What are the F1 rule changes in 2017?

  • The new Formula One season begins this weekend at Australian Grand Prix
  • New era of the sport sees big change in car regulations as well as rules
  • Cars will be faster than in 2016 but Lewis Hamilton still favourite to win title
  • READ: More F1 news and features ahead of the new campaign 

By Dan Ripley for MailOnline

Published: 06:42 EDT, 20 March 2017 | Updated: 17:07 EDT, 20 March 2017

With the biggest change in the regulations for nearly a decade, F1 is set for a reset in the hope to shake up the sport and widen the appeal to fans.

Critics in recent years have branded the cars too easy to drive, with the drivers not being pushed to their physical limits and having to target lap times in order to protect tyres.

But what are the changes and will they help make F1 more exciting? Sportsmail takes a look at how the new format could affect racing in 2017...

Lewis Hamilton tests the new Mercedes F1 W08 at Barcelona ahead of the 2017 season

The F1 W08 is 20cm wider and has a lower and wider rear wing than it's predecessor the F1 W07, the car Nico Rosberg (above) won the driver's title at Abu Dhabi with last season

An old-school look to the Formula One cars

It's been a long time since F1 cars were at their most aesthetically pleasing but new regulations have seen the rear wing lowered by 150mm and widened by 200mm to bring the car more into line with the challengers seen pre-2009.

If you really want a retro twist though you only need to look at the rear tyres which are 80mm wider this term and bring a more 20th century look to the machines.

As well as being widened by 200mm to two meters, the cars are heavier, with max weight now 722kg instead of 702kg (excluding tyres).

New era F1 cars look more in line with the machines driven in 2008, with the above McLaren MP4-23 firing Hamilton towards his first driver's title 

Unlike the 2008 cars, there is even more space on the front wing this term, an increase of 20cm from 2016. Rear tyres have also become 80mm wider 

The noses of the 2017 cars are also longer and pointier than the cars driven last season (above) The noses of the 2017 cars are also longer and pointier than the cars driven last season (above)

The noses of the 2017 cars are also longer and pointier than the cars driven last season (above)

So how will this affect the car performance?

With more downforce and grip, they will certainly be a few seconds per lap faster even if they may now also be a little more difficult to drive.

Expect some lap records that were set around 13 years ago to at least come under serious pressure if not broken.

Kimi Raikkonen set the fastest lap at Barcelona for Ferrari during pre-season testing

Drivers physical limits to be tested

With cars now cornering faster, a side effect of that will be the increased g-forces placed on the drivers inside the cockpit.

It's not unknown levels for Formula One but it is for the vast majority of drivers on the grid.

The old school featuring Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa, Kimi Raikkonen and (at a stretch) Sebastian Vettel could gain a minor advantage as they all at least had a good sample of the physical demands needed when the cars were previously as physically challenging back in 2006.

However it shouldn't take long for the drivers to quickly adapt with the new physical demands.  

The g-forces in 2017 are on a similar level to the cars driven from around 2005-2006, where Fernando Alonso in the Renault secured back-to-back drivers' titles The g-forces in 2017 are on a similar level to the cars driven from around 2005-2006, where Fernando Alonso in the Renault secured back-to-back drivers' titles

The g-forces in 2017 are on a similar level to the cars driven from around 2005-2006, where Fernando Alonso in the Renault secured back-to-back drivers' titles

New aerodynamic gains could lead to greater set-up variation

In the last few years, Formula One cars have run with maximum downforce at many tracks  - with Montreal, Spa and Monza notable exceptions.

But with more downforce available to the teams this year due to the widened rear wing, there will be much more scope for variation in set-ups with circuits having an optimum to work towards.

In turn this could lead to teams having a larger scope of performance variation from track to track and thus shake up the order.

Monza is one of few F1 tracks where cars have been running without maximum downforce in recent years, but the regulation changes could lead to varied set ups across the grid  Monza is one of few F1 tracks where cars have been running without maximum downforce in recent years, but the regulation changes could lead to varied set ups across the grid 

Monza is one of few F1 tracks where cars have been running without maximum downforce in recent years, but the regulation changes could lead to varied set ups across the grid 

Starts to become much tougher for the drivers

The race start should throw up more dramas in 2017 as rules have been put in place that effectively make the driver more responsible with how they get off the line. 

Previously the driver's engineer would shoulder much of the burden in setting up the car for a start, enabling the driver to simply release the clutch between a generous range.

But new regulations now place the start back in the hands (and feet) of the drivers who must find an exact point on the clutch to prevent wheel-spin or getting bogged down. 

With more control with the drivers, race starts are set to become tougher for those on the grid

Standing restarts in the wet

Grand Prix in Monaco, Great Britain and Brazil were all hit by rain in 2016, and all of them led to a formation start under the safety car.

The process robbed fans the thrill of one of the most dramatic moments of a grand prix weekend when cars thunder down into turn one looking to make up quick places.

But from 2017 the rules have been tweaked. The safety car process will continue if the track is deemed unsafe, but once it peels into the pit-lane the drivers will then take up their respective grid places to engage in a standing start.

This will not be the case if the safety car restart comes following a race suspension. 

Safety car starts, as seen in Brazil above last season, in the extreme wet will still exist, but a standing start will follow once the circuit is deemed safe enough to race on

Grand Prix changes

One area where is little change. The German Grand Prix is the only casualty from the 2016 calendar, with the Nurburgring no longer honouring its agreement to host the race on a biennial bases with Hockenheim - who will host the event next season as they did last year.

In addition the 'Azerbaijan Grand Prix' will technically be run for the first time at Baku, with last year's event promoted under the 'European Grand Prix' banner. 

F1 CALENDAR 2017
1 Australian Grand Prix - Albert Park Mar 26
2 Chinese Grand Prix - Shanghai Circuit Apr 9
3 Bahrain Grand Prix - Sakhir Circuit Apr 16
4 Russian Grand Prix - Sochi Autodrom Apr 30
5 Spanish Grand Prix - Catalunya May 14
6 Monaco Grand Prix - Monte Carlo May 28
7 Canadian Grand Prix - Gilles Villeneuve Circuit Jun 11
8 Azerbaijan Grand Prix - Baku Circuit Jun 25
9 Austrian Grand Prix - Red Bull Ring Jul 9
10 British Grand Prix - Silverstone Jul 16
11 Hungarian Grand Prix - Hungaroring Jul 30
12 Belgian Grand Prix - Spa-Francorchamps Aug 27
13 Italian Grand Prix - Monza Sep 3
14 Singapore Grand Prix - Marina Bay Sep 17
15 Malaysian Grand Prix - Sepang Oct 1
16 Japanese Grand Prix - Suzuka Oct 8
17 United States Grand Prix - Circuit of the Americas Oct 22
18 Mexican Grand Prix - Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez Oct 29
19 Brazilian Grand Prix - Interlagos Nov 12
20 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - Yas Marina Nov 26

But will the racing improve?

The ultimate acid test for fans but improving the quality of the on-track action was never in the remit - only making the cars faster. 

The early signs are not great. Lewis Hamilton has already stated that trying to follow another car during testing at Barcelona has proved more difficult.

But the Circuit de Catalunya has always been notorious for being a difficult circuit to closely follow another car anyway.

No one will be entirely sure if on-track battles will improve until the cars rock up in Australia for the opening grand prix of the season.

The jury is out on whether the racing in 2017 will lead to better racing between divers

 

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