Formula One regulations

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The numerous Formula One regulations, made and enforced by the FIA and later the FISA, have changed dramatically since the first Formula One World Championship in 1950. This article covers the current state of F1 technical and sporting regulations, as well as the history of the technical regulations since 1950.

Current rules and regulations

Accurate as of 21 December 2005



An F1 car can be no more than 180 cm wide. Though there is no maximum length or height, other rules set indirect limits on these dimensions, and nearly every aspect of the car carries size regulations; consequently the various cars tend to be very close to the same size.

The car must only have four wheels mounted externally of the body work with only the front two steered and only the back two driven. There are minimum distances allowed between the wheels and the rear and front body work.

The main chassis contains a "safety cell" which includes the cockpit, a structure designed to reduce impact directly in front of the cockpit, and the fuel tank directly behind the cockpit. Additionally, the car must contain roll structures behind and ahead of the driver. The driver must be able to enter and exit the cockpit without any adjustments other than removing the steering wheel.

Onboard electrical and computer systems, once inspected at the start of the season, may not be changed without prior approval. Electronic starters and launch control are forbidden. The computers, which must contain a telemetric accident data reporting system, run a modified version of BSD.


Formula One engines must be naturally aspirated, four-stroke internal combustion petrol engines with reciprocating circular pistons and a maximum of two intake and two exhaust valves per cylinder. They must be V8 engines and have 2.4 liters of displacement.

The rules between 1998 and 2005 stated that Formula One engines may be no more than 3 litres engine displacement and must have 10 cylinders. In order to curb increasing power levels, the maximum engine displacement has been reduced to 2.4 litres, and the number of cylinders to 8 for 2006. However, a concession is made in the rules to allow some teams the option of running 10 cylinder 3.0l engines for 2006. This rule is intended to help poorer teams unable to produce an engine and chassis to comply fully with the new regulations in time for the 2006 season. All teams using the 10 cylinder 3.0l engines will be subject to a rev limiter to decrease power.

Devices designed to pre-cool air before it enters the cylinders are not allowed, nor is the injection of any substance into the cylinders other than air and (petrol) fuel.

Variable-length exhaust systems are also forbidden.

The crankshaft and camshafts must be made of steel or cast iron. The use of carbon composite materials for the cylinder block, cylinder head and pistons is not allowed.

Separate starting devices may be used to start engines in the pits and on the grid. If the engine is fitted with an anti-stall device, this must be set to cut the engine within ten seconds in the event of an accident.


Parc fermé

After weighing during each qualifying session, teams are required to take their cars to a place in the paddock, sectioned off by the FIA, known as parc fermé; they may not do work on the cars, other than routine maintenance, until they are released from parc fermé for the race the next morning.

If a team must change a car's engine between parc fermé and the start of the race, the car will start at the back of the grid; if they must do other significant work, body work or suspension adjustments, the car will start from the pit lane.

Race procedure

See Formula One racing for a detailed schedule of a complete race weekend and further race information.

The pit lane opens thirty minutes before the start of a race, during which time drivers may drive around the track as much as they like, driving through the pitlane each time around in order to avoid the grid. Drivers must be in their cars and in place on the grid by time the pit lane closes at -15:00; otherwise they must start the race from the pits. Meanwhile, teams may work on their cars on the grid.

At -10:00 the grid is cleared of everyone except team mechanics, race marshals, and drivers. A team will generally want to keep its tyres off their cars and heated in their tyre-warmers for as long as possible, but they must be attached to the cars by -5:00. Refuelling must also be finished by that time.

Engines must be running by -1:00; at fifteen seconds to the start all personnel must be clear of the track. A green light signifies the start of the formation lap, also known as the parade lap, during which drivers must remain in the same order (no passing) except if a car ahead has stopped due to a technical problem. The cars circle the track once, usually weaving from side to side to warm up their tyres, and form up again in their starting positions on the grid.

