The 2012 rules changes at a glance

2012 F1 season preview

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.

2012 F1 season preview

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

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84 comments on The 2012 rules changes at a glance

  1. F1 Omer said on 8th March 2012, 22:23

    Instead of a Safety Car being deployed why not have the Race Director able to signal all cars electronically to switch into Pit-Limiter mode, then they would all circulate slowly at the same speed preserving the time differential between all concerned. The speed of the cars would be low enough to not create an additional hazard to whatever clearing-up operation was having to take place on the track. To resume racing, the Race director could give a count down or just switch the Pit-limiters back off again (see which drivers are still awake). Pit-Lane limiters work ok so why not use them to simplify matters.

    • KeeleyObsessed (@keeleyobsessed) said on 8th March 2012, 23:48

      Because by doing so, you keep the gap with each car constant, the idea of the safety car is that it bunches up the pack so that marshalls can work on the track in the space of time where the cars are not passing, if cars are continuously passing at 100kph (?) then the marshalls won’t be allowed on the track, it’d be like walking across a motorway..

      • F1 Omer said on 9th March 2012, 0:11

        There is merit in your comment but practically I have not noticed that marshalls cease to work at clearing-up when the Safety-Car and its train of cars passes, they just seem to carry on regardless. If they need to be constantly crossing the track to clear-up then the race gets stopped anyway. The Safety-Car appears to be going a lot faster than 100 kph when it circulates (an old Austin Allegro would be suitable to lead a train of cars at 100 kph so why do they use a very powerful top of the range Mercedes if it not going to blitz round at a fair speed for a road car). I think my Pit-Lane Limiter idea has merit for the less serious accidents which often do not merit Safety-Car deployment.

        • vho (@) said on 9th March 2012, 5:27

          The safety car can go a lot faster than 100Kph when it circulates but it can also slow to under 40kph when it approaches the accident area. Even if you put limiters on the drivers it doesn’t stop them from slowing below 100kph in an area that requires it. The safety car is there to maintain a safe pace where it is required and maintain a speed in which is safe to ensure the race finishes within the allocated time. So in areas of the track away from the accident the safety car could go 200kph or faster so long it is safe to do so, thus maintaining a reasonable pace. Also, there is no guarantee that the pit limiter couldn’t fail (drivers are still getting pinged for speeding in the pit lane as they are hitting the pit button too late or the limiter had failed), and you’d need to have radar guns to police drivers in all areas of the track to ensure they maintain 100kph. What about corners that are normally taken at, say 60-70kph, for the driver they’re not limited to the 60-70kph and would likely try to take the corner at the highest speed possible to make up time – which doesn’t necessarily mean a safe practice. Imagine trying to maintain 100kph during “safety-car” conditions in some of the tight sections at Monaco.

          • Aditya Aurora said on 9th March 2012, 14:44

            If the cars run on pit-lane speed limiter, the engine will overheat and may blow up.

            By the way, the safety car is being driven at full speed to ensure that there is negligible performance slack.

          • F1 Omer said on 9th March 2012, 19:33

            All good points but the Limiter is just that it sets a maximum, they can go slower it is not a Cruise Control. The situation I envisage is a rain situation where there is a downpour, this can lead to the deplyment of the safety Car and all the cars then close up, if the cars are instead set on the pit limiter they would remain in station until the race restarted. The limiter would also have the benefit of removing the advantage for cars that immediately pit for rain tyres as they would not be able to speed back up to the rear of the pack thus gaining an unfair advantage. There would be no need for lots of radar/laser speed guns the lap times and the time gaps between competitors are recorded every lap so any cheating would be obvious and should be penalised. Drivers with duff limiters should be penalised just as they are for speeding in the Pit Lane, it would incentivise the teams to build a better limiter. The limiter idea keeps things simple, no one needs to worry about lapped cars or who is allowed to overtake whom, it may not be right for all problems on track but I can certainly see it being of use in heavy rain situations. Incidentally can anyone explain the concept of ‘performance slack’ with relation to F1 cars and what problems it engenders?

  2. KeeleyObsessed (@keeleyobsessed) said on 8th March 2012, 23:52

    I’d actually like to see the stewards uphold the 107% rule in Qualifying, ignoring results in practice times..
    By doing this, teams may run the risk of not qualifying should they not complete a lap in Q1, but that’s surely an acceptable risk? I can’t think of too many occasions where that’s happened in 2011.. And it’s an extra incentive for the teams to get on with the job of fixing the cars, or the drivers to try their best to not crash in Q1…

  3. wasiF1 (@wasif1) said on 9th March 2012, 2:27

    I am happy for this “Lapped cars passing the safety car” & now hope that they can handle it well without spending too much time behind the safety car.

  4. raymondu999 (@raymondu999) said on 9th March 2012, 6:39

    Can I just say that the 4-hour limit is somewhat stupid? I wouldn’t have liked it very much if I woke up at 12:50 AM (midnight) to watch the Canadian GP; the race was red flagged after 55 minutes; and then I waited 3 hours and 5 minutes to find out I should have gotten 3 hours more sleep.

    • KeeleyObsessed (@keeleyobsessed) said on 9th March 2012, 10:09

      @raymondu999 It’s a sport.. People watching on the outside looking in don’t (and shouldn’t) have a say..
      The 4 hour time limit is to stop channels like BBC having to move huge amounts of coverage to other channels mid-race, which was one of a few downpoints of the Canadian GP, and other GPs in the past.. Of course, with Sky’s F1 channel, they don’t have that problem though..

  5. Aditya Aurora said on 9th March 2012, 14:40

    I believe the overtaking rule change is a bit bizzare, they are racing and not out on a date where they are supposed to be gentle.
    Yes leaving room for the other racer is amicable as it’s a part of sportsman spirit.

  6. Mallesh Magdum (@malleshmagdum) said on 9th March 2012, 15:07

    Don’t understand why they introduced the “corner cutting” rule…

  7. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 9th March 2012, 21:46

    Bit undecided on the Safety Car rule.

    On the one hand I’m glad that lapped drivers can put themselves back in competition but on the other hand I do think it removes an interesting dimension when lapped drivers get in the way!

    Let’s see how it goes.

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