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What to expect in 2011 with the new FIA regulations

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What to expect in 2011 with the new FIA regulations

2011 Regulations for Formula One At the beginning of this week Formula One's governing body the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), has published the 2011 Sporting and Technical Regulations. Again the FIA has clarified and...

2011 Regulations for Formula One

At the beginning of this week Formula One's governing body the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), has published the 2011 Sporting and Technical Regulations. Again the FIA has clarified and improved a number of regulations, especially the Safety Car regulations, and the FIA hopes other changes in the Sporting Regulations will improve on-track driving standards and drivers' discipline. With changes in the Technical Regulations they clearly aim to improve the safety of drivers and spectators. Below an overview of the changes in the Sporting and Technical Regulations.

FIA flag
FIA flag

Photo by: xpb.cc

FIA Stewards

The FIA Stewards Panel will, as was the case this season, also include an ex-Formula One driver in 2011. This new approach has been a huge success, there were no controversies about the decisions and penalties of the FIA Stewards Panel, and their decisions have also been consistent, which was certainly not the case during previous seasons. The FIA has now given the stewards more tools, and during a race, they may next year also impose time penalties, reprimands, exclude a driver from the race results, or suspend a driver from the next event. As usual, drive-through penalties and ten- second time penalties imposed during the last five laps or after the end of the race, will not apply and instead a twenty- and thirty-second time penalty respectively, will be added to the elapsed time of the driver concerned.

Gearboxes

In 2010 a gearbox had to be used during four consecutive events, Article 28.6.a of the Sporting Regulations now states: "Each driver may use no more than one gearbox for five consecutive Events in which his team competes. Should a driver use a replacement gearbox he will drop five places on the starting grid at that Event and an additional five places each time a further gearbox is used."

Article 28.6.f further mentions if a gearbox is replaced for the first time it is necessary before the end of a five-race sequence, the gearbox may be replaced without incurring the five-place grid penalty. The replacement gearbox will only be required to complete the remainder of the event, and is therefore not required to finish a new five-race sequence. A penalty is therefore not given when a gearbox is chanced for the first time. However, this article only applies to the 2011 season, and also does not apply to the last event of the season.

Qualifying

The 107% qualifying rule will be re-introduced in 2011, Article 36.3 of the Sporting Regulations now states: "During Q1, any driver whose best qualifying lap exceeds 107% of the fastest time set during that session will not be allowed to take part in the race." In exceptional circumstances the stewards may permit a car that failed to comply to the 107% rule to start the race. If a driver fails to qualify because he crashed during the first lap of Q1, and as a result cannot participate in the remainder of the qualifying sessions, he could be permitted to the start grid, if he or his team can prove he has set a fast time on the clock during the Free Practice Sessions.

The decision is entirely up to the stewards, and it is not possible to appeal against the decision. The article further states that if more than one car is permitted to the grid in this manner, the stewards will determine in which order they will be added to the start grid.

Also new is that cars participating in Q2 and Q3, can be selected at random to undergo a weighing procedure during those sessions. At the end of qualifying, all cars will be weighed, drivers are not allowed to leave their car before weighing. If a driver wishes to leave his car, 'he must ask the technical delegate to weigh him in order that this weight may be added to that of the car.'

Pit lane related regulations

In the wake of the numerous pit lane incidents during this year's championship, the FIA has also made chances to the regulations. Article 23.1.a of the Sporting Regulations gives a clear description of the pit lane itself: "For the avoidance of doubt and for description purposes the pit lane will be divided into two lanes. The lane closest to the pit wall will be designated the 'fast lane' and may be no more than 3.5 meters wide, the lane closest to the garages will be designated the 'inner lane'."

Heikki Kovalainen, Lotus F1 Team
Heikki Kovalainen, Lotus F1 Team

Photo by: xpb.cc

Overtaking in the pit lane is no longer allowed: "Any car(s) driven to the end of the pit lane prior to the start or re-start of a practice session, or any car(s) required to stop at the pit exit during a safety car period, must form up in a line in the fast lane and leave in the order they got there unless another car is unduly delayed."

About the release of a car after a pit stop the regulations now say: "It is the responsibility of the competitor to release his car after a pit stop only when it is safe to do so. The competitor must also provide a means of clearly establishing, when being viewed from the front of the car, when that car was released."

