Rule changes coming to F1 next season, explained

    Rule changes coming to F1 next season, explained

    The 2023 Formula 1 season is right around the corner. Teams are setting dates to unveil their cars for the upcoming year, personnel changes are being finalized, and preseason testing is just over a month away. The teams will descend upon Bahrain at the end of February to put their cars to the track ahead of the new season.

    To that end, F1 has outlined some new rules that you should be aware of before the upcoming season. Here is a look at the most notable tweaks for the season ahead.

    Aerodynamic changes

    F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi - Final Practice

    Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

    F1 debuted their latest generation of cars in the 2022 season, in an aim to allow for closer racing, and more overtakes each weekend. Those cars feature ground-effect aerodynamics, which help the cars stick to the track, improve their grip, and allow for increased speed through corners.

    It took time for teams to get adjusted to the physics, most notably Mercedes, who dealt with severe “porpoising” at the start of the 2022 season. Porpoising is an aerodynamic phenomenon where the car — and the driver inside — bounce up and down on the track, akin to a dolphin breaking the surface and then quickly dipping below again.

    The impact on a driver can be substantial. Both George Russell and Lewis Hamilton complained of back pain due to the phenomenon last season, and Russell likened porpoising to “… riding an old bike with no suspension over a rocky road, being shaken to bits, doing that at 200 miles an hour.”

    In an effort to reduce porpoising this season, F1 is implementing some changes to the cars for 2023: Floor edges have been raised by 15 mm, the diffuser throat height has been raised, the diffuser edge stiffness has been increased, and an extra sensor has been mandated to monitor potential porpoising.

    F1 believes that these tweaks will reduce the porpoising effect in 2023.

    Reduction in car weight

    For the 2022 season, vehicles were limited to 798 kg (without fuel) as part of the sweeping new regulations. This was the heaviest allowance in F1 history.

    That came with concerns from drivers, including Russell. “We keep making these cars safer and safer, but obviously the heavier you make them when you have an impact it’s like crashing with a bus compared to a Smart Car,” Russell said last season.

    This year, F1 has shaved a few pounds off that limit, with teams now required to get vehicles down to 796 kg (without fuel).

    Stronger roll hoops

    One of the scariest moments of the 2022 F1 season came at the British Grand Prix, where Zhou Guanyu was flipped over at the start of the race, and sent for a long slide while upside down in his Alfa Romeo race car:

    Thankfully, Zhou escaped serious injury, with the car’s halo device working to protect his head inside the cockpit. F1 cars also have a roll-hoop, which is designed to give the driver room to escape from the vehicle should the car flip, as it did in Zhou’s accident. However, in his case the roll-hoop eventually gave way, and his car slid across the surface resting on the halo device.

    As a result, F1 is tweaking the standards for roll-hoops. During 2023, rounded tops are required on the roll-hoop, which will reduce the chances of the roll-hoop digging into the track during an accident. Furthermore, roll-hoops in 2023 will need to pass stricter load testing.

    Revised mirrors

    In an effort to increase visibility on the track, the rear-view mirrors are being increased in size. Last season, Red Bull and Mercedes tested 200 mm mirrors — an increase in 50 mm — at both the Hungarian Grand Prix and the Belgian Grand Prix. At the following event, the Dutch Grand Prix, all the teams were using the 200 mm rear-view mirrors.

    Rear-view mirrors of that size are now part of the regulations for 2023.

    Double the amount of sprint events

    One of the sporting changes to the 2023 season will see an increase in the number of sprint events. While there were just three last season, there are now six on the schedule for the 2023 calendar.

    During sprint events, there is a qualifying session for the F1 Sprint event, which is a 100 km race where the drivers race flat-out without the need to box. Points are awarded to the top three finishers in the F1 Sprint race, and the finishing order of the F1 Sprint race sets the grid for the Sunday Grand Prix.

    This season will see six such events: Baku, Red Bull Ring, Spa, Qatar, Circuit of the Americas, and Interlagos.

    Revised Qualifying Formats

    F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi

    Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images

    F1 is also going to test a few different things at events this season, with an eye towards the future. One such trial will involved a “Revised Qualifying Format,” or RQF. This will take place at up to two events this season, for the purpose of evaluating whether a different qualifying format will be suitable for future F1 seasons.

    Under the RQF, tyre compounds will be mandated for each part of the typical three-stage qualifying session. In the first stage, hard tyres are mandated. In the second stage, medium tyres are mandated. In the final qualifying stage, soft tyres are mandated. Intermediate tyres, as well as wet tyres, will be allowed if the sessions are declared wet.

    At these RQF events, each driver can use no more than 11 sets of dry-weather tyres, four sets of intermediate tyres, and three sets of wet-weather tyres. Currently, at non-RQF events teams can use 13 sets of dry-weather tyres, four sets of intermediates, and three sets of wets.

    DRS trials

    F1 will also evaluated the Drag Reduction System, or DRS, this season. DRS was introduced back in 2011 as a means of making overtaking easier, and when DRS is “enabled,” drivers can open a flap in their rear wing to reduce drag levels, and achieve higher speeds during a race. During an event, if a driver is within one second of the car in front, and on a certain portion of the track, they can use DRS. The driver presses a button on the steering wheel, a flap opens on the rear wing, and they can gain speed and potentially overtake the car in front.

    Currently, DRS cannot be used on the first two laps of a race, or in the first two laps of either a standing or a rolling restart. FIA race directors can also disable DRS at their discretion if conditions are unsafe, whether due to weather, debris, or another concern.

    During 2023, F1 will evaluate DRS activation after starts and restarts, to determine if DRS can be implemented one lap sooner.

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