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Page last updated at 02:41 GMT, Friday, 25 March 2011

Rule changes to revolutionise F1


F1 season preview - New for 2011

BY Andrew Benson

Hopes are high that the 2011 Formula 1 season could top even last year's all-time classic for drama, action and entertainment.

With five world champions on the grid - all in top teams - there is certainly every reason to suppose it will be at least as gripping as 2010.

But as the F1 drivers and teams gear up for action in Melbourne this weekend, one thing is certain.

However thrilling the twists and turns of the year turn out to be, the racing on the track that creates them will be very different, thanks to a series of major rule changes.

This is how they will affect F1 2011:


Arguably the most exciting race of 2010 was the Canadian Grand Prix, which featured multiple pit stops and several lead changes, involving all five title contenders, before Lewis Hamilton's McLaren eventually came out on top.

And the reason for all the activity and excitement? Tyres.

The Bridgestones that F1 used last year were normally very durable, but the unique track surface in Montreal made them degrade faster than normal - hence more pit stops.

F1's stakeholders, who realised some of the races last year tended towards the soporific even if the season itself was thrilling, decided this was a good thing and asked new tyre supplier Pirelli to supply rubber that degraded faster than the Bridgestones.

Pirelli has done exactly that. Pre-season testing suggests drivers will have to do a minimum of two pit stops in each race, possibly three or even four depending on exactly how the tyres behave.

There were worries that the tyres were 'going off' too quickly. These fears seem to have cooled recently, but tyre management will still be a crucial part of a driver's armoury and race strategies will be much more complicated than they were last year.

A number of drivers have complained about tyres wearing out too quickly but those drivers who excel at caring for tyres - the likes of Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button - are not among them.


Remember last year's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix? The world title slipped inexorably out of Alonso's grasp and into Sebastian Vettel's because the Spaniard could not get past Vitaly Petrov's Renault, which was slow around the corners but prodigiously fast down the straight.

Such a scenario is unlikely to happen in 2011 following the introduction of perhaps the most controversial of the rule changes - the moveable rear wing.

The idea is simple. A driver trying to overtake will be able to press a button in the cockpit that adjusts one of the flaps on the rear wing to reduce drag and give him extra speed on the straight.

It is controversial because it introduces an element of artifice into the racing. But the idea is not to make overtaking easy, just possible.

As race director Charlie Whiting puts it, the moveable rear wing will be "tuned with the intention of assisting the following driver, not guaranteeing him an overtaking manoeuvre".

The idea is for a driver who is much faster to be able to pass relatively easily, but for one who is only marginally quicker still to find it a major challenge.

Initially, drivers will be able to use the wing if they are within a second of the car in front at a designated point on the track. The device can be used from a given point on the following straight.

But these parameters can be adjusted if the device is working too well - or not well enough.

To assist with tuning car set-up, drivers will be able to use the wing freely in practice and qualifying, when it gives a lap-time advantage of about 0.5 seconds.


This season sees the return of the Kers energy recovery and power-boost systems, which were used by some teams in 2009 but abandoned last year on cost grounds.

These systems recover kinetic energy that would otherwise be lost during braking and store it in batteries. This energy can then be used during acceleration to boost a car's speed by about 80bhp for approximately seven seconds a lap. That results in an overall lap-time advantage of about 0.3secs.

Every team will have Kers apart from Lotus, Hispania and Virgin will have the systems, so its usage will be more tactical than anything else. The power can be supplied in one big boost, or in a number of smaller boosts around a lap.


As well as the technical changes detailed above, there will be a number of modifications to the sporting rules.

Most high-profile and controversial will be the removal of the ban on team orders, which comes as a result of the furore that followed Ferrari's veiled request to Felipe Massa to hand the lead of last year's German Grand Prix to team-mate Alonso.

Fans are sensitive to the idea of races being manipulated but the removal of the ban will, in reality, change nothing.

Teams have always operated internal orders/tactics. It is just that, since the ban on team orders was introduced in 2002, they have been more subtle about it than Ferrari were at Hockenheim.

This will remain the case but Ferrari, Red Bull, McLaren et al will now have the ability to employ them publicly without fear of censure.

Potentially more wide-reaching is the widening of the powers of the race stewards and the formal outlawing of certain driving actions.

Remember when Michael Schumacher almost edged Rubens Barrichello into the pit wall in last year's Hungarian Grand Prix? Well, the long-standing gentleman's agreement that allows a driver to defend his position by changing his line no more than once is now in the rule book.

Among the other offences listed are causing an avoidable accident, unfairly blocking another driver, impeding another driver when being lapped, speeding in the pit lane, or gaining an advantage by leaving the track.

There are a number of other changes but another potentially significant one is the re-introduction of the 107% qualifying rule. This states that any driver who does not lap within 107% of the fastest time in the first qualifying session will not be allowed to start the race.

For the Hispania team, who go to Melbourne having never run their car, the rule may be giving some cause for concern.

Rubens Barrichello and Michael Schumacher

Barrichello and Schumacher disagree over near-miss

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see also
McLaren fight back to the front
25 Mar 11 |  Formula 1
Ferrari in formidable form
24 Mar 11 |  Formula 1
Hamilton & Button's uneasy peace
22 Mar 11 |  Formula 1
Vettel sets sights on F1 records
21 Mar 11 |  Formula 1

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