2010 rule changes
A ban on refuelling is among the regulation changes to be seen in Formula One this season.
By Michael Wise
Last Updated: 09/03/10 11:48am
As was the case last season, when new technical regulations meant the cars underwent their biggest changes in 25 years, 2010 brings some fairly fundamental alterations to Formula One's rules. Here, we outline what those changes are and how they might affect a race weekend.
This has been banned as part of the 'resource restriction agreement' to cut costs, and means that cars - which are now longer to accommodate the larger tanks - will start the race carrying about 160kg of fuel, roughly twice the weight they previously carried.
Despite the refuelling ban, there will still be mandatory pit stops because cars must still run both sets of tyre compound during a (dry) race.
Front tyres are narrower this season by 20mm in an effort to improve the balance of the car.
Tyre supplier Bridgestone are keeping the same four compounds (hard, medium, soft and supersoft), of which two are brought to any one race. However, the rear construction has been beefed up owing to the cars now being heavier.
Each driver is allocated eleven sets of dry-weather tyres (six of the harder 'prime' compound and five of the softer 'option') to use during a race weekend - three fewer than before. They also get four sets of intermediate tyres and three sets of wet-weather tyres.
The knockout system in the opening two sessions remains, although a 26-car grid this year means that the eight slowest will now drop out of each. (This figure will be reduced to either six or seven if the grid is reduced to either 22 or 24 cars - as is anticipated at the start of the season.)
The top-10 session sees the biggest change, in that cars taking part will be running on low fuel loads - unlike in previous seasons, when they have set times using the fuel load with which they subsequently started the race.
In other words, the fastest car-driver combination will start on pole position.
However, the top 10 qualifiers must start the race on the set of tyres they used to set their time (assuming dry qualifying and race).
The points system has been altered to reflect the expanded grid for 2010, with points now awarded down to 10th place.
There was also a late tweak to increase the differential between first and second place, in the hope that drivers will have a greater incentive to 'race to win'.
Points will be awarded as follows (from 1st to 10th place): 25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1.
Testing remains limited to 15,000km per team per year, with an in-season ban.
However, any driver given a race seat during the course of the season will be allowed one day's testing (at a track not on the calendar), provided they have not contested an F1 race in the previous two years.
Although the energy recovery system remains in the rules for 2010, teams have agreed not to use it for this season at least.
There is a slight change to the FIA sporting regulations rules governing what happens if a driver exceeds the maximum eight engines permitted during the season.
The revised 28.4 a) regulation states: "Should a driver use more than eight engines he will drop ten places on the starting grid at the first Event during which each additional engine is used.
"If two such additional engines are used during a single Event the driver concerned will drop ten places on the starting grid at that Event and at the following Event."
...and the upshot of all this is.......?
- the ban on refuelling will end the phenomenon of races being split into a series of sprints between stops. However, cars will still have to pit at least once during a race, which raises the obvious question: will there remain a reliance on using pit stops as a means of shuffling the order? Or will we see an increase (the new points system perhaps also playing its part) in overtaking on the track?
- speaking recently, Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton both predicted that (much quicker) pit stops might still be used to jump up the order but, rather than a more heavily-fuelled car getting ahead by staying out longer (as was the norm when refuelling was allowed), one car might now leapfrog a rival by pitting 2-3 laps earlier.
- a heavier car also means the driver will have to pay greater attention to managing both tyre and brake wear during a race. Those (Button for example) who are widely regarded as having a smooth driving style may immediately benefit during the course of a race. Others will surely adapt - though perhaps with varying degrees of speed and success.
- tyres will now be the major determinant in strategy. Given that one of the two compounds available will perform better over a distance, a team might elect to run the lesser-performing tyre on a lighter fuel load at the end of the race. Then again, they might get that tyre out the way in the early laps (remember also that the top 10 qualifiers must start on the same set from Saturday) and then hope to run even quicker in the closing laps on the better tyre.
- tyre wear or unforeseen circumstances (such as a pace car or accident damage) might alter the timing of a stop but another important factor is the threat of traffic. It might pay to bring a driver in early if he is stuck behind a slower car, although teams would also be wary of launching a car straight into traffic after a stop.
- the increased weight of cars might also have a knock-on effect on brake wear and it will be interesting to see how they cope on circuits which present a stiffer-than-usual test, such as Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, which returns to the calendar this season.
- as mentioned above, relative fuel loads play a far lesser role in overall strategy. However, fuel economy should still be taken into consideration. If one engine (Renault are said to have the edge over Mercedes-Benz in this regard) has better consumption then a lesser fuel load could have a marginal effect (its estimated that 10kg of fuel adds 0.3 to 0.35 seconds to lap times) over a full race distance. However, it will not be possible to work out for sure which engine has such an advantage because, unlike last season, car weights will not be published before each race. Drivers can also play a role in saving fuel.
- a bigger compromise on set-up will be needed than before because parc ferme rules mean that cars cannot be altered between qualifying (when they will be running as low a fuel load as possible) and the race (when the opposite will apply, at least at the start). A compromise will inevitably be needed in getting the front tyres to warm up quickly in qualifying but not to overwork the rear tyres in the race.