F1 2015 Season Preview: Rules Changes

We’re less than one week from the 2015 Formula One World Championship. As is often the case, the season kicks off on the streets of Albert Park in Melbourne, Australia. The first day of our week-long Formula One season preview kicks things off with a look at the new rules for Formula One for the 2015 season. Unlike last season which saw wholesale rules changes with a new sets of engine, ERS and gearbox rules, this season sees a far smaller set of rules changes. This year, there are tweaks to the engine limit, aerodynamic regulations, sporting regulations and more.

Engine/Power Unit Limit and Penalties

f1-2015-preview-honda-engineWe’re only one season into the new engine formula but the FIA is already expecting improved reliability. Last year, each car was allotted the use of up to 5 power units for the season and some teams exceeded that limit. In 2015, teams will get a maximum of 4 power units for the season.

To make things harder on teams, the power unit replacement rules have changed. It’s no longer a complete power unit change that triggers a grid penalty but the replacement of any individual component of the power unit will result in a grid penalty.

The application of the grid penalty changes again this season. No longer will grid penalties carry-over from race to race. Instead, unused grid penalties will result in in-race penalty. For example, a driver who isn’t able to take their full grid penalty and have 1 to 5 spots remaining will get a five-second time penalty added to their pit stop. For 6 to 10 spots unused, drivers will get a drive-through penalty. Having 11 to 20 spots unused will result in a 10-second stop-and-go penalty. If a driver has more than 20 spots of grid penalty remaining, I will stand up and applaud. I mean, an unspecified time penalty will be applied.

Nose Design

f1-2015-preview-red-bull-rb11-noseAfter the, for lack of a better term, phallic nose designs that were the lowlights of most cars last season, a new rule has been introduced to eliminate the long, narrow end-pieces to noses. This year, the noses are required to gradually and symmetrically taper down to its end which will have a minimum cross-section. All of these are supposed to prevent the nose ending in a narrow tube as we saw on most cars last year.

Also, the rules have been changed to prevent the “twin tusk” nose style used by Lotus in 2014. The nose is now required to be consistent with the centre line of the car. Basically, unless your car is designed as two tusks, you can’t do that with your nose.

Gearbox

There’s only one minor change to gearbox rules for 2015. In 2014, the teams were allowed to change the gear ratios of the eight-speed semi-automatic transmissions during the season once. This year, the teams will no longer be able to “re-nominate” the gears used but must pick them once at the start of the year and stick with it through to the end of the season.

Helmets

Call this one the Sebastian Vettel rule but drivers are now only allowed to run one helmet design per season. The alleged reason is so that it’s easier to tell which driver is which in the cars without confusing viewers. However, considering that F1 wants the cars to look identical in every way but the colour of the roll hoop mounted camera, they could have done dozens of things that would have actually made a difference in telling which driver is which.

New Sporting Regulations

There are a number of new sporting regulations that aren’t really big enough to warrant lengthy discussions.

The existing five-second penalty that you often see applied at the start of pitstops will get company in the form of a similarly applied ten-second penalties for more serious infractions. Also, the unsafe pit release penalty has been amended. Drivers will now be required to serve a ten-second stop-and-go penalty (i.e. a separate trip down pit lane without the car being serviced).

f1-2015-preview-virtual-safety-carFollowing Jules Bianchi’s accident in Japan last year, the FIA trialled the Virtual Safety Car during Free Practice of subsequent races. In the current season, the race director may declare a virtual safety car condition if double-waved yellow flags are displayed on circuit. The drivers will be obliged to slow to a rate of speed indicated on their steering wheel and the race will be neutralized without deploying the safety car.

The start time of races has been changed for Australia, Malaysia, China, Japan and Russia as a result of a new rule regarding the timing of the start of the race. In conjunction with the four-hour time limit for races from the scheduled start time, races must be scheduled to start no less than four hours from dusk.

Also, thankfully, double points for the final race of the season have been eliminated. That means that Williams will hold the record for the most points scored in an F1 Grand Prix until that rule comes back.

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