The changes to the F1 rules are not as sweeping as they were last season. But there are several significant alterations such as the ban on refuelling during races and winners getting 25 points instead of ten.
And there are some other small-but-significant changes for 2010 to keep an eye on too, all of which are covered below.
Q1 and Q2
With 24 cars on the grid this year we’ll see seven drivers knocked out in Q1 and another seven in Q2, instead of five in each as last year.
The top ten drivers in Q3 will no longer have to qualify with the fuel loads they’ll start the race with, thanks to the banning of in-race refuelling (see below).
They will, however, have to start the race using the tyres they set their fastest lap in Q3 with, which could influence their decision on which compound to use in qualifying.
No refuelling during races
The effect the in-race refuelling ban will have on races has been hotly debated between fans.
Certainly, drivers will have to take it easier in the opening stages of a Grand Prix or risk destroying their tyres. But as the race goes on we should see some interesting scenarios and strategies develop.
For example, if two drivers are running closely together and one pits to change tyres, that driver will enjoy the advantage of fresher tyres and be able to lap more quickly than the other for a few laps. Several F1 strategists have talked about how this will make strategy more reactive this year – teams will keep an eye on what their rivals do and respond. We could even see teams bluffing their rivals by sending their crews onto pit lane when their car isn’t coming in.
Some have doubts about the wisdom of the refuelling ban but I’m fully in favour. Here’s why: 14 reasons to love the F1 refuelling ban
Q3 tyre rule
The rule requiring drivers who reach the top ten in qualifying to start the race on the tyres they set their best time on will have an obvious effect on the race.
A driver who starts on softer tyres can expect a fast start and some quick opening laps but they will have to pit earlier to change tyres. A driver who starts on harder tyres will not be able to make as quick start but will have more suitable tyres for the opening stint when the fuel load is at its heaviest.
Drivers will also have to manage their tyre use more carefully over a Grand Prix weekend. The number of four-tyre sets available of them has been cut from 14 to 11 – six of the harder ‘prime’ compound and five of the softer ‘option’ tyre.
To encourage drivers to do more running during practice sessions they will have to return one set of ‘prime’ tyres before FP2 and one set of each type of tyre before FP3.
Since the last race of 2009 the F1 points system has been changed not once, but twice. Here’s the system they eventually settled on and how it compares with the last points system:
|2003-2009 Points System
|2010 Points System
On the face of it that’s a significant change: a winner now gets two-and-a-half times more points than last year, and ninth and tenth place finishers score poitns for the first time.
But there been little change to the relative worth of each finishing position:
|2003-2009 Points System (% of winners’ points)
|2010 Points System (% of winners’ points)
This shows us that:
- Second place is worth less compared to a win than it was last year (but still much more than it was before 2003)
- Third to fifth places are worth more or less the same as last year
- Sixth to tenth places are worth more than last year
In short, the FIA seems to have tried to reduce the appearance of drivers ‘settling for second’ by making it worth slightly less. But the increasingly generous awards for lower place finishes should help keep the title fight going until the later stages of the championship as well as giving the new teams something achievable to shoot for.
More on the new (and old) points systems here:
No refuelling during races
The most talked-about change for this year sees in-race refuelling banned for the first time since 1993.
This has had an obvious effect on car design – they now need much larger fuel tanks. It will also put brakes under greater strain.
Narrower front tyres
F1 cars will have narrower front tyres this year. The change is partly to correct an unintended consequence of last year’s switch from grooved to slick tyres.
Removing the grooves meant the front and rear tyre contact patches (the area where tyre meets road) increased in size. Because the front tyres were narrower to begin, the increase in contact patch size meant they gained more grip relative to the rear tyres. The new reduction in front tyre width will correct that.
There are fears that this reduction in ‘mechanical’ grip combined with further gains in ‘aerodynamic’ grip will make it harder for F1 cars to follow each other closely in 2010, which will make it harder for drivers to overtake.
The reduction in width applies to rain tyres as well as dry weather slicks and in testing several drivers found the intermediate tyre wear was much higher than last year.
Among the other significant changes to the rules is a provision made for teams who want to bring in an untested driver during the season.
When Toro Rosso did this with Jaime Alguersuari last year he was unable to test before his debut. In the same circumstances this year the rules allow for a new driver to have a test before racing.
More on the other minor changes to the rules in these articles:
- 2010 F1 rules published: FIA changes post-race penalties and fuel declarations
- Updated 2010 F1 rules include new testing, engine and safety car regulations
Drivers still have to use each tyre compound at least once per race, unless they use wet weather tyres during it.
There were rumours about a new rule that would force drivers to make at least two pits tops per race, but no such rule was passed.
The Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems introduced last year remain legal in 2010 but the teams have agreed not to use them to save money.
A ban on tyre warmers has been proposed more than once in the past few years but not put in the rule books yet. They remain legal in 2010 but a new clause has been added which says the heating element may only act on the outer surface of the tyre.
Double-diffusers will be banned for the 2011 F1 season.
A shake-up in the stewards’ office follows criticism over how race penalties have been handled in recent seasons. Most significantly the role of non-voting Chairman previously held by Alan Donnelly has been abolished (Donnelly has since left the FIA).
The FIA said in December the stewards “should aim to reach decisions very efficiently” which hopefully means an ends to the days of waiting half a race or longer for stewards to render important decisions.
Read more: F1 stewarding gets another overhaul
Some positive changes but too much fiddling
The package of changes for 2010 is, on the whole, fairly good with a few highlights but still too much needless fiddling.
Reintroducing refuelling in 1994 was the wrong decision made for the wrong decision. Happily they’ve finally corrected it.
The change in the points system is an attempt to acknowledge the increased number of participants in 2010 and this second version is certainly an improvement over the earlier version they produced. I just wishes they’d done more to increase the gap in reward between winning and finishing second, which still feels under-rewarded.
The rest of the regulations include some tidying up of problematic areas from last year’s swingeing changes. The biggest sticking point for me remains the Q3 tyre rule which intends to compromise the top ten qualifiers. I don’t like rules which arbitrarily penalise a group of drivers because they’ve performed well, and I can’t imagine it having a particularly beneficial effect on the quality of racing.
What I’d most like to see from next year’s rules is fewer changes and more stability.
See all the articles in the F1 Fanatic 2010 Season Preview
2010 F1 season