Formula One Rule Changes for 2010 Season and McLaren Mercedes Suspended

Recently, Formula One cost caps have been enacted, rule changes have been announced for the 2010 season, and competitors have been suspended from part of the 2009 season.

The World Motorsports Council (WMSC) recently made its decision regarding Lewis Hamilton and the Vodafone Mclaren Mercedes debacle. In the season opening Australian Grand Prix, McLaren Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton passed Toyota’s Jarno Trulli after he left the circuit. Hamilton then pulled over to let the Italian pass him again, under the safety car, a violation of the sporting regulations.

The sequence of events turned into a mess when Dave Ryan, the Mercedes Team Manager at the time, lied to the race stewards, claiming that Hamilton did not let Trulli go past. This caused Trulli to be assessed a penalty of 25 seconds, dropping him to 12th in the standings and promoting Hamilton to third. Evidence later came out indicating that Hamilton had been ordered to let Trulli go past. Further investigation led to Hamilton being dismissed from the Australian Grand Prix standings, and now the WMSC has suspended the entire Vodafone McLaren-Mercedes team for three races in the 2009 season.

McLaren-Mercedes’ suspension will affect how the final 2009 rankings look as both of the team’s drivers are currently in the top 10, and the team ranks fourth in the Constructors’ Standings with13 points. Lewis Hamilton ranks seventh with9 points and Heikki Kovalainen ranks 10th with4 points. This is a far cry from the 31 points held by the top driver (Jenson Button of Brawn-Mercedes) and the 50 points held by Brawn-Mercedes at the top of the Constructor Standings.

In addition to making a decision regarding McLaren-Mercedes, the FIA has released the rule changes for the 2010 season. One of the rule changes brings back the “winner takes all” approach to scoring. For 2010 the Drivers’ World Championship will be awarded to the driver who holds the most first-place finishes throughout the season. A points system will by used to break a tie for first and to determine the other standings.

New for 2010 is a budget cap of approximately $59.4 million for teams that wish to apply. The teams that apply for, and obey, the budget cap will be granted more technical freedoms, including movable front and rear wings and an engine without a rev-limiter. The teams will also be allowed unlimited out-of-season track testing with no restriction on the scale and speed of wind tunnel testing. The budget cap does not include items such as engine costs (only for 2010), marketing and hospitality, or any expenditurethat the team can demonstrate has no influence on its performance in the championship, in addition to several other smaller items.

In an effort to continue the advancement of “green racing,” the FIA has also banned in-race refueling during the 2010 season. The idea is to encourage teams to work to improve the fuel consumption of the vehicles, currently around 2.7 kg/lap (3.7 liters/lap). Accordingly the FIA has also adjusted the qualifying Q3 regulations to allow for refueling before the race to ensure the teams can finish the race.

The remainder of the 2009 Formula One season should be interesting with the controversy and drama that has already surrounded the early part of the season. The 2010 season should be equally interesting with the ban on refueling, mandated KERS and changes to the points system. Look for more teams to start debuting “double decker” rear diffusers as well this season, as Renault recently has. The next race in the 2009 season takes place this Sunday at the Spanish Catalunya Circuit in Barcelona.