Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Montreal, 2011

Four-hour time limit among new 2012 rules

2012 F1 season

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Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Montreal, 2011
The Canadian Grand Prix took more than four hours this year

The FIA will impose a maximum time limit of four hours on Grands Prix as of 2012.

It comes after this year’s Canadian Grand Prix took four hours and four minutes to complete due to heavy rain causing a lengthy suspension. The existing two-hour time limit on races that are not suspended will remain.

The FIA has also confirmed new rules on driving standards. When defending a position, drivers will not be allowed to move back onto the racing line after moving off-line.

This was a cause for debate following the exchange between Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton during the Italian Grand Prix this year.

Drivers have also been told they can no longer leave the track without a justifiable reason. Some drivers have been cutting chicanes during practice and qualifying sessions to save time and/or fuel – such as Sebastian Vettel did in Korea and Schumacher in Abu Dhabi.

Drivers will be allowed to use all sets of tyres that are allocated to them on the first day of practice if they choose.

During a race suspension, cars which are in the pits when a race is suspended will be allowed to re-join the cars on the grid in the position they were in.

Teams will also be required to have their cars pass all FIA crash tests before they participate in pre-season testing.

The FIA also announced the following changes to the technical rules:

“All engine standard ECU set up and control parameters, which were formerly contained only within a technical directive, are now contained within the relevant parts of the technical regulations.

“The exhaust tailpipes are now strictly regulated in order to ensure that the aerodynamic effect exhaust gases have on the car is kept to an absolute minimum.

“Better marking of in-car emergency switches operated by marshals are now stipulated.

“The side impact structures will now have to be subjected to a further (upward) push-off test.”

More information on the 2012 F1 season.

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Image ?? Red Bull/Getty images

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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79 comments on “Four-hour time limit among new 2012 rules”

  1. “The FIA has also confirmed new rules on driving standards. When defending a position, drivers will not be allowed to move back onto the racing line after moving off-line.” Wow so this means you have two options… A) Defend and then stick to your line) or b) hold the racing line. Interesting change indeed, should change racing hugely!

    1. @Superted666 I don’t think it’s going to make much difference. At the moment drivers can move off-line then move back towards the racing line but leave room to allow another driver to occupy it. To my mind, this rule just codifies practice that has been in place for a long time – I wrote about it in 2008.

      I think the distinction is between moving “onto” the racing line and “towards” the racing line – the latter is fine, the former is not.

    2. You have to move onto the racing line at some point.

      Arrgghh. More grey areas. Just forget this stupid rule already.

      1. If anything, it clarifies things. Before, if a driver did defend and then move back for the corner it was a bit open for debate. Now, it’s been said it’s allowed, but driver did it anyway, so it won’t change much at all to be honest.

      2. agreed this is pathetic, why don’t they just bite the bullet and make the track into lanes like the roc keith and others found so dissapointing. (not a dig i’m being serious since the fia is obviously determind to get rid of all real racing.)

    3. Indeed @superted666, makes it more interesting and its clearer what is and is not allowed.

      These things are pretty much OK, only that 4 hour limit is a bit strange. I’d think it would be better to put in criteria dealing with weather, daylight, travel time limitation or even noise permits to put a limit on a suspended race than just cut it off like this.

      1. Did Button overtake Vettel in those extra four minutes over the four hours?

        1. Last lap, so yes.

          1. So we call it the Vettel rule ! In a few years time Vettel can claim that he really won the race because the race should have ended before Button passed him.

          2. @PJtierney ,@HoHum – the Vettel rule especially as it will mean that a driver leading the race in wet weather will argue even more for keeping it suspended, and having long SC periods before and after to minimise laps to run to win to as close to the 70% completion as they can!

          3. We should call it the Button rule as it allowed him to win

  2. I don’t think we need a set time limit. It should vary depending on where we are. Obviously, a race in Melbourne can’t go for 5 hours as it would be dark by the end of it, but if it’s in Silverstone or Canada, why not? I don’t care how long a race takes, I just like to see it get completed.

