The new 2010 F1 rules: A quick guide

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F1 race winners gets a bumper haul of points in 2010

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.

Fewer tyres

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:

Finishing position12345678910
2003-2009 Points System108654321
2010 Points System251815121086421

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:

Finishing position12345678910
2003-2009 Points System (% of winners’ points)10080605040302010
2010 Points System (% of winners’ points)1007260484032241684

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.

Other changes

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:

What about…

Tyre compounds

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.

Tyre warmers

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

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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56 comments on “The new 2010 F1 rules: A quick guide”

  1. A small remark. As I was reading the q3 tyre rule, I started wondering.
    Do the drivers in q3 have to start the race on the actual set they set their best time on or do they just mean they have to start the race on that type of compound?

    I always tought they ment the first but now I start wondering how it needs to be interpreted!

    1. A quote from Keith and the rule book. Sounds to me like they are starting the race on the actual set of tires they qualified on…


      In place of ‘race fuel qualifying’ the FIA is now forcing the top ten qualifiers to start the race on the tyres they set their best time on. Here’s the wording of the rule:

      25.4 d) At the start of the race each car which took part in Q3 must be fitted with the tyres with which the driver set his grid time. This will only be necessary if dry-weather tyres were used to set the grid time and if dry-weather are used at the start of the race. Any such tyres damaged during Q3 will be inspected by the FIA technical delegate who will decide, at his absolute discretion, whether any may be replaced and, if so, which tyres they should be replaced with.

      1. How do you do that cool quote thing that turns your text gray???

        1. use a blockquote tag:


          ” without spaces


          1. Whoops, seems that it even works with spaces…

            try this: text here

            without the quotation marks

          2. like this

          3. Nice!, thanks Invoke, sorry everyone else….

    2. What really is this Q3 tyre rule? Surely, and as we’ve noticed in the past drivers change tyres at least 2-3 times during a single qualifying session be it Q1 or Q2 or Q3

      What would the raceday tyre be? The last set of tyres used in Q3 or the one that is used to set the best time?

      1. They will use the tyres they set the best time on.

        1. That’s easy to overcome, do your fastest lap then deliberately flatspot them on the way into the pits. Tyres damaged – so you can’t use them.

  2. I agree completely with your points on the Q3 tyre rule. It makes no sense to penalise those drivers who have managed to get into Q3, and provides little incentive for those who, at the end of Q2, are just short of the time needed to get into Q3. If you finish in 11th then you get to start on the tyres you want, and so giving you an advantage over those in 8th, 9th and 10th.

    I’m all for making the racing as exciting as possible, and making the sport difficult, but this seems to add an unnecessary level of complexity which benefits no one.

    1. Tought about that aswell, but you can enter q3 and don’t set a time and you got the same as p11

      1. Yeah, there’s really no difference as you could still use the harder tyre to qualify, and might not even lose much performance on some tracks.

        1. You might as well enter Q3 on the tyres you want for the race and see how you get on. Others may have problems and you end up starting 7th on the right tyres, for instance.

          Here a thought: say you got 3rd on the hard tyres and then ran a faster lap to get 2nd on the soft compound. Could you throw away your faster lap to get the tyres you wanted on, perhaps, the preferable side of the track? I presume not, but there’s never been the strategic incentive to drop a grid place before.

          1. You’d have to go and break some other rule to get your fastest time disallowed. Parking in the middle of the track, particularly at Monaco, would do it.

    2. “It makes no sense to penalise those drivers who have managed to get into Q3, and provides little incentive for those who, at the end of Q2, are just short of the time needed to get into Q3.”

      I like to think of it as penalising the cars and not the drivers.

  3. About qualifying.
    How about ask all 24 cars to be on track for Q1 for 15-20 minutes. Then eliminate the the last 14 & on Q2 let the top 10 car go for 1 short qualifying.This will make qualifying more interesting & as it will be tough for the tv to follow 1 particular car in Q2 they will be following 1 car at a time which is good for the sponsors.As in the past between Ferrari & Torro Rosso they followed Ferrari.

    1. and when you put all 24 cars on the grid to eliminate the last 14…how would you decide which order to put them in to start off?

  4. Prisoner monkeys
    4th March 2010, 4:22

    The package of changes for 2010 is, on the whole, fairly good with a few highlights but still too much needless fiddling.

    If needless fiddling improves the racing while we wait for the new rules that will ban complex aerodynamic parts (to hopefully make overtaking easier), then it’s a necessary evil.

