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New rules on overtaking among F1 regulation changes for 2012
Posted By: James Allen  |  07 Dec 2011   |  6:28 pm GMT  |  165 comments

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

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You’re all basically arguing that the leading car should have the right to block the trailing car. Most if not all drivers are going to like this new rule. In an F1 car, if the car in front leaves the line then suddenly darts back to the racing line while you’re in the breaking zone, you lose downforce, lose breaking power, and can potentially ram the car in front. How can you guys be OK with that? I think some of you have proper “defending” and “blocking” mixed up.


overall nice rules, but the overtaking one? What about letting the drivers race without fake aids and rules to punish the driver that is in front? Whatever happened to reduce aero grip and increase mechanic grip to allow more overtaking? I wonder if anyone is considering just flashing the blue light wether you are about to be lapped or if are actually racing? May as well do that as they are making it almost impossible for the guy in front to defend.


I like to see guys racing each other, and I like to see cars being able to pass one another as well – without it often ending in tears. That is the number one problem in my view, the cars are so dependant on aero that if they lose any bits thats the end of their race. If the cars were even slightly more rugged so to speak then the cars could race side to side with more impunity. what I hate the most is cars trailing round after each other lap after lap because they are after good points, and do not want to risk gaining a place at the expense of a pitstop to repalce a wing:-) Maybe play around with the points structure again?


Truly a sad state of affairs with this daft one move rule. As far as I can tell I’ve never heard a fan complain about being allowed to move back onto the racing line, so why on earth are they even doing this, what is the motivation? This is becoming an express pass to overtaking, ie, just draft, DRS and pass, rather than the back and forth of a complex move.

We want some continuity. Why on earth should I as a fan bother with F1 statistics of seasons past when the rules are so different now? I still miss refueling. If someone asked me to predict a new rule that would come into play, I’d never predict this. Why fix something that isn’t broken?


Absolutely agree what a load of crap!!

BTW best move of the year goes to Mark Webber on Alonso Spa going up to Eau Rouge-breathtaking!


I think my own racing and passing moves are better to watch on my XBOX than what’s going come in F1 2012 lol…


As for the SC unlapping, I think a better solution would be to force lapped cars to cycle through the pits just before the restart. This avoids any unfair advantage and also leaves them out of the way of the leaders.


It will be interesting to see how the stewards define the words “move” when deciding if a car has moved more than once.

Would it mean :

(a) moved a complete car-width

(b) moved a half-width

(b) moved a half-width, paused and maintained straight-head, then moved a further half-width

And then you add-in issues where straights are wider than the corner-entry meaning that a car must move across. Where does the measurement come from ?

I also recall a couple of drivers saying that they couldnt see the car behind them due to spray or vibrating mirrors : as such, they blocked unknowingly. Penalty will apply ?

Race 1 will be very interesting indeed, I feel rather sorry for the stewards !


James, you are the man, the man with the contacts. How about passing all this feedback, or is its raw anger and disappointment, to some one in F1 who might actually care. Because right now, it looks like some one has completely lost their way here, and is poisoning the well.

I have been a committed follower of F1 for well over 20 years, it has been in my life for over 30. But James, I don’t know what this is any more. I really don’t.

Half of it has been put out of most peoples financial reach in the middle of the worst recession since the 1930s, the rules are turning it in to IRL with fake DRS over taking, the abolition of defensive driving, I think we all know that now RBR will spend mega bucks, and Vettel is already the 2012 WDC. Even in the Schumacher years, before the season started it felt like some one else could challenge, and he often did have to work for it. It was never as sterile as this season has been. Finally we get the stake through the heart that is the high likely hood that the Murdoch empire will eventually own the sport lock stock and barrel.

Never, ever has F1 been in such a sorry state. What happened? Where is my F1?

Seriously, I’m that close to wearing a black arm band with “RIP F1” on it.

Oh, I do have Sky, the whole damn lot, sports movies, blah, blah. I may well actually cancel it. I’ll tell them why. They wont care, but at least I wont be funding it, and I can lose that chav dish scaring my lovely house.

Yeah, bitter and mournful, most of all, gutted.


People in F1 do monitor the comments on here, so it does get seen and taken note of


Strangely enough, they usually do the opposite thing

SC rule was tried before and failed. SC periods just went on and on for at least 5-7 laps to sort the cars out. Even to only remove a piece of debris from the track.

I rather see smaller front wings, so they won’t clip rear tires like they have this season. I guess this season has shown us the most broken wings ever.

Why don’t they have 3 set compounds from te start of the season. Hard-medium-soft. Bring it to every race (3-4 sets each type for the weekend for example) and abolish the rule of using more than one compound in the race. That brings forth the dodgy Q3 qualifying.


All I can say is I hope we are all proved wrong although I think it is unlikely with this ridiculous new overtaking rule. Doesnt make any sense at all, what were they thinking??? Mind you at this rate won’t be seeing many races anyway having checked how much Sky tv would cost a month, complete joke. Even with this strange new overtaking rule will be gutted to have to miss races.


How about this: each driver will carry a long pole (no, not “Pole”) and when a following driver can reach out and tap the leading car with it, said leading car must yield right-of-way.


The David Vs Goliath element is being removed from F1. It’s the end of Man Vs Machine racing as we know it.

I feel particularly bad for the owners of the highly enjoyable “F1 Racing” magazine, because with this new racing line rule, the name of the magazine will surely have to change to “F1 passing out” instead.


