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2008 season changes

A number of changes to both the Sporting and Technical Regulations have been made by the FIA for the 2008 Formula One season.

Traction and launch control
Traction control - systems which prevent the rear wheels spinning if a driver applies too much power - are no longer permitted. This will place more emphasis on driver skill and should lead to more overtaking, as drivers are more likely to make mistakes. Similarly, systems that help the driver hold the clutch at a specific point to ensure an optimal getaway at the race start, have been outlawed.

Electronic Control Units (ECUs)
From 2008, all teams must use a standardised, FIA-approved ECU to control their cars' electronics. As well as providing a more level playing field in this area of development, the new ECU - which must run FIA-approved software - will allow the FIA to monitor the cars' performance more closely.

Engine changes
As in 2007, drivers must use the same engine for two consecutive events, an event comprising final practice, qualifying and the race. If that engine fails in final practice or qualifying and has to be changed ahead of the race, the driver will be given a grid penalty - 10 places if the change was made before qualifying, or the back of the grid if it was made following qualifying.

However, in an amendment for 2008, each driver is allowed one ‘free’ change per season, unless that change takes place at the final round. In other words, he will not incur a penalty for his first engine failure of the year, as long it is not at the last event.

In a bid to further improve reliability and cut costs, gearboxes must now last for four consecutive events. As with engines, an event comprises final practice, qualifying and the race. Every unscheduled gearbox change will require the relevant driver to drop five places on the grid at that meeting. If a driver fails to finish a race, he may start the next meeting with a new gearbox without incurring a penalty.

In a very slight tweak to the familiar knockout qualifying format, the duration of Q1 has been increased from 15 to 20 minutes, while that of Q3 has been cut from 15 to 10. Q2 remains 15-minutes long. Furthermore, cars participating in Q3 will no longer get back the fuel used in that session - they must now start the race with whatever fuel was left in the car at the end of qualifying, thus eliminating the need for the infamous 'fuel-burning' phase at the start of Q3.

Cockpit safety
One of the slightly more visible differences to the cars this season will be an increase in the height of the cockpit padding - and hence the cockpit sides - on either side of the driver’s helmet, a change that has been implemented to further increase head protection in the event of an impact.

As part of moves to make Formula One racing ever more environmentally friendly, the FIA has introduced a new rule governing fuel. From 2008, at least 5.75 percent of all fuel must contain biomatter and, as a result, all cars must be designed to be biofuel compliant.

Max Mosley (GBR) FIA President.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 15, Italian Grand Prix, Race Day, Monza, Italy, 10 September 2006 FIA flag on the grid.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, European Grand Prix, Race, Nurburgring, Germany, 7 May 2006
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