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Formula One cars won’t be pretty for 2014

Infiniti Red Bull Racing driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany drives the new RB10 Formula One car at the Circuito de Jerez on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014, in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain.

Miguel Angel Morenatti/AP Photo

If your favourite aquatic animal is either an elephant seal or a walrus, you're going to love the 2014 Formula One cars.

If you're not a fan of blubbery sea mammals, the new technical regulations will make 2014 the year of the ugly car. Several teams unveiled their 2014 challengers last week, and a few more unwrapped their new cars before hitting the track for testing, which begins today in Jerez, Spain.

A couple of trends emerged: the McLaren, Sauber, and Williams cars sported elephant seal-like noses, while the Lotus design features a front wing slung on dual tusks. Ferrari's car looks more like an elephant's forehead and a trunk starting halfway down the nose section.

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In general, the cars have larger sidepods with bigger air intakes, narrower engine covers, and noses that rise steeply from the front wing, which now must be inside the front wheels. The noses are all designed to encourage more air to go under the car, helping to mitigate the reduced downforce under the 2014 rules.

Unfortunately, Canadian fans hoping to get insight into all the changes on the TV broadcasts may be out of luck after BBC dropped former Jordan technical director Gary Anderson from its crew (TSN picks up the BBC feed), a move that will be covered in more detail below.

When the four-day test starts today, all the teams will be looking at their rivals to see who might have an early advantage.

Fans might recall the 2009 season where the newly minted Brawn GP arrived at the first test with a double diffuser design that stomped the rest of the field. Often in F1 car design, one team finds something new – or in Brawn's case, exploits a loophole in the rules – that gives it a massive leg up on its rivals.

Another question mark that might be addressed in Jerez is reliability, as the teams run their first laps with new 1.6-litre turbocharged engines and energy recovery units .

Who will be the early favourite in 2014 remains anyone's guess, but it may become clearer after the Jerez test is in the books. But one thing is certain: it likely won't be a pretty car.

F1 season begins March 16 in Australia

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Random Thoughts

The F1 pre-season's first test venue, the Circuito Permanente de Jerez, hosted seven grands prix between 1986 and 1997. The southwestern Spanish track, about 20 kilometres east of the Atlantic port of Cádiz, was the scene of Canada's only world championship triumph when Jacques Villeneuve took the title in the 1997 season-ending European Grand Prix.

The race was marred by a deliberate ramming of the Canadian's Williams-Renault by Ferrari's Michael Schumacher as Villeneuve tried to pass for the lead. The German turned in on Villeneuve as he came alongside on Lap 48, but the tactic failed miserably, with the Ferrari bouncing off and ending up beached in a gravel trap while the wounded Williams continued. Villeneuve finished the 69-lap race in third, enough to take the title by three points over Schumacher.

F1's governing Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile later disqualified Schumacher from the entire season as punishment for the incident.

Technically speaking

The fastest race lap at the Jerez Circuit was one minute, 24.513 seconds by Williams driver Riccardo Patrese in 1990. The quickest time in last year's testing at Jerez was Felipe Massa's lap of one minute 17.879 seconds in his 2013 Ferrari. The times this year will likely be much slower than Massa's effort last February, as several of the changes will affect the quickness of the 2014 cars.

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  • With the delaminating issues dogging Pirelli last year, the tire supplier will likely bring harder compounds to races in 2014 due to the additional torque generated by the turbo-charged V-6s.
  • The front wings required for 2014 will decrease downforce by as much as 10 per cent, and after being narrowed by at total of 15 cm, airflow will also be affected. More of the air passing over the wings will go straight back into the front tires, causing drag, which will have a follow-on effect on the airflow over the entire vehicle.
  • This may be accentuated when the wheels are turned to negotiate corners. The loss of an element in the rear wing will also reduce downforce at the back.
  • One of the biggest changes is the new exhaust position in the centre rear of the car above the gearbox, which will end the use of the hot gases from the engine, generally called “blown exhaust,” to create downforce.
  • The cars will also weigh an additional 50 kilograms compared to 2013. In the end, it is possible that the 2014 cars will be as many as five seconds slower than the last year.

By the Numbers

The technical changes for the 2014 season can only hurt the high-flying Red Bull squad, which has easily been the best at exploiting the rules in the past four seasons. Since the beginning of the 2010 season, Red Bull has put up some impressive stats on its way to four constructors' championships . In 77 grands prix in the past four years, the Red Bull duo of Vettel and Mark Webber put up 52 poles, 41 wins, and 85 podium finishes as well as 35 fastest laps, along with four driver's titles for Vettel in the same years. The team failed to hit double digits for poles and wins just once in those four seasons (2012) .

The Last Word

Bad news for Canadian F1 fans, who will no longer benefit from the technical brilliance and plain speaking of Gary Anderson on TSN's F1 broadcasts. The former Jordan technical director won't be returning to the pitlane for the BBC in 2014 and fans will certainly miss his ability to explain the complexities of F1 in easy-to-understand language.

It's an odd decision on BBC's part, considering fans will need someone on the broadcast who can explain the slew of technical changes and offer insight on how it will affect the performance and competition on track. And while former driver David Coulthard does pepper his commentary with some technical insight and the addition of former F1 driver and three-time 24 Hours of Le Mans champion Alan McNish will help, their knowledge is light years away from both Anderson's understanding of that side if the sport and his ability to put it in layman's terms.

24 Hours of Daytona

Toronto's Mark Wilkins and his teammates James Gue, Jon Bennett and Colin Braun won the Prototype Challenge class in the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona that ended Sunday. The No. 54 ORECA FLM09 started on pole but spun early and went a lap down on its rivals before coming back to take the chequered flag by more than a lap on the second-placed car in their class.

The race at Daytona International Speedway served as the debut of the 2014 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, which arose through the merger of the Grand American and American Le Mans Series. The No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette Daytona Prototype driven by Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi and Sebastien Bourdais was the overall winner. The 12 Hours of Sebring is next up at Florida's Sebring International Raceway on March 15.

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