Harsher power unit penalties among possible new rules from F1 Commission

Henry Valantine
FIA flag on display at the F1 Dutch Grand Prix. Netherlands, September 2022. Budget cap Red Bull

FIA flag on display at the Dutch Grand Prix. Netherlands, September 2022.

The latest meeting of the F1 Commission has brought about several key possible rule changes being discussed, including tougher penalties for teams taking ‘tactical’ grid penalties for new power unit parts.

The Commission met in Abu Dhabi as the next steps for the direction for Formula 1 were set out, with an admission that power unit-related grid penalties are currently “not a strong enough deterrent” to stop teams from benefiting from a fresh power unit at a cost of grid positions.

The first element taken beyond the allocation of any part of the power unit for a season brings with it a 10-place grid penalty, and a five-place penalty for the second additional part.

F1 and the FIA say teams are currently using the system more than they need to, which not only “undermines” the power unit restrictions in place but also adds costs to the teams which may not be needed.

As a result, they will take a look at the possibilities available to them moving forward.

A statement on the meeting read: “Possible updates to the penalties relating to Power Unit infringements were discussed by the Commission. It was agreed the current system is not a strong enough deterrent to teams to make strategic Power Unit changes, and encourages the change of more elements than needed once a driver has accumulated more than a certain level of penalty.

“This ultimately causes higher parts costs and undermines the PU element annual restrictions. This will continue to be discussed at the Sporting and Power Unit Advisory Committees for further analysis and refinement.”

Elsewhere in the meeting, other updates being discussed are the possibility of a tweak to DRS rules, whereby the activation after starts, restarts, Safety Car and Virtual Safety Car periods could be brought forward by a lap, with this set to be trialled in the six sprints next season – with a view to being rolled out in full in 2024.

The F1 Commission has also taken driver complaints into account regarding wet-weather visibility, with a possible ‘standard bodywork kit’ coming to help the drivers see better in wet conditions, aimed specifically to ‘suppress’ spray, with the FIA commencing a study at defining a package of parts capable of achieving this aim.

The FIA remain on target to remove heated tyre blankets by 2024, but any final decision on the matter has been delayed until at least July next year.

They also aim to introduce measures aimed at simplifying the parc fermé process, whereby car set-ups are ‘locked’ after qualifying, during sprint weekends, with parc fermé conditions being introduced after FP1 on those weekends in particular.

F1 president and CEO Stefano Domenicali said: “Formula 1 has had an incredible season and continues to grow around the world. That would not be possible without the work of everyone involved at the Commission level and all their teams.

“We are all working hard together to continuously improve the sport for our fans and the President, and I want to continue to maximise the best outcomes for the sport so 2023 can be an even better year for Formula 1.”

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