The pit lane can also be closed for safety reasons during the race at the request of the Race Director. Under such circumstances competitors may only enter the pit lane 'in order for essential and entirely evident repairs to be carried out to the car.'

Tyre regulations

Pirelli will be the sole tyre supplier in 2011, 2012 and 2013, and the regulations regarding the usage of tyres have been refined. Three sets of dry weather tyres will be allocated for the first two Free Practice Sessions (P1, P2), two sets of 'primes', and one set of 'option' tyres. One set of prime tyres has to be returned before the start of P2, and another set of primes have to be returned before the start of P3.

For the remainder of the event, P3, qualifying and the race itself, eight sets of tyres will be allocated, four sets of primes and four sets of options. One set of each specification must be returned before the start of the qualifying sessions, and cannot be used during the race. This means a driver has three sets of options, and three sets of prime tyres available for the race and the qualifying sessions.

A driver must use one set of primes and one set of option tyres during the race, unless he used the intermediate or wet weather tyres during that same race. Any driver who fails to comply to this rule, and finishes the race without using both tyre compounds, will be excluded from the race results. In the event a race is suspended and cannot be restarted, 30 seconds will be added to the elapsed time of a driver who has not used both tyre compounds. This last rule could become a bit controversial, as a driver cannot predict or foresee a premature end of the race, and will be punished for something that is beyond his control.

And 'clever tricks' are not allowed, the article about the usage of tyres also states: "Tyres will only be deemed to have been used once the car's timing transponder has shown that it has left the pit lane."

Driver related regulations

The FIA wants to see 'cleaner' driving on track and has introduced a number of new regulations. Article 30.13 of the Sporting Regulations about safety states: "At no time may a car be driven unnecessarily slowly, erratically or in a manner which could be deemed potentially dangerous to other drivers or any other person. This will apply whether any such car is being driven on the track, the pit entry or the pit lane."

Rubens Barrichello, Williams F1 Team and Michael Schumacher, Mercedes GP
Rubens Barrichello, Williams F1 Team and Michael Schumacher, Mercedes GP

Photo by: xpb.cc

A few new articles have added to Article 20 about driving: "Manoeuvres liable to hinder other drivers, such as 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, are not permitted." Off- track 'excursions' are no longer allowed: "Drivers must use the track at all times. For the avoidance of doubt the white lines defining the track edges are considered to be part of the track but the kerbs are not." A driver will be judged off-track if no part of the car remains in contact with the track.

Drivers who left the track, may re-join when it is safe to do so, and without gaining advantage. The FIA also wants a swifter reaction of backmarkers who are about to be lapped, Article 20.4: "As soon as a car is caught by another car which is about to lap it during the race the driver must allow the faster driver past at the first available opportunity. If the driver who has been caught does not allow the faster driver past, waved blue flags will be shown to indicate that he must allow the following driver to overtake." Drivers who ignore the blue flag, will be reported to the FIA Stewards.

Also new is that drivers have to be available for autograph sessions during a Grand Prix event, the time and place for the mandatory session will be determined by the FIA, the promoter of the race, and the Commercial Rights Holder.

Safety Car Regulations

These regulations have been updated, a similar article as 30.13 has been added, while the Safety Car is deployed 'no car may be driven unnecessarily slowly, erratically or in a manner which could be deemed potentially dangerous'. The regulations now also clearly state when it is allowed to overtake the Safety Car: "When entering the pits any car may pass another car remaining on the track, including the safety car, after it has crossed the first safety car line. When leaving the pits any car, including the safety car, may overtake, or be overtaken by, another car on the track before it crosses the second safety car line."

The Mercedes safety car
The Mercedes safety car

Photo by: xpb.cc

Another new rule is that when the race is resumed after a Safety Car period, drivers who are 'unable to re-establish the original starting order before he reaches the first safety car line, must enter the pit lane and may only join (or rejoin) the race once the whole field has passed the end of the pit lane'. The same rule applies if the race has been suspended and restarted again, a driver who is unable to re-establish the order before the race was suspended, also has to enter the pit lane.

Personnel curfew

With 20 races on the 2011 calendar, some teams have expressed their concerns about the workload of their staff, sometimes they have to work around the clock without getting any rest or sleep. The FIA has now imposed a working hour limit, and this has become known as the 'personnel curfew'.

