F1 2009: New rules at a glance

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

This year's cars are radically different inside and out
This year's cars are radically different inside and out

The 2009 season sees the introduction of the most radical new rules to hit F1 in a generation.

Here’s a quick guide to the major changes in the sporting and technical rules, including some potentially significant tweaks which haven’t had much attention.


Drivers can only use eight engines during the (17-race) season. If they have to use a ninth engine they will have a ten-pace grid penalty at the first race where they use it, and further similar penalties will follow if additional engines are used.

The pit lane speed limit in qualifying and the race has been raised from 80kph (49.7mph) to 100kph (62.1mph).

All teams must declare the starting weights of their cars within two hours of qualifying finishing.

If a race starts behind the safety car, drivers must start the race on wet weather tyres.

The rules on what a team can do to a car which is starting the race from the pit lane have been changed ?ǣ teams can now make changes to ??improve driver comfort?? and the driver may do a reconnaissance lap.

The rule preventing drivers from being able to pit during a safety car until permitted to do so has been scrapped.

The FIA will now appoint three stewards per race (instead of two), one of which will not have a vote. It may also appoint an advisor as it did in 2008 (Alan Donnelly).

The teams cannot do more than 15,000km of testing and may not test between the first race of the season and the last day of the year. There are two major exceptions: teams can do up to eight days of straight-line aerodynamics testing, and after the last race of the season they have three days in which they may test young drivers.

NB. Distribution of points remains the same as in 2008 (10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1) despite the FIA?s recent attempt to introduce a system where the driver with the most wins would become world champion.


Grooved tyres have been replaced by slicks. The tyres known as ??standard wets? last year are now called ??intermediates? and ??extreme wets? are called ??wets?. At each race the softer of the two dry compounds available and the wet weather tyres will be marked with green rings.

Teams may use Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS) but it is not compulsory and they may run KERS and non-KERS cars at different races. KERS may give them a power boost of up to 400 kilojoules per lap which roughly equals 82bhp for 6.6 seconds, though the power could be used in different ways. If a driver abandons their cars its KERS must be switched off. KERS may be charged before the start of the race.

Engines may not exceed 18,000rpm (reduced from 19,000).

The cars? front wings may be adjusted while the car is moving a maximum of twice per lap by a maximum of six degrees.

There are new restrictions on the aerodynamic shape of the cars: front wings may now be wider, rear wings are narrower and taller, and many of the winglets and flip-ups that used to be on the cars have been banned. Diffusers are more tightly limited in size and shape.

The cars must now have four onboard camera housings instead of two, so hopefully we should see more interested TV pictures this year!

How do you think the new rules for 2009 will affect the competition? Will cars be able to follow each other more closely? Will KERS cause more retirements? Have your say in the comments.

More on the 2009 F1 rules

F1 2009 season

66 comments on “F1 2009: New rules at a glance”

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  1. There’s a potentially significant convergence of two of the rules here: front wings are larger and now more susceptible to being knocked off. But because they are adjustable the point where they connect to the car has become more complicated, potentially making front wing changes take longer. Drivers will have to be very careful in wheel-to-wheel racing, especially on the first lap…

  2. 100km/h sounds a bit pedestrian when compared to pre-1994 Imola pitlane speeds. Then the pit lane was considered part of the race track, and the drivers were able to drive as fast as they could.

  3. Three stewards, but one without a vote.
    What will his function be then?

  4. I remember in the 90s the speed limit in the pits during the race was 110km/h.
    So 100km/h is nothing special.

    Somebody asked how much time will the drivers gain with the increase of pitlane speed from 80 to 100km/h.

    Assuming that the cars spend 25-30sec in the pitlane, approximately 12 of which account for the service itself (together with braking into the box and accelarating out of it), the 13-18 seconds they used to spend on travelling with 80km/h, with the increase of speed to 100km/h will be shortened by 20% – which means a 2.6sec – 3.6sec gain.

  5. Richard Merk
    22nd March 2009, 16:21

    Teams may use Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS) but it is not compulsory and they may run KERS and non-KERS cars at different races.

    I was worried that the non-KERS cars would be significantly at a disadvantage, but if this means that they don’t have to run the KERS system at all the weight savings could mean quicker lap times.

    I’m interested to see how KERS will impact the Monaco GP. A car equipped with KERS getting the extra power out of Portier and into the tunnel can create more passing opportunities into the chicane.

    All teams must declare the starting weights of their cars within two hours of qualifying finishing.

    Now we will know their weight, but how about if they are running KERS? A light fueled car equipped with KERS can look like a heavily fueled care without KERS. How much does the KERS system weigh anyway? Anyone know roughly?

  6. Damon, if race is decided to be started under safety car conditions, how could it be a dry weather?

    Don’t I remember a GP where there were two or three starting incidents (crash, stalled cars etc) and the race was started behind the safety car even though it was dry . . .
    Something says to me Austrian GP, but I can’t be sure. Have I got it all wrong?

    1. No I don’t think they’ve ever started a race behind the safety car in the dry. Re-started, yes, but not started.

    2. I think you’re referring to the 1987 Austrian GP which was restarted twice (so three starts in total) because of accidents on the first lap – but the safety car wasn’t used.

      The race was stopped the first time after Martin Brundle lost control of his Zakspeed on the run down to the first corner and the Tyrrells got caught up. At the restart Nigel Mansell made a very slow start from the front row and the rest of the grid was bunched up behind him, causing another accident which blocked the track. On the third start, Ayrton Senna stalled but was push started away so the race was able to continue.

      I can’t remember the safety car being used regularly before 1993. It was first used at the 1973 Canadian GP but was a total farce after the safety car picked up the wrong driver. Peter Revson, driving a McLaren, was credited with the win but there are some who have argued that it should have been Howden Ganley in an Iso Marlboro (a Williams by another name).

