The new-for-2014 Florida Winter Series is set to launch at Homestead Speedway in eleven days time; however this is one that looks at young drivers in a slightly different way.
Supported by the Ferrari Driver Academy (FDA), the series will run over four rounds at three circuits, but unlike conventional competitions, no points are on offer for the races and there is no title to be won.
Rather the Florida Winter Series appears to be geared toward educating drivers on aspects of engineering, as well as teaching them about the information collected and transcribed by data logging machines.
It does much to make the off track aspect of the Florida Winter Series one of the more interesting elements. Apart from the usual debriefs that occur over the case of a normal race meeting, drivers are to be assigned to specific engineers in order to tackle the mechanics of a racing car.
According to Luca Baldisserri, the director of the FDA, drivers are to “tackle all the difficult aspects of the job.” He continues: “We will ask them to support the mechanics as they work on assembling and dismantling their cars, thus increasing their practical mechanical knowledge.”
The practice of drivers knowing their car inside out is an element that was common in motorsport some decades ago when the likes of Graham Hill, Sir Jack Brabham and Bruce McLaren, et al mixed their astute engineering knowledge with their driving skills to great success.
For Baldisserri, this is element is key. “In between races there will be time not only to fine tune their physical preparation in pleasant weather, but also to work with the engineers on analysing the data and, no less important, to share their experiences with drivers from different backgrounds,” notes the former-Formula One strategist, before concluding, “It’s the best way to understand how what they do out on track can affect the work that goes on in the pits.”
The series will run fifteen Tatuus FA010 chassis, normally seen in Formula Abarth Italy and is powered by a 1.4 litre FIAT FPT414TF turbo engine, which will produce approximately 190hp. With potentially more than 800km of running time available per weekend, it will also act as a perfect way for drivers to brush off cobwebs prior to the proper season start in Europe and the US.
Naturally, all drivers currently in the Ferrari Driver Academy – Raffaele Marciello, Antonio Fuoco and Lance Stroll – will take part in the series. Other drives are to be taken up by FIA European F3 racers Ed Jones, Dennis van de Laar, Nicholas Latifi and Luis Sa Silva. Alex Bosak (Formula Renault Alps) and Leonardo Pulcini (Karting KF3) will also race the new single-seater category.
Along with the young contingent, “benchmark racers” will take part in one or more rounds. Jules Bianchi is to take a break from his duties with Marussia in effort to compete in one round, while IndyCar’s Simona de Silvestro will also make an appearance.
Due to its relatively mild climate during winter, it was decided that Florida would be venue to hold the brief series, beginning with a collective test at Homestead Speedway on January 22nd.
Thereafter the field will reconvene at Sebring for a round from 25th-27th of January, before setting off to Palm Beach International Raceway (3rd-5th February) and Homestead Speedway road course, where the series will play out its final two rounds (February 12th-14th and 17th-19th).