle of motorsport, whilst providing fans with an even better spectacle, and Toyota has embraced the changes with its latest creation - the TF104.

Although branded an evolution of the preceding TF103, rather than a revolutionary step forward, the new car features major changes over that which took Olivier Panis and Cristiano da Matta to point-scoring finishes in 2003.

The most notable changes to the technical regulations concern the engine. In 2004, teams may only use one engine per car per race weekend, putting an emphasis on engine durability and reliability, rather than solely on power output and driveability, and this has been taken into account when planning the latest V10.

"The changes to the engine regulations in 2004 are some of the biggest on the engine side for many years," says engine department technical director Luca Marmorini, "We have already been running the RVX-04 in the TF103B interim car since November, but we have more work to do in the run-up to the season to make sure the engine is as reliable and powerful as possible. Overall, these rules changes are good for F1 and I am looking forward to seeing how we get on."

In addition to the engine regulation changes, teams are also compelled to run with standard rear wings and larger engine covers, as well as rid their cars of launch control and fully automatic gearboxes.

"The new modifications to the technical rules affect the engine department much more than the chassis department," says executive vice-president Toshiro Kurusu, "but nevertheless we have had to produce a bigger engine cover, larger rear end plates and use only two elements in the rear wing rather than three. However, I do not believe that these changes to the chassis design will greatly affect the overall performance of the car."

As can be seen from the illustration above, the TF104 does not differ hugely over its predecessor, but there are key changes to its layout nonetheless.

The front wing and end-plate have been evolved from the TF103 (1), which also had big bargeboards until 2003 German GP (2) until they were replaced by double guide turning vanes. A similar idea is in place on the new car (3), combined with new horizontal fins in front of the side pods.

The pods themselves are shorter to improve aero efficiency (4), with the bodywork moved further away from the front axle. The TF104 also features a longer and thinner fuel tank (5), while keeping the same style exit for hot air introduced on TF103 at Silverstone 2003 (6).

Different winglet evolutions are fitted to the 2004 machine (7-8), following on from development work carried out on the TF103B intermediary car over the winter. However, to further improve aero efficiency and rear visibility, the exhaust chimneys have been moved backwards and inwards (9).

On the TF103, hot air was originally channelled out of the top of the bodywork in front of the rear tyres but, on the TF104, the shape at the back of the car is deeper to improve the airflow to the rear wing (10-11). Here, the end plates are 10cm bigger, with the wing profiles at the same overhang to the rear axle (50cm).

All mechanical components are reduced in size and weight, headed in example by the new seven-speed titanium casting gearbox.

Having launched earlier than most of its rivals, Toyota F1 will have ample chance to run and test the new car, but will also be helped by the fact that, as one of the bottom six teams in 2003, it will be allowed to use test and reserve driver Ricardo Zonta in a third on the Friday of each grand prix.

"Ricardo performed exceptionally well at test sessions throughout 2003, so he will be a big asset to us in 2004," explains team manager Ange Pasquali, "Fridays will be very useful for us in terms of setting up the car and making our vital choice of tyre compound, so we have to make the most of running Ricardo in the third car."

 

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