Four-hour time limit among new 2012 rules

2012 F1 season

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Montreal, 2011

The Canadian Grand Prix took more than four hours this year

The FIA will impose a maximum time limit of four hours on Grands Prix as of 2012.

It comes after this year’s Canadian Grand Prix took four hours and four minutes to complete due to heavy rain causing a lengthy suspension. The existing two-hour time limit on races that are not suspended will remain.

The FIA has also confirmed new rules on driving standards. When defending a position, drivers will not be allowed to move back onto the racing line after moving off-line.

This was a cause for debate following the exchange between Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton during the Italian Grand Prix this year.

Drivers have also been told they can no longer leave the track without a justifiable reason. Some drivers have been cutting chicanes during practice and qualifying sessions to save time and/or fuel – such as Sebastian Vettel did in Korea and Schumacher in Abu Dhabi.

Drivers will be allowed to use all sets of tyres that are allocated to them on the first day of practice if they choose.

During a race suspension, cars which are in the pits when a race is suspended will be allowed to re-join the cars on the grid in the position they were in.

Teams will also be required to have their cars pass all FIA crash tests before they participate in pre-season testing.

The FIA also announced the following changes to the technical rules:

“All engine standard ECU set up and control parameters, which were formerly contained only within a technical directive, are now contained within the relevant parts of the technical regulations.

“The exhaust tailpipes are now strictly regulated in order to ensure that the aerodynamic effect exhaust gases have on the car is kept to an absolute minimum.

“Better marking of in-car emergency switches operated by marshals are now stipulated.

“The side impact structures will now have to be subjected to a further (upward) push-off test.”

More information on the 2012 F1 season.

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79 comments on Four-hour time limit among new 2012 rules

  1. Rucknar (@superted666) said on 7th December 2011, 12:10

    “The FIA has also confirmed new rules on driving standards. When defending a position, drivers will not be allowed to move back onto the racing line after moving off-line.” Wow so this means you have two options… A) Defend and then stick to your line) or b) hold the racing line. Interesting change indeed, should change racing hugely!

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 7th December 2011, 12:15

      @Superted666 I don’t think it’s going to make much difference. At the moment drivers can move off-line then move back towards the racing line but leave room to allow another driver to occupy it. To my mind, this rule just codifies practice that has been in place for a long time – I wrote about it in 2008.

      I think the distinction is between moving “onto” the racing line and “towards” the racing line – the latter is fine, the former is not.

    • John H (@john-h) said on 7th December 2011, 12:15

      You have to move onto the racing line at some point.

      Arrgghh. More grey areas. Just forget this stupid rule already.

      • electrolite (@electrolite) said on 7th December 2011, 12:29

        If anything, it clarifies things. Before, if a driver did defend and then move back for the corner it was a bit open for debate. Now, it’s been said it’s allowed, but driver did it anyway, so it won’t change much at all to be honest.

      • TheBrav3 said on 7th December 2011, 15:50

        agreed this is pathetic, why don’t they just bite the bullet and make the track into lanes like the roc keith and others found so dissapointing. (not a dig i’m being serious since the fia is obviously determind to get rid of all real racing.)

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 7th December 2011, 12:19

      Indeed @superted666, makes it more interesting and its clearer what is and is not allowed.

      These things are pretty much OK, only that 4 hour limit is a bit strange. I’d think it would be better to put in criteria dealing with weather, daylight, travel time limitation or even noise permits to put a limit on a suspended race than just cut it off like this.

  2. damonsmedley (@damonsmedley) said on 7th December 2011, 12:12

    I don’t think we need a set time limit. It should vary depending on where we are. Obviously, a race in Melbourne can’t go for 5 hours as it would be dark by the end of it, but if it’s in Silverstone or Canada, why not? I don’t care how long a race takes, I just like to see it get completed.

    The FIA has also confirmed new rules on driving standards. When defending a position, drivers will not be allowed to move back onto the racing line after moving off-line.

    Once again, I think a lack of clarity will cause yet more controversial stewarding decisions. Does breaking a slipstream count as a defensive move? I felt Hamilton’s penalty in Malaysia was completely ridiculous as he didn’t impede Alonso or affect which line he took into the corner even slightly.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 7th December 2011, 12:19

      @damonsmedley I’m not sure where the demand for this time limit is coming from. I suspect TV broadcasters/FOM.

      Hopefully the race director will take account of this new time limit and not waste so many laps and so much time running the field behind the safety car in very wet races. I doubt it, though.

