The FIA published the definitive 2012 F1 Sporting Regulations today, providing some extra detail on changes agreed by the World Motor Sport Council and already announced.
The aspect most likely to lead to controversy over the course of this season relates to an update to the one change of direction rule.
Article 20.3 reads: “More than one change of direction to defend a position is not permitted. Any driver moving back towards the racing line, having earlier defended his position off‐line, should leave at least one car width between his own car and the edge of the track on the approach to the corner.”
New to the rules is a reference intended to stop drivers from taking short cuts to gain time during in or out laps in qualifying, as practised by Sebastian Vettel in Korea: “A driver may not deliberately leave the track without justifiable reason”.
Among the other changes is the return to allowing lapped cars to regain their lap under a safety car – thus getting them out of the way and increasing the chance of a clean fight for the lead following a race resumption. However, the FIA make it clear that it won’t always be possible to do so.
Article 40.12 reads: “If the clerk of the course considers it safe to do so, and the message ‘LAPPED CARS MAY NOW OVERTAKE’ is shown on the timing monitors, any cars that have been lapped by the leader will be required to pass the cars on the lead lap and the safety car.
“This will only apply to cars that were lapped at the time they crossed the Line at the end of the lap during which they crossed the first Safety Car line for the second time after the safety car was deployed.
“Having overtaken the cars on the lead lap and the safety car these cars should then proceed around the track at an appropriate speed, without overtaking, and take up position at the back of the line of cars behind the safety car.
“Whilst they are overtaking, and in order to ensure this may be carried out safely, the cars on the lead lap must always stay on the racing line unless deviating from it is unavoidable. If the clerk of the course considers track conditions are unsuitable for overtaking the message ‘OVERTAKING WILL NOT BE PERMITTED’ will be shown on the timing monitors.”
Under Article 42.3 lapped cars also have the chance to get their lap back under a red flag suspension: “At the two minute point any cars between the safety car and the leader, in addition to any cars that had been lapped by the leader at the time the race was suspended, will be waved off to complete a further lap, without overtaking, and join the line of cars behind the safety car.”