F1 2007 Preview: New rules at a glance

FIA Trailer 2006As is now customary, the sporting rules have had a shake-up ahead of the new season.

The changes range from the seismic (like engine homologation) to tiny acts of bureaucratic house-keeping, tidying up the loose ends from past instances when FIA President Max Mosley was let loose on the F1 sporting regulations.

They have also acted to prevent a repeat of Michael Schumacher’s parking stunt at Rascasse last year.

But one particular revision could have a drastic impact on certain races – the sweeping changes made to safety car procedure, barring the pit lane entry and allowing cars to unlap themselves could provide some interesting – or confusing – racing momenta this year.

Engine failures and homologation

Renault RS27, 2007From 2007 a driver will lose ten places on the grid for each engine change made prior to the race (excluding Friday practice). Previously, a driver making two engine changes would lose ten places, now they would lose twenty. This is to discourage drivers who have had to change an engine once from doing so again immediately before the race.

Between races engines will be fitted with seals to prevent them from being run.

Only engines homologated by the FIA by March 1st, 2007 may be used. Sporting regulations article 87

Pit lane closure under safety car conditions

Mercedes-Benz SLK 55 AMG Safety CarIn a safety car situation teams may not bring their cars into the pits until all the cars on the circuit are assembled behind the safety car and the stewards have declared the pit lane open. There will be a ten second penalty for drivers who transgress; any drivers already in the pits when the safety car is deployed will not be punished.

To prevent teams abusing this rule by having its cars refuse to join the queue behind the safety car and preventing drivers that urgently require a fuel stop from making one, another new rule states that cars being driven unnecessarily slowly or erratically will be reported to the stewards.

However the fact that the cars use much less fuel when running behind the safety car should keep them from running out of fuel while waiting for the pit lane to open. A similar rule has been used in Champ Car and other series, but expect some drivers to get caught out early in the season.

The penalties will not apply if a driver only stops to change to wet or extreme weather tyres and not take on any fuel.
Sporting regulations article 155

Cars un-lapping themselves under safety car conditions

Before the safety car is withdrawn a further signal, “Lapped cars may now overtake” will be given. At this point any cars that are one lap or further behind the leader that are between the cars that are on the lead lap may pass the other cars and the safety car and rejoin the back of the queue, getting a lap back.

It is not stated whether this may continue until cars that are two, three or more laps down are on the lead lap.

This rule marks a substantial departure from prior practice in F1 and moves it closer to American-style racing in using the safety car period as an opportunity to provoke more racing. It may also substantially disadvantage some unlucky drivers at the expense of others.

A similar procedure will also take place in the event of a race resuming from a stoppage (using the red flag rather than the safety car). Sporting regulations articles 155 and 163

Third cars must go; third drivers may stay

Sebastian Vettel, Alexander Wurz, Interlagos, 2006Last year teams that had finished outside the top four in the previous championship were permitted to run a third car during Friday testing at Grands Prix. The third cars are gone for 2007, but all teams are still allowed to use third drivers in place of their regular drivers.

Few teams are expected too, one notable exception is BMW who will run test driver Sebastian Vettel.On the occasions that they use Vettel one of their race drivers, Nick Heidfeld or Robert Kubica, will miss Friday practice – and valuable setup time. Sporting regulations article 58

Easier car identification

In addition to the teams ‘first’ driver having a fluorescent red T-bar camera for easier identification, ‘second’ drivers will now have a corresponding yellow T-bar camera. Sporting regulations article 60

All teams receive identical tyre specifications

Michelin have elected not to supply tyres from 2007 but the ‘one tyre supplier’ rule does not apply until 2008. To make competition fairer a new rule dictating that all teams must receive the same tyres has been added.

Unfortunately the proposed ruling to colour-code the sidewalls of each compound to allow spectators to easily see which specification a driver was using was not passed.

In 2006 Ferrari, Toyota, Williams and MidlandF1/Spyker and Super Aguri used Bridgestone tyres. Sporting regulations article 73

Reduced tyre allocations

Michael F1 tyres, 2005In each event each driver gets 14 sets of four dry weather tyres and four sets of four wet weather tyres. For first and second practice they can only use four sets maximum, and no more than two of each specification.

From the four specifications of tyre provided by Bridgestone throughout the season, only two will be available at each race. For first and second practice each team receives eight sets, for of each type (as above). These must all be returned after second practice.

The drivers receive ten sets of tyres (five of each specification) for the remainder of practice, qualifying and the race. One set of each specification must be returned before qualifying, leaving them with four sets of each for qualifying and the race.

During the race each driver must use at least one set of both specifications, unless they have used the wet or extreme-weather tyres as well. Sporting regulations articles 75 and 77

Pit lane speed limit

The pit lane speed limit will by 60kph (37mph) during free practice and raised to 80kph (50mph) during qualifying and the race. The increase in speed may make strategies involving more pit stops more favourable at certain tracks. Sporting regulations article 101

Driver penalties

The stewards can now dock drivers by any number of grid positions they choose if the drivers are found to have transgressed in practice or qualifying. This includes drivers who deliberately stop on the track or impede others. Sporting regulations articles 112 and 113

Stopping and/or extending practice or qualifying

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, Monte-Carlo, 2006In the event of the circuit being blocked the clerk of the course may stop the session. If a qualifying session is stopped the clerk may extend the session.

This rule and the latter provision appear to be a reaction to Michael Schumacher’s notorious attempt to block the qualifying session at last year’s Monaco Grand Prix. Sporting regulations articles 114 and 115

Friday practice

There will no be two 90-minute session on Friday from 10.00-11.30 and 14.00-15.30. Sporting regulations article 116

Post-qualifying parc ferme

Fernando Alonso, Giancarlo Fisichella, Shanghai, 2006Teams may also adjust the front and rear brake air ducts in parc ferme between qualifying sessions if the FIA technical delegate feels that changes in the weather make it necessary.

Teams can change parts without the prior approval of the delegate if there is no time to seek it and the change is done in the presence of the scrutineersSporting regulations articles 119

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3 comments on F1 2007 Preview: New rules at a glance

  1. How can one be sure that the tyres allocated to one team or another at any race event are really identical ? Can’t find anything in the sporting regulations about this matter.
    Thanks for your help

  2. I believe they all have unique barcodes or something similar which are scanned as the cars enter and exit the pits.

  3. This is correct, Keith. The FIA are also entitled to do any test they feel is necessary to check the tyres are compliant and agree with their barcodes. It is just that, apart from one easily-resolved incident in Friday practise in Turkey, nobody has broken the rules about tyre homogenity this year yet.

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