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F1 2018 – Sporting regulations

The world awaits yet another season of the biggest motorsport event – F1 2018, the drama unfolds, like every year, with a slew of regulations. After all what would F1 be without these rules and regulations. I personally see these as challenges thrown at every manufacturer on that starting grid to push the envelope of their already advanced machines. These regulations are introduced or so called changed in many instances to catch up with the changing tactics in terms of technological prowess, or sometimes to introduce new technology (usually safety related tech) or simply to ward off a potential problem that might occur down the line. So lets get our hands on the changes that the FIA has introduced this year and how it changes the fortunes of some of the teams and manufacturers.

For starters I would like to split the regulations rule book into 2 parts like the FIA does –

  1. Technical Regulations – Like the name suggests this basically covers the machine (the car) and its systems. Basically this is the book that the design engineers and staff refer to before and during the race. This deals with technicalities like dry weight, aerodynamic downforce, the KERS systems, braking systems, etc.

  1. Sporting regulations – In lay man’s terms this rule book deals with how the race is supposed to be run. This is basically the written law on how the drivers and teams should act during a race. Primarily this is the domain of the race engineer who constantly makes strategies within the boundaries of these regulations and instructs the drivers under different circumstances of the race

There is not many changes in the sporting regulations. The only small change is in the safety car restarts where the driver gets to choose between a standing start or a rolling start offering more flexibility to the teams. The biggest changes for next year which is of interest and will impact the sport are as follows –

Three Engines per season

This is the biggest change F-1 will see this year. I will term this as the most stringent engine quota that the sport will see. Each car will be allowed to use only 3 power units over the course of 2018 season. That means teams will get to use just 3 engines for a span of 21 races. This puts immense pressure of the reliability of the engines that engine manufacturers will have to build. To give you some background, back in 2004, FIA allowed the use of one engine per weekend which was reduced to 5 engines for the whole season in 2014 and four in 2015. The advantage of this move is reduced costs as manufacturers will push to make the engines more reliable, which maybe a concern for a few manufacturers. The downside which even I agree to is that drivers will now be asked to nurse their engines rather than drive flat out like they used to. Driver’s aren’t particularly happy with this move but I feel they aren’t happy since May 13th 1950 when the FIA came into picture!

Grid penalties changes

This is an obvious step for the FIA. With the 3 engines per season rule, God forbid if the drivers have to change their engine they will have to face grid penalties. I personally found the last year’s penalty system confusing, however this year FIA has gone ahead and tweaked it to some extent. This is, needless to say, an alteration in the sporting regulations. The detailed penalty system can be downloaded from this link – To summarize if a driver collects a 5 or a 10 place penalty based on the component changed. If they replace a second component he gets a 15 place penalty and he will automatically be sent to the back of the grid. In case there are multiple drivers who are attracting this penalty then the line-up will be decided by the FIA based on when the FIA was informed of the offense. This year the race stewards also get the power to issue penalities even if it’s not detected on auto detection system (learning from Vettel’s race in Chinese GP)

Tyre compounds

This year fans will be able to see more colours of tires around the pits. Pirelli will be expanding the array of dry weather compounds to 7 from earlier 5. They have basically added 1 compound each on either end of the spectrum – superhard and hypersoft. I personally feel the super-hard tyre will just be a catalog addition and will be used by teams as a last resort. This is primarily because in reality teams are pushing for softer compounds across the board. This point will be evident from the fact that Pirelli has announced that in 2018 every compound will be one level softer from 2017. So for example the medium compound tyre in 2018 will be comparable to soft compound in 2017. In such scenarios, it’s a wait and watch for the superhard tyre and will be interesting to see how teams will come up with that extra downforce as Pirelli is anticipating. This hence will be restricted to high energy circuits like Germany.  It will really be interesting to listen to the commentary this year (pun intended).

The colour palette for 2018 is –

Super-hard – Orange, Hard – Ice blue, Medium – White, Soft – Yellow, Supersoft – Red,  Ultrasoft – Purple, Hypersoft – Pink

Like every year 2018 is going to be an interesting season. Alas FIA gave a miss to India this year as well. I am eagerly waiting for those 5 lights to go off on 25th March in Melbourne and see how teams fare this year. 10 teams, 20 talented drivers one sport!

(Author’s Profile:  Manu Sasidharan. Am a hardcore petrol head, an auto enthusiast and an amateur designer. I have been in close touch with the industry for a long time and am abreast with the action in the automotive sphere. Driving is my passion and combined with a love for travelling makes me a nomad by nature. On the education front, I have done my Engg in Electrical and Electronics from Cochin university and my Management studies from Symbiosis Pune.)


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