Each new Formula 1 season sees a raft of major and minor regulation updates, aimed at achieving a range of different objectives. Listed below are the primary changes accompanied by an assessment of their impact.
As in 2007, only homologated engines may be used in the 2008 championship. For the new season, the homologation perimeter has been widened to include all elements included in Articles 5.4 and 5.17 of the Technical Regulations. Items included in Article 5.17 can be changed without penalty, but only with components of an identical design. The duration of the engine homologation period is likely to be five years, and competitors will now be able to make their first engine change during the season without a grid penalty being imposed. However, this change may only be made in the event of a genuine failure.
IMPACT: The extension of the homologation perimeter is a logical step onwards from the homologation phase that began in 2007. Homologating engine ancillaries in addition to the V8 itself prevents teams from diverting significant spend into areas of very small return, such as the development of improved fuel pumps. The ‘free’ first engine change is a significant change to the rules, but cannot be exploited as a ‘joker’ owing to the fact that it must be as a result of a genuine technical failure.Technical Regulations, Article 8.2
8.2 Control electronics :
8.2.1 All components of the engine and gearbox, including clutch, differential and all associated actuators must be controlled by an Electronic Control Unit (ECU) which has been manufactured by an FIA designated supplier to a specification determined by the FIA. The ECU may only be used with FIA approved software and may only be connected to the control system wiring loom, sensors and actuators in an manner specified by the FIA.
IMPACT: The introduction of the Microsoft-MES SECU (Standard Electronic Control Unit) marks a significant change for the ING Renault F1 Team, which previously used the Magneti-Marelli Step 11. In technical terms, the SECU is about half as powerful as the outgoing system, with a quarter of the memory. The SECU package is composed of six units, with a weight gain of over 35% compared to the previous system. The introduction of the SECU eliminates a number of control systems, including traction control and EBS (engine braking system). In total, the loss of these systems will cost up to 0.4s per lap.Technical Regulations, Article 13.1.1
A revised cockpit entry template for 2008 gives greater lateral driver head protection compared to the design used in 2007. The upper edge of the chassis side now sits 655mm above the reference plane (roughly 20mm above the highest point in 2007) and maintains this maximum height along a length of 270mm. The resulting head protection is more substantial than in previous years.
IMPACT: The new head protection was introduced to reduce the risk of driver injury in the event of one car passing over another, following an incident at the 2007 Australian Grand Prix. This change has led the team to pay particular attention to the question of inboard or outboard placement of the mirrors, to ensure maximum visibility. This modification to the rules is a further example of the FIA drive to maintain Formula 1 at the pinnacle of motor sport and automotive safety.Technical Regulations, Article 15.1
A list of permitted materials may be found in the Appendix to these regulations.
IMPACT: The materials restrictions in force from 2008 means that the cars must be built from a list of approved materials. This eliminates some of the more exotic and expensive materials that were being used in small quantities by some teams, without forcing constructors into retrograde steps in technology. This restriction has been designed to prevent the diversion of spend into areas of diminishing return, as restrictions are imposed elsewhere in the regulations.Technical Regulations, Article 19.4.5
19.4.5 A minimum of 5.75% (m/m) of the fuel must comprise oxygenates derived from biological sources. The percentage that each component is considered to originate from a biological source is calculated from the relative proportion of the molecular weight contributed by the biological starting material.
IMPACT: Formula 1 fuel has been strictly regulated since 1993, when the FIA imposed unleaded fuel that had to meet the Euro 95 standard applied to pump fuel for normal road cars. Prior to 1992, Formula 1 had used leaded fuel with very high octane ratings for maximum power. Since specifying the use of ‘pump fuel’, the FIA’s has ensured Formula 1 operates in advance of standards in force for production cars. The introduction of a small percentage of bio-fuels anticipates 2010 road car norms.Sporting Regulations, Article 22.1
22.1 a) Testing shall be considered any track running time undertaken by a competitor entered in the Championship with the exception of:
i) promotional or demonstration events carried out using tyres provided specifically for this purpose by the appointed supplier;
ii) young driver training, any such driver having not competed in an F1 World Championship Event in the preceding 24 months nor tested a Formula One car on more than four days in the same 24 month period.
