2009 season changes
A number of changes to both the Sporting and Technical Regulations have been made by the FIA for the 2009 Formula One season. In the case of the Sporting Regulations, the primary aims are increased reliability and further cost reductions. In the case of the technical changes, there are three main objectives - reducing the role of aerodynamics in the cars’ performance; making overtaking easier; and keeping lap times in check.
After 10 seasons on grooved tyres, Formula One racing returns to slicks in 2009, as part of moves to increase the emphasis on mechanical rather than aerodynamic grip. With no grooves, grip will increase by around 20 percent, bringing a significant performance gain. However, that gain will be offset by the vastly reduced downforce levels of the revised aerodynamic regulations (see below). The overall effect should be reduced performance through high-speed corners.
Drivers will still have the choice of two dry tyre compounds and will still have to use both compounds during a race. As before, suppliers Bridgestone will select the two compounds for each race from their four-compound range - super-soft, soft, medium and hard. However, unlike in 2008, they will not select two consecutive compounds, so the difference between ‘harder’ and ‘softer’ at any given race will be far greater. A green band on the sidewall will distinguish the softer compound.
Standard wet-weather tyres will now officially be known as 'intermediates', and extreme wet-weather tyres will be referred to simply as 'wets'. The latter will feature a green central groove.
Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS)
From 2009 teams have the option of employing a KERS to boost their car’s performance. As its name implies, a KERS recovers the (normally wasted) kinetic energy generated by the car’s braking process. This energy is stored using a mechanical flywheel or an electrical battery and then made available to the driver, in set amounts per lap, via a ‘boost button’ on the steering wheel. Under the current regulations the power gain equates to around 80 horsepower, available for just under seven seconds per lap. This could be worth several tenths of a second in terms of lap time, but the weight and packaging of the system - and its impact on the car’s weight distribution - also have to be taken into account.
In a move designed to boost reliability still further, rev limits will be cut from 19,000 to 18,000 rpm. Drivers will be limited to eight engines per season, with each team allowed an additional four engines for testing. Once a driver has used up his eight-engine allocation, any engine change will incur a 10-place grid penalty (or a move to the back of the grid if made after qualifying) for the event at which the change is made. Just one team - Renault - has been allowed to make performance modifications to their engine for 2009 in order to help equalise power outputs.
Along with slick tyres, this is the biggest area of change for 2009. Downforce will be dramatically reduced and the cars’ bodywork will appear much cleaner, thanks to new dimensional regulations that effectively outlaw extraneous items such as barge boards, winglets, turning vanes and chimneys on most areas of the car.
As well as reducing overall aero performance, the revisions are also designed to increase overtaking by making the car less susceptible to turbulence when closely following another driver. The most obvious changes are to the front and rear wings.
The front wing becomes lower (75mm from 150mm) and wider (up from 1400 to 1800mm - the same width as the car) with driver-adjustable flaps. Drivers will be allowed to make two wing adjustments per lap, altering the wing angle over a six-degree range.
The rear wing becomes taller (up 150mm to bring it level with the top of the engine cover) and narrower (750mm from 1000mm).
Also at the back of the car, the diffuser has been moved rearwards, its leading edge now level with (rather than ahead of) the rear-wheel axle line. In addition, the diffuser has been made longer and higher, all changes that will reduce its ability to generate downforce.
From 2009 onwards testing is not allowed during the race season (from the week prior to the first Grand Prix until December 31) and is limited to 15,000 kilometres.
The pit lane will now remain open throughout any safety-car period, allowing drivers to refuel without penalty. However, to ensure that drivers are not tempted to speed back to the pit lane, a new software system which employs GPS and the cars’ standard ECU has been introduced. When the safety car is deployed, each driver is given a minimum ‘back to pit’ time based on his position on track. If he arrives in the pit lane before that time he will be penalised.
After qualifying, the FIA will publish the weight at which all cars are expected to start the race, giving spectators an accurate gauge of what fuel load each driver is carrying.