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F1 Sporting Regulations: Q&A with FIA’s Charlie Whiting

Q: Why has a four-hour total time limit been put on Grands Prix?

Charlie Whiting: Last season the race in Montreal went on for four hours and four minutes. A race really should not go on longer than that. Should four hours elapse during a future race, drivers will receive a signal telling them they have one more lap before the chequered flag.

Q: Race stewards will now be able to investigate an incident without first reporting it to the race director. Why is the system changing?

CW: In the past stewards might see something suspect and alert the race director. He would look at the incident and request the stewards investigate. It was a process that consumed a lot of time. If they identify something worth investigating, there’s nothing wrong with them taking a look and then giving the race director an opinion. It should make the process less cumbersome.

Q:  Drivers are now instructed to not deliberately leave the track without good reason. Why?

CW: We’ve seen drivers taking shortcuts on in and out laps, either to save time or fuel. We could put up barriers to stop them exploiting short cuts but it usually looks stupid! The rules say the drivers should use the track. If they don’t, they will need to justify their actions.

It also follows that safety will be improved as other drivers are more likely to know that a car has left the track for a good reason.

Q: The ‘one-move’ rule on defending a position has been reinstated. Has there been a problem with dangerous blocking in the last few seasons?

CW: This isn’t really a new overtaking rule, rather we’ve put into the regulations what was an unwritten rule. A driver can make one move only to defend a position – but when that driver then moves back onto the racing line to take a corner it can be construed as a second move, which is not allowed. It’s a matter of deciding to what degree resuming the original line is acceptable. We don’t want to get into silly arguments about centimetres so we’ve decided the defending driver must leave at least one car width on the racing line otherwise he will be judged to have made a second move and penalised accordingly. We need to have drivers giving each other space on the track – otherwise we risk dangerous collisions.

Q: Previously cars needed to pass crash tests before racing. Now they have to pass before testing. Why?

CW: Safety cannot be compromised. It is indefensible to have drivers testing cars in the winter that haven’t met the safety standards we demand for a race. The teams resisted this for quite a while, telling me it would be impossible to get the crash tests done before the first test. It came as no great surprise that nearly everybody managed it.

However, as we have seen, two teams failed to pass all their crash tests in good time and were subsequently unable to participate any of the pre-season testing in Jerez and Barcelona (both of these teams have now passed all the required tests).

Q: Why are drivers now allowed more than three sets of tyres for FP1 and FP2 on Fridays?

CW: Each driver still gets eleven sets for the weekend and three still have to be given back on Friday evening and another two after FP3 on Saturday. This has not changed. We are, however, allowing teams to use more than three of their eleven sets on Fridays to give them the opportunity to do more running on the first day of practice should they wish to do so. As an example they might expect Saturday to be wet and want to get more running in beforehand on a dry track. It is to the benefit of everyone that they are allowed to run as much as they want during the Friday sessions.

Q: With the safety car on track, lapped cars will be allowed to unlap themselves and rejoin at the back of the field. Why is F1 going back to this system?

CW: We took this rule away because it was difficult to manage and potentially dangerous. We have reinstated it with new safeguards. Drivers will only be allowed to overtake once they have all passed the pit entry twice, this will allow all drivers to pit if they want to. We will also instruct the lead drivers to stay on the racing line once the order is given to allow cars to overtake. They will be allowed to weave again, to get heat into their tyres, when we inform them it is safe to do so.

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