FIA race director Charlie Whiting today issued a question and answer briefing to F1 journalists with a couple of clarifications of new rules for 2009.
One concerns the eight engines the drivers may use during a season and when penalties may apply and the other regards the safety car.
The engine rule is the one I wrote about here a few weeks ago after the Ferrari launch. Here’s what Charlie had to say on the subject:
“It’s eight engines for the whole year. A driver will only incur a penalty if he uses a ninth engine. So the teams can use the engines as they like. There’s no three consecutive race rule because there doesn’t seem to be a need for it any longer. The engines will not have to do three complete events now.
In the past, as you know, the two-race engine was used only on Saturdays and Sundays. Now, for 17 races, the eight engines will have to do the three days of each grand prix. What the teams will do is to have a Friday engine that’ll probably do the first four races or something of that nature. They’ll then take the engine out and use another one for Saturday and Sunday. All we’ve got to do, – it’ll be extra work – is to make sure that these engines remain sealed and are untouched.”
This is pretty straight forward and logical. I think that engines will become less of a talking point as a result. Although bear in mind two things; first the engines were not designed to do three races, they are being adapted to do so and that may mean some blow ups early on, particularly in testing. A few years ago an engine would be something like 20hp down after two races, but now they are much better at maintaining their performance, so the disadvantage, even after 1500kms will not be significant.
Also Renault has been allowed to bring its engine up to parity with the rest of the field. Charlie would not go into details about how that was achieved, but said it involved one major change.
Charlie also clarified the new situation with safety cars. The rule we’ve existed with the last couple of years, where a car could be caught out having to pit for fuel when the pit lane was closed following the deployment of the safety car, has been dropped. Quite right too, It made no sense for a driver to be penalised because someone else hit the wall. Here’s what Charlie said,
“The rule introduced in 2007 was a bad one, and we’ve gone back to the 2006 regulations. The only difference is we intend to implement a minimum time back to the pits. When we deploy the safety car, the message will go to all the cars, which will then have a “safety car” mode on their ECUs. As soon as that message gets to the car, it’ll know where it is on the circuit, and it’ll calculate a minimum time for the driver to get back to the pits. The driver will have to respect this and the information will be displayed on his dashboard.
If you remember, the reason we closed the pit entry was to remove the incentive for the driver to come back to his pit quickly. That’s gone now, as you won’t be able to reach the pits any quicker than your dashboard display allows you to.”
That’s easier for everyone to understand than before. The show will be improved.