Start, Sepang International Circuit, 2015

The new F1 rules for 2016 at a glance

2016 F1 season previewPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Late changes to qualifying, complicated new tyre rules and tight radio restrictions are just a few of the changes to the regulations drivers and teams face in 2016.

Here are all the significant changes to the sporting regulations for the new season.

Qualifying

2016 qualifying structure

Phase Duration Eliminations begin at Drivers at start Drivers eliminated
Q1 16 minutes 7 minutes 22 7
Q2 15 minutes 6 minutes 15 7
Q3 14 minutes 5 minutes 8 7

The FIA published F1’s new qualifying rules just eight days before the cars will be on track to decide pole position for the season-opening race.

The major change to the arrangement is that the slowest driver will be now eliminated every 90 seconds during each of the three phases rather than all at once.

If the slowest driver is on a lap when the elimination happens they will have to return to the pits without completing it. However at the end of each session all drivers will be allowed to complete their final lap before the last car is eliminated.

The grid will be arranged as before. Note that there are 22 cars entered for this year’s championship instead of 20 last year.

Tyres

Ultra soft tyres, Circuit de Catalunya, 2016
The new ultra-soft tyre will appear at Monaco
The second major change to the sporting rules for 2016 is intended to give drivers and teams greater freedom of choice over their tyre selections for each race.

F1’s official tyre supplier now nominates three dry-weather tyre compounds for each race instead of two. As before each driver gets 13 sets of slicks and must hand back a certain number of these prior to qualifying. But whereas this entire selection was previously specified by Pirelli, now only two of them are and each driver can choose the remaining eleven.

There are further restrictions on those choices, however. Pirelli has to nominate up to two tyre compounds of which every driver must have at least one set of available for the race. Every driver must use at least one of these sets during the race, plus another set of a different compound.

Pirelli also has to nominate the softest of its three chosen compounds which drivers must use in Q3. Drivers must make their selections for each race 14 weeks in advance of all non-European rounds and eight weeks in advance of all European rounds.

Power units

Honda 2015 F1 power unit
Each driver gets five power units for 2016
A change to the rules for 2016 approved an increase in the total number of races from 20 to 21. This in turn triggered a clause granting teams an extra power unit on top of the original allocation of four. Each driver may now used five during the season and will incur penalties as before if they use six or more components.

The rules on engine homologation have been extensively rewritten. The most significant change is that where previously each manufacture could “homologate no more than one specification of power unit”, that rule has now been revised.

It now states “any manufacturer who homologated a power unit during the 2014-2020 period may also apply to the FIA to re-use such a power unit in a given team, to the same specification, and without going through the re-homologation process”. This allows teams like Ferrari to supply year-old power units to Toro Rosso.

Penalties and stewarding

Carlos Sainz Jnr, Toro Rosso, Sochi Autodrom, 2015
Abuses of track limits are being targeted
Any driving infringements committed during practice sessions can now result in lap time deletion.

Following complaints about drivers abusing track limits a slight reworking of the regulations now states they “must make every reasonable effort to use the track at all times”.

Any driver who causes an aborted start now has to begin the race from the pit lane under this new rule for 2016:

If another problem arises which does not necessitate a delay to the start […] drivers will be asked to carry out an extra formation lap […]. Any driver who caused the start to be aborted, and is then able to start the extra formation lap must enter the pit lane at the end of the lap and start the race as specified in Article 36.2. A penalty under Article 38.3(d) will be imposed on any driver who fails to start the race from the pit lane.

During a race if a team fits tyres of two different specifications to one of their cars, as happened with Valtteri Bottas at Spa last year, the driver must complete no more than three laps on them before changing to a set of tyres of the same specification. If they do complete more than three laps they will receive a ten-second stop-and-go time penalty.

In order to establish whether a car has been released safely from its pit box, teams must now make it possible to tell when the car was released when it is viewed from above:

The competitor must also provide a means of clearly establishing, when being viewed from both above and in the front of the car, when that car was released.
2016 rule

The competitor must also provide a means of clearly establishing, when being viewed from the front of the car, when that car was released.
2015 rule

After the end of a race the stewards now have up to one hour to declare whether any further incidents are under investigation. They previously had five minutes. As before, drivers may not leave the circuit without the stewards’ consent if they are placed under investigation.

