The FIA World Motor Sport Council met today in India for its traditional pre-Christmas session to finalise the calendar and rules for 2012.
The calendar is as previously published, which means that Bahrain and Austin are on. The promoters from Circuit of the Americas have therefore paid Bernie Ecclestone the outstanding payment which was due and presumably have agreed or will agree the increased terms for the contract. They have already invested $100 million in the venue, so had to decided whether to cut their losses or go in bigger.
As for Bahrain, it still remains a doubt in the minds of many of the teams and media due to attend, even if the FIA and FOM want the event to go ahead.
The most interesting thing to come out of the WMSC session was a new rule on racing wheel to wheel, in light of all the penalties and stewards decisions on tight moments this year,
“Drivers may no longer move back onto the racing line having moved off it to defend a position.”
This is a formalisation of the rule about one move to defend. If a driver makes two moves, he is blocking and that attracts a penalty.
This is an interesting twist on it, as drivers like to stay on the racing line as much as possible, especially late in the race when the build up of debris, rubber “marbles” and dirt makes driving off-line very slippery.
Already the adjustable DRS wing puts the driver trying to defend his position in a fight at a disadvantage, the car behind getting a boost of around 12km/h. Now if the defending driver is only allowed to move off line and not return back to the line, to force the opponent to use the dirty side, then he’ll get hung out to dry and the pass will be straight forward, or he’ll judge that resistance is futile and let him through without blocking.
All the measures announced today came from the Sporting Working Group, which comprised team sporting directors and team managers together with Race Director Charlie Whiting, as well as from discussions within the GP Drivers’ Association.
Other measures announced today were:
• Cars may no longer take part in pre-season testing without having passed all crash tests (this will lead to one or two teams missing the first test in February)
• There will now be a maximum race time of four hours to ensure that a lengthy suspension of a race does not result in a race that could run up to eight hours if left unregulated.
• Before the safety car returns to the pits all lapped cars will be allowed to unlap themselves and then join the back of the pack, ensuring a clean re-start without slower cars impeding those racing for the leading positions.
• Cars which were in the pit lane when a race is suspended will now be allowed to re-join the cars on the grid in the position they were in when the race was suspended.
• Drivers may no longer leave the track without a justifiable reason, i.e. cutting a chicane on reconnaissance laps or ‘in’ laps to save time and fuel.
• One three-day test will be carried out during the season, formerly there were none. (This was originally planned to be Mugello. Since Ferrari withdrew from FOTA there is no reason for this to change but we will see)
• All stewards’ decisions which are not subject to appeal are now in one place instead of being in various places within the regulations.
• All tyres allocated to a driver may now be used on the first day of practice; formerly only three sets were permitted
This is an interesting move which means drivers can get more use out of the harder compound tyres which usually get handed back at the end of the weekend unused. This is at the behest of Pirelli which got sick of transporting tyres it knew would not get used. As engine mileage seems to be pretty comfortable, we should see some more running on Fridays as a result of this move