The 2013 FF1M season is still going strong but with the signing period for 2014 drivers having just finished, and the series seeing another set of changes following an interesting 2013 – which saw the last year of the exponential testing benefits – I decided to earn my millions and write a piece to build up intrigue… interest in the next season! This is it.
An operating budget of 175 credits. A completely new engine manufacturer setup. Complete unknowns to both performance impact of each new engine technology and the benefit of heavy investments. Different engine testing procedures where engine manufacturers now have an extra two days of testing exclusively for their engines. How will attributed points interfere or contribute? How will the relationship between Customers and suppliers, with the massive budget benefit but a small reliability trade-off play out? Only one man knows – AJ. And he isn’t telling. Some may say it is too early to make season predictions without undergoing the 2014 winter testing but it’s not too early for an early look based on engine suppliers and driver line-ups. Plus my new Monaco penthouse will not pay itself. Will the gamble of being a manufacturer pay off, or will it be best to invest heavily on drivers? We shall see!
After fielding the best driver line-up of any team and making the most of their customer Ferrari engine, Tobias finds himself a bit desperate with 2014 developments. For the first time Tornado will also supply engines but with that comes great investment and the team was keen on being budget-conscious as they attempted to maximize their driver line-up while still allowing for their perennial strategy of maximizing aero points.
Having missed out on the top drivers and having no signing during the first two rounds, the team that previously complained about lowered driver costs will now struggle to maintain their form in 2014. Retaining Jean-Éric Vergne is a big boost for the team, and bringing Sebastien Buemi will provide a very solid partnership. Although not looking as dominant as in 2012 and 2013, the team will likely be fighting for third to fifth positions.
The ever-transient squad is maintaining its position as an engine supplier, going from a works team to full manufacturer. Possibly compromising their budget with the highest overall investment, such decision may either pan out in the form of more customers in 2015 or be a massive hinderance if it underperforms. The benefit of the doubt is on Gojira’s side as over the decades, they’ve consistently developed top FF1M engines and it is what their customers wagered on.
Looking to finally push into a serious contender, the team went big after Lewis Hamilton as they brought the 3-times FF1M champion “back home.” After years of not having the best drivers or best line-up, Gojira looks to be going for both drivers and constructors’ championship. Lewis Hamilton is an immediate early season contender and Kobayashi could be eyeing his maiden victory. If the team can adequately develop its car and engine, Gojira may finally regain their crown, and are expected to contend in the top three.
Regular top-5 performer Exolite will be starting the 2014 with a customer Ilmor engine. The team also was the center of rumors in the early rounds of driver signings as they did not negotiate with a single driver. The massive amount of credits available may have been a missed opportunity as even with some overspending, they would have had enough to maximize car development.
With a very late driver line-up announcement that saw Exolite sign both Gojira drivers, Kimi Raikkonen and Sergio Pérez. Exolite is losing out on their star driver Fernando Alonso but spending lavishly to make Kimi the highest paid driver on the grid. With the excessive amount spent on drivers and little left for the car, plus the unknown potential of the Ilmor engine (supplied by Willows Racing), Exolite could be looking to fight anywhere from fifth to tenth.
Shake n Bake
Another new engine manufacturer, Shake n Bake has the most peculiar approach to their engine with the least credits devoted to it. No one can anticipate whether it will be beneficial or if it will hinder them, but such allowed the team to fully focus on pursuing top drivers without worrying about customers.
Fielding a strong line-up of Vettel and Ricciardo, arguably the best duo on the field, Shake n Bake might find themselves as contenders on both constructors and drivers championships. Whether they do contend will come down to their success developing the car and engine, and reliability seems to be a perennial early season concern for the team. With the responsibility of developing their own engine, many on the grid are waiting the conclusion of round 1 in the 2014 championship to have a better idea. For now, we envision them being a strong contender somewhere in the first three spots.
Making the switch from being a works Renault supplier to a Megatron customer, Andrew is hoping to avoid the many issues plaguing his team during 2013 – with an underperforming and unreliable engine – by relying on Shake n Bake’s Megatron powerplant. This allowed Andrew to focus resources on ensuring the renewal of Robert Kubica and giving Felipe Massa another chance.
