Track limits, more testing and other changes among new 2016 rules

2016 F1 season

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Among the changes in the F1 regulations for the 2016 season are tighter rules on track limits and a provision for more tyre testing.

The FIA has published the sporting regulations for 2016 which include a major overhaul of the tyre rules described previously.

In a further change, in order to give Pirelli greater scope to test new tyres for 2017, the FIA now has the power to arrange up to six two-day tests during the season “for the sole purpose of providing the [tyre] supplier with the chance to test improvements to the design of their tyres”.

Also from next year drivers will have to treat F1 run-off areas with more respect. The rules now require them to “make every reasonable effort to use the track at all times” and states they “may not deliberately leave the track without a justifiable reason”.

Drivers who cause a delay forcing an extra formation lap will have to start from the pit lane. When a race is resumed following a stoppage, drivers will be allowed to overtake behind the Safety Car to re-establish their original starting position except if they were moved into the slow lane after the 15-second signal.

A further change to the race weekend sessions concerns the Virtual Safety Car, which can now be used in practice sessions (including qualifying) as well as the race.

Power units and safety innovations

F1’s power units have been the focus of further rules changes intended to allow teams to pre-2016 engines next year, as Toro Rosso will do.

“Any manufacturer who homologated a power unit during the 2014-2020 period may also apply to the FIA to re-use such a power unit in a given team, to the same specification, and without going through the re-homologation process,” notes the 2016 rule book.

Two new steps are being taken to improve the quality of data gathered in the event of a crash. Each car will be fitted with a special high-speed camera which must be used at all race weekends and all multi-car tests. Drivers will have to wear FIA-specified in-ear accelerometers to measure the forces they are subjected to.

The race weekend curfews will be extended as needed to ensure that the amount of unrestricted time available is never more than nine hours. Provisions have also been made for the summer factory shutdown to be reduced from 14 days to 13 if the period between two consecutive races falls from 24 days to 17 – potentially paving the way for a shorter summer break.

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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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27 comments on “Track limits, more testing and other changes among new 2016 rules”

  1. I’m not sure if I totally understand the new Safety Car overtaking rules.

  2. How does the new track limit regulation differ from the old one? It sounds a little too familiar with the “every reasonable effort” and “without a justifiable reason” clauses.

    Also, I’m glad that the FIA is listening to Pirelli about tyre testing. Hopefully that leads to a tyre solution more people can be satisfied with.

    1. ColdFly F1 (@)
      8th December 2015, 21:51

      The difference is:
      old ‘every reasonable effort’: the driver must try to stay within the track limits, thus do not intend to cross them!
      new ‘may not deliberately leave’: the driver must not intend to cross the track limits, thus try to stay within them!


      1. Thanks for the clarification, though the rule itself still remains totally unclear… I still don’t see why there isn’t just a strict three strike system or something like that.

        1. I agree, 3 strikes an you’re out. Do they expect the driver to give a justifiable reason over the radio? How do you prove it was deliberate? Also, I’d prefer consequences be written in the rule rather than it being open to interpretation.

          Either care about track limits or dont but dont bounce back and forth from circuit to circuit. What problem is the FIA ultimately trying to solve? What caused such concern all of a sudden. Great passes have been nullified because of this newfound focus on track limits (Grosjean, Hungary comes to mind).

          The FIA made a big deal out of announcing how they are testing new curbing/paint/sensors etc, but ultimately changes to the circuits arent required because we know the surface between the lines is safe so stay there.

        2. There should be a one-strike system, and gravel run-off areas could perfectly do the job.

          1. A zero tolerance policy unless absolutely necessary – such as to avoid an incident of any sort – would probably get drivers to really reconsider what those white lines are there for!

        3. I’d prefer a three-strike warning/standards-flag/penalty (or two-strike warning/penalty) too. There are too many loopholes in the reheated rule for bad driving and bad stewarding.

      2. Grey areas, areas… at least half of the FIA’s rulebook is grey zoned. What’s up with this situation??

  3. Stop with the excessive run offs.. Bring back the grass/gravel and then we will see the drivers stay on track more ;)

    1. Good old hay bales.

  4. ‘When a race is resumed following a stoppage, drivers will be allowed to overtake behind the Safety Car to re-establish their original starting position except if they were moved into the slow lane after the 15-second signal.’

