The New Technology and Rules of F1 2012

By Gary Cutlack on at

Sundays are about to become rather interesting again for a large chunk of the population from today, as the new Formula 1 season gets underway in Australia. So what's new this year? And why are the cars all so bloody ugly nowadays?

The noses of Formula 1 cars are like the skirts of a lady; high one year, then lower the next. 2012 sees them technically lower but managing to look weirder than ever, thanks to the "platypus" design, a new way of getting around rules that want to make the sport a little safer..


It Should Be Safer...

New regulations for 2012 state that no part of the bodywork in front of the bulkhead where the driver's feet sit can be more than 55cm off the ground, a move brought in to lessen the effect of cars launching into the air after contact with each other.

This has resulted in all the teams, apart from McLaren, introducing the stepped nose, that goes from low to high in an awkward bump. It's not a particularly pleasing look, leading Ferrari to admit that its 2012 car is "not aesthetically pleasing."

The cars may have a longer wheelbase in 2012, which opens up more possibilities for the designers to fiddle with the airflow, also helping compensate for the loss of grip due to the FIA's banning of cars pumping the exhaust gas into the back-end of the car to increase their downforce.


...It Won't Drag On For So Long...

Races are also subject to a four-hour time limit this year. In the event of delays and restarts pushing the time up to the four-hour limit, the drivers will receive a signal letting them know the race is about to end on the next lap, regardless of how many laps have been completed.

Which would've been a disaster for Jenson Button last year, as his epic last-to-first Canadian GP win would've been chopped halfway through.


...The Rubbish Cars Won't Get As Much Screen Time...

There ought to be less interference from the back-markers during difficult races in 2012, thanks to new rules covering the pace car. Previously a big no-no, lapped cars are now free to overtake the pace car if it's called out for any reason, letting them run ahead, complete a lap of the track, and tidily rejoin the back of the field.

Also on the overtaking side of things, the "One Move" agreement, which allowed drivers to make one defensive move of their cars to block an overtaking attempt from another driver, has been made an official rule rather than the casual agreement it was before.

Drivers who make a blocking move must leave one car length of space to their outside should they move back to the racing line. Which sounds rather tough to police, but should see drivers acting a little more respectfully out there this year.


...Some Will Still Try to Beat the System...

Lotus was trialling a "reactive" suspension system last year, which was designed to use braking energy to lower the suspension under braking and give the car an advantage. That's already been banned by the FIA, so there's one technical feature that won't be confusing the commentators this year.


...And Even The Sparkies Are Under The Cosh...

The pit lane isn't free from FIA changes, either. The wheel guns which remove the nuts in a fraction of a second when a driver comes in for new tyres have come under scrutiny, thanks to the way some teams were using compressed helium to power these super-drills a little bit quicker. That's now been banned, in favour of using less explosive air pressure to turn the nuts.


...There Are Gadgets For Race Attendees...

If you're attending a race, there's an alternate way to get a better view of the action. The FanVision system lets owners access live TV feeds wirelessly inside all 20 race venues, along with commentary from BBC Radio 5 Live.

FanVision units can be bought outright if you're an enormous fan and planning on attending several races, but there's also an activation fee to pay inside each venue. But if you're flying to Monaco for the weekend, that's unlikely to be a problem.

The less sexy but almost as functional FanVision G2 can be rented for weekends in return for £55.


...And Of Course, There's an App...

And if you're not in range of a TV at all (or don't have a Sky subscription and an iPad for the non-BBC races), there's the Soft Pauer Timing App for Android and iOS.

For a rather daunting £19.99, this pulls in full coverage and data from races, qualifying and practise, with text commentary, live leader boards, constant messages from race control and more. It's expensive, but will work out less than a Sky bundle.

The only thing you won't be able to see live this year is the current battery charge level of old man Michael Schumacher's pacemaker.