    The FIA has also confirmed new rules on driving standards. When defending a position, drivers will not be allowed to move back onto the racing line after moving off-line.

    Once again, I think a lack of clarity will cause yet more controversial stewarding decisions. Does breaking a slipstream count as a defensive move? I felt Hamilton’s penalty in Malaysia was completely ridiculous as he didn’t impede Alonso or affect which line he took into the corner even slightly.

    1. @damonsmedley I’m not sure where the demand for this time limit is coming from. I suspect TV broadcasters/FOM.

      Hopefully the race director will take account of this new time limit and not waste so many laps and so much time running the field behind the safety car in very wet races. I doubt it, though.

      1. @KeithCollantine Once again, I think that depends on the circuit. Street-circuits are probably more dangerous in wet conditions as the spray is trapped on the racing line. I just find it unusual that we saw an entire race run in similar conditions in China 2009, but recently the safety car seems so be taking over at every opportunity.

      2. @KeithCollantine Keith, I’m not sure I get your point here – or maybe I am misreading the rule: if there is a limit of 4 hours, then what difference does it make whether those are spent (“wasted” as you say) behind the safety car, or whether the cars just remain on the grid waiting for the weather to get better? Assuming that the weather is not appropriate for racing, the 4 hours will be ticking away anyway, wouldn’t they?

        1. I can’t speak for keith but i think what he means is in canada for instance when they started behind the safety car. By the time the safety car came in people were swapping for slicks which is pretty ridiculose.

          1. Yep, I agree – but I can’t see how the 4 hour rule would change that? Or… perhaps, you mean that if the race director feels pressed by the 4 hour rule, then he would be more likely to let the race re-start earlier out of concern of time?

        2. @nordmann Laps spent behind the safety car count towards the race distance, so they are potentially being wasted.

          Time spent under red flags is not necessarily wasted as they have up to four hours to fit the race in.

          Yes, that has now been restricted to four hours. But under normal conditions they’re still more likely to run out of laps than run out of time.

          1. OK, thanks, I think I see what you mean.

          2. Furthermore, (I think) the 2 hour rule is still in effect, so those laps would also waste time.

      3. I guess very rarely a race would last more than four hours. The longest race ever (Canada 2011) lasted just four minutes more.

        1. I agree with not having a time limit. I know it might sound odd, but one of the highlights of the season was just listening to Martin and DC talk about nothing in particular and watching what the drivers did as the rain tumbled down.

        2. Had the race been ended 4 minutes earlier we would have had a different result, I for one would have been very disappointed to have watched for 4 hours only to have seen Vettel luck out again due to red flags.

  3. When defending a position, drivers will not be allowed to move back onto the racing line after moving off-line.

    That’s ridiculous. Are they trying to eliminate exciting racing?

    What we had was a good system. It prevented most of the dangerous driving, while still allowing for most of the action to happen.

    In the end, this new rule won’t stop crashes like Massa on Hamilton and many others. (It almost seems like it’s been design to benefit DRS.)

    1. @mike I think it’s another step in the process of trying to increase the amount of overtakes. FIA obviously don’t care if they’re artificial or not. As James Allen concluded after the end of the season:

      So despite the Pirelli tyres and the DRS wings, the outcomes haven’t changed that much, but the way they has been achieved has been more interesting for the spectators because of more overtaking and more use of Race Strategy.

      So why not have 2000 passes and 1000 pit stops each race? It doesn’t matter that it’s all fake, people need a show.

    2. I’d like to suggest a slight correction… Hamilton was the driver at the back and hence he is at fault. Even DC agrees with this point of view. Well, DC sure does know more about GP racing than us enthusiasts. So while the stewards decided what they did, DC totally thinks that stewards got it wrong and Lewis made a fist of it again.