IMPACT: Exempting young driver evaluations from the annual limit on testing mileage removes one of the barriers to new drivers entering the sport; the difficulty of giving young drivers F1 seat time was an unintended consequence of last year’s blanket testing restrictions. Renault has already put this clause to good use, evaluating Alvaro Parente as his prize for winning the 2007 World Series by Renault. Teams are limited to a total of 350km during these evaluation days.Sporting Regulations, Article 28.1
28.1 Each competitor may have no more than two cars available for use at any one time during an Event. Any partially assembled survival cell will be deemed to be a car in this context if it is fitted with an engine, any front suspension, bodywork, radiators, oil tanks or heat exchangers.
IMPACT: This regulation means the disappearance of spare cars from the team garages. This is a logical move towards greater cost-efficiency in an era of nearly flawless reliability up and down the pit-lane. Teams will likely take one less chassis to the races than in previous years (in most cases, a total of three in 2008, compared to four previously).Sporting Regulations, Article 28.6
28.6 a) Each driver may use no more than one gearbox for four consecutive Events in which his team competes. Should a driver use a replacement gearbox he will drop five places on th starting grid at that Event each time a further gearbox is used. Unless the driver fails to finish the race (see below) the gearbox fitted to the car at the end of the Event must remain in it for three further Events. Any driver who failed to finish the race at the first, second or third of the four Events for reasons beyond the control of the team or driver, may start the following Event with a different gearbox without a penalty being incurred.
d) At the second, third and fourth Events seals may be broken once, under supervision and at any time prior to the start of the qualifying practice session, for the sole purpose of changing gear ratios and dog rings (excluding final drives or reduction gears). Gear ratios and dog rings (excluding final drives or reduction gears) may also be changed under supervision for others of identical specification at any time during an Event provided the FIA technical delegate is satisfied there is evident physical damage to the parts in question and that such changes are not being carried out on a systematic basis.
IMPACT: Following the successful, phased introduction of long-life engines since 2004, the “long-life principle” has now been extended to include gearboxes. Each gearbox must last a total of four ‘events’ (an event comprising Saturday and Sunday of a GP weekend), a significant step over the unrestricted situation of 2007. Renault has worked hard to ensure the necessary levels of reliability without compromising the speed of its “quickshift” mechanism. Ratios can still be changed once each weekend, in order to match them to the requirements of the circuit.Sporting Regulations, Article 29.1
29.1 b) Fuel may not be added to nor removed from any car eligible to take part in Q3 between the start of Q3 and the start of the race (…)
IMPACT: With refuelling no longer allowed between the end of qualifying and the race, the format more closely resembles that which was introduced in 2003, which saw single lap qualifying with cars carrying their fuel load for the first race stint. The change will naturally lead teams to run shorter stints at the start of the race, as pioneered by Renault in 2003; where ‘rearward-biased’ strategies were the norm in 2007, ‘forwardbiased’ strategies are more likely in 2008.Sporting Regulations, Article 33
33) QUALIFYING PRACTICE
33.1 The qualifying practice session will take place on the day before the race from 14.00 to
15.00. The session will be run as follows :
a) From 14.00 to 14.20 (Q1) all cars will be permitted on the track and at the end of this period the slowest seven cars will be prohibited from taking any further part in the session. Lap times achieved by the seventeen remaining cars will then be deleted.
b) From 14.27 to 14.42 (Q2) the seventeen remaining cars will be permitted on the track and at the end of this period the slowest seven cars will be prohibited from taking any further part in the session. Lap times achieved by the ten remaining cars will then be deleted.
c) From 14.50 to 15.00 (Q3) the ten remaining cars will be permitted on the track. The above procedure is based upon a Championship entry of 24 cars. If 22 cars are entered only six cars will be excluded after Q1 and Q2.
IMPACT: The move to the 20/15/10 format for knockout qualifying will, when combined with Article 29.1, eliminate the wasteful fuel burning laps at the start of the third and final round. The new format will serve to further increase the tension of the exciting knockout format, with ever-decreasing time in each round to set a competitive time. The elimination of post-qualifying refuelling will also likely spell the end of cars waiting at the end of the pit-lane for the lights to go green, as there is no longer pressure to complete the maximum possible number of laps for the purpose of claiming ‘fuel credits’, as was the case in 2007.
In addition to the changes outlined above, a number of other modifications to both sets of regulations are currently being discussed. For the most part, they serve to correct situations of uncertainty that arose in 2007, including: formalising which tyres may be used when a race is started behind the Safety Car (as per Japan 2007); redefining the following distance when running behind the Safety Car (after Japan 2007); an explicit definition of how fuel and ambient temperatures are measured (after Brazil 2007).Source Renault