Overtaking under Safety Car conditions

The rules on when a driver may pass another car under Safety Car conditions have been clarified:

Overtaking behind the safety car is only permitted in the following cases:

a) Any driver who is delayed when leaving his position in the fast lane may overtake to re-establish his original starting position provided he does so before he crosses the first safety car line. Should he fail to do so he must re-enter the pit lane and may only re-join the race once the whole field has passed the pit exit.

A penalty under Article 38.3(d) will be imposed on any driver who fails to re-enter the pit lane if he has not re-established the original starting order before he reaches the first safety car line.

b) Drivers may leave the fast lane in order to overtake any car delayed when leaving its position in the fast lane.

Any driver whose car has been pushed from the fast lane, in accordance with Article 42.4 above, may not overtake in order to re-establish the order before the race was suspended.
2016 rule

Overtaking behind the safety car is only permitted if a car is delayed when leaving its position in the fast lane and cars behind cannot avoid passing it without unduly delaying the remainder of the field.

Drivers may only overtake to re-establish the order before the race was suspended.

Any driver delayed in this way, and who is unable to re-establish the original starting order before he reaches the first safety car line, must re-enter the pit lane and may only re-join the race once the whole field has passed the end of the pit lane.

A penalty under Article 16.3(d) will be imposed on any driver who fails to enter the pit lane if he has not re-established the original starting order before he reaches the first safety car line.
2015 rule

Testing and development

Force India factory, 2016
The summer shutdown may be trimmed next year
The curfew period during race weekends have been increased to eight hours’ duration instead of seven.

The mandatory July/August factory shutdown may now be reduced from 14 days to 13 if the gap between consecutive races falls to 17 days. That is not the case this year, but it leaves the door open for the traditional summer shutdown to be compressed.

The FIA may arrange up to six two-day tests during the season “for the sole purpose of providing the supplier with the chance to test improvements to the design of their tyres”.

An addition to the testing restrictions now prevents teams from running cars of 2012 to 2017 specification on behalf of “a supplier of a homologated power unit”. The FIA’s “prior authorisation” is now required for competitors to sell or make available such cars.

Cars used for testing must now conform to the relevant technical regulations relating to cockpit construction and safety equipment.

Minor changes

The Virtual Safety Car can now be used during practice sessions (which includes qualifying) as well in during races.

Drivers have also been given an additional piece of safety equipment:

For the purpose of accident analysis, each driver must wear in-ear accelerometers which have been manufactured by the FIA designated supplier to a specification determined by the FIA. These should be worn by the driver during each event and all tests which are attended by more than one team, teams must use their best endeavours to ensure that they are in working order at all times.

Team radio

Christian Horner, Red Bull, Circuit de Catalunya, 2016
Teams can’t help their drivers as much as last year
Potentially one of the most significant regulatory changes for the coming season does not feature at all in the rule book. The FIA issued a directive last year indicating they intend to pursue a much more rigorous interpretation of article 27.1 of the Sporting Regulations which is as follows:

The driver must drive the car alone and unaided.

The FIA will do this by forbidding all radio communications to drivers other than the following:

1. Indication of a critical problem with the car, e.g. puncture warning or damage.*
2. Indication of a problem with a competitor’s car.*
3. Instruction to enter the pit lane in order to fix or retire the car.*
4. Marshalling information (yellow flag, red flag, race start aborted or other similar instructions or information from race control).*
5. Wet track, oil or debris in certain corners.*
6. Instructions to swap position with other drivers.*

*These are the only messages that may be passed to the driver, whilst he is in the car and on the track, from the time the car leaves the garage for the first time after the pit lane is open on the day of the race until the start of the race