      1. I don’t agree. And DC lets his allegiances dictate his conclusion. But I think this has been argued enough.

        1. DC’s allegiances? Would you please name the team he worked for longest in F1 and had a lot of wins as well?

  4. if they just let them race in the rain then it would not take them 4 hour+ to finish the race. yeah… it would be dangerous but ill be an interesting for the fan(like me). it will show who the hero or zero

    1. Safety first.

    2. @amiranuar It’s a tricky issue. As a fan, I also want to see the drivers race under any conditions; the crazier, the better. However, I know how it feels to drive a road car in stormy rain and I imagine that driving an F1 car is a much more extreme experience. For sure, F1 drivers are professionals but David Coulthard once described how driving an F1 car in heavy rain feels. According to him, it’s unbearable, you literally don’t see anything, you can only guess where the corners are. And it’s not what the racing is about. It doesn’t mean that races should be stopped as soon as the first raindrops start to fall but there is a red line.

      1. @Girts I agree with you. I think a lot of fans tend to overlook or minimise the visibility issue, but it’s very important.

        This is why in circumstances such as we saw in Canada this year and Korea the year before the race director should keep the red flag out longer, restart the race later and spend less time with the cars behind the safety car.

        1. @keithcollantine, I agree completely, I’d rather have longer suspension periods, and fewer safety car laps. I’m sure the drivers probably would as well.

          1. I agree as well.

            That and the commentators banter becomes infinitely more interesting. :D

  5. I think the time limit is fair enough. It happens on rare occasions, and if a F1 race happens for four hours, that’s still a lot of F1, whether it’s stop/start or stationary. Canada 2011 was epic. I’m surprised they didn’t say 3 hours or something.

    1. I like the proper epic ones! It doesnt happen often maybe once every five years, so no one can really complain that it goes on for 4 hours. But they always have a much more special feel to them. The last true epic I can remember was Spa 98! I cant remember any during the schu/ferrari years, but then I was asleep for most of that!

      Just one problem though, if this years Canadian GP had been stopped at 4 hours, Vettel would have won and we would have been robbed of an awesome last lap finish! Can’t they say 4 hours, unless theres less than 5 laps left then they’ll let it carry on? Or unless there’s any genuine safety reasons for it to be called off.

      Of course, none of that matters anyway as the 4 hour epics are only going to be 90 mins next year… :(

  6. Another rule for overtaking, and this one has plenty of potential for being turned into silly (and race-spoiling) drive-through penalties.

    In general, I would much prefer a set of simple rules combined with good stewarding (I concede, this may be too much to ask), rather than this plethora of rules which have still failed to remove inconsistency from stewarding decisions.

    Schumacher on Hamilton in Monza was borderline, in my opinion, because Schumacher used the move back to block and crowd Hamilton, whereas Vettel on Hamilton in Spain (taking up a slightly defensive position on the straight, and then moving back when it was clear that no attack was coming) was fine. I hope this is not the first step towards the ridiculous IndyCar rule where you are not allowed to move off the racing line at all.

    1. What this will change is that you might end up with people trying to make people defend non-moves and not being able to move back across to take the corner most efficiently meaning that they are slower off the corner and open to attack further around. Which might increase overtaking… Maybe….

      Personally I prefer lots of clever aggressive racing into corners with tow breaking, dummies, defensive moves and *safe* squeezing of the opponent to minimize angles into corners. I hope this doesn’t nullify even more of that action

  7. For reference, what are the overtaking rules like for LMP cars (ALMS etc.)?

    I reckon if F1 weren’t open-wheel (but still open cockpit) drivers would be given more freedom with what part of the track they can be on.

    1. Here are the 2011 sporting regulations

      As far as I can see, like most other series. It’s a common sense thing. And nothing is set out in the rules.

      F1 is the only series I know of that explicitly explains how passing should happen in the rules.

      Indycar might be similar but I’m not familiar with it.

  8. So does the two hour race limit still apply, or has that been removed?

    I’m not quite sure, as it says there was no restrictions previously, which leads me to believe that the four hour limit only applies when there needs to be extra time added on for a red flag or other disruption.

