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Rules and regulations

Claire Furnell
Clay Regazzoni waits on the grid before the restart of the 1976 British Grand Prix ... he was subseqently disqualified as he had used a spare car following a first-lap pile up. The race winner, James Hunt, was also disqualified, albeit two months later, after another infringement © Getty Images

To finish first - first you must finish - but perhaps we should add while obeying the rules to this old dictum. Before the start of a new season the FIA publish two sets of rules. The first is the Sporting Regulations which currently stands at 37 pages and covers the way a race weekend runs, from which licence you need to the start procedure and possible sanctions should rules be broken. The second, and lengthier tome, is the technical regulations (63 pages), spelling out in minute detail every rule that covers the construction of an F1 car.

To save you wading through the whole 100 pages we have summarised the most important rules for you, and the changes for 2010. Should you want to know more, the full regulations can be down loaded from the FIA website


Engines: Each car is allowed eight engines to be used as they see fit for the season. Should they need a further engine they will have to contend with a demotion of ten places from their qualifying position. Engines must be 2.4 litre V8s with a maximum RPM of 18,000 and weigh a minimum of 95kg.

Gearbox: Each driver must use the same gearbox for four consecutive events. Should they need an additional box they will be hit with a five-place grid penalty.

Weight: The minimum weight of car and driver must be 620kg. Teams try and build the car as light as possible and then use ballast in strategic areas to ensure they meet the weight requirements. The minimum weight has increased by 15kg for 2010.

Qualifying: This is run over an hour and is split into three sessions. In Q1 (the first session) all cars may take to the track and complete as many or as few laps as they like. At the end of the 20-minute session there is a seven-minute break and the slowest eight cars are eliminated and the times re-set. Q2 is run to the same rules over 15 minutes, and at the end of the session a further eight cars are eliminated. This leaves the last 10 cars to fight it out in Q3 for the top spot in a session that lasts ten minutes.

Tyres: Teams are supplied by Bridgestone with two different dry-weather compounds for each event. They also receive an intermediate tyre and a full wet tyre. In dry conditions, both compounds must be used on race day, meaning drivers will still have to pit at least once to change tyres. Each driver has a maximum of 14 sets of dry-weather tyres for each event and they are also limited to two sets in Friday practice. To make it easier to spot, the softer option tyre is marked with a green line.

Appearance: The look of both cars in a team must be the same and remain so for the duration of the season. To help spectators differentiate between the two cars the teams' first driver will display a yellow camera box on the car and the second driver's camera will be red.

Refuelling: The biggest change to the rules for 2010 is the banning of refuelling during the race. As a consequence, teams will be forced to build the 2010 cars with a much larger fuel tank and drivers will have to contend with the changes in handling as the weight reduces during a race.


Race length: The maximum distance of each race is 305km and as all circuits are different lengths so are the number of laps the race is run over. In addition to the number of laps there is also a maximum time limit of two hours for a race.

Drivers: No driver can compete in a grand prix if they do not take part in Saturday practice. Each team may field up to four drivers over the season.

Points: The points system remains unchanged in 2010 with the race winner receiving ten points and points being awarded to the top eight (as show below).

1st = 10 : 2nd = 8 : 3rd = 6 : 4th = 5 : 5th = 4 : 6th = 3 : 7th = 2 : 8th = 1

If a race has to be stopped before 75% of the distance has been completed - like in Malaysia 2009 - half points are awarded. Drivers score points for themselves and also for their team, if both drivers from a team finish in the points both scores count towards the constructors' tally.

Penalties: Blocking a rival driver, causing a crash, speeding in the pit lane or jumping the start can land a driver with a penalty. The penalties are handed out by the race officials known as stewards and they can dole out three types. The most popular is a drive-through penalty - where the driver is required to pass through the pitlane at the speed limit without stopping. More time consuming is a ten-second penalty, sometimes known as a stop-go - the drivers are required to stop in their pit box for ten seconds, during this time no work came be done on the car. The third and most serious is a grid-position penalty for the next race - these are normally given post-race following investigations into dangerous driving. If the stewards give a drive-through penalty and there is less than five laps of the race remaining, a 25-second penalty will be added to their race time. Teams can protest against these penalties.

Safety Car: As its name suggests, the safety car is deployed to ensure safe passage of the racing cars around the track. It is deployed after an accident that would otherwise cause the race to be stopped, but the use of the car allows racing to continue while the problem is dealt with. Laps under the safety car still count towards race distance. When it is time for the safety car to leave the circuit, it will turn off its yellow lights - racing then resumes when the leader crosses the start-finish line. In exceptional circumstances, such as heavy rain, a race may be started behind the safety car.

Testing: Teams are allowed to test their cars from January 1 until the week before the first round of the championship - teams must not cover more than 15,000 track km during these tests. In addition, eight one-day straight-line aerodynamic tests are permitted during the season. In 2009 teams were also allowed to carry out three "young driver" tests between the end of the season and December 31 - a young driver is deemed to be one who has competed in two grand prix or fewer.

Changes to the Rules: Any amendments to these regulations require the approval of all teams.