Article 30.19 of the Sporting regulations states: "No team personnel who are associated in any way with the operation of the cars are permitted within the confines of the circuit during two six hour periods which commence ten hours before the scheduled start times of P1 and P3." This means when practice starts at 10am, the curfew will be from midnight until 6am, and when practice starts at 11am, the curfew will be from 1am to 7am. Teams are allowed to make a total of four exceptions during the 2011 season.

Ban on team orders lifted

After lengthy discussions, the FIA and the World Motor Sport Council have decided to lift the ban on team orders. Article 39.1 of the Sporting Regulations has been scrapped. However, the FIA has warned 'teams will be reminded that any actions liable to bring the sport into disrepute are dealt with under Article 151c of the International Sporting Code and any other relevant provisions'.

The FIA has not specified what is and what is not allowed, or what exactly will bring the sport in disrepute. It certainly would have been a good idea if they would have specified what is definitely not acceptable. Now there is still room for discussion about the interpretation of the rules regarding team orders, and in the event a dubious team order is issued during a race, teams will hopefully not use these shortcomings and loopholes to justify their actions.

Technical Regulations

Numerous changes have been made to the Technical Regulations, the F-Duct and double diffuser will be banned, instead a movable rear wing will be introduced to improve the overtaking opportunities.

Article 3.18.2 of the Technical Regulations describes when the wing can be used: "The driver may only activate the adjustable bodywork [movable wing] in the race when he has been notified via the control electronics (see Article 8.2) that it is enabled. It will only be enabled if the driver is less than one second behind another at any of the pre-determined positions around each circuit. The system will be disabled by the control electronics the first time the driver uses the brakes after he has activated the system."

Fernando Alonso, Scuderia Ferrari tries out the F-Duct rear wing system
Fernando Alonso, Scuderia Ferrari tries out the F-Duct rear wing system

Photo by: xpb.cc

The FIA also added new regulations to prevent tyre damage caused by bodywork of another car, introduced new specifications which refine the bodywork regulations, there are also new specifications for the floor, wheel tethers, skid blocks, both roll structures (roll hoops), suspension uprights, camera housings and mountings, and rear view mirrors.

Article 3.15 bans the F-Duct and other driver operated aerodynamic devices: "With the exception of the parts necessary for the adjustment described in Article 3.18 [adjustable rear wing], any car system, device or procedure which uses, or is suspected of using, driver movement as a means of altering the aerodynamic characteristics of the car is prohibited." There are new rules regarding the flexibility of bodywork which include maximum and minimum horizontal and vertical deflection specifications, and the FIA has also ramped up the flexibility tests itself.

The Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) will be re-introduced, therefore the minimum weight of the car has been increased to 640 kg, this season the minimum weight was 620 kg. New for 2011 is a mandatory weight distribution, Article 4.2 of the Technical Regulations: "For 2011 only, the weight applied on the front and rear wheels must not be less than 291kg and 342kg respectively at all times during the qualifying practice session." The car will be weighed on a set of dry-weather tyres selected by a FIA technical delegate.

The 2011 Formula One season

In a nutshell, there are many changes for the 2011 season, the improved Safety Car regulations should prevent Safety Car controversies as seen during this year's European and Monaco Grand Prix, the pit lane should become a safer place, and another frustration, the overtaking of backmarkers, has been addressed by tightening the rules, backmarkers now have to respond to blue flags immediately, if they don't they will be in big trouble.

The movable rear wing could be a useful overtaking tool, but so far it is unknown how much advantage a driver will gain if he activates the movable wing. The in 2009 introduced movable front wing was not a successful overtaking tool, as no driver ever mentioned he was able to overtake another competitor after he had activated his front wing.

Regulations are now also clear about on-track driver behavior, Michael Schumacher or any other driver will have to think twice before he decides to try to squeeze another competitor into the pit wall, as dangerous driving will not be tolerated anymore. Off-track excursions are prohibited, gaining advantage by cutting a corner or chicane or taking any another shortcut, is a definite 'no-no' in 2011.

The re-introduction of KERS (although still not mandatory) will again be a challenge for all teams and engineers, especially for the three new teams who have never used the system before. Flexing wing sagas will hopefully be a thing of the past, the banned F-Duct and double diffuser will find their place in the 'Hall of Fame of Clever Gadgets' and will probably end up somewhere in a museum. The FIA and the regulations are ready for 2011, and it is now up to the teams and engineers to build a super fast car before on March 14, 2011, the lights on the Bahrain International Circuit will turn green for yet another spectacular Formula One season.

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