7. Acknowledgement that a driver message has been heard.
8. Lap or sector time detail.
9. Lap time detail of a competitor.
10. Gaps to a competitor during a practice session or race.
11. “Push hard”, “push now”, “you will be racing xx” or similar.
12. Helping with warning of traffic during a practice session or race.
13. Giving the gaps between cars in qualifying so as to better position the car for a clear lap.
14. Tyre choice at the next pit stop.
15. Number of laps a competitor has done on a set of tyres during a race.
16. Tyre specification of a competitor.
17. Information concerning a competitor’s likely race strategy.
18. Safety Car window.
19. Driving breaches by team driver or competitor, e.g. missing chicanes, running off track, time penalty will be applied etc.
20. Notification that DRS is enabled or disabled.
21. Dealing with a DRS system failure.
22. Change of front wing position at the next pit stop.
23. Oil transfer.
24. When to enter the pits.
25. Reminders to check for white lines, bollards, weighbridge lights when entering or leaving the pits.
26. Reminders about track limits.
27. Passing on messages from race control.
28. Information concerning damage to the car.
29. Number of laps remaining.
30. Test sequence information during practice sessions, e.g. aero-mapping.
31. Weather information.

2016 F1 season

Browse all 2016 F1 season articles

59 comments on “The new F1 rules for 2016 at a glance”

  1. Cannot help but feel it is the rules on what can be said on the radio that is the sleeper here. I think of all the rule changes this will have the biggest impact.

    1. I think you may be right. But do you know what this one means; is it track conditions?
      “23. Oil transfer.”

      1. Not a clue, a fancy F1 description of an oil leak?

      2. There is a separate tank of oil in the cars, which is used to top up the engine when required.

        1. With respect, I really do no think “23.Oil transfer” is an instruction to the driver to fill up the engine with oil.

          1. Apex Assassin
            15th March 2016, 22:00

            Then you are poorly informed or new to the sport because that is exactly what it means but rather than “fill up” it refers to allowing the secondary oil reservoir valve to open and that “fills the engine up with oil”, lol.

          2. @apex assassin. Didn’t know that. Seems a bit primitive to be honest. Do you know how much oil the cars get through in a race?

  2. Damn that’s messy.
    If you Wanted to make this attractive, how about simple rules without thousands of exceptions?

    1. @mrboerns That is impossible to make especially in written form. I challenge you to make such a rule and I’m sure I can provide scenarios that will make you add lot of clarifications, exceptions and made it not simple anymore ;)

    2. @mrboerns I tend to agree with @sonicslv. Rules should obviously be kept as simple as possible and perhaps the new tyre rules are unnecessarily complicated. On the other hand, too simple rules will inevitably lead to unintended consequences, different interpretations, controversial stewards’ decisions, inquiries, clarifications and new directives. Article 27.1 is a good example of that, everything looks clear at first but then teams start to tell their drivers what lines to take and where to start braking. Ultimately the FIA is forced to explain what “alone and unaided” means.

    3. Apex Assassin
      15th March 2016, 22:01

      Made even worse by Pirelli.

  3. I thought Q3 was being left as it was? That’s where most of the excitement with qualifying is after all, as everyone puts in their last flying laps at the end.

    1. Don’t worry, you are not alone, I also missed the news that they backtracked from the backtracking that Q3 was staying as it was last year.

    2. I thought Q3 was being left as it was?

      No: Some publications reported that was going to happen but that isn’t what was passed by the FIA WMSC.

  4. So will any ‘GP2 engine’ rants no longer be allowed from now on?

    1. Or Kimis; “Leave me alone, I know what I am doing!”? Now, that would be a shame. :-D

    2. They can still say that but they won’t get any response appart from those listed above! :P

      1. Kimi: “Leave me alone, I know what I am doing!”

        Dave Greenwood: “Weather update from the Ferrari pit wall – dark clouds and thunderstorm”

        @fer-no65

        1. @mike-dee Dont forget Seb singing happy birthday to his engineer late last year.

          Unfortunately it does exclude things like Rob Smedley’s “Felipe baby, stay cool” comment. Engineers cant give their drivers a pep-talk mid race!

  5. Why are the FIA so obsessed with sending cars to the back if they are out of position behind the safety car? It doesn’t achieve anything but ruin their race for no reason.

