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Last Updated: Saturday, 27 December, 2003, 11:40 GMT
F1 rings the changes
By Andrew Benson
Motorsport editor

Despite the success achieved by the overhaul of Formula One's rules for 2003, the sport's bosses have been unable to resist the temptation to tinker with them again.

BBC Sport provides an at-a-glance guide to what effect the new rules could have in 2004.


After just one year back on the agenda, Friday qualifying has been binned again for 2004. Instead, there will be two sessions running back to back on Saturday afternoon.

The relationship between the two qualifying periods is the same as in 2003, in that the times in the first session will be reversed to set the running order in the second, which will determine grid positions.

Ferrari boss Jean Todt keeps an eye on his rivals from the pit wall
Changes to qualifying will mean a new set of tactics for the teams
The difference in 2004 is that the second session will start just two minutes after the first has ended.

Just as in 2003, refuelling is allowed after the first session, but not after the second - meaning teams have to win their grid slots while running their cars as they intend to start the race.

This opens the door to a wide range of tactical possibilities.

In theory, tracks speed up as more cars run on them, so running last in the final session should give an advantage - meaning teams would go flat out in the first session to ensure the most advantageous position for the second.

However, teams might decide to hold back in the first session if there is a threat of rain in the second, or if they do not want to show their hand in terms of ultimate performance.

Some insiders believe that the changes do not address the real problems with the format of qualifying.

One big problem is that times set in Friday practice will not mean anything, which means the media have nothing concrete to report before Saturday.

Another is that while the new format provides more action at the track on Saturdays, it does not remove the problem of there being nothing for fans to watch on Sundays before the race starts.

Third drivers

In 2003, several teams chose to run in a new test session on Friday mornings in return for limiting their testing between races.

Renault in particular made this work to their advantage by running a third car with an experienced driver, Allan McNish, in it to help gain extra data.

Toyota test driver Ricardo Zonta (left) with race drivers Olivier Panis (centre) and Cristiano da Matta
Toyota could benefit from an experienced third driver in Zonta (left)
But it is all change for 2004.

For a start, the extra session has been eliminated.

But all save 2003's top four teams will be able to run a third car for another driver throughout Friday's two practice sessions as long as he has not competed in more than six Grands Prix in the previous two seasons.

The smaller teams, like Jordan and Minardi, are expected to use this to raise some much-needed extra funds by trying a number of pay-drivers.

Bigger teams are likely to use it in the same manner as Renault did in 2003 and run an experienced test driver who can help them assimilate more data quicker.

Toyota, for example, have Ricardo Zonta as test driver - the Brazilian is quick, consistent and technically sound, and has two years of F1 racing experience after driving for BAR in 1999 and 2000.


There is a new restriction on technology for the new season aimed at slowing cars through corners.

Rear wings, which provide much of the aerodynamic downforce at the back of the car, will be subject to new limits in 2004.

Previously, they could contain as many horizontal elements as required, but now there must be a maximum of three top rear wing elements and only one at the bottom.

The rear wing on McLaren's new MP4-19
Rear wings have been restricted to cut cornering speeds
This, according to one top designer, will restrict aerodynamic development by about 4%.

"Instead of a gain of 7-8%, we'll probably only be able to make 4%," he told this website.

"In other words, where before you might have expected to gain one second a lap through aerodynamic development from one year to the next, this winter it might only be 0.5secs."

On top of this, the rear wing end plates - the vertical structures at either side - and the engine cover have been enlarged to allow more room for sponsors' names.

Sheikh Fawaz bin Mohammed (centre), the president of the Bahrain Racing Circuit Company, shows off a model of the Middle Eastern country's new F1 track
Bahrain has built an all-new track for its F1 bow in 2004
New races in new places

The Formula One calendar has a new look in 2004, with the addition of new venues in Bahrain and China and different dates for the USA and Brazil.

On top of that, for the first time, the season will be 18 races long, providing the French Grand Prix organisers can raise the money to ensure their race goes ahead.

This is one more than the maximum allowed in F1's rules, a limit set because of the fatigue created by a calendar that habitually crams 17 four-day race weekends into 31 weeks.

The change has been caused by the welcome return of the Belgian Grand Prix at the fabulous Spa-Francorchamps track - and the on-off-on debacle of both France and Canada.

The French event at Magny-Cours - never one of the more popular among the F1 fraternity - will go ahead as long as the teams are financially compensated - they lose money by attending a Grand Prix, as McLaren boss Ron Dennis is fond of pointing out.

That means the degree of fatigue at the end of the season will be even more pronounced.

But F1 people are used to being put upon, and most are putting on a brave face.

"I find it interesting to go to new places," said one, "I just wish they'd got rid of Magny-Cours."

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