After a generally successful revision of the sporting regulations last season, the 2004 Formula 1 world championship heralds the introduction of some revised technical regulations, as well as further changes to the race weekend schedule and the ...
After a generally successful revision of the sporting regulations last season, the 2004 Formula 1 world championship heralds the introduction of some revised technical regulations, as well as further changes to the race weekend schedule and the inclusion of brand new circuits on the calendar. This constant reassessment of the sport is designed to maintain F1's position as the pinnacle of motorsport, whilst providing fans with an even better spectacle and offering teams and drivers alike with fresh challenges throughout the year.
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.
"The changes to the engine regulations in 2004 are some of the biggest on the engine side for many years," says Technical Director Engine 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 enforce the abolition 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."
The introduction of two separate qualifying sessions and the impounding of cars in parc fermé following the grid-determining qualifying hour in 2003 inevitably led to some mixed up grids and more exciting races. As part of the ongoing rejuvenation of F1, the weekend schedule sees further modifications in 2004.
· Friday's free testing session, which was adopted by Minardi, Jordan, Jaguar and Renault, has been scrapped in favour of restricted testing for all teams during the season
· First qualifying, previously on Friday afternoon, will be moved back-to-back with second qualifying and will take place on Saturday afternoon as part of a bumper 90-minute qualifying.
· The Friday practice hour will be extended to two separate one-hour sessions. Teams from 5th to 10th (inclusive) in the championship will be permitted to run three cars
· Saturday morning free practice will remain as two separate 45-minute sessions
· Saturday afternoon will begin with first qualifying, when – as last year – each driver will complete one sole flying lap. The results of first qualifying will determine the running order for second qualifying, when drivers will go out for their second single lap in reverse order
· Second qualifying will take place shortly after first qualifying on Saturday afternoon and will determine the race grid. As in 2003, cars must qualify with the fuel load that they will start the race with
· Immediately after cars have completed their second qualifying lap, the drivers must proceed to parc fermé where the cars will be impounded until Sunday morning
Teams from 5th-10th inclusive in the 2003 World Championship will be allowed to run an optional third car on Fridays. As Panasonic Toyota Racing finished in 8th place last year, it will run a third car during these practice sessions in order to gather more data from the track to speed up the set-up process and aid Michelin tyre selection. This third car will be driven by Third Driver Ricardo Zonta.
"Ricardo performed exceptionally well at test sessions throughout 2003, so he will be a big asset to us in 2004 as the driver of our third car on Fridays," 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 Michelin tyre compound, so we have to make the most of running Ricardo in the third car."
Something Old, Something New
The F1 calendar has been increased from 16 to 18 races in 2004. Drivers' favourite Spa-Francorchamps is back on the calendar as the Belgian Grand Prix returns after a one-year break. Formula 1 also welcomes two new tracks to the championship with the Bahrain Grand Prix scheduled for April and the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai set for a September debut.
"At Toyota, we are all looking forward to visiting Bahrain and China in 2004," says Ange Pasquali, "and it is good for F1 to become even more global. We are quite used to adapting to new tracks, so it will be interesting to see how quickly we can get up to speed at circuits that are new for every team."
"Spa is an historic place and one of the more challenging circuits to race on," says Ove Andersson, "so I am pleased to see it back on the calendar next year. It is located just down the road from our factory in Cologne, so it is also beneficial to us logistically."