If, for some reason, a car cannot start the race (engine failure during qualifying or practice, suspension fails, etc), the car can still join the race, but will take a 10-position penalty at the start. For example, if the car qualifies in 3rd, but has to change an engine at any point during the race weekend prior to the actual race, the car will start from 13th position. For strategy's sake, teams will sometimes opt to start a car affected in this way from the pit lane. This means they start at the tail end of the grid; however, they can not only change an engine, but also start the race on a full load of fuel and with fresh tyres.

The race is started by ten red lights (pictured right), controlled by Charlie Whiting. The lights illuminate two at a time, left to right, in one-second intervals, and then go out simultaneously after an interval of between four and seven seconds. When the lights go out, the race begins.


The Driver's and Constructor's Championships are decided by points, which are awarded according to the place in which a driver classifies at each grand prix. To receive points a racer need not finish the race, but at least 90% of the winner's race distance must be completed. Therefore, it is possible for a driver to receive some points even though he retired before the end of the race. In that case the scoring is based on the distance completed in comparison to other drivers. It is also possible for the lower points not to be awarded (as at the 2005 United States Grand Prix) because insufficient drivers completed 90% of the winner's distance. The system was revised in 2003, and as of 2006 points are allocated as follows:

1st place 10 points
2nd place 8 points
3rd place 6 points
4th place 5 points
5th place 4 points
6th place 3 points
7th place 2 points
8th place 1 point

For scoring systems prior to 2003, refer to the List of Formula One World Championship pointscoring systems.

Drivers finishing lower than eighth place receive no points.

If the race had for some reason to be abandoned before 75% of the planned distance (rounded up to the nearest lap) had been completed, then the points awarded are halved: 5, 4, 3, 2.5, 2, 1.5, 1, 0.5.

Points are awarded equally to the driver and his constructor; for example, if a driver for one team comes second, eight points are added to his season total; if his teammate finished third in the same race, he adds six to his total and the team adds fourteen (the sum of the drivers' points) to its total. The championships are awarded to whichever driver and constructor have the most points at the end of the season. In case of a tie, the FIA compares the number of times each driver has finished in each position. The championship goes to whichever had the greater number of wins; if they have the same number of wins, it goes to the driver with the greater number of second places, and so on. For example, if Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost are tied at the end of a season, and Prost had six wins and three second place finishes, but Senna had six wins and four second place finishes (even if he had fewer third places than Prost, etc.), Senna would be champion.


Race marshals, armed with a set of flags to give various messages to drivers, are positioned at numerous points around the track during every race. Race flags have different meanings depending on their color; the colors (with Pantone values as specified by the FIA) signify as follows:

Flag Displayed from start tower Displayed from observation post
Green flag The race has started or resumed after a full caution or stop. End of hazardous section of track.
Yellow flag Full course caution condition — pace car on track and no cars may pass. Local caution condition — no cars may pass at the particular corner where being displayed.
Yellow flag with red stripes Debris or slippery patches on the track.
Black flag The car with the indicated number must pit. The session is halted; all cars on course must return to pit lane.
Meatball flag The car with the indicated number has mechanical trouble.
Black and white flag The driver of the car with the indicated number has been penalized for misbehaviour.
White cross flag The driver of the car with the indicated number is disqualified or will not be scored until they report to the pits.
Blue flag with yellow stripe A car must allow another car to pass. A car is being advised to give way to faster traffic approaching.
Red flag The race is stopped—all cars must halt on the track or return to pit lane.
White flag One lap remains. A slow vehicle is on the track.
Chequered flag The race has concluded.

