It’s been four months since the last F1 race, and as usual the powers-that-be have kept themselves occupied by crossing things out in the rule book and scribbling new lines in the margins.
Among the changes for this year is the return of that scourge of the backmarkers, the “107% rule”. The new Drag Reduction System has already provoked much debate.
And it’s not just a case of what they’ve added to the rules – the deletion of the rule prohibiting team orders is clearly significant.
Here’s a quick guide to the major changes this year. See the links in the article for further details on the new rules.
On the cars
Drag Reduction System
Also known as the ‘adjustable rear wing’ or ‘RFA’. This is one of the most talked-about changes in recent years.
The F-ducts widely used last year have been banned but drivers can now reduce their rear downforce and drag at the push of a button.
They can do this whenever they like in practice and qualifying. But in the races they can only use the DRS in limited circumstances to help them overtake.
It can only be activated when they are within a second of a car in front. This applied regardless of race positions, so drivers can use it to lap other cars and even to un-lap themselves from other cars.
The system deactivates automatically when they brake. And it can’t be used in the first two laps of the race or in the two laps following a safety car period.
Kinetic Energy Recovery System
KERS was last used in F1 in 2009. The teams agreed not to use it in 2010.
Most of the teams will be using it again this year and the specification remains as it was in 2009: they can only use it to produce 400kJ per lap and the maximum power output is 60kW.
That’s equal to a maximum power boost of 80.5bhp for 6.67s per lap, available whenever the driver needs it.
There are no rules preventing the use of KERS at the same time as DRS.
Each driver must use the same gearbox for five consecutive races – up from four last year.
If they have to change the gearbox before it’s done five races the driver will get a five-place grid penalty. However they will not get a penalty for the first change, unless it happens in the last race of the year.
As in 2010, drivers may only use eight engines during the season.
The weight distribution of the cars has been restricted this year due to the change in tyre supplier from Bridgestone to Pirelli. This rule will be relaxed for 2012.
The rules regarding diffusers have been changed to prevent teams using so-called ‘double diffusers’.
In the races
Driving standards and stewarding
The sporting regulations now prevent drivers from making “more than one change of direction to defend a position, deliberate crowding of a car beyond the edge of the track or any other abnormal change of direction.”
The list of penalties available to stewards in the sporting regulations now include drive-through penalties, ten second stop-go penalties, time penalties, grid position penalties, reprimands, exclusion and suspension from the next event.
A new rule allows the race director to close the pit lane entrance in “exceptional circumstances”.
The rules now also state that if drivers have to queue at the pit lane exit due to a red light, they must leave the pits in the order they arrived at the exit.
As in 2010, drivers who reach Q3 must start the race on the same tyres they set their best lap on.
The rule requiring drivers to use both types of dry-weather tyre during the race remains. Drivers will be excluded from the results if they fail to, unless they have used an intermediate or wet-weather tyre.
A new rule states that if a race is suspended and not restarted, any driver who has not used both types of dry-weather tyre will be penalised 30 seconds.
The rule which prohibits the use of “team orders which interfere with the result of the race” has been deleted from the regulations.
This is a controversial area following what happened at last year’s German Grand Prix. Article 151 (c) of the International Sporting Code forbids them from “bringing the sport into disrepute” but it remains to be seen whether the FIA would use this rule to punish race-fixing.
In a change announced earlier this month, drivers will only be allowed to pit under safety car conditions to change tyres. The pit lane exit light will remain green, unless the race is being suspended.
The safety car speed limit, used when the safety car is deployed will be used for two laps instead of one.
In other sessions
Any drivers whose best time is more than 7% slower than the fastest time in Q1 will not be allowed to start the race. The stewards may grant exceptions at their discretion, but teams are not allowed to appeal against them.
The tyre allocation for practice remains unchanged. However the FIA has recently said it may grant an additional allocation to teams at some race weekends.
New rules aim to prevent mechanics working until very late hours on cars on Thursday and Friday nights. Each team may have up to four exceptions from this during the season
2011 F1 season preview
- The complete F1 Fanatic 2011 season preview
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- The 2011 F1 rules changes at-a-glance
- Which F1 races are you going to in 2011?
- DRS: Separating the good from the bad
- How new tyres will change F1 in 2011
- Waiting to win: When each F1 driver last won a race
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Browse all 2011 F1 season preview articles
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