F101 ~ Laura Marieee: The Rules!

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The Formula One rule book is huge. As far as understanding the ins and outs of a race is concerned, understanding the rules and regulations plays a very important part. Over the next few weeks, I’ll focus solely on this, starting with the new points system for 2010, and the biggest rule change – the refueling ban.

F101

Each race is about collecting points, both as a driver and as a team, and as the driver and team with the most points will end the year as world champion, the points system is an important part of the rules and regulations. In 2010 the points system is set to change as the number of teams that will be on the grid in Bahrain is higher than in recent seasons. So far, 13 teams are expected to race next year, and as that expands the grid from 20 drivers from the last two seasons, to 26, the points system has been amended so that the top ten drivers will score points in each race, rather than the eight it has been for the last few years.

Prior to the 2009 season, Bernie Ecclestone, wanted to completely shake up the way in which drivers and teams were awarded for the positions that they finished in, and he wanted to introduce a medal system, whereby the champion would be the driver with the most gold medals at the end of the season, i.e. the driver with the most wins. It was a plan for the winner to take all, and if you won the most races, regardless of where you came in the races you ‘lost’ you would be the champion. This idea was far from favourable within the teams and the fans alike, and just before the start of the season in Australia, back in March, the idea was scrapped and the system reverted back to how it had always been since 2003, with the winner taking ten points, second – eight, third – six, and fourth to eighth with five points down to one. But this year that is set to change, with the system favouring more towards the medal system by giving the winner a bigger advantage in a race over the other nine drivers.

The winner is set to take 25 points in each race, with second taking 20, and third taking 15. The fourth down to tenth place finishers will take ten, eight, six, five, three, two and one points, respectively. This new system will undoubtedly round off the championship sooner than usual, with such a margin between points. However, it will also aim to increase overtaking as with such a gap between first and third, it wouldn’t take many races to start falling behind, so passing on track to gain those extra points may become more common within the sport, while the drivers attempt to score as many points as possible.

One flaw in the system is that, like the medals system, it may not take the whole season for a champion to be decided as it has in recent years, with the title decider going into the final few races. In 2009, Jenson Button would’ve won the world championship in Singapore if the medal system had been in place, but instead he took it two races later in the penultimate round. A points system with such a vast gap could see the championship wrapped up with more races left to go at the end of the season.

Of course whether this new system stays as it is or not, remains to be seen. In 2009, the medal system was introduced and scrapped before it had a chance to sink in with the fans, and this could even happen again. But this time, the teams have gone some way to deciding on the new system, with key stakeholders in the teams having a say within the F1 Commission who decided on it. Whether it changes again or not, with the expanding grid, there needs to be some kind of change in the system, but some fans believe it shouldn’t be such a dramatic gap, and others favouring it as a way for the winner to take an advantage away from each race…

For you, the new F1 fan, the points system will become clearer as you start to follow a specific driver, because as a supporter you have a bigger concern over where your driver needs to finish in a race in order to have a better chance of winning the title at the tail end of the season…

Another big change for 2010 is the refuelling ban. Teams have been able to refuel during races for the last 15 years, since it was reintroduced into the sport in 1994 following the previous ban. Where most of the regulations over the appearance of the car have carried over from 2009, in 2010 the teams will need bigger fuel tanks to carry the correct amount of fuel that will last the full race distance. This also means that the teams have a lot of work and testing to do in terms of making sure the brakes last the race as well, as a heavier fuel load to begin with will put added pressure on the brakes over the first part of the race. In turn, the tyres need to be taken care of, as although drivers will still be able to stop for a new set of tyres during the race, a heavier fuel load to begin with will see the tyres wear away quicker than usual, as more weight will be slowed down going into the corners.

For qualifying this will mean drivers will be quicker as there will be enough fuel in the car to get them the quickest lap possible, and hopefully the pole position. Up until the end of 2009, the top ten drivers have carried their race fuel through Q3, but as of next season, the race fuel will be added prior to the race.

One benefit of the refuelling ban is it has a safety aspect. In recent years we have seen a few drivers leaving their pit boxes with the fuel rigs still attached. In 2008 at the Singapore Grand Prix, Felipe Massa left his pit box early with the fuel rig attached, and his mechanics had to chase him to the end of the pitlane to remove it. In Brazil this season, Heikki Kovalainen left his McLaren pit box with his still attached, spilling fuel into the path of Kimi Raikkonen who had left his Ferrari pit box just behind him, and the fuel ignited over Raikkonen’s car. With these kinds of incidents in mind, the refuelling ban will mean this won’t happen, and it will also cut down on overtaking while in the pitlane. It is common for drivers who have been unable to pass on track to put in some hot laps on minimum fuel, with clean air, while another driver pits, enabling them to pass that driver during their pitstop. Although drivers will still need to pit for fresh tyres, their stops should be fairly average, meaning teams will be unable to shorten the stop by short fuelling the driver in order to get him out ahead of a competitor.

For the teams, this means putting the right fuel load in the car ahead of the race, and testing the tyres and brakes ahead of the first race to make sure they are the best they can be with the added weight.

For you, the new F1 fan, you should hopefully see more overtaking on the track, but then again, with the lack of on track overtaking there is anyway, you may not. One thing is for sure, it is a big change for the sport in 2010, and while some teams may do well, others may struggle with the added weight…

For now though, I just want to say Merry Christmas to all of you lovely F1B readers, I’m having a week’s break, but I’ll be back on the 30th with more Marbles, and with my next edition of F101 in the new year. Enjoy the festive season, and more importantly, enjoy the snow (unless, like me, you’re from the Isle of Wight – then enjoy watching it fall and rapidly melting!)

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