2010 season changes

Though not as dramatic as the rule changes introduced for the 2009 season, the revisions for 2010 could still have a significant impact on the teams’ relative performance…

Refuelling
The biggest change for the 2010 season is the banning of refuelling during races for the first time since 1993. Pit stops will not become a thing of the past, however, as drivers still have to use both dry-weather tyre compounds during a Grand Prix. Of course, those stops will now be much quicker, quite possibly under four seconds.

The change requires cars to possess a much larger fuel tank – up from around 80 litres to something nearer 250 – and has a major effect on race strategy, with drivers having to pay more attention to tyre and brake conservation. To accommodate the bigger tank, the cars are likely to feature wider rear bodywork and a longer wheelbase. As a result, the weight distribution will be quite different to that of a 2009 car.

Points system
In place of the previous structure, which saw the top eight drivers scoring 10, 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 point respectively, from 2010 the top ten finishers in a Grand Prix score points. The change has been introduced as a result of the expanded grid of 13 teams. Under the new system, the race winner takes 25 points, with 18 and 15 being awarded for second and third places respectively. The next seven finishers will score 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2 and 1 point respectively.

Weight
The minimum weight of the car has been raised from 605kg to 620kg. The initial thinking behind this was to offset the disadvantage faced by taller, heavier drivers in KERS-equipped cars (the additional weight of the KERS system meant they were left with less flexibility in terms of weight distribution than their lighter rivals). By mutual agreement, however, teams are now not expected to run KERS in 2010.

Narrower front tyres
When slick tyres returned to Formula One racing in 2009, the tyre size remained unchanged. In terms of contact area, this meant that the fronts gained proportionally more grip than the rears. This has been addressed for 2010, with front tyre width reduced from 270mm to 245mm, thus helping to bring back a better grip balance. Also, the ban on refuelling means cars will be around 100kg heavier at the start of a race than in 2009, so Bridgestone will use slightly harder tyre compounds to compensate.

The number of dry tyres available to each driver has been decreased from 14 to 11 sets per weekend and any driver who participates in Q3 must start the race on the same tyres he used to set his grid time.

No wheel fairings
Teams are no longer allowed to use the wheel rim covers that became so commonplace in 2009. Their removal means one less thing to go wrong when pit crews are trying to change of set of tyres in less than four seconds, and could also aid overtaking by making the airflow immediately behind cars less turbulent.

More teams
Twelve teams – 24 cars – will feature on the grid in 2010. This means a slight alteration to the knockout qualifying session, which will now see seven drivers (as opposed to five) eliminated in Q1 and Q2, leaving ten to fight it out for pole in Q3. The ban on refuelling means that cars will qualify on low fuel in all three phases of the session.

Testing
If a team declares that one of their current race drivers is to be substituted by a driver who has not participated in an F1 race in the two previous calendar years, one day of track testing will now be permitted, on an approved circuit not being used for a Grand Prix in the current season. This is to avoid scenarios such as that seen in 2009 when Jaime Alguersuari made his Formula One debut with Toro Rosso having only previously driven an F1 car in straight-line testing.

In another minor change, teams will be allowed six rather than eight days of straight-line aero testing per season. They will also have the option of substituting any of these days for four hours of wind tunnel testing with a full-scale (rather than the normal 60 percent-scale) model.