After yesterday’s news round-up, we get properly into our 2013 Formula One Season Preview with our examination of the rules changes for the upcoming season. This year won’t have as many changes as 2012 but that’s because there’s a massive change coming in 2014. While the technical regulations may not have changed much, there are plenty of changes to the sporting regs to cover.
Since the introduction of the Drag Reduction System in 2011, drivers were free to activate the DRS at their discretion during the practice and qualifying sessions. However, during the race, they could only use them under specific circumstances in a specified zone.
This year, free use of the DRS has been banned. Drivers can only use DRS in the specified zones. In practice, drivers are not held to the one second behind another car rule that is applied during the race but can use it freely in those zones. Also, the current plan is the use two DRS zones per track, with the exceptions of Monaco and Suzuka where two zones aren’t feasible.
Anytime a driver in Q3 stops on track after the checkered flag, it’s generally to save fuel so they have one litre for the mandatory FIA fuel sample. The problem is that you’re not allowed to just pull over without a legitimate reason other than low fuel. It’s up to the race stewards to determine if a driver had a legitimate reason beyond their or the team’s control to pull over or not. If a driver is just saving fuel for a sample, they can be tossed from the qualifying session. This rule is referred to colloquially as force majeure.
For this season, the force majeure rule has essentially been removed from the regulations. Drivers who pull over must have one litre of fuel on-board plus the estimated fuel required to complete the distance between where they stopped and the pits. So stopping halfway around the track with one litre of fuel would get you tossed from qualifying regardless of your reasons for pulling over because it wasn’t one litre plus half-a-lap’s worth of fuel.
Last year, Mercedes introduced the so-called Double DRS. When the DRS was activated, air was funneled from the rear wing through tubes to be blown on the front wing in order to “stall” air going over it. This in effect removed downforce on the front wing in addition to the downforce reduction on the rear.
For this season, the FIA has banned the Mercedes double DRS setups. This was deemed to be a moveable aerodynamic device despite the fact that the only thing moving was what the FIA had permitted to move. However, the FIA is allowing passive double DRS devices that don’t require the DRS to be active to remain on cars. Sometimes, the FIA’s decisions just confuse me.
Last season saw the introduction of the “platypus nose” into Formula One car design. This was as a result of the new rule requiring a lower nose height to minimize the risk of a car going airborne in a collision. However, most teams applied this as a very visible step in the nose in order to get the best aerodynamic benefit from the required lower nose.
For this season, the FIA is allowing teams to use what they call a “modesty panel.” This is a small piece of carbon fibre on the nose that is supposed to disguise the step in the nose without providing any aerodynamic benefit.
Knockout qualifying has changed but has required a rules update due to HRT leaving. The result is that only six cars will be knocked out in each of Q1 and Q2 to leave 10 cars battling for the pole in Q3.
The work curfew probably isn’t something you hear about too often because it’s seldom an issue unless a driver writes-off his car in a wreck. For the last two seasons, there was a curfew system that prevented team members from accessing the cars for six hours overnight. The idea was to lower costs and keep team members from being overworked. If you read Steve Matchett’s books about his time in the pit lane, all-nighters weren’t uncommon on Grand Prix weekends.
Now, the FIA has changed the length of the curfew from six hours to eight hours. To make it a little harder on teams needing to put major work in, the FIA has reduced the number of curfew exemptions the teams have available. Previously, teams were allowed to violate curfew four times during a season. Now, they can only do so twice.