MARCH 12, 2007
Some last minute revision of the rules
The Formula 1 rules have been modified in a number of ways in the last few days without any major announcements on the subject. So, in order that fans understand what is going to be going on, here are the details of the most important of these changes.
The key change is that cars MUST use at least one set of each specification of the dry tyres provided by Bridgestone in the course of the race, except if the driver has used wet or extreme weather tyres. The aim of this rule is to try to improve the show with some cars handling better than others on the two different types of rubber. In order for the commentators and fans to know what is happening, the tyres will be visibly distinguishable. This will be done with white markings on the sidewalls which have yet to be decided by Bridgestone. This is basically the same as the rule used in Champ Car but with red tyre markings.
"Bridgestone welcomes the making of the tyre specifications visibly distinguishable from each other as it will now enable the media and public to further understand the strategies employed by the various teams and therefore potentially increase their enjoyment of each race," says Kees van de Grint, Bridgestone Motorsport's Head of Track Engineering Operations.
It is good for Bridgestone also because the subject of tyres would have become a non-issue without a variable to keep them in the spotlight. This is thus a key decision in terms of marketing for the official tyre supplier and makes the franchise much more attractive than previously was the case.
The change was one of several made to the Sporting Regulations on March 5 when all the teams agreed to the changes being put forward.
These include a number of other important points, notably with the Safety Car.
In future when the Safety Car is deployed no car is allowed to go to pitlane to refuel until all the cars are all lined up behind the Safety Car and the message "PIT LANE OPEN" is shown on the timing monitors. A 10 second time penalty will be imposed on any driver who enters the pit lane and whose car is refuelled before the second message is shown. In some cases it may be worth a team taking such a penalty because the advantage gained will be far greater, but we will have to see if that eventuality ever occurs. If the Safety Car uses the pitlane the cars may not stop until the "PIT LANE OPEN" message appears.
In order to stop gamesmanship behind the Safety Car and avoid possible accidents there is a new rule that states that "any car being driven unnecessarily slowly, erratically or which is deemed potentially dangerous to other drivers at any time whilst the safety car is deployed will be reported to the stewards".
There will also be a change to the way a Safety Car period unfolds as there is now a new message which will say "LAPPED CARS MAY NOW OVERTAKE" which will mean that all cars running between the leading cars will be allowed to pass the Safety Car and gain back a lost lap. They must "proceed around the track at an appropriate speed, without overtaking" and then rejoin at the back of the field.
Policing this will be interesting as lapped drivers will potentially gain a huge amount with the new rule and are not likely to dawdle.
A new safety measure that has been adopted is the ban on bump starts when a car is being pushed off the grid. Drivers must now wait until the car is in the pitlane before being allowed to start.
One other point of interest is that the cars are now fitted with a Medical Warning Light, which indicates to marshals that certain forces have been exceeded in an accident (thus warning them about what they can and cannot do in medical terms). This information will presumably be relayed the Medical Car as well so that doctors will know how serious a crash is before they get to the scene. Any driver who is in an accident in which the Medical Warning Light comes on must present himself for examination in the circuit medical centre without delay.
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