There has also been confirmation that IndyCar will race at Edmonton in 2012 after all. The Edmonton event - due on July 22-24 - had been cancelled in November, but promoter Octane Management has now announced that it has reached agreement with the city and with IndyCar to hold the event for three years on a new circuit designed around the airport's eastern runway.
The rule change attracting most attention is the introduction of double-wide restarts at oval events, with the race leader taking the inside position of Row 1.
Double-wide restarts for road events were ruled out because of the track configurations and off-line conditions once the races get underway. "At venues such as Barber, you have a right-hander and left-hander coming up on the start/finish line," IZOD IndyCar Series president of competition and racing operations Brian Barnhart said. "You don't have time to get two wide. It's easier to do that coming for the initial start because guys are willing to run off-line because the track is clean. They won't do that an hour into the race."
It's unclear whether the double-file restarts will be introduced in time for the Indianapolis 500 in May.
In other tweaks, the restart zone - currently between turns 3 and 4 on ovals - will be moved closer to the start/finish line and decided according to each venue's characteristics.
Other rule changes include setting the pit lane order based on qualifying positions from the last similar (road or oval) event. The pit order for the season opener, the March 27 Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg road race, will be determined by entrant points from the 2010 season, while the pit order for the first oval race of the season - the Indianapolis 500 - will remain unchanged from previous years.
"We were looking for ways to reward drivers for their efforts in qualifying," explained Barnhart. "By changing the pit selection process, it provides some variety so it's not always the same teams and drivers at pit out. I think it will be really good to mix things up a bit."
Problems with the pit commit lane - which has seen cars caught out decelerating on the apron before the pit lane but not actually in the pit lane itself that allows them to stop if a yellow comes out - are also being addressed. "If you make the decision to leave the racing surface and head to a pit box and a caution comes out while you are within that extended zone, you will be able to stop," confirmed Bernard.
More practice time for rookies and drivers outside the top ten will be re-introduced, allowing them 45 minutes of running before all cars take to the track for a further 30 minutes. Those running during the earlier section will be entitled to an extra set of practice tyres; otherwise, all cars must start and finish on the same set of rubber for the session.
Another change was announced that will come into effect in 2012, with engine specifications for all new engines from Honda, Chevrolet and Lotus to be reduced from 2.4 to 2.2 litres, "to challenge the automotive industry to balance power, efficiency and durability."