    Huh? Can someone explain this for me?

    1. I’d love to try, but my brain’s too busy trying to figure out the PhD thesis that is the new tyre regulations

    2. I’m really curious about this one, too. If they red-flag a race halfway through (like Malaysia’s monsoonal downpours, for example), will everyone go back to their original qualifying position? Is this for every race stoppage or just ‘first few laps’ incidents?

    3. I think that paragraph in the article is badly worded. This seems to be a reference to 39.16, which talks about starting the race behind the safety car.

  5. They didn’t think changes of DRS again…

  6. TheF1Engineer (@)
    9th December 2015, 7:58

    My proposals would be:
    Track limits: Use pressure pads on the exits and apexes of appropriate corners. Cars run over them, race control is electronically notified. Penalties applied from there. Get rid of high kerbs etc. DANGEROUS!!!
    More testing: I’d make the Friday’s of European race weekends (Monaco excluded) full test days. We have 7 European based grand prix next year, plus 3 pre-season tests at Paul Ricard and Barcelona, for a total of 10. Divide the 7 Friday test days up for grand prix practice, tyre testing, rookie tests etc. It’s the most cost-effective way and all-round beneficial way of going testing that I can think of. Better value on your weekend ticket for example.
    Tyres: I agree with the concept in its purest form, but as always with F1, politics has gotten in the way to severely dilute the concept, which in all likelihood will end up with this having far less of a positive impact than it actually could. I think all compounds should be made available at every race weekend, up to a set total amount, and then each garage decides how they want to go about practice, qualifying and the race in advance, giving you varying degrees of aggressiveness vs. varying degrees of conservatism, and some proper race strategy.
    Power Units: I have a feeling we’ll end up with a 1.6L V6 turbo, loss of the ERS-H, replaced by an e-booster or e-turbo, and the KERS kept. That’s the most likely way I can see of the manufacturers satisfying Bernie and Jeans brief post WMSC. Ticks all the boxes. Does 90% of the job for vast amounts less money and complexity.
    Virtual Safety Car: Never liked it. Too ambiguous. Slow zones would be much better in my view.
    “Old” Engines: This is a daft idea. If anything, it further secures the engine manufacturers position. It would be much easier to simply impose a total BHP/kW limit (under the guise of circuit safety reasons say), then it doesn’t matter which engine you run. As a by-product, this brings the cost down to customers, which really is what this rule is all about in the first place.

  7. Track limits. Great, my favourite subject.

    The problem with track limits (which the rule makers don’t seem to understand) is that consistency is key. What is inevitably going to happen is one driver is going to get a penalty during qualifying/a race for track limit breaches, and then they’re going to complain that all the other drivers are doing it, if they didn’t everyone else would be faster, and so on. And rightly so – if the car in front of you is cutting Raidillon, running wide at the penultimate corner of Yas Marina, or using every inch of the runoff at Ascari, then why shouldn’t you, as a driver, do so too?

    Most people seem to be saying “well they should constantly be monitoring every driver/corner”, but the reality is that they just can’t. Apart from needing dedicated cameras at every possible track limits violation point, or high quality cameras on all cars – and someone to monitor each one individually – drivers are still going to exploit the limits of the track as much as possible, resulting in many cases where perhaps only an inch of their tyre is still on the track. You can’t tell this without watching multiple slow motion replays of each occurrence, and I don’t think they really have time to do this. And if they don’t do it, there’s room for controversy.

    I feel sorry for the drivers most of all. Although a lot of people seem to place the blame on them (“just drive between the white lines, it’s not that hard”), they’re being paid to drive as fast as they can around the track (well, at least they should be – the inability to push is a whole other kettle of fish). It’s natural to want to use the fastest line, and when that fastest line is a fairly arbitrary painted line on the road – which you probably can’t see very clearly from the driver’s seat of an F1 car – then driving the fastest line becomes a frustrating game of “were you unlucky enough to be slightly outside of the line”.

