Following a host of suggestions made by the F1 Strategy Group which were approved by the wider F1 Commission ahead of last week’s Austrian GP, the WMSC met on Thursday in Munich to rubber-stamp changes for next season and beyond.
Yesterday, it was announced after the meeting that standing re-starts, reductions in wind tunnel usage and in-season testing, and an extension of parc ferme conditions are among changes to have been approved by the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council for the 2015 season. It is to be believed that these new changes have been implemented in the sport with a view to saving costs and enlivening the Formula 1 spectacle.
Despite a largely negative response to the new changes from pundits, fans and even the drivers, standing re-starts will be introduced following the introduction of the Safety Car during races although not in all scenarios. In-season testing will be cut from four to two sessions and also the three pre-season tests revert exclusively to European venues after back-to-back sessions in Bahrain this year.
A proposed ban on tyre blankets has been put on hold for now but a significant change affecting teams during race weekends will see parc ferme conditions now starting during Saturday morning’s Practice Three rather than the afternoon’s qualifying session. Furthermore, the Friday night mechanics’ curfew will be extended from six to seven hours in 2015 before increasing to eight hours the following year.
In other cost-saving measures, teams’ uses of wind tunnels and CFD technology will also be restricted further, with the former reduced from 80 hours per week to 65 hours, although “two periods of tunnel occupancy will be allowed in one day (rather than only one)”. Teams will also only be able to nominate one wind tunnel per year.
The second year of F1’s turbo hybrid era and the improved reliability it is likely to bring now means that drivers will now have only four penalty-free engines to use during the campaign. But that could or will revert to five if there are more than 20 races on the 2015 calendar. In an additional change, the penalty for a complete change of power unit will be to start the race from the back of the grid rather than the pitlane as is currently the case.
Meanwhile, a change to the Technical Regulations which is likely to be universally welcomed concerns the nose designs of cars. The WMSC stated that 2015 will see “a number of new regulations for the noses to ensure improved safety and to provide more aesthetically pleasing structures”.
This year’s cars feature a host of ungainly interpretations to satisfy the new-for-2014 low-nose regulations, which raised safety concerns in some quarters. Also, compulsory two-stage wheel fastener retaining systems and changes to ensure the skid blocks under cars are made lighter have also been approved.
While the confirmed changes are dominated by measures aimed at bringing down budgets in F1 even though this is by nowhere near enough to satisfy the smaller teams in the sport. The main new rule have been implemented to improve the ‘show’ concerns the introduction of standing re-starts, something which has already proved controversial.
Currently the drivers run at reduced speeds in a queue behind the Safety Car while marshals clear an incident from the track, with a rolling re-start then taking place once the circuit is clear. Under the revised 2015 rules however, the drivers will line up back on the grid in race order to take the restart in the same way they traditionally start.
There are restrictions to this regulation. A rolling start will still be used if the Safety Car is “used within two laps of the start (or restart) of a race or if there are less than five laps of the race remaining”.
The ban on pre-season testing outside of Europe will see three four-day tests carried out in 2015, but this will reduce to just two tests the following year. The in-season schedule (which was only introduced this year after a six-year ban) will also be carried out in Europe and halved to just four days across two two-day tests, with half of the running to be completed by young drivers.
And in a significant additional change, the date by which F1’s Sporting and Technical Regulations can be changed for the following season without unanimous agreement has been brought forward by nearly four months, from June 30 to March 1.
Here are the full 2015 rule changes for Formula One below:-
Changes to 2015 Sporting Regulations
– The number of engines permitted by each driver in a season will be four. However, if there are more than 20 races in a season, the number will increase to five.
– The penalty for a complete change of Power Unit will be starting from the back of the grid, not the pit lane.
– The number of wind tunnel runs will be reduced from 80 hours per week to 65 hours per week.
– Wind-on hours are to be reduced from 30 hours per week to 25 hours.
– Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) usage is to be reduced from 30 Teraflops to 25 Teraflops.
– Two periods of tunnel occupancy will be allowed in one day (rather than only one).
