The 2009 F1 season gets off to a start with the season-opener in Australia this weekend. The sport’s governing body the FIA has made a number of significant changes to the overall rules overseeing the entire season. According to the official website: “The new technical changes have 3 main objectives – reducing the role of aerodynamics in the cars’ performance; making overtaking easier; and keeping lap times in check.”
Here are a few (not all), of the regulations and changes in rules that come into effect for the 2009 season. The rules can be broadly separated into two distinct categories – Technical Regulations – affecting the design of the cars and Sporting Regulations – inmpacting how the races will be run.
Changes in the Technical Regulations
Tyres: After ten years of seeing grooved tyres, F1 enthusiasts wil lsee thereturn of slicks. A change in nomenclature too for the tyres known as ‘standard wets’ last year are now called ‘intermediates’ and ‘extreme wets’ are called just ‘wets’. At each race the softer of the two dry compounds available and the wet weather tyres will be marked with green rings to distinguish themselves.
KERS: In a radically new approach endorsed by the FIA, teams may use Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS). Using a KERS system is not compulsory and teams are allowed to run KERS and non-KERS equipped cars at different races. KERS may give them a power boost of up to 400 kilojoules per lap which roughly equals 82bhp for 6.6 seconds, though the power could be used in different ways, although the most common way would be in the form of giving a boost to the engine for a short period of time to aid in overtaking.
Aerodynamics: The cars’ front wings may be adjusted while the car is moving a maximum of twice per lap by a maximum of six degrees. There are new restrictions on the aerodynamic shape of the cars: front wings may now be wider, rear wings are narrower and taller leaving many people disappointed with the apparent lack of aesthetic appeal of the 2009 season cars.Most of the winglets and other aero aids like barge boards, winglets, turning vanes and chimneys that used to be on the cars have been banned. Rear diffusers are more tightly limited in size and shape.
The cars must now have four onboard camera housings instead of two, so hopefully viewers should see TV pictures from a variety of different camera angles this year.
Engines: Engines may not exceed 18,000rpm (reduced from 19,000 rpm of last year). Drivers must now use the same engine for three, rather than two, consecutive events. Teams will be limited to eight engines per season – eight for each race driver and an additional four for testing. Just one team – Renault – has been allowed to make performance modifications to their engine for 2009 in order to help equalise power outputs.
Testing: In an attempt to reduce costs, the FIA and manufacturers have agreed that there will be NO testing during the entire F1 season. Any and all testing will have taken place in the pre-season. There is also a limit on 15,000 Kms of allowable testing within a calendar year.
Changes in the Sporting Regulations:
Pitlane Access during Safety Car periods: The rule stating that the pit lane is closed during a Safety Car period will be scrapped in 2009. The rule was introduced in 2007 to avoid people rushing back to the pits to refuel, possibly speeding through a danger zone, but software has been successfully developed to solve this problem. The pit lane will now remain open throughout any safety-car period, allowing drivers to refuel without penalty. However, to ensure that drivers are not tempted to speed back to the pit lane, a new software system which employs GPS and the cars’ standard ECU has been introduced. When the safety car is deployed, each driver is given a minimum ‘back to pit’ time based on his position on track. If he arrives in the pit lane before that time he will be penalised.
Points System: After a lot of hemming and hawing and a controversial decision to award the Drivers’ Championship to the driver with most wins was vetoed by the Formula 1 Teams Association (FOTA), there will be no change in the 2009 season from the previous year with the 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 points system remaining in place. The driver with the most points wins.
Pre-race weights: After qualifying, the FIA will publish the weight at which all cars are expected to start the race, giving spectators an accurate gauge of what fuel load each driver is carrying.
The debuting Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has been added to the race calendar, as part of Formula One’s expansion in the Middle East. The race will take place at the Hermann Tilke-designed Yas Marina Circuit, which is will be the final round of the 2009 World Championship on 1 November, 2009.
After being dropped in 2007 and replaced by the Fuji Speedway, the Suzuka Circuit will return to host the Japanese Grand Prix in 2009. The race will then alternate between the two circuits.
2009 will be the first Formula One season since 1958 with no Grand Prix in North America
The organisers of the French Grand Prix announced via their official website that the race would no longer be part of the 2009 season, citing “economic problems”. This will be the second time that there has not been a French Grand Prix on the schedule since the start of the World Drivers’ Championship in 1950. The only previous time was 1955.