      • damonsmedley (@damonsmedley) said on 7th December 2011, 12:36

        @KeithCollantine Once again, I think that depends on the circuit. Street-circuits are probably more dangerous in wet conditions as the spray is trapped on the racing line. I just find it unusual that we saw an entire race run in similar conditions in China 2009, but recently the safety car seems so be taking over at every opportunity.

      • nordmann (@nordmann) said on 7th December 2011, 15:41

        @KeithCollantine Keith, I’m not sure I get your point here – or maybe I am misreading the rule: if there is a limit of 4 hours, then what difference does it make whether those are spent (“wasted” as you say) behind the safety car, or whether the cars just remain on the grid waiting for the weather to get better? Assuming that the weather is not appropriate for racing, the 4 hours will be ticking away anyway, wouldn’t they?

        • TheBrav3 said on 7th December 2011, 15:54

          I can’t speak for keith but i think what he means is in canada for instance when they started behind the safety car. By the time the safety car came in people were swapping for slicks which is pretty ridiculose.

          • nordmann (@nordmann) said on 7th December 2011, 16:19

            Yep, I agree – but I can’t see how the 4 hour rule would change that? Or… perhaps, you mean that if the race director feels pressed by the 4 hour rule, then he would be more likely to let the race re-start earlier out of concern of time?

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 7th December 2011, 16:11

          @nordmann Laps spent behind the safety car count towards the race distance, so they are potentially being wasted.

          Time spent under red flags is not necessarily wasted as they have up to four hours to fit the race in.

          Yes, that has now been restricted to four hours. But under normal conditions they’re still more likely to run out of laps than run out of time.

      • Fixy (@fixy) said on 7th December 2011, 18:28

        I guess very rarely a race would last more than four hours. The longest race ever (Canada 2011) lasted just four minutes more.

        • Macca (@macca) said on 7th December 2011, 22:54

          I agree with not having a time limit. I know it might sound odd, but one of the highlights of the season was just listening to Martin and DC talk about nothing in particular and watching what the drivers did as the rain tumbled down.

        • HoHum (@hohum) said on 8th December 2011, 4:38

          Had the race been ended 4 minutes earlier we would have had a different result, I for one would have been very disappointed to have watched for 4 hours only to have seen Vettel luck out again due to red flags.

  3. Mike (@mike) said on 7th December 2011, 12:20

    When defending a position, drivers will not be allowed to move back onto the racing line after moving off-line.

    That’s ridiculous. Are they trying to eliminate exciting racing?

    What we had was a good system. It prevented most of the dangerous driving, while still allowing for most of the action to happen.

    In the end, this new rule won’t stop crashes like Massa on Hamilton and many others. (It almost seems like it’s been design to benefit DRS.)

    • Girts (@girts) said on 7th December 2011, 13:07

      @mike I think it’s another step in the process of trying to increase the amount of overtakes. FIA obviously don’t care if they’re artificial or not. As James Allen concluded after the end of the season:

      So despite the Pirelli tyres and the DRS wings, the outcomes haven’t changed that much, but the way they has been achieved has been more interesting for the spectators because of more overtaking and more use of Race Strategy.

      So why not have 2000 passes and 1000 pit stops each race? It doesn’t matter that it’s all fake, people need a show.

    • I’d like to suggest a slight correction… Hamilton was the driver at the back and hence he is at fault. Even DC agrees with this point of view. Well, DC sure does know more about GP racing than us enthusiasts. So while the stewards decided what they did, DC totally thinks that stewards got it wrong and Lewis made a fist of it again.

  4. AmirAnuar (@amiranuar) said on 7th December 2011, 12:28

    if they just let them race in the rain then it would not take them 4 hour+ to finish the race. yeah… it would be dangerous but ill be an interesting for the fan(like me). it will show who the hero or zero

    • PJ (@pjtierney) said on 7th December 2011, 13:07

      Safety first.

    • David-A (@david-a) said on 7th December 2011, 13:08

      I agree.

    • Girts (@girts) said on 7th December 2011, 13:50

      @amiranuar It’s a tricky issue. As a fan, I also want to see the drivers race under any conditions; the crazier, the better. However, I know how it feels to drive a road car in stormy rain and I imagine that driving an F1 car is a much more extreme experience. For sure, F1 drivers are professionals but David Coulthard once described how driving an F1 car in heavy rain feels. According to him, it’s unbearable, you literally don’t see anything, you can only guess where the corners are. And it’s not what the racing is about. It doesn’t mean that races should be stopped as soon as the first raindrops start to fall but there is a red line.

      • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 7th December 2011, 14:02

        @Girts I agree with you. I think a lot of fans tend to overlook or minimise the visibility issue, but it’s very important.

