The FIA has confirmed several late changes to the sporting regulations for 2010. For example, last year, as an effort to enhance viewers’ appreciation of the teams’ different race strategies, the FIA publicized the fuel weights of all the cars on the grid for the start if each race. From this, it could be seen whether the top ten (or Q3) qualifiers set their grid times on low or high fuel loads, as Q3 drivers qualify with race levels of fuel. One could also deduce on what lap each car on the grid would be making its first pit stop.
However, with the introduction of a refueling ban this year, making this information public would seem to be superfluous, so the FIA will discontinue the practice. It should be noted, however, that while fuel weights won’t reveal anything about pit strategies, they would reveal something about the relative fuel consumption efficiency of the all the cars on the grid, so likely it is information that all the technical directors in pit lane would love to be privy to.
The FIA also confirmed a last minute tweak to the points system, which modifies an earlier change from the 2009 system. The top ten finishers of each race will now earn points, respectively, as follows: 25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1. And in another late change, Q3 qualifiers will now be required to start their first race stint on their qualifying tires. This latter measure is seen as an effort to recover some of the strategic element that has been lost as a result of the refueling ban. Now drivers will have to weigh the relative costs and benefits of making conservative Q3 runs, which would preserve their tires but result in lower lap times, versus making more aggressive runs, which would give them quicker times, but might compromise their tires.
Also, the eight-engine limit rule has been modified, as follows: “Should a driver use more than eight engines he will drop ten places on the starting grid at the first Event during which each additional engine is used. If two such additional engines are used during a single Event the driver concerned will drop ten places on the starting grid at that Event and at the following Event.”
This week, the FIA also released a clarification on missed races. Earlier, both FOCA head Bernie Ecclestone and FIA president Jean Todt made statements to the effect that teams would be allowed to miss up to three races during the race season without penalty. This seemed to be a direct reference to fears that two of the new teams, Campos and USF1, might not be sufficiently prepared to take part in the opening races of the season. While both teams have denied that this is a possibility, neither team has announced a full driver line-up or formally launched their 2010 car.
Todt seemed ready to accommodate the teams should their entry into the field be delayed. As reported in Autosport, Todt said, “In the final version of the Concorde Agreement it’s written that a team may be absent for three races. But if a team can’t go on, it’s not a given that another team comes in. It’s up to the FIA to decide who has the requisites.”
However, there seems to be some disagreement on this point, as the FIA stated in their clarification, “From a sporting and regulatory point of view, each team that has registered for the championship is obliged to take part in every event of the season. Any failure to take part, even for just one championship event, would constitute an infringement both of the Concorde Agreement and the FIA regulations.”
There has also been a rumor circulating that another new team, Stefan GP, is waiting in the wings should either Campos or USF1 fail to make the grid. Apparently, Stefan GP has an agreement to utilize cars and components from Toyota’s now defunct program, and has already shipped equipment to Bahrain. Furthermore, it’s said that Bernie Eccelstone is actively promoting Stefan GP as a viable Plan B should either Campos of USF1 fail to turn up.
However, Jean Todt has warned that even if one of the new teams should default on their commitment for the 2010 season, that doesn’t necessarily open the door for Stefan GP. As reported on ESPNF1, Todt said, “If a team drops out of the championship, the insertion of a new team is not automatic. It is always up to the FIA to decide whether someone is eligible or not.”
Image (c) Craig Scott