Safety car, Singapore, 2011

The 2012 rules changes at a glance

2012 F1 season previewPosted on | Author Ben Needham

Safety car, Singapore, 2011
The 2012 F1 rules allow lapped cars to pass the safety car

The 2012 F1 season sees another raft of rules changes, tweaks and clarifications.

The extent of the revisions is not as great as it has been in recent years. Several of the alterations appear to be in response to specific situations which occurred last year.

Here’s a quick guide to how the F1 rules have changed in 2012.

In the races

Defensive driving

Previously, drivers have been allowed to move off-line to defend their position and move back towards the racing line afterwards. When returning to the racing line while defending, they are expected to leave room for another car that might have appeared alongside them.

This requirement was not written in the rules before, but now it is enshrined in the rulebook. Article 20.3 of the sporting regulations says:

More than one change of direction to defend a position is not permitted. Any driver moving back towards the racing line, having earlier defended his position off?σΤιΌ?Ιline, should leave at least one car width between his own car and the edge of the track on the approach to the corner.

Michael Schumacher, who was at the heart of a dispute over the rule in last year’s Italian Grand Prix, said: “It’s not really a rules change.

“It’s just a clarification and a precision rule for everybody to understand what exactly you’re allowed to do and not to do, and then for the FIA to take action in case somebody pushes the borderline too far.”

Jarno Trulli, Lotus, Montreal, 2011
Wet races could be cut short under new rules

Time limit

Following last year’s Canadian Grand Prix – which at four hours and four minutes was the longest F1 race ever – the FIA has imposed a maximum time limit on Grands Prix.

If a race is suspended, the total race time can now not exceed four hours.

The previous two-hour time limit on races that are not suspended still applies.

Lapped cars passing the safety car

Lapped cars will once again be allowed to pass the safety car. This rule was previously introduced in 2007 but was scrapped at the end of 2009.

As was the case when the rule was last enforced, lapped cars will only be allowed to unlap themselves if the clerk of the course allows them to.

The rule will reduce the chance of races restarting with lapped drivers in between the front-running drivers.

However it may also increase the length of safety car periods as the cars unlapping themselves must “proceed around the track at an appropriate speed”, according to the rules.

Read more about this rules change:

Rejoining at a restart

When an interrupted race is restarted, cars that were in the pit lane for any reason are now permitted to join the assembled grid in their race position.

Corner cutting

Drivers are not allowed to leave the lines of the track without a good reason.

Previously, drivers have often cut chicanes in practice sessions in order to save fuel and time on their in-laps. Sebastian Vettel also did this in qualifying at Korea last year, but the practice has now been outlawed.


Another addition to the rulebook is that a driver can now use all of his allocated tyres for the weekend on the first day of the event if they choose.

On the cars

Lower noses

The lowering of the noses at the front of the car for safety reasons has led to some strange-looking machines this year. Rosberg explains the changes in the video above and you can read more here:

Exhaust-blown diffuser restrictions

In a bid to prevent teams blowing exhaust gasses into their diffusers to generate downforce, the rules now specify where the exhausts on the car should be.

Again, see the video for more and read more here:

Parc ferme

A car must have all its parts attached before leaving the pits before a race now.

In China last year Lewis Hamilton drove to the grid with part of his engine cover missing. This will now be prohibited.


The rules regarding testing have also been revised. New restrictions apply on what cars may be used.

If a team wishes to run a car outside testing or an event, such as for Michael Schumacher or Felipe Massa in recent times, the car must be significantly different to the Formula One technical regulations of the current, previous or subsequent year.

Promotional running is also allowed, but the car have to use special demonstration tyres supplied by Pirelli.

Note also that the teams agreed to move three days of the pre-season testing allocation to May, when they will run at Mugello in Italy.

Timo Glock, Marussia, Silvestone, 2012
Marussia failed to pass the crash test before the deadline

Crash tests

The teams must pass all FIA crash tests before participating in pre-season testing. We have already seen the consequences of this particular new rule.

Marussia and HRT fell victim to this over the winter, failing to get their cars through the tests in time to take place in any of the official pre-season tests.

Further changes

This is a summary of the most significant changes in the F1 rules for 2012.

To read the regulations in full, which contain several other detail changes, you can download the PDFs for the Sporting Regulations and Technical Regulations from the FIA’s website.

2012 F1 rules: Your view

Do you think the rules changes for 2012 are for the better? What rules would you like to see removed or introduced?

Have your say in the comments.

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Image ?ι?® Red Bull/Getty images, Team Lotus/LAT, Marussia