The 2012 F1 Regulation Changes explained by MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS experts

The Formula One Sporting and Technical Regulations are constantly developing to respond to changes in the sport, improve the show and reduce costs. The 2012 season will be no exception to the rule and thus MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS F1 Team experts express their view on the changes coming up this year. In this episode, they clarify regulations regarding driving etiquette, race suspension, crash tests and safety car.

Driving Etiquette

The regulations say: “Drivers may no longer leave the track without a justifiable reason, i.e. cutting a chicane on reconnaissance laps or in-laps to save time and fuel, and drivers may no longer move back onto the racing line having moved off it to defend a position.”

The expert view - Ron Meadows, Sporting Director: “This is really a formal clarification of how the FIA expect the drivers to behave. There are actually two points… the first is that cutting chicanes or taking short-cuts can be a performance advantage due to running lower fuel levels in qualifying or getting back to the pits faster allowing you to leave your qualifying run later. The second point is aimed at drivers moving twice when racing another car. The FIA are happy for a second movement to defend your position as long as it is not done in the braking zone, and you leave at enough space for the challenging car to go to the outside without running out of track.”

Race Suspension

The regulations say: “There will now be a maximum race time of four hours to ensure that a lengthy suspension of a race does not result in a race that could run up to eight hours if left unregulated. Cars which were in the pit lane when the race was suspended will now be allowed to re-join the cars on the grid in the position they were in at the time of the race suspension.”

The expert view - Ron Meadows, Sporting Director: “The time limit has been brought in so that spectators and TV viewers will know the cut-off point for a race start.

This is a very fair rule as it allows cars that were in the pit lane during a race suspension not to be penalised through no fault of their own. Without this change of regulation, cars in the pit lane would have to join the back of the pack once they had restarted.”

Crash test

The regulation says: “There will be tougher side impact testing and new cars must now pass all required FIA crash tests prior to any on-track testing.”

The expert view - Kevin Taylor, Head of Composites Design: “Clearly the objective of this rule was to guarantee nobody was running an unsafe car in testing. The crash structures are significant aerodynamic parts so the Composite Department had to work extremely closely with the Aerodynamics Department so as to allow maximum development time in the wind tunnel whilst completing the crash test program on time .”

Safety car

The regulation says: “During a safety-car period, all lapped cars will be allowed to unlap themselves and then join the back of the pack, ensuring a clean re-start without slower cars impeding those racing for the leading positions.”

The expert view - Andrew Shovlin, Senior Race Engineer: “During 2010 and 2011 lapped cars were not allowed to overtake prior to a safety car restart. On occasions, particularly near the end of the race, this would result in the leaders getting tangled up with the back markers for the final laps of the race, who themselves were often racing whilst getting a string of blue flags. Good examples were at Interlagos in 2010 and Suzuka in 2011.

This often deprived the spectators of an exciting finish as it allowed some cars to build clear air whilst their competitors were bogged down in traffic. It was also confusing for those watching as the order of cars on track was not the actual race order. For 2012, once the cars have completed two laps under the safety car speed limit, any which are not on the lead lap are allowed to pass the leaders and drive around to the back of the grid.

This will have two important effects, firstly the cars directly behind the safety will line up in actual race order so when the race restarts they are in a position to overtake each other. Secondly, the majority of the field will be on the same racing lap, bunched together and with some of the cars on new tyres. Together with the DRS, this should create exciting racing in the midfield where cars on older tyres will be ahead of cars that have stopped for fresh rubber who are trying to battle their way up the order for points.”

* Official photo and details courtesy of MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS *

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