        This is why in circumstances such as we saw in Canada this year and Korea the year before the race director should keep the red flag out longer, restart the race later and spend less time with the cars behind the safety car.

  5. electrolite (@electrolite) said on 7th December 2011, 12:30

    I think the time limit is fair enough. It happens on rare occasions, and if a F1 race happens for four hours, that’s still a lot of F1, whether it’s stop/start or stationary. Canada 2011 was epic. I’m surprised they didn’t say 3 hours or something.

    • Firebreather (@firebreather) said on 7th December 2011, 14:55

      I like the proper epic ones! It doesnt happen often maybe once every five years, so no one can really complain that it goes on for 4 hours. But they always have a much more special feel to them. The last true epic I can remember was Spa 98! I cant remember any during the schu/ferrari years, but then I was asleep for most of that!

      Just one problem though, if this years Canadian GP had been stopped at 4 hours, Vettel would have won and we would have been robbed of an awesome last lap finish! Can’t they say 4 hours, unless theres less than 5 laps left then they’ll let it carry on? Or unless there’s any genuine safety reasons for it to be called off.

      Of course, none of that matters anyway as the 4 hour epics are only going to be 90 mins next year… :(

  6. AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 7th December 2011, 12:53

    Another rule for overtaking, and this one has plenty of potential for being turned into silly (and race-spoiling) drive-through penalties.

    In general, I would much prefer a set of simple rules combined with good stewarding (I concede, this may be too much to ask), rather than this plethora of rules which have still failed to remove inconsistency from stewarding decisions.

    Schumacher on Hamilton in Monza was borderline, in my opinion, because Schumacher used the move back to block and crowd Hamilton, whereas Vettel on Hamilton in Spain (taking up a slightly defensive position on the straight, and then moving back when it was clear that no attack was coming) was fine. I hope this is not the first step towards the ridiculous IndyCar rule where you are not allowed to move off the racing line at all.

    • TdM (@tdm) said on 8th December 2011, 15:48

      What this will change is that you might end up with people trying to make people defend non-moves and not being able to move back across to take the corner most efficiently meaning that they are slower off the corner and open to attack further around. Which might increase overtaking… Maybe….

      Personally I prefer lots of clever aggressive racing into corners with tow breaking, dummies, defensive moves and *safe* squeezing of the opponent to minimize angles into corners. I hope this doesn’t nullify even more of that action

  7. PJ (@pjtierney) said on 7th December 2011, 13:09

    For reference, what are the overtaking rules like for LMP cars (ALMS etc.)?

    I reckon if F1 weren’t open-wheel (but still open cockpit) drivers would be given more freedom with what part of the track they can be on.

  8. ed24f1 (@ed24f1) said on 7th December 2011, 13:11

    So does the two hour race limit still apply, or has that been removed?

    I’m not quite sure, as it says there was no restrictions previously, which leads me to believe that the four hour limit only applies when there needs to be extra time added on for a red flag or other disruption.

  9. I would have to agree with the new overtaking rule. Unfortunately when you have drivers like Schumi doing what he did in Italy, something has to be done. We already had the 1 move rule so it would have been better to punish Schumi during the race but some drivers will just push the rules as far as they can and hope that the stewards don’t see it.

    • David-A (@david-a) said on 7th December 2011, 15:13

      Yet the guy behind already has the advantage of DRS, and a superior car/tyre state to be climbing all over the defender. But I guess that handcuffing all defending drivers and seeing a ton of fake overtakes is better than watching a real battle.

    • Mike (@mike) said on 8th December 2011, 1:43

      drivers will just push the rules as far as they can and hope that the stewards don’t see it.

      You have pretty much summed up Formula one for the last 50 years.

      I don’t see what was wrong with what Schumacher was doing. I think you should be able to defend your place.

  10. Girts (@girts) said on 7th December 2011, 13:24

    I’m not a fan of the new off-line rule and I can only hope that it won’t destroy what has still remained from the art of defensive driving in F1. I personally think it’s an important part of racing.

    Talking about the four-hour time limit, I don’t see a need for it as well. As @damonsmedley writes, races can be as long as needed if there’s enough light. That said, the casual fans probably don’t think so.

    By the way, with this rule in place, we would have been robbed of the last lap pass in Canada this year.

