Fans already have a pretty good — or maybe ugly — idea of how the
cars are going to look after a majority of the teams carried out
carefully controlled online reveals over the last few days.
There have been comparisons to anteaters, crab claws and dolphins as
teams unveiled a refreshingly different range of front end solutions
to new regulations dictated by safety to lower the noses.
Mercedes, Toro Rosso and Force India have carried out private
limited-mileage 'filming' days of their new cars to prepare them for
the Jerez test but nobody has so far seen or heard several on track
That moment, which will come on Tuesday morning as 10 of the 11
teams fire up their cars to exit the Jerez pit lane, has been
awaited with more eagerness and trepidation than the sport has seen
"I think every single person in Formula One is sitting on the edge
of the unknown," said 2009 world champion Jenson Button last week,
the McLaren driver's words echoed by Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen a day
"That's both exciting and unsettling in equal measure."
Formula One has ditched the screaming 2.4 liter V8 engines, with
their ear-splitting wail, and replaced them with a turbocharged 1.6
liter V6 with highly complex energy recovery systems.
The sport's commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone has repeatedly
expressed concern that fans who attend races to experience the sound
as well as the sights will be turned off by what they hear.
Tantalizing sound clips of individual engine noise from factory
testing have been released online but the real test will be when all
the cars are out on track. Only then will the orchestra of exhausts
Renault Sport F1 technical director Rob White is as curious as
anyone, having heard his company's engines only in computer
simulations and on the dynos, but equally confident it will be music
to the ears.
"The presence of a turbocharger and the systems that we use to
recover the energy and the exhaust will reduce the intensity of the
sound a little to what we've become accustomed to in
normally-aspirated engines," he told Reuters.
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"But there are things that are very similar. The gearbox
technology is similar, you'll have the same rapid shifts that we've
been accustomed to these past years," he added.
"So I think we're heading for a very unique sound that will be
different to the previous generation of V8s. Hopefully it will be a
sound that we'll find good to listen to."
Renault will have three of their four teams in action, with
unsettled Lotus the only ones deciding to skip what most see as a
crucial week in Jerez and one of just three pre-season tests.
Reliability remains the big concern, as with any new technology
being pushed to extremes, and drivers are also braced for the sound
of silence on Tuesday if cars break down and bring out the red
Christian Horner, principal of champions Red Bull, has warned that
reliability and fuel consumption could be so uncertain that only
half the field may reach the finish at the season-opener in
Australia in March.
Cars must now complete a race with 100kg of fuel, compared to around
150kg last year, and drivers are allocated only five engines for the
season rather than eight before.
Whereas last season was all about tyre durability, with Pirelli
coming in for considerable criticism after a spate of failures, 2014
threatens to put the engine manufacturers — Renault, Mercedes and
Ferrari — under an equally bright spotlight.
White conceded that could be the case: "The level of new technology
brings an immaturity which will generate perhaps some unpredictable
outcomes in the beginning," he said.
"It's a fine line between unpredictable outcomes that are generally
seen as being good for the sport and ones that are so chaotic they
are difficult to explain.
"I feel we will have some unpredictable outcomes that are good, and
there will be a period of rapid convergence."
(Editing by John O'Brien)
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