    1. I agree, it is unrealistic to monitor all drivers equally on every lap throughout the whole race, and review all possible infringements of track limits to ensure fairness before imposing a penalty. That is why we have the current policy of only penalising when a lasting advantage is gained i.e. overtaking off track, cutting chicanes, certain corners (on a track specific basis, notified to teams and drivers in advance) where it is agreed an advantage can be gained etc.

      If you want to stop drivers exceeding the track limits it must be by circuit design, such as, the use of less grippy or more abrasive surface areas beyond the white lines which will naturally punish using a wider line. Unless track limits can be policed by circuit design, then I think the current system (which is the same for everyone and reduces the amount of monitoring necessary) is preferable to a long list of petty 5 second penalties issued after the race which will do nothing to improve the racing or the image of the sport.

      1. My last Kia Ceed had a “deviation from lane” sensor which beeped if you went over the white line at the side of the road or the lane marker line on a motorway. So it would be very easy to put this on F1 cars and remove all doubt about whether or not a car went off track. In Spa last year the whole field went off track in several places on almost every lap. Vettel stood out as he was way over the line each lap in the same places and later denied it.
        (I turned mine off it was a pain)

  8. Overtake behind the safety car to re-establish their starting position? So, if you made a lightning start or a clever tyre call, a la Perez Malaysia 2012, who started in 9th, switched to full wets at the end of lap one from 6th, and was 3rd when the safety car came out… that counts for nothing and he has to start from 9th at the re-start? Pathetic. Classic F1, just complicating things and giving answers to questions nobody asked.

    1. I believe and understand this rule to be about allowing front runners to overtake backmarkers rather than them unlapping themselves, only to be re-lapped and cause more disturbances a few laps after the restart.

      So many times we see another two or three laps under the safety car to allow the Marussias to unlap themselves, when it makes far more sense for them to just drop back (front runners overtake them) so they quickly establish their racing order rather than wait for them to speed along the track (when the track is effectively still under Yellow Flags).

      If this is how it is to be interpreted, then this makes sense. If it means restarting the race with ORIGINAL starting positions, that doesn’t make any sense. I think it means to say previous race position at the point the race was stopped. I may be wrong here though…

    2. Nobody’s race position can change from this, but anyone who is lapped will regain a lap under the Safety Car, unless they were made to slow down just before, or during, the Safety Car. The Pérez example would be unaffected, but this would affect an example like Nurburgring 2007, when Markus Winklehock lapped Lewis Hamilton before the race was stopped on lap 4. He would then start on the same lap (as indeed happened back then, because a similar rule was in play at the time, but would not have happened had the situation occurred in 2015).

      Original grid places will still be used if the stoppage was in the first 2 laps (not that you’re going to see many cars getting lapped in the first 2 laps, short of major technical malady or startline gremlins) and stoppages after lap 3 starts will still use the positions from the last completed lap (or last obtainable completed lap, in a case of timing screen IT gremlins).

      The aversion to stopping races, mid-race or any other time, means we are unlikely to see this rule being enforced too often.

  9. Since we have returned to Austria the stewards have been pretty on it with policing track limits, so I don’t see why they can’t do the same at other tracks. The regulations are getting out of hand and they are no clearer than they have been in the past.

    There are a few “hot spots” for track limits violations on each track, so why not pay for a few more stewards to monitor these areas during race weekends. If they see repeated infringements or blatant advantage gains (i.e. a car runs off track and solely as a result of this manages to overtake another within 2 corners) they can inform race control who can then take action and dish out penalties if needs be. It’s not as if FOM and the FIA are so poor they can’t pay a few more salaries…

  10. The complications around stalling on the grid are ridiculous. Pitlane start. That should be it. Slow lane? 15secs? Overtake behind…

    Too complicated, and open to be exploited.

    Track limits are a problem in all open wheel formula. In the UK, F4 and MSN formula are terrible for it. The rules are simple enough, the reporting from marshals is good, but eventually there becomes too many reports for the clerks to manage.

    In F1, GPS data should be accurate enough to know. Automated penalties or an ignition cut (arrive and drive karting?) could be applied.

  11. What is this slow lane they are mensioning?

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