  9. I would have to agree with the new overtaking rule. Unfortunately when you have drivers like Schumi doing what he did in Italy, something has to be done. We already had the 1 move rule so it would have been better to punish Schumi during the race but some drivers will just push the rules as far as they can and hope that the stewards don’t see it.

    1. Yet the guy behind already has the advantage of DRS, and a superior car/tyre state to be climbing all over the defender. But I guess that handcuffing all defending drivers and seeing a ton of fake overtakes is better than watching a real battle.

    2. drivers will just push the rules as far as they can and hope that the stewards don’t see it.

      You have pretty much summed up Formula one for the last 50 years.

      I don’t see what was wrong with what Schumacher was doing. I think you should be able to defend your place.

  10. I’m not a fan of the new off-line rule and I can only hope that it won’t destroy what has still remained from the art of defensive driving in F1. I personally think it’s an important part of racing.

    Talking about the four-hour time limit, I don’t see a need for it as well. As @damonsmedley writes, races can be as long as needed if there’s enough light. That said, the casual fans probably don’t think so.

    By the way, with this rule in place, we would have been robbed of the last lap pass in Canada this year.

  11. FIA says: “Drivers may no longer move back onto the racing line having moved off it to defend a position.” It will inevitably lead to some dumb “stewards’ decisions” unless three definitions are given:

    a) What is the “racing line”? Is it just the minimum space for a car in the braking zone? The marble-free length of the whole straight before a turn?
    b) Where/when does the defensive move count? If a driver has “blocked” another car at the exit of a turn before a very long straight by not being on the normal exit line, does this stop him from using the normal braking line 1,000 metres later?
    c) When can a driver move back onto the “racing line”? Think of a chicane where there are four important points, the entry, two apexes and the exit — at what point can the driver consider his penalty completed?

    Logic would suggest that this only concerns a last minute abrupt move at the end of a straight, but somehow I can see stewards interpreting this every which way.

    1. @paul-a I’ll take a swing at these:

      a) The route the drivers commonly follow around the track. As we saw at Montreal and Suzuka, the stewards refer to drivers’ lines on previous laps for reference.
      b) I would answer “once per straight” (i.e. no weaving, again, as we’ve seen before) and “yes” to your two questions. The latter scenario sounds very unusual – I can’t think of a recent example along those lines (unless you have one in mind?)
      c) “On entry to the first part of the corner” and “after the first part of the corner”.

      I don’t think there’s as much ambiguity in this as you make out.

      1. The way I see it, it is the one move rule being enforced correctly. It is up to the driver in front when he makes his move, but when he makes it he is commited, he can’t dive back. This will stop alot of the pushing off the track we have seen.

        There is nothing to stop the driver rejoining the racing line once he has been passed in this long straight scenario you talk about. Then the driver that has just overtaken him now has only one defensive move so you could actually see more overtaking action as a result of it, an overtake and a re-overtake.

        1. I don’t think it will help things at all. When drivers have been pushed off the track it has rarely been because they moved back to the racing line.

          1. I think this rule has been made to stop Massa and others claiming they have a right to return to the racing line even when it is occupied by another car.

  12. “The FIA has also confirmed new rules on driving standards. When defending a position, drivers will not be allowed to move back onto the racing line after moving off-line.”

    So have they confirmed under what circumstances / when you can return to the racing line i.e the apex of the corner or after the car behind has overtaken, or do driver have to stay off the racing line for the rest of the race ;-)

    1. You can’t defend on the inside any more, or you will get a penalty at the next corner!

  13. The FIA has also confirmed new rules on driving standards. When defending a position, drivers will not be allowed to move back onto the racing line after moving off-line.

    So how are they going to enforce this?
    When is a driver back onto the racing line? How wide is the racing line, and how much of the car can they move into it with, without moving “onto” the racing line?
    And most worryingly, a driver will in most turns HAVE to move back to the racing line as he hits the turn, as everything else would be Impossible as in most turns the racing line crosses the whole part of the track, which means that he will not be able to make it through the corner without moving onto the racing line.
    Does it just mean that they can not move back onto the racing line BEFORE the corner?
    But what is that actually? Before the breaking zone?
    Before they take their foot off the brake to let the car turn through the corner?
    But what about flat out turns? When does a turn start and where does it end? When steering input is required and then when no steering input is required?