A yellow flag with SC (safety car) sign at the 2005 United States Grand Prix
A green flag, signalling the end of the safety car period
  • A single yellow indicates danger ahead, such as debris from a crash. Drivers must slow down as they pass; no overtaking is permitted.
  • A double yellow, consisting of two flagsmen waving yellow flags (or one waving two flags) at the same post, indicates great danger ahead. Drivers must slow down and be prepared to stop; no overtaking is permitted.
  • A green flag indicates that any previous danger has been attended to, the track is now clear, and drivers may proceed at full speed.
  • A red flag indicates that the race, practice session, or qualifying session has been suspended and can be ended prematurely, if needed.
  • A light blue flag may carry any of three meanings according to its context.
    • At any time, a stationary light blue flag (or, as is now more common, a blue light) may be shown to a driver at the pitlane exit to warn him that cars are approaching on the track.
    • During practice, a light blue flag waved on the track notifies a driver that a faster car is about to pass him and he must move aside.
    • During a race, a light blue flag waved on the track warns the driver that he is about to be lapped by a faster car and must let it pass. A driver may incur penalties if he ignores three successive blue flags.
  • A white flag indicates a slow-moving vehicle such as an ambulance, tow truck, or safety car, ahead on the track, and instructs drivers to slow down.
  • A black flag orders a particular driver to return to his pit within the next lap and report immediately to the Clerk of the Course, usually because he has been disqualified from the race. The flag is accompanied by a sign with the car number of the driver on it so no mistake is made.
  • A black and white chequered flag signals the end of the race, practice session, or qualifying session. During the race it is shown first to the winner and then to the rest of the field as they finish; otherwise it is shown at a predetermined time.
  • A half black and half white flag informs a driver that his behavior has been deemed unsporting and if he does not shape up immediately he will be disqualified. A sign with the car number accompanies the flag.
  • A black flag with an orange circle (40 cm in diameter) in the center informs a driver that his team's telemetry has sensed a technical problem and he must return to his pit.
  • A yellow flag with red stripes warns drivers that the track surface ahead is slippery. This could be as a result of a car spilling oil (or some other engine fluid), or because rain is starting to fall.
  • A white board with the letters "SC" indicates that the safety car has been deployed.

Flags, whose specifications and usage are prescribed by Appendix H (PDF) of the FIA's International Sporting Code, must measure at least 60 cm by 80 cm, excepting the red and chequered flags, which must measure at least 80 cm by 100 cm.


Penalties may be imposed on drivers for numerous offenses, including starting prematurely, speeding in the pitlane, causing an accident, blocking unfairly, or ignoring flags of any color. There are four types of penalty which a driver may incur for violation of on-track rules:

  • The drive-through penalty requires the driver to enter the pitlane, drive through it while obeying its speed limit, and exit without stopping.
  • The ten-second (or stop-go) penalty requires the driver to enter the pitlane, stop at his pit for ten seconds, and exit again. Team mechanics may not work on the driver's car at all during this time.
  • A more extreme penalty may be imposed for more severe infractions: adding ten places to the driver's grid position at the next grand prix, e.g. if he qualified in pole position he would start the race eleventh from the front.
  • The most severe penalty in common use is a black flag, which may be imposed for ignoring penalties or for technical irregularities of any sort; it signifies that the driver has been disqualified from the race and his results for that race will not count toward the championship.
  • If the black flag is not considered sufficient for the offense that the driver has committed, they may be banned for a number of races after the event.
  • The most extreme punishment of all (used for seriously endangering the life of another driver) is to be excluded from the drivers world championship that year. Such cases may, of course, also be taken to court.

For the drive-through and stop-go penalties, a driver has three laps from the time his team hears of the penalty to enter the pits; if he does not pit within three laps, he will be black-flagged. If he incurs a penalty within the last five laps of the race, he need not pit at all; instead, twenty-five seconds will be added to his total race time.


