The 2014 Formula 1 season is finally here!

March 14th saw the start of the 2014 Formula 1 season with the new rules, new regulations and new drivers in place. With radical changes made to the powertrain, the design, the aerodynamics and so on, F-1 2014 promises to be an interesting one. FIA as usual has made life hell for all the teams with even more stringent rules, making these open roofed cars squeeze out every possible power out of their engines and lay them on to the tracks better than their rivals in the quest for the ultimate trophy of the “Champion of the World” title in the world’s most advanced racing series.
      1.       The lineup:
The lineup for this year’s F-1 is very interesting and the most hyped about move being Kimi the Ice Man moving to the Scarlett red Scuderia Ferrari.
      2.       The schedule for the year:
The Indian GP has been dropped for 2014 and this season will see the addition of the Russian GP. Moreover the Austrian GP (RedBull ring) sees a return this year.
      3.       The regulations: 2014 brings one of the biggest changes to F1 and regulation changes of this scale has never happened in the recent past. I will cover these regulations in 5 parts:
a.       Engine: The engine is now a 1.6 litre V6 turbo charged unit in all cars. This is a huge move from the naturally aspirated 2.4 litre V8 seen last season. The immediate impact will be on, well you guessed it right, POWER! The V6 will be able to pump out only 600bhp against the 750 odd bhp that the V8’s used to churn out. You might think that this is a serious downgrade and the cars will be slower. But hold on to that thought for a while as the new cars will develop an equal of 760 horses when it lays the power on the road and this magic is done by the upgraded KERS.
b.      KERS:Kinetic Energy Recovery System made inroads to F1 in the 2009 season and didn’t have much fan following due to the high level of complexity in terms of car dynamics and electricals in the car. However KERS was a system that generated power out of waste! So FIA decided to make it mandatory this season and now the unit is called the ERS. Unlike the previous KERS – which gave drivers an extra 80bhp for just over six seconds per lap – the 2014 ERS gives drivers around 160bhp for approximately 33 seconds per lap. This means that the system will generate a huge surge of torque and acceleration in an instant and for longer duration than the KERS. The ERS primarily uses the waste heat from braking to drive an alternator to generate the power. However with Great power comes great responsibility so the FIA has allowed teams to now use Electronic rear brake control system.
c.       Design and Aerodynamics: To compensate for all this additional weight, the minimum weight has been increased from 642 Kg to 691 Kg in 2014. Moreover you will see all the cars getting a nose job done for safety reasons with the maximum height of the nose dropped from 550mm in 2013 to 365 mm. So the cars this season will have a lower front nose and also a narrower front wing as the FIA has reduced the wing from 1800mm to 1650mm this season. Moving to the rear, the twin tail pipe will be history and all teams will have to use single tail pipe which must be mandatorily angled upwards to prevent the aerodynamic advantage that a few teams used by using air blown diffusers. Along with this no body work can be placed behind the tail pipe. The rear wing’s lower beam has been removed and the main shaft has become slightly shallower. What is interesting is that with these changes the cars will matter lesser and driver-skills will be of more importance to lead the pack
d.      Fuel : FIA wants every team to extract the maximum efficiency out of the car and in this effort the ruling body has now put a 220 pound (100Kg) cap per car. This is the maximum amount of fuel that can be used per team per car. Usually, teams use about 150-160 Kgs of fuel depending on conditions. Now the teams will really have to balance the cars between performance and efficiency.
e.      Point system: F1 has always been a predictable sport and rarely are there seasons wherein the championship went to the wire. To create more excitement and public interest towards the end of the season FIA has decided to award double number of championship points in the last race. This will be for the driver’s as well as the constructer’s championship. So the Abu Dhabi GP is going to see some interesting racing drama if no team dominates the points table
      4.       Some other changes: Drivers now get to choose their car numbers. This number will remain permanent for thr entire duration of their careers. Drivers can choose from 2-99 and No:1 being the sole right of the previous year champion. However Vettel has chosen to go with No:5 and leave No:1. So there will be no No:1 car this season! FIA has also introduced a pole position trophy to be given to the driver with the most number of pole positions.
To conclude, 2014 looks to be a really exciting season where the championship depends on driver skills more than the car dynamics or performance. This is interesting because now the smaller teams who don’t have deep pockets will not be a back marker but will throw some serious challenge to the front runners. Hopefully we will see some very competitive racing from a sport that has always been the pinnacle of technology and perfection. Can the 4-time world Champion take the coveted World Champion title again or will someone in a Scarlet red car snatch it; well only time can tell!
Enjoy the season, drive safe and remember always wear your seatbelt!!!!

