The start of the new F1 season is upon us and with it comes a whole new set of rules and regulations.
While the lion’s share of the 2019 rule change headlines have been grabbed by the technical changes to front and rear wings, barge boards and brake ducts (and while most of the noise around the upcoming season seems to be the wailing and gnashing of teeth of F1 aerodynamicists bemoaning lost downforce), the 2019 Sporting Regulations have also been given the once-over and some subtle but important changes have been. Here, then, are our top tweaks on the racing side of F1’s 2019 rules…
If the glove fits
The FIA Safety Department has been testing race gloves that feed the vital signs of a driver back to circuit medical teams for some time now and from this season onwards biometric gloves will be mandatory.
The gloves feature a tiny sensor sewn into the fabric of the glove. The sensor sends information over a robust bluetooth link and in the event of an incident will give the medical car crew crucial data about a drivers’ condition as they make their way to the scene.
Lighting the way
In order to improve car visibility in poor weather conditions, cars are now required to have three lights at the rear. The normal central rear light we’re all familiar is retained, while an additional LED light must now be fitted to each rear wing endplate.
That’s the technical regulation bit. The sporting part insists that the lights “must be illuminated at all times when using intermediate or wet-weather tyres”. The rule also states that if no lights work at the back of the car “it shall be at the discretion of the race director to decide whether or not a driver should be stopped” and that “should a car be stopped in this way the driver may re-join when the fault has been remedied.”
The fuel limit has been upped for 2019 from 105kg for the race to 110kg. This has primarily been done to allow drivers to use the engine at full power at all times. Whether it entirely spells an end to fuel saving during races remains to be seen but hopefully it will mean that drivers will at least be able to push harder in the final stages of a race.
Last season the rather arcane system of grid penalties was simplified via a rule that states that any driver incurring a power unit-related penalty of more than 15 places will be put to the back of the grid.
In the event that more than one driver incurred a penalty of 15 or more, grid order would be decided by the order in which the offences were committed. Offences were deemed to have been committed the first time any new elements were used on track. This led to the slightly farcical situation of drivers parking up at the end of the pitlane well in advance of FP1 to make sure they were first out on track in order to get a better slot at the rear of the grid.
To prevent that happening in 2019, drivers dropping to the back will be placed on the grid in qualifying order, a move which also encourages teams to send a driver out to set a competitive time in Q1 instead of making a token appearance and then retreating to the garage to save tyres.
When a Q1 effort goes spectacularly wrong and a driver fails to set a time within 107% of pole position, he too will be put to the back of the grid behind even those taking power unit-related penalties. Should there be more than one driver allowed to start in this manner they will be arranged on the grid in the order they were classified in FP3.
The chequered panel
We’re not losing the traditional square of chequered cloth being waved at the end of the race but to avoid any complications (and we’ve had a few in the past), the official end-of-race signal will now be a chequered light panel activated by race officials. The panel will be illuminated at the finish line as soon as the leading car has covered the full race distance.
As a cost-saving device teams have only been allowed a certain number of operational personnel at races and while that number still sits at 60, teams are being given a little leeway, with teams now being allowed six individual exceptions during a season to bring trainee personnel. However, no individual trainee may attend more than two events in this capacity.
Ready to race
In what is presumably a time and labour-saving move, the FIA now requires teams to self-scrutinise. Initial scrutineering is now in the hands of teams who will have to submit a signed declaration of conformity to race officials 18 hours before the start of FP1. Unless a waiver is granted by the stewards, competitors who don’t keep to these time limits will not be allowed to take part in the event. In the event that a team needs to change a survival cell after initial they’ll need to fill out a new form.
The rules on overtaking following race restarts have also been tweaked. Now, no driver is allowed to overtake until he has crossed the finishing line – rather than the earlier safety car line, as was the case previously.