    I can’t really see this going well.
    Despite the consistency of the stewards have improved, there are still times where a decision, right or wrong, takes way too much attention away from the race.
    I think they should stop handing out penalties so much, and start penalizing dangerous driving and stupid mistakes. Let a racing incident be a racing incident, and let hard defending be hard defending. As long as they make sure there is room for the other driver, and they don’t cause accidents then I don’t think they need to do anything. No matter how many “moves” he does to defend his position.
    I think it is rather pointless to punish everything.
    Maybe they should just introduce the F1 drivers to full seize slot cars, then they can’t do double moves and all will be well…

  14. ” The FIA has also confirmed new rules on driving standards. When defending a position, drivers will not be allowed to move back onto the racing line after moving off-line.” I kind of disagree with it,it the DRS sometimes it becomes very tough to defend a position (Yurkey, Spa, Abu Dhabi) so if the car goes off-line it will stick there standing on the dirty side under braking where the car behind will have clean track with DRS ( if it happens on a DRS zone),which to me is a bit unfair,as sometimes we do see that faster cars struck behind the slower one,some great defennsive drive will be missed.They should either lift this rule or ban DRS.

  15. I am surprised that there are no mention of the testing-ban being partly lifted…

    1. @gwenouille It was announced ages ago.

      1. Oh really ? Man… I visit you site every day and missed it !
        I even sent you a mail about that ! Sorry !

        1. @gwenouille

          No problem! The dates are in the F1 Fanatic Google Calendar

  16. I’m definitely a fan of the new safety car rules. You only have to look at this season to see a few times when we have been denied a close race to the finish because theres a few backmarkers between Vettel and who ever is chasing him!

  17. That picture looks like a badly photoshopped attempt at making it look like Webber is on the grass.

  18. The FIA has also confirmed new rules on driving standards. When defending a position, drivers will not be allowed to move back onto the racing line after moving off-line.

    Yeah, @damonsmedley! :P

    1. @Magnificent-Geoffrey Is this a reference to the Collantine Cup? Because I was merely breaking your tow!

    2. What platform are you playing on? The graphics are horrible!

  19. Maybe it’s been in à round up already, but here’s an intersting article on different possibilities to use exhausts in 2012

  20. sid_prasher (@)
    7th December 2011, 20:09

    So if the leaving car leaves the racing line to defend, then it will always be the chasing car that has the first right to the racing line?

  21. This may stop blocking all together. If someone moves off the race line to block you, now the race line is yours. It also does not specify when the blocker can move back onto the race line.

  22. The FIA has also confirmed new rules on driving standards. When defending a position, drivers will not be allowed to move back onto the racing line after moving off-line.

    That is just dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb.

  23. The next new rule will be when a driver catches up to the guy ahead of him and if he waves as in saying “hello” the driver in the lead has to let him by….I promised myself I was going to try to stop complaining about some of these rules in F1 but the new passing rule has already set me off. Drivers have to race under rules made by men who don’t race cars.

  24. I wonder …

    When defending a position, drivers will not be allowed to move back onto the racing line after moving off-line.

    How many drivers will respect this rule? Their natural inclination will be to return to the racing line to make the corner. If they are no longer allowed to do this, then I hope the stewards will crack down on it, probably with a few severe penalties early in the season to discourage drivers.

    If they do respect this new rule, then will DRS be necessary in 2012?

