The evolution of F1®

Sauber Petronas refueling during a pit stop

Improved engineering, an increased focus on driver safety and changes to rules and regulations have all played a role in the major evolution of Formula 1® in recent years.

As a result, Formula 1® cars are now much quicker - and safer - than they previously were, while the quality of racing has seen a huge rise in global popularity.

Ahead of the 25th edition of the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, we take a look at some of the major flashpoints in Formula 1®’s recent evolution.

 

1996 – The 107 per cent rule

All drivers have to finish within 107 per cent of the fastest time set in the first qualifying session - or they are not allowed to start the main race.

Stewards do have the power to overrule this if exceptional circumstances exist, like very poor weather.

The rule was introduced in 1996 ahead of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix and was immediately broken by Forti pair Andrea Montermini and Luca Badoer.

The 107 per cent rule - designed to raise the competitiveness of qualifying - was abolished at the end of the 2002 campaign, only to return in 2011.

 

2002 – Team orders banned

The Formula 1® world was shocked when David Coulthard slowed down at the 1998 Australian Grand Prix to let McLaren teammate Mika Hakkinen pass him with just two laps to go, allowing the Finn to claim victory.

This was a gentlemen’s agreement between the pair but led to occasional instances of ‘team orders’ between teammates.

The issue reared its head again in 2002 when, on the last corner at the Austrian Grand Prix, Rubens Barrichello allowed Michael Schumacher to pass him and win – a moment that angered fans.

Team orders were banned as a result but the rule proved tough to police, given teams could ask drivers to enter the pits at any time. The FIA removed the ban eight years later, in 2010, but teams can still be punished if they bring Formula 1® into disrepute.

 

2010 – Re-fuelling gets the red light

First banned in 1984 before being restored in 1994, in-race re-fuelling was banned again for the 2010 season.

Cost and safety reasons led to the 2010 decision, while more overtakes were predicted.

Weights of F1® cars have steadily increased in recent years, though, and critics of the decision say the ability to re-fuel cars would allow cars to go faster and also mean they would not carry as much weight.

Discussion surfaced in 2019 that the decision may be reversed - again.

 

2011 – In: Pirelli Out: Bridgestone

A major change occurred in 2011 as Pirelli replaced Bridgestone as the sole tyre supplier of the F1® grid.

The Pirelli tyres were designed to degrade quickly, leading to more pit stops and more of a focus on tyre strategy.

That has led to more exciting racing, too, adding another element of intrigue to race weekends. Pirelli’s contract lasts until the end of 2023.

 

2014 – New engines are go

The winds of change swept through Formula 1® ahead of the 2014 season, headlined by new hybrid, turbo-charged power units.

These engines were not as loud and included several energy recovery systems to improve vehicle efficiency.

It was a blast from the past in some ways, given turbocharged engines last appeared in F1® in 1988.

 

2018 – Halo device

Made mandatory for the 2018 season, the ‘halo’ is a structure on all Formula 1® cars that is required for safety reasons.

The device protects the driver’s head in case of flying debris and was introduced after years of research and testing.

The ‘halo’ is not small, but it does not affect driver visibility greatly.

 

2019 – Extra point returns 

Making its comeback to Formula 1® after 60 years was a bonus championship point, awarded to the driver with the fastest lap of each race.

The rule made its return at the Formula 1® Rolex Australian Grand Prix 2019 and winner Valtteri Bottas was heard talking to his team about his desire to get “26 points” during the race.

Bottas was well in front of the second-placed Lewis Hamilton but the extra point on offer made the final stages of the race exciting as Bottas eventually pipped Max Verstappen for the prize.

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