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Managing change: what's new for 2008 - Part Two 21 Feb 2008

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault R28 Formula One Testing, Day Two, Jerez, Spain, 13 February 2008. World © Bumstead/Sutton Alvaro Parente (POR) Renault R27 tests a Formula 1 car for the first time. Alvaro Parente tests for Renault, Jerez, Spain, 17 January 2008. © Renault F1 Renault R26 gearbox. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Preparations, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, 9 March 2006 Nelson Piquet Jr. (BRA) Renault R27 and Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F2008 Formula One Testing, Jerez, Spain, 14 January 2008. World © Bumstead/Sutton Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault R28 Formula One Testing, Day Two, Barcelona, Spain, 02 February 2008. World © Bumstead/Sutton

It is not just the technical regulations that have changed for 2008. There have also been some important revisions to the sporting regulations - revisions that could have a major effect on the outcome of races this season.

In the second of a two-part feature, Renault analyse the likely impact of a shortened Q3 qualifying session, the new four-race gearbox requirement, and more…

Sporting Regulations, Article 22.1
22.1 a) Testing shall be considered any track running time undertaken by a competitor entered in the Championship with the exception of:
i) promotional or demonstration events carried out using tyres provided specifically for this purpose by the appointed supplier;
ii) young driver training, any such driver having not competed in an F1 World
Championship Event in the preceding 24 months nor tested a Formula One car on more than four days in the same 24 month period.

IMPACT: Exempting young driver evaluations from the annual limit on testing mileage removes one of the barriers to new drivers entering the sport; the difficulty of giving young drivers F1 seat time was an unintended consequence of last year’s blanket testing restrictions. Renault have already put this clause to good use, evaluating Alvaro Parente as his prize for winning the 2007 World Series by Renault. Teams are limited to a total of 350km during these evaluation days.

Sporting Regulations, Article 28.1
28.1 Each competitor may have no more than two cars available for use at any one time during an Event. Any partially assembled survival cell will be deemed to be a car in this context if it is fitted with an engine, any front suspension, bodywork, radiators, oil tanks or heat exchangers.
IMPACT: This regulation means the disappearance of spare cars from the team garages. This is a logical move towards greater cost-efficiency in an era of nearly flawless reliability up and down the pit-lane. Teams will likely take one less chassis to the races than in previous years (in most cases, a total of three in 2008, compared to four previously).

Sporting Regulations, Article 28.6
28.6 a) Each driver may use no more than one gearbox for four consecutive Events in which his team competes. Should a driver use a replacement gearbox he will drop five places on the starting grid at that Event each time a further gearbox is used. Unless the driver fails to finish the race (see below) the gearbox fitted to the car at the end of the Event must remain in it for three further Events. Any driver who failed to finish the race at the first, second or third of the four Events for reasons beyond the control of the team or driver, may start the following Event with a different gearbox without a penalty being incurred.
d) At the second, third and fourth Events seals may be broken once, under supervision and at any time prior to the start of the qualifying practice session, for the sole purpose of changing gear ratios and dog rings (excluding final drives or reduction gears). Gear ratios and dog rings (excluding final drives or reduction gears) may also be changed under supervision for others of identical specification at any time during an Event provided the FIA technical delegate is satisfied there is evident physical damage to the parts in question and that such changes are not being carried out on a systematic basis.

IMPACT: Following the successful, phased introduction of long-life engines since 2004, the “long-life principle” has now been extended to include gearboxes. Each gearbox must last a total of four ‘events’ (an event comprising Saturday and Sunday of a GP weekend), a significant step over the unrestricted situation of 2007. Renault has worked hard to ensure the necessary levels of reliability without compromising the speed of its “quickshift” mechanism. Ratios can still be changed once each weekend, in order to match them to the requirements of the circuit.

Sporting Regulations, Article 29.1
29.1 b) Fuel may not be added to nor removed from any car eligible to take part in Q3 between the start of Q3 and the start of the race (…)
IMPACT: With refuelling no longer allowed between the end of qualifying and the race, the format more closely resembles that which was introduced in 2003, which saw single lap qualifying with cars carrying their fuel load for the first race stint. The change will naturally lead teams to run shorter stints at the start of the race, as pioneered by Renault in 2003; where ‘rearward-biased’ strategies were the norm in 2007, ‘forward-biased’ strategies are more likely in 2008.

Sporting Regulations, Article 33
33.1 The qualifying practice session will take place on the day before the race from 14.00 to 15.00. The session will be run as follows:
a) From 14.00 to 14.20 (Q1) all cars will be permitted on the track and at the end of this period the slowest seven cars will be prohibited from taking any further part in the session. Lap times achieved by the seventeen remaining cars will then be deleted.
b) From 14.27 to 14.42 (Q2) the seventeen remaining cars will be permitted on the track and at the end of this period the slowest seven cars will be prohibited from taking any further part in the session. Lap times achieved by the ten remaining cars will then be deleted.
c) From 14.50 to 15.00 (Q3) the ten remaining cars will be permitted on the track. The above procedure is based upon a Championship entry of 24 cars. If 22 cars are entered only six cars will be excluded after Q1 and Q2.

IMPACT: The move to the 20/15/10 format for knockout qualifying will, when combined with Article 29.1, eliminate the wasteful fuel burning laps at the start of the third and final round. The new format will serve to further increase the tension of the exciting knockout format, with ever-decreasing time in each round to set a competitive time. The elimination of post-qualifying refuelling will also likely spell the end of cars waiting at the end of the pit-lane for the lights to go green, as there is no longer pressure to complete the maximum possible number of laps for the purpose of claiming ‘fuel credits’, as was the case in 2007.