  7. @ Hounslow
    Yup, I remember exactly the same thing. There were plenty of retirements, and to avoid further ones they re-started the race with a safety car.

    Re-started, yes, but not started

    Oh, you’re right indeed.

  8. Thanks for the post Keith! Very clear and concise.
    Question; Will KERS be available in Qualifying?
    and regarding @theRoswellite

    It would be interesting to know exactly how many DIFFERENT kinds of control imputs a driver can affect, e.g., steering, braking, gear change. What ever the number, it looks like we have two more…KERS and the front wing.

    Do you think BMW Sauber will be using the BMW iDrive system? HA HA! (sorry couldn’t resist that one)

    1. Do you think BMW Sauber will be using the BMW iDrive system? HA HA!

      Drove a 5 Series with that the other day, very classy. But I digress…

      I’ve not seen anything in the rules about them not being allowed to use KERS in qualifying (or practice, for that matter), so no reason to assume they wouldn’t be.

  9. Tim, thank you. Your memory is infinitely better than mine!

  10. Keith,

    Let me just say what a terrific recap this is. I was looking for one the other day for our Preview show tonight and you have done a mans job Sir! Of course I have come to expect no less from you..a pro in every sense of the word. Cheers mate.

  11. A lot of you people are confused about KERS. Here’s clarifications:

    – KERS cars weigh as much as cars without KERS.

    – The difference is that without KERS, engineers have more ballast weights to place (as none is taken up by KERS) which can balance the car better.

    – So the difference is that KERS cars might have slightly worse balance (center of gravity + front/rear balance) but get more power for about 6 seconds each lap.

    – KERS will probably be used in the same way by all the teams every lap, meaning probably when coming onto some long straight where top speed is important. Kind of lame actually. It would be cooler if it was limited to X amount of times each race.

    – KERS won’t make any difference at starts because of a lack of traction. Cars can’t even use their normal max power going so slow. They spin their rear wheels even in the mid gears. They need higher speeds with downforce and get in a higher gear (higher gear = torque multiplication = less strong pull) to be able to use max power.

    I wonder how they will ‘pre charge’ the Williams vacuum enclosed carbon disc up to a few hundred thousand RPMs.

    1. Should probably add that a car with KERS won’t have a higher top speed than a non-KERS car. They’ll just accelerate faster (in theory) but will still have their top speed limited by the Rev Limiter…

    2. @Adrian:
      I wasn’t aware of that… in my comprehension top speed depended on a balance of aerodynamic drag and power, so there should be a top speed gain by KERS.

      On the other hand: The gear ratio might have to be adjusted to avoid hitting the rev limiter. So there would be a acceleration disadvantage for the parts of the track where you don’t use KERS…

      Maybe I’m wrong, just my 2 cents…

      @Keith: Thanks for the interesting summary.

  12. Tim: I think you’re referring to the 1987 Austrian GP which was restarted twice

    No, I remember somehing newer. It must’ve been somewhere in the years 1998-2002.
    Perhaps was it at Monza, with the old first shicane being responsible for so much trouble at the start?

    1. Nothing that I can remember in those years. Races tend not to be stopped much in recent years – even at Monza in 2000, where a marshall was killed after several cars collided at the second chicane, the race wasn’t stopped.

  13. If the front wing was adjustable all the time then all the teams and drivers would lower downforce between the corners to get less drag and higher speed. Really messy and hard to juggle while also driving at the same time.

    The adjustable wing will probably be lowered on the main straight by all the teams I imagine, at the same time they use the KERS each lap. Then when braking from it, they flip it back to normal setting.

    The real idea behind adjustable wing was probably in use for certain overtaking (less drag on straight = higher speed. Or when following very close, get some extra downforce).

    Either way the aero changes already allow them to follow much closer than before.

    With all the technical stuff now, closer this and that, I’m sure there’ll be much more driver errors.. and spectacular crashes.

  14. Chris Reynolds
    23rd March 2009, 0:13

    Hey Kieth, how about the 85 HP of KERS??? Who do you think will make the most passes for the season due to just that?

  15. Where can I read more about the adjustable front wing? Seems like something rather unsafe for the ‘safe conscious’ FIA to put in place. But at least it is a good idea.

    The pit limit increase is also a positive change, as is the increase in cameras per car. I could do without the rest, and the extra steward without a tie-breaking vote is pretty pointless.

  16. The wing flap movement seems as portentious as KERS. I think the idea is to create a push-to-pass effect on the main straight. Down on the straight, back up again for turn 1. I wonder if it would be a better way to improve performance over a stint by (also) making small movements in the flap to adjust balance for different parts of the track or to deal with tire wear or changes in track conditions, or all of the above at once. This would have to be carefully analyzed before hand and skillfully used in the cockpit.

  17. I don’t think it’s going to help much for overtaking. If you use the flap on the straight to overtake, what’s to stop the car you try to overtake from using it at the same time?

    1. If the new rules work the way I believe they are supposed to, then the slipstream effect should come into operation to hand the advantage back to the following car.

      Slipstreaming is something that has fallen of the F1 fan’s vocabulary over the past couple of decades because the aerodynamics-influenced era has negated it due to the “dirty” air thrown up by the leading car.

  18. “The pit lane speed limit in qualifying and the race has been raised from 80kph (49.7mph) to 100kph (62.1mph).”

    is this alright?… wasn’t that already changed few years ago?…

  19. 6 seconds per lap for kers, can you use 3+3? 3 seconds in 2 different parts of the lap?

  20. Any clues about kers and adjustable flaps being used in the pre-season testing by any team(s) ?

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