– Teams will only be able to nominate one wind tunnel in one year.
– There will be three pre-season tests of four days each in Europe in 2015 (currently teams are able to test outside Europe). This will be reduced to two tests of four days in 2016.
– There will be two in-season tests of two days each in Europe (instead of the current four). Two of these four days must be reserved for young drivers.
Car specification at an Event
The current restrictions to the parc fermé will now apply from the start of P3 instead of the start of qualifying.
Wheels and tyres
The ban on tyre blankets will be rescinded for 2015. This will be re-discussed if and when the wheel and tyre diameter increases in the future.
The Friday night curfew will be extended from six to seven hours in 2015 and will increase to eight hours in 2016.
Safety Car restarts
Safety Car restarts will now be a standing start from the grid. Standing starts will not be carried out if the Safety Car is used within two laps of the start (or restart) of a race or if there are less than five laps of the race remaining.
Changes to 2015 Technical Regulations
A number of changes have been made, including:
– A number of new regulations for the noses to ensure improved safety and to provide more aesthetically pleasing structures.
– A number of new regulations concerning skid blocks to ensure that they are made from a lighter material (titanium) and are better contained.
– New regulations to ensure that the brake discs rotate at the same speed as the wheels.
– A two-stage wheel fastener retaining system is now compulsory.
My first thoughts about the new regulation changes for 2015 were of complete shock and wonder. In regards to the changes regarding the power units, I have to say that I completely agree with the changes made there and I feel that these regulations have been much improved and are now also more tighter.
With the regulation changes with the wind tunnels, I do understand where the FIA are coming from with these changes. Of course there is no question that the big teams of the sport such as Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull have the resources and the capital in order to effectively make sure of what they have in order to improve performance on the car throughout a season.
With the new restrictions on aerodynamic testing, I do feel that even though it will help the smaller teams on the grid keep their costs down. But I do feel that it will only highlight once again the gap between the big, midfield and small teams in the sport and I think that the bigger teams will adjust themselves to the regulations and will only further improve their cars throughout the course of the season.
My thoughts on testing and the car specification at an event regulation changes for me where to be expected. In regards to the parc ferme rule, I did not expect it but I understand why it was implemented and will hopefully alleviate any problems, even if I do not see this happening.
Even though I believe that the FIA made the right choice to bring back testing into the sport in order to help Pirelli test or improve their current or new tyre compounds and also provide young drivers with the chance to gain Formula One experience, I did expect them to reduce the number of sessions in a season in order to save on costs.
But I did not expect two of the days to be reserved for the young drivers and I have to applaud the FIA for this decision. Not only will it help the young drivers currently gain further experience in preparation to race full time in the sport, but it will also allow even more young drivers and new talent to enter the sport.
The main regulation that I am most concerned about is the Safety Car restarts. Even though I have stated that the FIA need to look into this matter further, I think the solution that they have managed to agree might not be the correct one. I do understand why they have implemented the idea of a rolling start just like other sports series.
But I do feel that this will only confuse the drivers, teams and also the fans in regards to the running order and who is actually leading the field after the Safety Car goes into the pit lane after an incident on the track. This could discourage people from watching the sport and could also turn more people away from watching the sport at a time where audience figures matter to the sport and also to its growth and development.
I do believe changes needed to be ready for the 2015 season. I do understand why some have been implemented into the sport and the reasons for doing so. But let us not forget that even though Formula One is meant to be the pinnacle of motorsport, is always looking for ways to demonstrate this and also wants to put on a ‘show’ for its fans and also the audience that watch the races on television.
But what the FIA need to realise that Formula One has and will always continue to provide a ‘show’ for its audience and its dedicated fan base, no matter what rules and regulations get implemented. And they have to remember that if it wasn’t for its fans and audience figures, the sport wouldn’t have been able to grow over the past few decades as it has been and the FIA need to remember this.
But do I feel that the changes that have been agreed yesterday are right for the sport now and also in the future? Some may work, some may not. But let’s hope that it doesn’t damage the sport, its reputation, its growth, its development and most importantly its fans in the short term and also in the long term future.