    Also, why don’t they write the radio rules into the official regulations? They’re written out anyway so..?

    Finally, in I believe it was Hungary last year, Massa triggered an aborted start due to being out of position, and yet despite not gaining the extra advantage he still got a penalty, however realistically the race should’ve gone ahead and he should’ve got the penalty for starting too far ahead on his slot.

    But does that mean under the new rules Massa would’ve had to start in the pits? That’s absolutely ridiculous.

  6. Regarding the radio messages.
    What does the asterix mean? It says “until the start of the race”. So are the 1-6 messages not allowed after the race starts? That makes no sense. What if there is a critical issue which might result in a car blowing up on track?

    Other that the 31 messages listed, i cant think of any other aid a driver would ever need during a race. Can someone enlighten me with an example of a message that is actually prohibited?

    1. Russell Hall
      15th March 2016, 18:00

      It’s badly worded. Took me a while to work it out.

      From pit lane open to start of race: ONLY items 1-6 allowed, nothing else.
      From start of race: All items, 1-31.

      So, no weather info to drivers “whilst he is in the car and on the track”. Not really a problem as they all get out of their cars on the grid and have a yak. The radio lockdown gets more serious in the 10 minutes before the start when the drivers are back in their cars. Then it eases up for the race.

      1. seems this one might be a little broad…
        28. Information concerning damage to the car.

        This could include changing engine modes during the race under some interpretation?

    2. @rojov123

      So are the 1-6 messages not allowed after the race starts?

      No: those messages are allowed both before and after the race starts. The other messages are allowed after the race starts. This quote is as per the directive issued by the FIA.

  7. So from 7 to 31 is banned right? Team radio will be very scarce now.

    1. No. The messages in 1 through 31 are all permitted. Everything else is banned.

      1. 1-6 can be used before the start.
        1-31 can be used after the start.

        Don’t ask me why the geniuses at FIA came up with a complicated rule with limiting radio-talk before the start, especially since most is irrelevant anyway. @omarr-pepper, @rojov123

        1. Interesting that the ban starts whenever the pit lane is first opened on race day. That will be interesting if qualifying is postponed until the morning of race day, as nearly happened in Austin last year!

  8. “Any driver who caused the start to be aborted” ..
    That could be read as the car caused it, not the driver.. or is that going to far :)

  9. “There are further restrictions on those choices, however. Pirelli has to nominate up to two tyre compounds of which every driver must have at least one set of available for the race. Every driver must use at least one of these sets during the race, plus another set of a different compound.

    Pirelli also has to nominate the softest of its three chosen compounds which drivers must use in Q3.”

    Can this be any more complicated?

    1. Well it sounds confusing but it’s pretty simple. In short, each driver has 2 set from their tires pool that chosen by Pirelli. The driver must use at least one from it in the race, and can’t finish the race using only 1 type of compound (for example, if they choose to use the soft from Pirelli pool, they can’t use softs only in the race even though they still have enough stock of fresh softs)

  10. How will drivers be able to finish the races if nobody is allowed to tell them to “remember to drink” anymore?

    1. Covered under 31, weather information: “very dry inside cockpit”

  11. I don’t see “Allow your team-mate to pass” as an allowed message. Do team orders have to be delivered in code again?

    1. “6. Instructions to swap position with other drivers.” @hauspanzer

      1. Thanks, Mike. I feel foolish – my punishment for not reading all the other comments before pitching in. I was one of those who initially believed that the first 6 only applied BEFORE the race.

  12. It is all very complicated really, every change since 2014 have made F1 more complicated to understand.

    1. @michal2009b It’s not that complicated in practice. Everything is basically the same with some tweaks. Knock out qualifying is simple after you see it in action once. Radio ban is the same as last year with more restrictions, that honestly people wouldn’t even going to see the difference because we never heard all the banned conversations anyway. Tires rule is basically the same but now we have 3 compound type and the drivers still need to use at least 2 in the race. (each driver may have different tire pool now, but unless you the type who keep track of tire usage since P1, everything is virtually the same come race day)

  13. Still don’t quite the details of the elimination qualifying. If I read the rules correctly, elimination begins 9 minutes before the end of the session, and 7 drivers get eliminated. So is the following correct for Q3?