  5. I’m not really convinced that drivers are settling for second because winning just doesn’t pay enough points for them to bother with it.

    I mean, are they really going to find those two tenths they need just because there’s five more points at stake — and wouldn’t the guy in P1 also want to go a little faster to get those points too?

    Clearly an argument can be made that race winners should have a leg up in the championship standings (I personally disagree) but I don’t see tweaking the points system as having any impact on the actual race.

  6. keith
    Can you tell us if the 107% rule still applies could we have car’s been lapped before the first 10 laps are over

    1. No there is no 107% rule, it’s been gone since the end of 2002, I think.

  7. Jonesracing82
    4th March 2010, 7:02

    in a way the stupid “Q3 tyre rule” does away with “proper qualifying”, it could work better than the fuel rule tho…..i hope

  8. guys i think there is a change in the rule for safety car…….. is it so???

  9. Aren’t teams banned from sending pit crews out unless there’s a car coming in? I seem to remember it was part of the same safety push as the 60mph pit lane speed limit.

    1. Mouse_Nightshirt
      4th March 2010, 7:58

      Teams can ‘change their minds’ though. It happens all the time.

      1. Or the driver could “forget” to come in to the pits…

  10. I’m not sure about the strategy you mentioned – pitting early could mean having better tyres but getting stuck in traffic will also have great significance. I think we will see more overtakings after coming out of the pit as the driver who has just completed pit-stop will have tyre advantage but weight of the cars would be the same.

  11. The 2011 rule change to ban double diffusers doesn’t sit very well with bringing in new teams on a tight budget. So they have to race their first year in a brand new car with all its teething problems and then throw it away to build a new one the next year without a double diffuser!

    Hows that for mixed up thinking!

    1. Prisoner Monkeys
      4th March 2010, 9:27

      The diffuser doesn’t really change things. Single-layer diffusers make the car less complex, and therefore easier to adapt. It’s only when you start adding layers of complexity after the final design has been completed that you run into trouble.

      1. I agree – the only way keeping them would “save” money is if the technical regs stay otherwise identical between this year and next. And I bet anyone £100 that doesn’t happen.

        1. Personally I’m hoping that they also move to ban all the little aero add-ons that were supposed to be outlawed last year but which the teams found a way to retain…

  12. Not sure about the ban on refuelling. I want to see how it plays out rather than get my hopes up too soon.
    I’m not too fussed that the rules are being fiddled with right now. I think with the change of leadership there was always going to be a bit of tweaking especially while they are trying to find the best way to improve racing even if some stability would be nice for a change.
    If I’m honest I’d like the tyres to have stayed the same in width. If it brings more oversteer (which is unfair especially to those drivers whon prefer understeer I admit) then it could bring a few more mistakes and that could lead to overtaking although I don’t really like how cynical that sounds :P
    I wish the teams were using kers too-but only the ones that wanted it.

  13. When they ban double diffusers I would like them to tighten up the regulations to get rid of the sidepod winglets that are still on the car as well, and hopefully they realise that the Q3 tyre rule is stupid and do away with it.

  14. I didn’t think the teams were allowed to send their mechanics into the pitlane unless they are actually going to make a stop?

  15. What really is this Q3 tyre rule? Surely, and as we’ve noticed in the past drivers change tyres at least 2-3 times during a single qualifying session be it Q1 or Q2 or Q3
    What would the raceday tyre be? The last set of tyres used in Q3 or the one that is used to set the best time?

  16. About Q1:
    Normally I think Lotus, Virging and Hispania will be lost in Q1. That leaves only 1 other driver to make the first error. So the top teams will do only 1 timed lap in Q1.

  17. oscar riches
    4th March 2010, 11:24

    the new points system is crazy…

    1. Why?

      Didn’t you understand the bit where Keith explains it’s virtually identical to the scoring system we had the last few years?

  18. So what happens if a team scrape into Q3 and then decide not to run for whatever reason (save the engine/gearbox for the race/reliability issues etc.). Would they then qualify in 10th and then be able to start the on the tyres they want? May be an advantage if a small team scrap through without much hope of getting above about 7th?

