Bahrain

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Bahrain GP Results
Pos Driver
1 Lewis Hamilton
2 Nico Rosberg
3 Sergio Perez

Good Rules Bad Rules

Tuesday 17th December 2013

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More like an 'unsafe arrival' than an 'unsafe release'...

More like an 'unsafe arrival' than an 'unsafe release'...

The most eye-catching headline of the recent rule changes to F1 in 2014 was the double points proposed for the last race of the season. However, that piece of work aside, there have been some welcome changes brought in by the FIA.

The move to permanent driver numbers again is a positive step and will help recognition as well as driver branding. Driver managers must be rubbing their hands. Imagine how much more personalized product you can sell when you have an iconic number as well as your image and your name. It's not too late for future 'legends' such as Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton to establish an iconic number and Vettel is likely to be in the sport till he cleans up all of Michael Schumacher's records (apart from most successful Ferrari driver - although you never know).

On a race-to-race level it will immediately become apparent who's being investigated by the stewards when "Unsafe release Car 12" flashes up on screen. Right now there's a quick bit of mental calculation as to who that is after the numbers get re-set at the beginning of each season. No more.

Windtunnel and CFD work are far more restricted in the 2014 sporting regulations. Those crucial front wing endplates that take three months to devise, test and implement and then get knocked off at the first corner without altering the car's handling, won't be so quickly produced now. The FIA have cut the time that teams can have the aero fans at full speed in their wind tunnels (known as the wind-on time) to around a third of what they used to be.

They're not allowed to make it up by putting all their simulations through complex CFD computer behemoths either - they will be limited to a certain amount of wind tunnel time and CFD data analysis. They're also allowed only one model to play around with.

This is great news for the smaller teams, who can't afford to run wind tunnels 24/7 like the three major teams.

The FIA has invited new F1 teams to express their interest in joining the category from 2015/2016 until the end of the 2020 season. Everyone loves a full grid, but this move signals that it is unlikely that the FIA sees the future of F1 as three-car teams (an idea that looked like it was gaining quite a bit of traction recently). The door is being left open for Toyota, Audi or Porsche, but the current business model, where the fourth best team, Lotus, are struggling for money does not look a good one.

To help balance the big spenders (Red Bull) with the small spenders (Marussia) the FIA will introduce a cost cap in 2015 - the rules for which they'll set in June 2014. It's going to be a tall order to get a budget cap that everyone agrees with; as McLaren's Martin Whitmarsh has said, "There have always been the 'haves' and 'have nots'. The problem is that the 'haves' never want to deal with it." But at least they're trying.

The penalty system has been refined. The FIA has given race stewards the flexibility of imposing smaller time penalties in a race instead of the blunt instrument that is the drive-through. In the past the punishment hasn't fitted the crime, to which the stewards now have a variety of remedies.

Also, with grid penalties being carried over from race to race, the anomaly that a driver qualifying 17th can't be demoted 10 places, is now addressed. In future they'll go back five places to P22 in the first race, and carry a 5-place penalty to the next event.

Rules they should jettison, though
Double points for the final race: A sorry gimmick. Imagine if the Premier League announced they were making the last game of the season worth double to make the table more interesting...? There'd be uproar.

Grid penalty places for unsafe release from the pitlane. These are sometimes very marginal calls and it's the team that makes them, not the driver.

Pole position trophy. Given the high conversion rate of pole positions to podiums in F1, it's unlikely that the person who scores the most poles is going to end the season with no trophies to stick in his cabinet. In 2013 we know who would have won it.

Driver weight allowance. The allowed weight of the car plus driver will be 700kg in 2015, but only 690kg in 2014. All the teams except one (believed to be Mercedes) agreed to increase that limit immediately. The FIA should use some executive power and bring the rule forward so as not to jeopardise drivers who aren't so light in their loafers.

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