(Profile:  Manu Sasidharan. Am a hardcore petrol head, an auto enthusiast and an amateur designer. I have been in close touch with the industry for a long time and am abreast with the action in the automotive sphere. Driving is my passion and combined with a love for travelling makes me a nomad by nature. On the education front, I have done my Engg in Electrical and Electronics from Cochin university and my Management studies from Symbiosis Pune.)

Indian Two Wheeler Sales Figures – Feb 2014

Domestic Offtake Figure
India rides on 2 wheels and this is supported by the fact that the world’s largest 2 wheeler market continues to post a growth of 10% amongst the downturn. With 7 auto majors fighting it out for a bigger share of the pie, the competition is all set to get hotter. The recently concluded Auto Expo 2014 was abuzz with a slew of new launches lined up to excite the ever demanding Indian consumer. 2014 is surely bound to be a defining year for the Indian 2 wheeler industry.
Mahindra 2 Wheelers make a very strong comeback by riding on the success of its flagship Centuro and posts a 207% growth YoY. Yes! Yamaha does it right again in Feb’14 and has a 32.5% growth. Also HMSI grows leaps and bounds consistently and does a 43.8% growth. We’ll not be surprised to see HMSI with its aggressive approach for the subcontinent challenges the numero uno position off Hero Moto Corp in coming time!

1. Hero Moto Corp: Mr. Anil Dua, Sr. Vice President (Marketing & Sales), HMCL, said “We have been consistently selling over five lakh units every month, and this is clearly indicative of the inherent market demand that exists for our products.” The world’s largest 2 wheeler OEM has posted a flat growth of 0.6% this month. Hero has showcased the upgrades for Passion, Xtreme, Karizma and ZMR. Along with this the 125cc scooter and the soon to be launched HX250R is expected to stir up the competition in the expanding scooter segment.
        2. Honda Motorcycles and Scooters India: HMSI changed the Indian mindset by offering the Activa and it still continues to have a strong hold in the ever increasing scooter segment. This has a strong contribution in the 43.8% growth that the Gurgaon based OEM has posted. The Motorcycle division contributed 1,52,487 units (compared to 108533 in Feb’13) and the scooter division contributed 1,76,034 units (compared to 119911 in Feb’13). The auto expo saw the launch of the Activa 125 scooter. Along with this HMSI displayed the CBR650R and the CBR500R both of which will make inroads to India. HMSI seems to be slowly bringing its performance motorcycles courtesy its Japanese based mother company.
3. Bajaj Auto: Bajaj Auto continues to struggle in the Indian market by posting a 6% degrowth for the third consecutive month. However Bajaj has seen a 5% increase in exports this month with 1,42,009 units (against 1,35,149 units in Feb’13). Interestingly, a company whose foundations were built on the scooter segment is still not looking to capture the ever increasing scooter segment in India. The auto expo also highlighted Bajaj’s clear intention to stay as a motorcycle company by showcasing the interesting looking CS400 and the SS400 bikes. Along with this the news of the Pulsar 200SS and the KTM RC390 and KTM RC200 expected to be launched this year the Pune based OEM is expected to take Indian Motorcycling to the next level and post positive figures. However, it will be interesting to note how long Mr. Rajiv Bajaj will stay back from exploring his options in the scooter segment- only time can tell!
4. TVS Motors: The Chennai based manufacturer has seen a growth of 5.9% with the major contribution coming from the scooter segment. With Scooty continuing to rule the sub 100cc market and the Wego giving tough competition to Activas and Dios, we can see some good fight in this segment. With its new launch of the Jupiter and a refresh on the Wego and the 100cc Scooty Zest lined up for launch, TVS is all set to fight hard! The auto expo saw the OEM flex its muscles in the performance segment with the 300cc sports version of the Apache and the 250cc Draken-X21 concept with killer looks. The Graphite-an automatic scooter with paddle shift tech also made its way to the stand highlighting the manufacturers increased focus in the scooter segment.

5. Yamaha:Yamaha posted a healthy 32% growth this year and the major contributors were the performance segment and the scooter segment (Ray). The company has seen returns from its investment in the Ray and the market has accepted the scooter well. Sources have said that YMI is working on a 150cc version of the Ray. The OEM has already launched the 110cc Alfa. Yamaha has always been giving a stiff competition to the king of performance segment- the Pulsar with its FZ series and R-15 and the Fazer. With the R-25 a 250cc performance bike debuting internationally, we can expect Yamaha to bring it to India to heat up the competition.

