The new 2010 F1 rules: A quick guide

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

F1 race winners gets a bumper haul of points in 2010
F1 race winners gets a bumper haul of points in 2010

The changes to the F1 rules are not as sweeping as they were last season. But there are several significant alterations such as the ban on refuelling during races and winners getting 25 points instead of ten.

And there are some other small-but-significant changes for 2010 to keep an eye on too, all of which are covered below.


Q1 and Q2

With 24 cars on the grid this year we’ll see seven drivers knocked out in Q1 and another seven in Q2, instead of five in each as last year.


The top ten drivers in Q3 will no longer have to qualify with the fuel loads they’ll start the race with, thanks to the banning of in-race refuelling (see below).

They will, however, have to start the race using the tyres they set their fastest lap in Q3 with, which could influence their decision on which compound to use in qualifying.


No refuelling during races

The effect the in-race refuelling ban will have on races has been hotly debated between fans.

Certainly, drivers will have to take it easier in the opening stages of a Grand Prix or risk destroying their tyres. But as the race goes on we should see some interesting scenarios and strategies develop.

For example, if two drivers are running closely together and one pits to change tyres, that driver will enjoy the advantage of fresher tyres and be able to lap more quickly than the other for a few laps. Several F1 strategists have talked about how this will make strategy more reactive this year – teams will keep an eye on what their rivals do and respond. We could even see teams bluffing their rivals by sending their crews onto pit lane when their car isn’t coming in.

Some have doubts about the wisdom of the refuelling ban but I’m fully in favour. Here’s why: 14 reasons to love the F1 refuelling ban

Q3 tyre rule

The rule requiring drivers who reach the top ten in qualifying to start the race on the tyres they set their best time on will have an obvious effect on the race.

A driver who starts on softer tyres can expect a fast start and some quick opening laps but they will have to pit earlier to change tyres. A driver who starts on harder tyres will not be able to make as quick start but will have more suitable tyres for the opening stint when the fuel load is at its heaviest.

Fewer tyres

Drivers will also have to manage their tyre use more carefully over a Grand Prix weekend. The number of four-tyre sets available of them has been cut from 14 to 11 – six of the harder ‘prime’ compound and five of the softer ‘option’ tyre.

To encourage drivers to do more running during practice sessions they will have to return one set of ??prime? tyres before FP2 and one set of each type of tyre before FP3.



Since the last race of 2009 the F1 points system has been changed not once, but twice. Here’s the system they eventually settled on and how it compares with the last points system:

Finishing position 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
2003-2009 Points System 10 8 6 5 4 3 2 1
2010 Points System 25 18 15 12 10 8 6 4 2 1

On the face of it that’s a significant change: a winner now gets two-and-a-half times more points than last year, and ninth and tenth place finishers score poitns for the first time.

But there been little change to the relative worth of each finishing position:

Finishing position 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
2003-2009 Points System (% of winners’ points) 100 80 60 50 40 30 20 10
2010 Points System (% of winners’ points) 100 72 60 48 40 32 24 16 8 4

This shows us that:

  • Second place is worth less compared to a win than it was last year (but still much more than it was before 2003)
  • Third to fifth places are worth more or less the same as last year
  • Sixth to tenth places are worth more than last year

In short, the FIA seems to have tried to reduce the appearance of drivers ‘settling for second’ by making it worth slightly less. But the increasingly generous awards for lower place finishes should help keep the title fight going until the later stages of the championship as well as giving the new teams something achievable to shoot for.

More on the new (and old) points systems here:


No refuelling during races

The most talked-about change for this year sees in-race refuelling banned for the first time since 1993.

This has had an obvious effect on car design – they now need much larger fuel tanks. It will also put brakes under greater strain.

Narrower front tyres

F1 cars will have narrower front tyres this year. The change is partly to correct an unintended consequence of last year’s switch from grooved to slick tyres.

Removing the grooves meant the front and rear tyre contact patches (the area where tyre meets road) increased in size. Because the front tyres were narrower to begin, the increase in contact patch size meant they gained more grip relative to the rear tyres. The new reduction in front tyre width will correct that.

There are fears that this reduction in ‘mechanical’ grip combined with further gains in ‘aerodynamic’ grip will make it harder for F1 cars to follow each other closely in 2010, which will make it harder for drivers to overtake.

The reduction in width applies to rain tyres as well as dry weather slicks and in testing several drivers found the intermediate tyre wear was much higher than last year.

Other changes

Among the other significant changes to the rules is a provision made for teams who want to bring in an untested driver during the season.

When Toro Rosso did this with Jaime Alguersuari last year he was unable to test before his debut. In the same circumstances this year the rules allow for a new driver to have a test before racing.

More on the other minor changes to the rules in these articles:

What about…

Tyre compounds

Drivers still have to use each tyre compound at least once per race, unless they use wet weather tyres during it.

There were rumours about a new rule that would force drivers to make at least two pits tops per race, but no such rule was passed.


The Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems introduced last year remain legal in 2010 but the teams have agreed not to use them to save money.

Tyre warmers

A ban on tyre warmers has been proposed more than once in the past few years but not put in the rule books yet. They remain legal in 2010 but a new clause has been added which says the heating element may only act on the outer surface of the tyre.