    Time from the end – drivers remaining
    9 – 7
    7.5 – 6
    6 – 5
    4.5 – 4
    3 – 3
    1.5 – 2
    0 – 1

    So there are no longer two drivers in the running for pole at the end, i.e. after the checkered flag? So if the leading driver is still on a fast lap at the end, there will never be any need to complete it?

    I also wonder about strategies. Is there really anyone going to run at the end? Assuming the second runs are faster than the first ones (as is generally the case), one may risk elimination if one leaves the last run too late. Fuelling for several laps (where this is even possible with tyre life) may not be enough either as the extra fuel will also make a car slower.

    I hope they have thought this through. I fear that in the last three minutes of Q3, there will often not really be any action anymore…

    1. I fear that you might be right with regards to no-one running at the end of Q3. It wouldn’t surprise me if as a result, that there is a bad reaction from the crowd as a result.
      Which in a way would be good, as it would hopefully force a re-think with regards to the qualifying. If they don’t scrap the change completely, maybe that could just leave Q3 as it was originally, and leave the elimination stuff for Q1 and Q2. Of course, that would mean some-one at FOM admitting that they made a mistake. I can’t see that happening. Oh well …

    2. @Mike-Dee
      I’m wondering about how Q3 is going to play out as well.

      Since there is no dramatic change in the tire compounds or the amount of tires drivers can use for qualifying I think it is save to assume that we will see a maximum of two timed laps per driver in Q3. The first of those will have to be in the bag within the first 5 minutes in order to avoid elimination. So those drivers who had to use all of their tires to make it to q3 (and therefore only have one run on fresh tires left) will have to make their single attempt early in the session whereas until now they usually waited until the final minutes.

      Now a possible second run is where it gets more interesting but i don’t really think that the slight advantange of waiting until the last minutes for some minor track improvement will be worth the risk of getting eliminated by some other drivers second attempt. So i too expect everybody to have their runs in by around the 8 minute mark which in my opionion will make for a pretty anti-climactic end of the session.

      Hope I’m wrong though.

    3. Q3 might not even happen if no driver takes to the track in the first 7 minutes of Q1. All would be eliminated (or none).
      The situation could occur in times of rain. The weather may be looking to clear and teams will want to sit in the shed for as long as possible.

      1. @glennb There’s always the classification. After the time set in the session (tie breaker: Who setting that time first), next is drivers who haven’t set any time yet but already going out to the track, which I believe the definition is crossing pit exit lane. (tiebreaker: Who entering the track first) and finally is according to Q2 classification.

        So if no one going out to the track at all, Q3 result will be the same as Q2.

    4. What do you think will happen when the Q3 is at those circuits with high lap times. There is no way that the drivers can do; an out lap, qualifying lap, in lap, change tyres/refuel in the garage, out lap, and 2nd qualifying lap, before the 2nd or 3th elimination mark has been reached. So, how many cars would that leave? 4?
      So, if after the first run the drivers that are lower than (say) P4 will not bother going for a second run, as they wouldn’t be able to complete the second run before that are eliminated.
      Basically, I think this whole elimination thing is rubbish, and drivers really only have the one chance at the start of each qualifying run. If they screw up, or are impeded by other drivers, then they are out! Boy, the stewards are going to be busy.
      What a farce!

    5. @mike-dee Your table is right, but you forgot the part when at the session each driver may complete his lap before the result taken. So at -1.5mins there’s 2 driver competing for pole, and at 0mins, both of them may complete their lap and then the classification is decided.

      The same is true for other session as well, so in Q1, the driver at 16th and above may complete his lap to try to improve his time and the same with Q2 for drivers at 9th and above.

  14. Guybrush Threepwood
    15th March 2016, 22:13

    Keith, do the rules specifically state “radio” communication? What is stopping the teams simply displaying the same messages on the cars LED screens or coming up with another form of communication?

