There has been none of the wide-ranging changes we saw in 2014 with the introduction of the 1.6-litre turbocharged hybrid cars, but the most significant concern changes to the powertrains.
After heavy lobbying from the Ferrari and Renault-powered teams, who suffered from the two companies’ failure to build competitive engines for the new formula, the FIA was able to identify and exploit a loophole - despite understandable opposition from Mercedes who did far and away the best engineering job with the new powertrains and deserved to clean up - whereby Ferrari and Renault were able to bypass the agreed engine development freeze and make changes to their hardware to help close up the field.
The new powertrains had to be homologated by February 28th, 2014, with no further development allowed to the end of the season. But the 2015 rules only stated that the engines had to be homologated, without specifying a date. Thus Ferrari and Renault (and Mercedes should they wish) had longer to develop their 2015 powertrains than the end of February.
Each manufacturer is allowed a stipulated number of tokens which cover different aspects of the engines, and they are thus free to keep developing them until they have no tokens left, whereupon they can homologate the unit for the season.
Changes to the technical regulations include another increase of the minimum weight, which rises from 701 kg without fuel, to 702. Interlinked suspension is banned under rules dictating that the front suspension must react only to changes in load applied to the front wheels, and likewise for the rear suspension.
The Zylon anti-intrusion panels on both sides of the survival cell have been extended upwards to the rim of the cockpit and alongside the driver’s head, in response to Jules Bianchi’s accident, and there have been further limitations in the governance of wind tunnel testing and the aerodynamic reporting periods for 2015 and 2016.
Additionally, the FIA have revised the penalties for using more than the allotted allocation of power units in a single season (which has dropped from five to four). Changing a full powertrain will no longer incur an automatic penalty. Instead penalties will be cumulative, based on the individual components of each power unit. If a grid place penalty is imposed, and the driver’s grid position is such that the full penalty cannot be applied, the remainder of the penalty will be applied in the form of a time penalty during the race, instead of rolling over to the following race as another grid penalty.
Among changes under the Sporting Regulations, the qualifying procedure has been clarified: with 20 eligible cars, five will be excluded after Q1 and Q2. The controversial double points season finale is no more, and after consultation with the teams the proposed use of standing restarts after safety car periods has also been dropped. And following successful trials in the final races last year, the Virtual Safety Car has been approved for 2015. It may be initiated to neutralise a race upon the order of the clerk of the course, and will normally be used when double waved yellow flags are needed on any section of track and competitors or officials may be in danger, but the circumstances are not such as to warrant use of the safety car itself.
If a race is suspended, the pit exit will be closed and all cars must now proceed slowly into the pit lane, not the starting grid.