Double-diffusers will be banned for the 2011 F1 season.


A shake-up in the stewards’ office follows criticism over how race penalties have been handled in recent seasons. Most significantly the role of non-voting Chairman previously held by Alan Donnelly has been abolished (Donnelly has since left the FIA).

The FIA said in December the stewards “should aim to reach decisions very efficiently” which hopefully means an ends to the days of waiting half a race or longer for stewards to render important decisions.

Read more: F1 stewarding gets another overhaul

Some positive changes but too much fiddling

The package of changes for 2010 is, on the whole, fairly good with a few highlights but still too much needless fiddling.

Reintroducing refuelling in 1994 was the wrong decision made for the wrong decision. Happily they’ve finally corrected it.

The change in the points system is an attempt to acknowledge the increased number of participants in 2010 and this second version is certainly an improvement over the earlier version they produced. I just wishes they’d done more to increase the gap in reward between winning and finishing second, which still feels under-rewarded.

The rest of the regulations include some tidying up of problematic areas from last year’s swingeing changes. The biggest sticking point for me remains the Q3 tyre rule which intends to compromise the top ten qualifiers. I don’t like rules which arbitrarily penalise a group of drivers because they’ve performed well, and I can’t imagine it having a particularly beneficial effect on the quality of racing.

What I’d most like to see from next year’s rules is fewer changes and more stability.

See all the articles in the F1 Fanatic 2010 Season Preview

2010 F1 season

56 comments on “The new 2010 F1 rules: A quick guide”

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  1. Keith,
    I have some questions about the Qualifying tire rule. The rule states that the top 10 must use the same tires on which they set their best lap on. Does this mean just using the same compound, or literally the same tire set?

    If they have to use the same worn tire set, then I’m sure that could cause some difficulties. For example, what if a driver destroys his tires while unsuccesfully attempting to better his lap time? Would he start the race with totally worn out tires? Also, what if a driver has a puncture? Would he start with 1 new tire and 3 used tires? And what if a driver has an accident in Q3 after setting a hot lap? Surely they would be allowed to fit a new tire set for the race in that instance…

  2. “We could even see teams bluffing their rivals by sending their crews onto pit lane when their car isn’t coming in.”

    Wrong. The whole idea is to pit earlier not later… So crew must come out as late as they can, in order to trick other teams…. for obvious reasons…

  3. Hi,

    This is my first post here, although i have been following this site for some time now.
    I feel that stopping re-fueling takes away the weight variable. We might end up seeing cars running in formation lap after lap.
    The only point of interest seems to be setting up the car – what weight levels will suit a car more…
    What say?

  4. The tire selection question seems pretty straight forward to me. Every team in Q3 will select the fastest tire, whether prime or alternate, and use the less durable compound for a shorter middle stint, or a very short last stint.

    Getting a win or podium will still be about starting position and wear, at least for the first segment.

  5. I’m more interested in rule changes for reasons of fairness and to prevent any sort of gamesmanship (cheating is perhaps a too strong a word).

    It seems we increasingly see rule changes for the sake of people who watch on tv.

    Now, I love Formula One, and have watched since I was about 12 years old (I am now 25). I didn’t need any rule changes to get interested in the sport and follow it closely.

    If people aren’t natural F1 fans then so be it, the FIA should stop trying to ‘sex up’ the sport to make it appealing to part time fans, who are only interested if there are ‘big crashes’ or lots of ‘action’.

    Either you like F1 or you don’t, I’m sick of MANY sports dumbing down to try to encorporate the plebs and part timers. See 20/20 Cricket and the recent proposals in snooker as other examples.

    P.S:- I am not an old fogey (yet). I’m just sick of people messing with my favourite sport for comercial reasons. I know it’s the way of the world, but it grinds my gears.

    1. Intuitively it’s easy to agree with that, but it’s difficult to make direct comparisons with F1 and other sports as F1 is such a technologically driven sport.

      Many of the rule changes in recent years (successful or not!) have been made with the honest intention of improving safety and reducing costs. It’s not a perfect world so any such change will always carry a “negative” as well as “positive” effect on the racing.

      The commercial aspect is simply reality; without money there’d be no F1 at all, and with unchecked spending there would be even more commerciality and fewer teams.

    2. I can’t say that any of Max Moseley’s “Chess” rule changes since the 90s really sexed anything up!

      I think the current rules are almost ideal.

      The only changes I’d make are to remove compulsory pitstops, remove the need to race on the quali tyres and to reduce the number of people doing the pitstop to 6.

  6. Would it be possible to put one compound on fronts and another compound on rear wheels, this would mean you are using both compounds and you wouldn’t have to pit at all if you nursed the tyres!

    1. Nope, they need to be the same:

      Rule 25.2 – A set of tyres will be deemed to comprise two front and two rear tyres all of which must be of the same specification.

      This has been banned since the early 90s I think. Shame really as it takes away another skill from the driver.

  7. Great summary thanks…

  8. CoreyCoulson
    13th March 2010, 11:48

    what happens if it rains and they need to use wet tyres ? like Q3 cnat go out on dry can they ?

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