  25. The car in front is on the driving line and the line considered to be be the fastest and cleanest route around the circuit. Surely this is also the best line for defense and your would prefer to remain on this line and can unless a “Blue Flag” is shown to you. To move off line line to defend against an attack surely puts you at a disadvantage on the slower dirty line of the circuit and potentially making you the slower car so to move back to the clean line would then make that move a block. If you have the speed stay on the line and let the car behind attack off line, the chances are you will be attacking back at the next turn.
    I guess the rule is good if it can applied fairly, more importantly, quickly.
    I imagine the urge to weave around in front of passing cars is almost a natural urge, I feel the same sometimes on the M25.
    Only an urge though 😁.

  26. This is stupid! I’m glad I won’t be bothering with a SKY subscription now! It’s nothing but a pantomime now, “he’s behind you. Oh no he isn’t, he’s in front of me.” utterly ridiculous!

    As the teams are so interested in saving money, why not do away with DRS altogether?

    Instead, they might as well have a rule that says the pitwall team belonging to the car being pursued must tell their driver to let the chasing car past when it is within one second.

    Handing the attacking driver an advantage with DRS is questionable to many, removing the defending driver’s right to defend is just a nonesense.

    Oh, after you sir, oh no, after you sir! Pathetic!

  27. Presumably this won’t apply on the first lap?

  28. During a race suspension, cars which are in the pits when a race is suspended will be allowed to re-join the cars on the grid in the position they were in.

    That would be fantastic to watch unfold if we suddenly get a yellow-to-red flag situation.

  29. Hi Guys,

    I’m not technically astute, so apologies in advance if my question sounds silly.

    The 2012 rules state:
    “The exhaust tailpipes are now strictly regulated in order to ensure that the aerodynamic effect exhaust gases have on the car is kept to an absolute minimum.

    Given that exhaust gases have to be emitted from the exhaust pipe which are confined to a specific location. Since there is no mention of directing the heat from said gases, can a team then not redirect the heat elsewhere to help aide aerodynamics?

    1. @72defender, you are perfectly right in expecting the teams to want to find any possible way of guiding exhaust gases/heat somewhere to give an advantage.

      But in F1 the amount of openings you can have for exhaust gases is limited to being exactly 2 openings, and they are now specified where they should end. Its not allowed to “leak” out gases elsewhere.

      To get their heat out, would mean using radiators. I guess it would be possible, but the heat gathered that way does not have the aero energy in it from flowing out / over the car at a high speed. You would have to put in something like an air blower to get that engery back in.
      That would bring us close to something like the infamous fan car, only working the other way!

      So, while its never unthinkable a team would find a way, its getting harder and harder to do so.

      1. Thanks BasCB!

        Well how about this! What if a team were to develop a type of carbon fiber (or carbon fiber blend with other materials) that dissipates heat more readily. Let’s say that the area of the floor closest to the diffusers would be made of a material that allows heat to permeate more readily through the floor and thus to diffusers?

        1. @72defender, not sure it would be allowed (dependant on how the regulations are formulated on restrictions on materials), but it sounds like that might offer some potential.

          But you would still have to solve the issue of it making heat go where you want rather than just permeating the bodywork in a large area and getting the boost in it by speeding up the airflow around it.

          But nice creative thinking, if its possible, I am pretty sure a team might find a way to do so soon!

  30. K.I.S.S. solution to current overtake/defend problem….Remove The Mirrors!This refreshing step ‘backwards’ would bring F1 racing back to square one; Karting! Seriously, how nice would it be to watch all current drivers revert to skills developed in karting, relying on their instinct and maintaining supreme ‘forward’ focus at all times. Take a moment and review every controversial overtake attempt and then…remove the mirrors! If nothing else, race steward’s verdicts would be almost instantanous. Those pesky blocking maneuvers…gone. Drivers are free to drive whatever line they choose. Concerns regarding Safety; (my opionion only) the use and application of rearview mirrors on F1 vs passenger cars are polar opposites. ie, F1 drivers guage the exact moment to impede rather than facilitate approaching traffic. Without mirrors, every race is a ‘Virtual Wet Race’ (when mirrors are useless, Jensen/Lewis, Canada) I have a great sense of dread for the ’12 season with the proposed: 1 block no return buffonery.

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