This customer season will be very interesting. How will Kubica fare in this new car? Will Megatron’s limited developing have any impact? One of the top drivers driving a car with a customer engine will be one to follow. Despite so many questions, having a reasonably strong driver line-up may give them the edge over some direct competition so for now we expect them to be somewhere around fourth to seventh.
The first Mugen (Gojira) customer in this list, Mitchell has invested heavily on renewing the services of Nico Hulkenberg and has maintained Jaime Alguersuari as their second driver. Having scored a decent amount of points despite their engine woes in the first half of 2013, including Hulkenberg’s first victory, Mitchell is counting on a solid driver line-up and the Mugen powerplant to contend for 2014.
As with Andrew Racing, this will be one of the customer teams to watch to compare their performance, not just to other customer teams but to themselves in 2013. Mitchell is also banking heavily on maximizing car development and for that, we’re putting Mitchell in the fourth to sixth positions.
Currently undergoing an underwhelming 2013 season after a lot of noise in winter testing, Willows will hope to rectify their mistakes. The Mercedes engine proved to be very unreliable and non-competitive, and main driver Nico Rosberg finds himself outside of the Top 10 – a big drop after finishing third in 2012.
The team is undeterred by their efforts and have struck a deal to manufacture the Ilmor engine starting in 2014. With the best driver pairing of the entire grid, Willows is sparing no expense to put themselves on the very best position to contend for both championships, as 2-time champion Fernando Alonso joins the team. There will be a lot of pressure from the drivers to have a strong car as well as Exolite to have a good engine. Given the unknowns and deferred car development, we expect Willows to be somewhere in the Top 5.
FJR (Francis James Rooney or Francisco Javier Racing)
FJR began 2013 with many hopes as a Works team and fielding Lewis Hamilton as their main driver but the FF1M racing gods have not been kind and the team finds itself underperforming and well behind on both drivers and constructors championships. Still bullish about their abilities, the team has become the Judd manufacturer and invested significantly for such, but without securing any customers – understandably so – their budget was heavily hindered.
Having no customers and reduced expectations has one upside. The squad will not have any pressure to deliver on performance as their sponsorship deal was unaffected by their results, and 2014 will allow them to calmly rebuild their team and work on their engine. Perhaps finding his back against the wall, Brickles tried to secure the services of Kevin Magnussen and consistent-performer Jenson Button – who is having another revival season – for a whopping 80 total credits. With their many challenges, FJR is expected to finish in the bottom 3.
Newcomer GRM had an impressive 2013 pre-season with Valteri Bottas but it all turned out to be Winter Wonderland when the actual season began, with the Mercedes engine proving to be very weak and the team’s line-up a bit lackluster for the amount of money spent. For 2014, GRM is looking to improve on that by signing a Mugen customer deal.
The main early factor that will hamper better results is the driver line-up. The team splashed the cash to sign rookie Carlos Sainz for an impressive 30 credits, and by retaining Valteri Bottas on the fifth highest salary of the grid! We foresee GRM competing somewhere in the bottom 5.
The Irish team is the sole Climax customer and will really be looking forward to changing their 2013 fortunes for the better. Taking Paul di Resta from GRM as their main signing, many expected a big announcement from Horizon but instead, the team announced they were retaining Adrian Sutil, leaving a lot of money unspent.
Due to that very unexpected development, we expect Horizon to struggle to push their Climax engine to its… peak. While the engine may be competitive and the team goes into 2014 with plenty of car development, the driver duo will not maximize the car under them and Horizon is expected to place somewhere in the bottom 4.
Lastly but not least, is the semi-super swede who is actually Danish. Enduring an abysmal 2013 season where points came in very early due to their BMW’s reliability, Pedersen is looking to turn it completely around for 2014. As a first order of business, the team moved from being a works team to being a Mugen customer, hoping the perennial engine developers (Gojira) produce another strong powerplant. As second order of business, Pedersen went after a top driver. After missing out on a big first round announcement, they made Romain Grosjean the second highest paid driver on the FF1M grid and paired him with Pastor Maldonado.
With a very strong driver and many points left for car development, Pedersen is looking to make a lot of noise and will be one of the customer teams to watch. There are a few unknowns but for now, we foresee the team fighting for a place in the Top 5.
There you have it. Now head over to Discord to post your thoughts!