And with this new rule… F1 turns into WRC (a time trial)


There is a nice spot on ‘boot hill’ next to the WRC grave…

With the coverage moving to Sky- would the last person to leave, please turn out the lights.



I think of Imola, 2005, Schumi, hunting Alonso… surely we will now lose epic battles if effectively a car moves once.

These are the best drivers in the world, safety has to come first, but I think this is a bit of a sad day. That day at Imola was some of the greatest defending I’ve ever seen!

Your take?


My take is in the original piece, I think it’s a shame and I hope it doesn’t spoil the racing

Joakim Hermansson

There’s a lot of comments here as well as on other various forums about this rule change. They’re all pretty much saying the same thing, that this is a shame and a move in the wrong direction. How do we notify the WMSC of the fans opinion on this the best way possible? How to try and make a difference?


“• Cars may no longer take part in pre-season testing without having passed all crash tests.)”

We’re looking at you, Hispania!

Mohammed Al-Momen

Dear James,

Doesn’t this overtaking rule make it harder for the guy in front to keep his position? I mean with DRS and KERS do we need this rule? we want overtaking but we don’t want it to be simple move out of the way thing.


Glad to hear about the new Safety Car restart rules. As a Button fan, I’ve been frustrated over restart traffic multiple times these past two years.


I suspect the revised blocking rule has more to do with reducing controversy over stewards’ decisions and increasing clarity for television than any sporting consideration.

I’m going to reserve judgement. We could see a different style of defence, where the lead driver takes and maintains a line just far enough off the accepted line to block the overtake without actually weaving even once. I seem to recall Berger used to be very good at this type of driving.

Alternatively, a blind adherence to the racing line could lead to endless collisions and arguments about at what point an overtaking car is considered to have right to the racing line.

Hey, we could have a new rule for 2013: “the following car is deemed to have choice of racing line if its front wheel nut is level with or ahead of the rear wheel nut of the preceding car, the measurement to be in relation to an imaginery line from the centre of the front car’s wheel nut to the nearest track-limiting white line at a 90 degree angle to the latter”! This to be replaced, following much argument over flexing protractors, in 2014 by “at the end of the DRS zone, the leading car must take a line along the outer circumference of the following corner”!!


Dear James,

We have seem this year many good races and some dull ones, but as you said the DRS rule is not perfecto but has added some spice, but i can´t understand the FIA penalising drivers for defend themselves, i´m even againts a rule dictating how many moves you can do to avoid overtaking, that´s the nature of racing, speed and overtaking habilities, all drivers know the dangers involved in racing and most surely they have clauses in their contracts were the teams don´t have any liabilities in case of an accident due to driver responsability, therfore drivers are willing to risk their life for the love of racing, so why the FIA applies this nonsense rule if already we had a limitation on defending moves?


“Drivers may no longer move back onto the racing line having moved off it to defend a position.”

That’s just crazy – this is supposed to be racing. I want to see lots of on-track action, but defending a position and the battle dramas that unfold are more exciting than just watching one car pass another.

It’s another lost driver skill. They may aswell abandon the season and award the titles to whoever produces the fastest car in March.


The Iceman’s favourite words comes to mind – “Let’s wait and see what happens”.

While I do not like how every incident on track seems to end up with a penalty (what happened to “racing incident”?) I think a clear rule is better than one that can be subjectively interpreted.

What if the outcome of the “one move” rule is that the slower car simply stays in the racing line forcing its challenger to dive on the inside, go round on the outside or getting the tyres dirty on a straight – is that not good racing?


I suppose there have to be rules to follow otherwise decision making in respect of an incident becomes difficult, but it is getting to the stage where participating in F1 is like boxing in a straight jacket. Personally for minor incidents I’m all for calling them racing incidents and let them race on. For example Senna’s drive through for the incident with Schumacher at Brazil was ridiculous. The whole thing is becoming so artificial and constrained I wonder what ever happened to pure racing which is certainly not what F1 is.


Maybe if the race could be divided up into stages, like in a rally, we could get rid of the hindrance of having to have more than one car on track at the same time!

It looks like this is the only way to prevent the actual fastest driver being held back by other cars, sometimes which have a similar pace. Which can lead to racing. And we don’t want that, do we?


“Drivers may no longer move back onto the racing line having moved off it to defend a position.”

This rule is a load of rubbish. If you’re not allowed to move back to the racing line for corner entry you WILL get passed either:

a.) By having to brake earlier on the dirty side of the track. (someone around the outside of you)

b.) On corner exit as the corner will be considerable sharper if you’re not taking the racing line entry.

c.) The entry to said corner maybe so sharp that you end up off the track.

A silly silly rule for those who don’t appreciate the art of defending a position. The skill and judgement shown by some drivers who know how to do this will be lost from the sport. I’ve always found the one move to defend before returning to racing line (unless there is a car present a’la HAM KOB) absolutely fine.



I think the overtaking rule has been brought about by some of the drivers insisting on taking the racing line while defending as if the other car doesn’t exist. Sure its the most optimum line when you’re all by yourself, but in an overtaking situation, I would have thought the priority would be to avoid an accident cause it doesn’t help either of the involved parties. Sure there has been the odd over-optimistic dive from the overtaking driver, but most of the time defending has been ridiculous in the name of taking the racing line.

Some of the younger drivers are particularly to blame. We have see the likes of Button, Alonso, Webber race side by side plenty of times without hitting one another. With a bit more mutual respect and common sense, such rules wouldn’t be needed.

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