  11. Paul A (@paul-a) said on 7th December 2011, 13:40

    FIA says: “Drivers may no longer move back onto the racing line having moved off it to defend a position.” It will inevitably lead to some dumb “stewards’ decisions” unless three definitions are given:

    a) What is the “racing line”? Is it just the minimum space for a car in the braking zone? The marble-free length of the whole straight before a turn?
    b) Where/when does the defensive move count? If a driver has “blocked” another car at the exit of a turn before a very long straight by not being on the normal exit line, does this stop him from using the normal braking line 1,000 metres later?
    c) When can a driver move back onto the “racing line”? Think of a chicane where there are four important points, the entry, two apexes and the exit — at what point can the driver consider his penalty completed?

    Logic would suggest that this only concerns a last minute abrupt move at the end of a straight, but somehow I can see stewards interpreting this every which way.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 7th December 2011, 14:00

      @paul-a I’ll take a swing at these:

      a) The route the drivers commonly follow around the track. As we saw at Montreal and Suzuka, the stewards refer to drivers’ lines on previous laps for reference.
      b) I would answer “once per straight” (i.e. no weaving, again, as we’ve seen before) and “yes” to your two questions. The latter scenario sounds very unusual – I can’t think of a recent example along those lines (unless you have one in mind?)
      c) “On entry to the first part of the corner” and “after the first part of the corner”.

      I don’t think there’s as much ambiguity in this as you make out.

      • djdaveyp85 (@djdaveyp87) said on 7th December 2011, 16:52

        The way I see it, it is the one move rule being enforced correctly. It is up to the driver in front when he makes his move, but when he makes it he is commited, he can’t dive back. This will stop alot of the pushing off the track we have seen.

        There is nothing to stop the driver rejoining the racing line once he has been passed in this long straight scenario you talk about. Then the driver that has just overtaken him now has only one defensive move so you could actually see more overtaking action as a result of it, an overtake and a re-overtake.

        • Mike (@mike) said on 8th December 2011, 1:47

          I don’t think it will help things at all. When drivers have been pushed off the track it has rarely been because they moved back to the racing line.

          • HoHum (@hohum) said on 8th December 2011, 4:48

            I think this rule has been made to stop Massa and others claiming they have a right to return to the racing line even when it is occupied by another car.

  12. BBT (@bbt) said on 7th December 2011, 13:48

    “The FIA has also confirmed new rules on driving standards. When defending a position, drivers will not be allowed to move back onto the racing line after moving off-line.”

    So have they confirmed under what circumstances / when you can return to the racing line i.e the apex of the corner or after the car behind has overtaken, or do driver have to stay off the racing line for the rest of the race ;-)

  13. Mads (@mads) said on 7th December 2011, 14:15

    The FIA has also confirmed new rules on driving standards. When defending a position, drivers will not be allowed to move back onto the racing line after moving off-line.

    So how are they going to enforce this?
    When is a driver back onto the racing line? How wide is the racing line, and how much of the car can they move into it with, without moving “onto” the racing line?
    And most worryingly, a driver will in most turns HAVE to move back to the racing line as he hits the turn, as everything else would be Impossible as in most turns the racing line crosses the whole part of the track, which means that he will not be able to make it through the corner without moving onto the racing line.
    Does it just mean that they can not move back onto the racing line BEFORE the corner?
    But what is that actually? Before the breaking zone?
    Before they take their foot off the brake to let the car turn through the corner?
    But what about flat out turns? When does a turn start and where does it end? When steering input is required and then when no steering input is required?

    I can’t really see this going well.
    Despite the consistency of the stewards have improved, there are still times where a decision, right or wrong, takes way too much attention away from the race.
    I think they should stop handing out penalties so much, and start penalizing dangerous driving and stupid mistakes. Let a racing incident be a racing incident, and let hard defending be hard defending. As long as they make sure there is room for the other driver, and they don’t cause accidents then I don’t think they need to do anything. No matter how many “moves” he does to defend his position.
    I think it is rather pointless to punish everything.
    Maybe they should just introduce the F1 drivers to full seize slot cars, then they can’t do double moves and all will be well…

  14. wasiF1 (@wasif1) said on 7th December 2011, 14:41

    ” The FIA has also confirmed new rules on driving standards. When defending a position, drivers will not be allowed to move back onto the racing line after moving off-line.” I kind of disagree with it,it the DRS sometimes it becomes very tough to defend a position (Yurkey, Spa, Abu Dhabi) so if the car goes off-line it will stick there standing on the dirty side under braking where the car behind will have clean track with DRS ( if it happens on a DRS zone),which to me is a bit unfair,as sometimes we do see that faster cars struck behind the slower one,some great defennsive drive will be missed.They should either lift this rule or ban DRS.

  15. gwenouille (@gwenouille) said on 7th December 2011, 16:26

    I am surprised that there are no mention of the testing-ban being partly lifted…

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