    1. Because they haven’t actually changed the rules it isn’t specified – they’ve just told teams they’re going to interpret the existing regulation, described above, more strictly. So I expect that what you’re suggesting would not be allowed, because the means by which any assistance is given to the drivers isn’t specified.

    2. As I understand it pit to car telemetry isn’t allowed, so any message on the LED screen would need to be generated within the car anyway as sending a message to be displayed would presumably count as pit to car telemetry.

  15. I’m interested in performance of ultralight tyres.

  16. “push now” = go faster
    “you will be racing Minardi” = go slower

    (didn’t want to use any current team as a reference for a slow team. Let’s wait and see :)

    1. Another way to slow teammates down is “17. Information concerning a competitor’s likely race strategy.” So a team could say that “Your teammate is likely to use conservative fuel saving strategy NOW! Please confirm”

  17. Reading the new F1 rules now is like studying for an exam. Guess I will treat it like university and do some cramming the night before to try to memorise and understand it all.

    It might not come up as it is quite rare, but haven’t there been occasions that some teams/drivers have preferred the harder tyre to qualify on? In that case they could still use their preferred tyre in Q1 and Q2, but would be forced to use the Pirelli nominated Q3 tyre in Q3.

  18. “Any driving infringements committed during practice sessions can now result in lap time deletion.”

    So the lap time will be deleted from practice? What importance does that have?

    1. Qualifying is considered a practice session, so it would have an effect there. (And on rare occasions free practice times can play a role in determining the grid).

  19. Since most of the permitted radio communications are safety related why not have the rule be:
    -Between the start and finish of the race the drivers will have radio communication with Race Control only.
    -Teams are allowed one pit board per driver, the board will be of a set size, fonts of characters will be fixed and will not be electronic in anyway.
    -Spectators must not be used in any way to facilitate communication between the team and driver.
    -Blimps, drones, animals and ‘off track’ billboards must not be used to facilitate communication between the team and driver.

    Engine warning lights and oil pressure lights and transmission temperature warning lights are allowed in the cockpit, right? If you drive a racecar you should know if it is going to fail or become unsafe, heck even road cars have individual tire pressure indicators. The team can pre program all sorts of critical indicators. IMHO the drivers don’t need to talk to the pit during the race. IMHO, I would respect the driver’s effort more knowing they are operating the car alone. One pit board communication per lap should be enough. And if the car cannot leave the pit box or if the driver requests a verbal conversation then someone can plug a wire into a 3.5mm audio jack on the car and they can talk as long as they want.

  20. This will be the season I finally decide to have a new favourite motorsport championship. Adieu Formula Gimmickry.

  21. Brian Nicholls
    19th March 2016, 11:11

    All the above can be washed away if they just took up Mark Thielke’s suggestion vis. ~

    ‘Engine warning lights and oil pressure lights and transmission temperature warning lights are allowed in the cockpit, right? If you drive a racecar you should know if it is going to fail or become unsafe, heck even road cars have individual tire pressure indicators. The team can pre program all sorts of critical indicators. IMHO the drivers don’t need to talk to the pit during the race. IMHO, I would respect the driver’s effort more knowing they are operating the car alone. One pit board communication per lap should be enough.’

    Was motor racing less exciting for the spectators back in the day using only pit boards? None of this ‘Slow down you are using too much fuel’ ‘Your brakes are too hot’ nonsense; leave all that to the driver, all part of the game. Clever drivers in tune with the car will come out on top regardless and teams with less telemetry (money) in the present system, would be on a more level footing.
    While i’m moaning, get rid of all wings! The cars will be slower round corners but sliding round with full opposite lock makes for edge of the seat stuff for the spectators; AND the drivers.

  22. Just a question someone will know, when displaying the tire type sometimes for example medium white the display is white on black and others are black on white ? What dose this mean ?

    1. You mean on the FOM graphics on television, not on F1 Fanatic I assume? One means the tyre is new, the other means the tyre had been used before the current stint began. I can’t remember which is which off the top of my head but you can usually work it out.

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