  19. I think it is not such a big deal. Drivers will probably run the qualifying session with the hard compound, and if the race strategy suggest the change, will switch for the primes for just a flying lap at the end of Q3 (remember Q3 is in low fuel), therefore the tires won’t be as damaged for the race, thus not giving such an advantage for the guys not making Q3.
    The only concern will be to start the race heavy with the soft tires, but
    1)you’ll have a better grid position.
    2)yo’ll be faster at the early stages.
    3)you’ll pit earlier meaning you’ll be earlier on the fresh hard ones.
    With all this you can put a significant gain on the first 2/3ds of th race. Not saying allways, but on some tracks will be good.

  20. The q3 tire rule is unfortunate.
    The narrower front tires are unfortunate.

    If we want to see innovation applicable to road cars, try these changes:

    Ban aerofoils.
    Limit fuel volume.
    Remove engine spec freeze.

    1. i thought the narrower front tyres were to combat over (or was it under stear) due to the increase in the length of the car (or somthing)…kinda like an elise…which just happens to be about the best handleing sports car on the market???

  21. Keith,
    I have some questions about the Qualifying tire rule. The rule states that the top 10 must use the same tires on which they set their best lap on. Does this mean just using the same compound, or literally the same tire set?

    If they have to use the same worn tire set, then I’m sure that could cause some difficulties. For example, what if a driver destroys his tires while unsuccesfully attempting to better his lap time? Would he start the race with totally worn out tires? Also, what if a driver has a puncture? Would he start with 1 new tire and 3 used tires? And what if a driver has an accident in Q3 after setting a hot lap? Surely they would be allowed to fit a new tire set for the race in that instance…

  22. “We could even see teams bluffing their rivals by sending their crews onto pit lane when their car isn’t coming in.”

    Wrong. The whole idea is to pit earlier not later… So crew must come out as late as they can, in order to trick other teams…. for obvious reasons…

  23. Hi,

    This is my first post here, although i have been following this site for some time now.
    I feel that stopping re-fueling takes away the weight variable. We might end up seeing cars running in formation lap after lap.
    The only point of interest seems to be setting up the car – what weight levels will suit a car more…
    What say?

  24. The tire selection question seems pretty straight forward to me. Every team in Q3 will select the fastest tire, whether prime or alternate, and use the less durable compound for a shorter middle stint, or a very short last stint.

    Getting a win or podium will still be about starting position and wear, at least for the first segment.

  25. I’m more interested in rule changes for reasons of fairness and to prevent any sort of gamesmanship (cheating is perhaps a too strong a word).

    It seems we increasingly see rule changes for the sake of people who watch on tv.

    Now, I love Formula One, and have watched since I was about 12 years old (I am now 25). I didn’t need any rule changes to get interested in the sport and follow it closely.

    If people aren’t natural F1 fans then so be it, the FIA should stop trying to ‘sex up’ the sport to make it appealing to part time fans, who are only interested if there are ‘big crashes’ or lots of ‘action’.

    Either you like F1 or you don’t, I’m sick of MANY sports dumbing down to try to encorporate the plebs and part timers. See 20/20 Cricket and the recent proposals in snooker as other examples.

    P.S:- I am not an old fogey (yet). I’m just sick of people messing with my favourite sport for comercial reasons. I know it’s the way of the world, but it grinds my gears.

    1. Intuitively it’s easy to agree with that, but it’s difficult to make direct comparisons with F1 and other sports as F1 is such a technologically driven sport.

      Many of the rule changes in recent years (successful or not!) have been made with the honest intention of improving safety and reducing costs. It’s not a perfect world so any such change will always carry a “negative” as well as “positive” effect on the racing.

      The commercial aspect is simply reality; without money there’d be no F1 at all, and with unchecked spending there would be even more commerciality and fewer teams.

    2. I can’t say that any of Max Moseley’s “Chess” rule changes since the 90s really sexed anything up!

      I think the current rules are almost ideal.

      The only changes I’d make are to remove compulsory pitstops, remove the need to race on the quali tyres and to reduce the number of people doing the pitstop to 6.

  26. Would it be possible to put one compound on fronts and another compound on rear wheels, this would mean you are using both compounds and you wouldn’t have to pit at all if you nursed the tyres!

    1. Nope, they need to be the same:

      Rule 25.2 – A set of tyres will be deemed to comprise two front and two rear tyres all of which must be of the same specification.

      This has been banned since the early 90s I think. Shame really as it takes away another skill from the driver.

  27. Great summary thanks…

  28. what happens if it rains and they need to use wet tyres ? like Q3 cnat go out on dry can they ?

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