Every half decade or so, the FIA institutes a complete reimaging of the “Formula” of Formula One. If you’re not familiar, the “Formula” is essentially the specifications that all cars must be designed around. The brilliance of the puzzle is that these regulations set a range of dimensions the cars must adhere to. The genius of the F1 engineers is that they can paint right to the edges of these lines (maybe occasionally over them) to achieve max performance. Some get it right. Others get it wrong. Here are seven designs that will be tested in Sundays Malaysian GP. --Adam Smude
The sublime: Williams FW36 This beauty harkens back to the glory days of F1. Pulled in low and tight with side pillars to drive the air under the car (where it’s needed to increase speed and handling) the FW36 looks like a chassis that will give the new Mercedes power pack a legitimate chance for the podium in just about every race this season.
The sublime: Redbull RB10 This is possibly the most pragmatic approach in the field. This car took the nose from last year, bolted on an elegant downward curve and an attachment that secures the wing, bringing the car in line with 2014 specs. Wags in the pits have their own opinions about how the Renault power train will work with the new chassis, but a lack of success in 2014 won’t be pinned on the nose of this clean design.
Ferrari F14-T & Mercedes W05
The sublime: Ferrari F14-T & Mercedes W05 Both of these cars took a similar approach, featuring a low slung, single piece of bodywork with an opening between the nose and the front wing. While the F14-T is lower and wider, the concept is similar. Drive the optimal amount of air under the car to make it fly down the straights and corner like it’s on rails. Odds makers have the Silver Arrows at the constructor to beat this season (Ferrari is third favorite). If one or both of these cars starts driving away from the field, we may see many of the manufacturers adopt a similar design philosophy when the season takes the teams back to European headquarters.
The Ridiculous: Lotus E22 This nose blows (pun intended) away the field in terms of originality. The E22 features a slightly longer right prong and a shorter left prong with a gap in the center. Such a departure is quite a risk. By the midway point in the season it’s likely that Lotus will need an orthodontist to close this gap and make the car look (and perform) more like the others in the field. Of course, there’s always the chance they’ve struck gold and all the other teams will scramble to slit their noses quicker than you can say “Blown diffuser.”
Force India VJM07
The Ridiculous: Force India VJM07 Force India’s offering looks like they ordered a nose cone from Amazon, didn’t like what they got and decided to stick the delivery box on the front of the car. It’s essentially an inelegant hollow square with a black rod to attach the front wing plate. The light-to-dark color scheme seems like it was meant to hide the unpolished design to no avail. Colin Chapman rolled over in his grave when this monster was unveiled.
The Ridiculous: Caterham CT05 Take a picture fellow F1 fans. This is the ugliest car that will ever take a spot (in the back) on the grid. As a lover of the series, I feel bad for these underfunded teams trying to claw their way into Formula 1. Generally I’m not inclined to take pot shots at the poor blokes. But my God….look at this thing. With a driver roster featuring sponsorship cash cow Kamui Kobyashi and the untested GP2 product Marcus Ericsson, there may be a number of tire barriers that need morning after pills in 2014.