Penalty points confirmed in new F1 rules
13 December 2013
The FIA has confirmed that a system of penalty points will be introduced into its flagship F1 series in a bid to control driving standards from 2014 onwards.
Amongst a raft of tweaks to the category's sporting regulations, many of which concern penalties and punishments, the governing body confirmed that drivers will be subject to a totting-up system that, at its extreme, could result in suspension from the cockpit.
“In accordance with Article 16.3, the stewards may impose penalty points on a driver's Super Licence,” article 4.2 of the 2014 regulations confirms, “If a driver accrues 12 penalty points, his licence will be suspended for the following event, following which 12 points will be removed from the licence.”
The regulations also reveal that the penalty point system will operate on a rolling twelve-month basis, with points remaining in force until the anniversary of their imposition or, as stated previously, a suspension removes them from the licence.
Elsewhere, there is further clarification of track limits, particularly when it comes to overtaking. The 2013 season was rife with discussion about drivers exceeding track limits, and appearing to gain an advantage from doing so, even though F1 safety delegate Charlie Whiting suggested that this was not the case. The definition appeared blurred, however, for drivers seemed to get away with putting all four wheels beyond the white lines marking the edge of the circuit on some occasions, while others – including Romain Grosjean's ballsy pass on Felipe Massa in Hungary – resulted in a penalty.
“Drivers must use the track at all times,” the rulebook insists, “For the avoidance of doubt, the white lines defining the track edges are considered to be part of the track, but the kerbs are not. A driver will be judged to have left the track if no part of the car remains in contact with the track.”
The most obvious tweak to the regulations in this area now gives the stewards discretion when it comes to penalising transgressions.
“Should a car leave the track the driver may re-join, however, this may only be done when it is safe to do so and without gaining any lasting advantage,” the document confirmed, before adding, “At the absolute discretion of the race director, a driver may be given the opportunity to give back the whole of any advantage he gained by leaving the track.”
A five-second time penalty is also proposed in order to allow stewards more flexibility when it comes to minor issues,
Pit-stop safety also comes under scrutiny, with adjustment to the wording of clauses concerning 'unsafe release'. Transgressions in any practice session will now result in a grid penalty for that weekend's race, while similar errors of judgement on raceday will result in a similar punishment for the following round. Penalties picked up in practice remain at the discretion of the stewards, however, while raceday punishments will result in a mandatory ten-place drop, with the regulations also allowing for the imposition of a drive-thru' or time penalty should the offending car be able to continue in the race.
In a minor change to the wording regarding 'in-race' transgressions, the number of laps from the end of a race in which drive-thru' and 'stop-go' penalties will no longer be applied has been reduced from five to three, with a 20-second time penalty being applied in place of a drive-thru' and 30secs in place of a 'stop-go'.
Reprimands will be handed down to any driver who fails to stop when signalled to do so at the weighbridge, provided the car is then brought back to the FIA garage without delay and can satisfy the FIA technical delegate that it remains in exactly the same condition it was in when it was driven into the pits. Any driver who fails to stop and then fails to bring the car back to the FIA, or has work carried out on the car before it is returned, will be required to start the race from the pit-lane.
As expected, and in spite of an all-new powertrain being introduced to F1 from 2014, drivers will be allowed to use no more than five power units during a championship season, down from eight in 2013.
The power unit will be deemed to comprise six separate elements - the engine, kinetic motor generator unit, heat-based motor generator unit, energy store, turbocharger and control electronics. Each driver will be permitted to use a maximum five of each component during a season, although any combination of them may be fitted to a car at any one time. Should more than five of any one elements be used, a grid place penalty will be imposed.
Replacement of a complete power unit will result in the driver concerned starting the race from the pit-lane, while the use of additional individual elements over and above the maximum five will attract their own scale of punishment. The first time a sixth element is required, the driver will take a ten-place grid drop, although subsequent sixth elements will thereafter carry only a five-place penalty. The same structure follows for the use of further elements. Drivers at the back of the grid unable to accept the full punishment, will now have to carry over 'unused' positions to the following race. Any remaining positions after that will be discarded.
Gearbox usage also comes under the microscope, with each unit now being expected to last for six events, with an 'event' deemed to comprise Saturday practice, qualifying and the race.
Using a replacement gearbox within that time will incur a drop of five places on the grid at the event in question, with an additional five places each time a further gearbox is used. Any replacement gearbox, however, will only be required to complete the remainder of the event in question.
While changing gears and dog rings on evidence of physical damage had previously been allowed under supervision, and only for replacements of identical specification, the 2014 regulations make provision for five occasions per driver where a team 'need not provide evidence of physical damage in order to carry out these changes'.
The revised regulations also confirm that, from next year, no car will be permitted to consume more than 100kg of fuel from the time at which the signal to start the race is given to the time when it crosses the line at the chequered flag. Other than in cases of force majeure, any driver exceeding this limit will be excluded from the race results.