6. Suzuki:Suzuki has a rather dull year with the company posting a de growth this year. Suzuki had a strong hold in the scooter market with the Access 125. However with no refresh and a relatively dull looks, am afraid the competition has got the better of the OEM. Even in the motorcycle division, the company had no products to pull the crowd. They had to use the Hayabusa and intruder to pull some enquiries to the showroom. The auto expo saw the launch of a brand new scooter- Lets 110 and the 150cc Gixxer which had some good muscular looks. It also launched a high end motorcycle Inazuma and the V-storm with a steep 15 lakh price tag.

7. Mahindra 2 wheelers: After struggling for so long with the 2 wheeler segment MTWL seems have got it right finally. With the Centuro getting some good response from the market for its attractive and very innovative features never seen in Indian motorcycles. The Centuro has also won a slew of awards which further highlights the prowess of the bike. Another major aspect is that MTWL has increased its dealer network which has increased the number of touch points aiding to increase in sales. The Mumbai based manufacturer also took the covers off its 300cc Mojo Motorcycle during the auto expo. With the company pointed in the right direction we can see some “innovative” bikes from their stable in the days to come.

(Profile of the Author:  Manu Sasidharan – Am a hardcore petrol head, an auto enthusiast and an amateur designer. I have been in close touch with the industry for a long time and am abreast with the action in the automotive sphere. Driving is my passion and combined with a love for travelling makes me a nomad by nature. On the education front, I have done my Engg in Electical and Electronics from Cochin University and my Management studies from Symbiosis Pune.)

Indian Car Sales Figures – February 2014

February 2014 Sales Figures – Pan India
·         Feb’14 (being a valentine month) saw some love flowing in from the finance minister towards the automobile industry and the Excise Duty Cut was announced during the Interim Budget. It surely was a breather to the industry and is an extremely positive sign for the average car buyer as well. However, the offtake figures had some other story to be told. March’13 remains a crucial month for the industry and has a lot at stake – we believe the month to show strong growth.  

·         Maruti showed strong sign of recovery and posted offtake of 99758 v/s 97955 units in Feb’13. The slight growth of 1.8% was accentuated by the new kid in the block – Celerio which contributed valuable 7323 units to the kitty. Swift and Dzire continued their momentum and doesn’t show any signal of stepping down below 18k figures respectively. Omni & Alto wonderfully did their job and posted 6733 & 24623 units respectively.

·         Hyundai had flat growth in Feb’14 v/s Feb’13. While Grand i10 impresses again with over 10k offtake, i10 & i20 have seen decline which questions the performance sustainability of these two brands in long run. Santro boldly shows its value and does a stupendous 4002 units (v/s i10’s 4041 units!). Verna gets repeated nightmares with the Honda competitor spoiling its party. It is over 4 months that Verna has touched 4k units and it seems that it’ll never touch it again!

·         Honda undoubtedly has ‘the best time of its life!’. Both Amaze & City are delivering success month-on-month and with no surprise Honda opens its next manufacturing unit in Tapukara, Rajasthan which will double the production capacity of the Japanese auto giant in India. Honda’s first ever diesel offering in India, Amaze, is the first car to roll out from the new plant. With the new plant in function, Honda Cars India will be able ramp up the production capacity to 2,40,000 units/year from the existing 1,20,000 units/year which the company’s manufacturing facility in Greater Noida in Uttar Pradesh is capable of. All waiting for the new Jazz & Mobilio to join the party!

·         Happy to see Ford renewing focus on Figo. The capable hatchback does over 3k units after 4 months! The brand had just lost way post launch of Ecosport and all dealers were busy in ‘selling’ only Ecosport. The new ad campaign for Figo was also announced in Feb. However, the product portfolio of Ford remains a gamble (with only Figo & Ecosport available to run the show)

·         Tata sees some traction in Nano with the launch of Twist and has the best offtake in past 15 months! Indica & Indigo still giving a strong fight for survival. Aria surprisingly crosses the 50 mark – again.

·         Fiat back to its average run – Punto posts ~ 1k offtake and Linea has 420 units offtake (is the new linea shipped to the dealers in the lot?).

·         SUV’s – The baap of all SUV’s Scorpio proves its mettle again and has a stupendous offtake of 4503 units (can we thank the finance minister yet?). Bolero touches the 9k mark and continues its dominance. Duster now seems to stabilize at 3k figure (but don’t forget the numerous ads mentioning the ‘Unstoppable Indian’ to push the brand). Terrano fails to impress – does less than half of Duster. 

A look at the top 20 cars of the month –