F1 stewards have a new weapon in their arsenal, races can now feature a Virtual Safety Car, and drivers better get used to having one helmet design per year.
Here’s a quick guide to what’s new in the F1 rulebook for 2015.
New ten-second time penalty
Following the successful introduction of the five-second time penalty last year, which became the stewards’ favourite sanction, a new ten-second time penalty has been introduced.
This will work in the same way as the five-second penalty, where the penalty is applied during a driver’s routine pit stop, and if that is not possible it is added to their time after the race.
Note that the stewards can still apply a ten-second stop-go penalty, where the driver must come into the pits, stop for ten seconds and then leave without any work being performed on their car. See below for more.
The rules now specify how many cars will be eliminated in Q1 and Q2 depending on how many entrants there are. With 20 cars expected for the first race of the season, five cars will be eliminated in each phase. If that falls to 18 cars, four will be knocked out in each round.
Engines: Four per season, new penalty rules
As last year each power unit is broken down into different components, and drivers will receive grid drop penalties once they start to use more than four of each. A driver who changes their complete power unit will no longer have to start the race from the pits.
The way these grid penalties work has also changed. Last year if a driver received a grid penalty but could not serve all of it at a race because they did not qualify high enough, the penalty carried over for one event. This will not happen any more.
From this year, drivers who cannot serve their grid drop in full will be given a penalty for the race as follows:
|Remainder of grid penalty||Race penalty|
|1-5 places||Five-second time penalty|
|6-10 places||Ten-second time penalty|
|11-20 places||Drive-through penalty|
|20 or more places||Ten second stop-go penalty|
Note that this only applies to grid penalties for engine component changes, and not to grid penalties incurred for other infringements, such as impeding another driver in qualifying.
The FIA has also issued a clarification permitting teams to conduct some engine development during the season. See here for a detailed explanation:
The FIA has made yet another attempt at confining F1 car designs to even tighter rules regarding the shape of the front noses. This is part of an effort which has been going on since 2012 to reduce the height of the nose as a safety precaution while also trying to prevent unusual and unsightly designs.
The low height of the noses has been retained, however the shape of the tip is subject to new restrictions: the tip must be no greater than 9,000 square millimetres at its cross-section, and a fix size of 20,000 square millimetres is imposed 100mm behind the tip. On top of that, the nose must pass a more stringent crash test.
The restrictions introduced last year to prevent teams using front-rear inter-connected suspension systems have been retained.
Around the cockpit, the FIA has expanded the use of anti-intrusion panels to safeguard the driver in the event of a side impact.
The minimum weight of the cars has also been increased from 691kg last year to 702kg. This is the first time the minimum weight for an F1 car has exceeded 700kg.
It follows concerns last year that because teams were struggling to produce light enough cars some drivers were risking their health by eating too little. Adrian Sutil admitted he had gone two days without eating at one point.
The tests will take place on the Tuesday and Wednesday after the Spanish and Austrian Grands Prix at their respective venues.
During a race weekend, if a team wishes to change a part of their car after the parc ferme restrictions are in place, the replacement part must now be “similar in design, mass, inertia and function to the original” according to a new rule.
The restrictions on the hours mechanics may work on the cars have been tightened. The Friday night curfew has been increased from six hours to seven. Teams may only have two exceptions to Thursday and Friday night restrictions during the season, down from six last year, and cannot use both on the same race weekend.
Starting the race
Drivers who are due to start the race from the pit lane are now allowed to perform reconnaissance laps, as other drivers do when they head from their garage to the starting grid.
Any drivers who granted permission to start the race despite having failed to pass the 107% rule must now start at the back of the grid, behind any drivers who have had penalties applied. If this applies to more than one driver, their times from final practice will be used to determine a starting order.
Cars on the grid may no longer have fuel removed. Previously the rules only forbade teams from adding fuel to their cars.
If a driver’s mechanics do not leave the grid before the 15-second warning, the driver will be given a ten-second stop-go penalty.
Once the formation lap has begun, any driver who falls out of their running order must regain it before they pass the first Safety Car Line (usually shortly before the grid). If they fail to do so they must start the race from the pits, and they will receive a ten-second stop-go penalty if they fail to.
Virtual Safety Car
In a major change for 2015, in a response to Jules Bianchi’s terrible crash in last year’s Japanese Grand Prix, a Virtual Safety Car will be used “when double waved yellow flags are needed on any section of track and competitors or officials may be in danger, but the circumstances are not such as to warrant use of the safety car itself”.
During a VSC period, each driver will be given a target minimum lap time on their dashboard which they must stay above. Drivers may only enter the pits to change tyres during this time.
See here for the full detail of the new Virtual Safety Car rules:
Actual Safety Car
At the end of a Safety Car period, if lapped cars are being allowed to unlap themselves, the Safety Car will no longer wait for them to catch up before releasing the pack.
Drivers who fail to stay above the minimum Safety Car time will be given one of four penalties ranging in severity from a five-second time penalty to a ten-second stop-go penalty.
Suspending a race
If a race is suspended drivers no longer line up on the grid in some circumstances, they will now always come to a stop in the pits.
Stopping a race
If the two-hour time limit is reached, the rules now specify the chequered flag will be shown on the end of the lap after the clock runs out, not on the same lap as before.
Leaving the pits
The FIA continues to take a tough stance on teams allowing their cars to leave the pit box in an unsafe fashion. An automatic ten-second stop-go penalty will be applied to any driver who is deemed to have done so.
Furthermore, if a driver continues to drive a car which has been released in an unsafe condition, they will be given a further penalty.
Teams may now use their current chassis for demonstration events, but only if they take place after the end of the season.
No changing helmet designs
The newest and surely the silliest rules change for 2015 requires drivers to use “substantially the same livery” on their helmets at every race. It remains to be seen how the FIA might punish a driver who breaks this rule.
Every round pays the same amount of points
The double points season finale is, thankfully, a thing of the past.
Cancelled rules changes
Some mooted rules changes for 2015 have been abandoned. Among the scrapped rules changes is the plan to have standing restarts after Safety Car periods, which was criticised by drivers and didn’t seem to be popular with fans either.
Another plan which was originally on the cards for 2015 was a ban on the use of tyre warmers. However the FIA’s latest attempt to wean drivers off having pre-warmed tyres, which is not widely seen in single-seater racing outside F1, has also been abandoned.
Note there has also been no expansion of the limits on the use of radio communication to drivers which were in place at the end of last season.
Forthcoming rules changes
From 2016 new restrictions will govern how drivers are granted superlicences to participate in F1 races. Drivers who have not raced in F1 before must have earned at least 40 ‘superlicence points’ based on their performance in junior categories:
Over to you
Which rules are changes for the better? And which would F1 be better without?
Have your say in the comments.
2015 F1 season
- How a secret Mercedes engine mode helped pressure Vettel into a race-ending puncture
- Over 100 driver penalties issued in record-breaking 2015
- Part-time racer? The facts of Hamilton’s ‘jet-set lifestyle’
- The Complete F1 Fanatic 2015 season review
- Your favourite – and least favourite – F1 races of 2015