Naturally aspirated engines of 4500 cc or supercharged engines of 1500 cc allowed. No weight limit.
Formula 2 rules; naturally aspirated engines of 2000 cc or supercharged engines of 500 cc allowed. No weight limit.
Naturally aspirated engines of 2500 cc or supercharged engines of 750 cc allowed. No weight limit.
Aviation fuel with an octane rating of 130.
Naturally aspirated engines of 1500 cc allowed. 450 kg minimum weight.
Naturally aspirated engines of 3000 cc or supercharged engines of 1500 allowed. 500 kg minimum weight.
Wings were banned for the Grand Prix weekend in Monaco. By end of year fixed wings no higher than the engine allowed.
530 kg minimum weight.
550 kg minimum weight – maximum 12 cylinders (when?).
Airboxes restricted.
Tyrrell introduce a six-wheel car.
Renault introduce a turbo engine.
Lotus introduce a Wing-car.
585 kg minimum weight; sliding skirts banned.
Six-wheels cars banned.
Wing-cars banned.
Atmospheric engine banned.
The FIA introduced pop-off valves (4.0 bar, 400 kPa) for supercharged engine and fuel restriction to 150 litres, 3500 cc atmospheric allowed with no fuel restriction, no refuelling during the race.
Turbo boost restricted to 2.5 bar (250 kPa).
3500 cc atmospheric only.
Refuelling permitted again; active/reactive suspension systems banned.
After San Marino tragedy, restrictions imposed on the front and rear wings, the size and shape of the rear diffuser; from the Canadian event forward, airboxes 'notched' to reduce power.
3000 cc atmospheric engines only.
The fuel used must be identical in composition to a sample (chemical fingerprint) which is submitted in advance to the racing authorities for approval.
First appearance of side-mounted 'X-Wings'.
Engines restricted to 10 cylinders with a maximum of five valves per cylinder. Grooved tyres introduced (3 grooves front, 4 grooves rear). Track (width) of cars narrowed from 2 m to 1.8 m. Electronic driver aids (traction control, launch control) banned. X-Wings banned.
Front tyre grooves increased from 3 grooves to 4 grooves.
Front wing raised to be minimum of 15 cm(?) from ground.
(29th April, Spanish Grand Prix): Launch and Traction control allowed again.
Two-way telemetry (which allows the pit crew to change the configuration of the car during the race) introduced.
Two-way telemetry banned. Parc fermé introduced. Points system changed: points awarded to the top eight finishers (10, 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1). Team orders banned. Qualifiying system changed.
One-engine-per-weekend rule introduced. Replacement of an engine results in a 10 place grid penalty. Launch control banned. Minimum area of rear wing endplates and engine cover bodywork introduced to aid better value for sponsor advertisements.
One engine must last two race weekends. One set of tyres for both qualifying and race; replacements due to damage (must be as worn down as those already on the car); refuelling may not take place in the same pit stop as a tyre change. Front wing raised 50mm, rear wing brought forward and reduced in size, bodywork in front of rear wheels reduced. Minimum area of rear wing endplates increased again.
Engines reduced to 2.4 l capacity, 8 cylinders. ITV Report on engine change agreements Tyre changing reintroduced. Qualifying changed to one hour 'knock out' system:
Qualifying consists of two 15 minute sessions, followed by one 20 minute session. 5 minute breaks between each session. Clocks are frozen after sessions 1 and 2 (any timed laps not finished before session ends will not count). The last session differs in that any timed laps started before the end of the 20 minute session will count even if time has run out after the lap was started.
  • Session 1: All 22 cars on track, unlimited laps and any fuel load permitted. Once 15 minutes are up, the slowest 6 cars are locked into their position in the order they qualified (P17–P22).
  • Session 2: 16 remaining cars on track, unlimited laps and any fuel load permitted. Once 15 minutes are up, the slowest 6 cars are locked into their position in the order they qualified (P11–P16).
  • Session 3: 10 remaining cars on track, unlimited laps. Drivers must start session with intended fuel load for the next day's race. Any fuel burned for the session is replenished by the FIA once the session is over (based on number of laps within 110% of best time completed by driver). This has taken on the nickname of "Tiger Tokens". Any laps slower than 110% of the driver's best effort do not count for the fuel replenishment "Tiger Tokens". Drivers from P11–P22 may start race on any fuel load they wish.

to be done: crash test, minimal weight, fuel rules, aerodymics rules, tyre size, number of wheels.