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Rules of the road: F1 changes explained

March 19, 2012 -- Updated 0939 GMT (1739 HKT)
The 2012 Formula One season sees the introduction of a four-hour limit for races, following last year's rain-delayed marathon in Canada. Charlie Whiting, the FIA's race director, explained the decision, telling the sport's official website: "Should four hours elapse during a future race, drivers will receive a signal telling them they have one more lap before the checkered flag." The 2012 Formula One season sees the introduction of a four-hour limit for races, following last year's rain-delayed marathon in Canada. Charlie Whiting, the FIA's race director, explained the decision, telling the sport's official website: "Should four hours elapse during a future race, drivers will receive a signal telling them they have one more lap before the checkered flag."
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To the four
An exhausted option
Nose job?
Crash tests
Going off track
A lot of hot air?
Safety first
Tire-some
On the defensive
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The 2012 Formula One season begins this weekend with the Australian Grand Prix
  • The sport's governing body have come up with new rules and amended existing ones
  • Many of the cars for the new campaign feature a dramatic stepped-nose design
  • Grands prix in 2012 will have a maximum time limit of four hours

(CNN) -- For even the sport's most ardent fans, Formula One can be confusing -- it is governed by a set of ever-evolving rules dominated by talk of technical specifications.

So if you are a sports enthusiast who is considering checking out the race action when the 2012 season begins in Australia on Sunday, it is more than likely you will have a few questions.

Posers such as, "How long can a race go on for?" Or, "Why do they use so many tires?" Or maybe even, "Why does the front of the car look so weird?"

Can anyone catch Red Bull Racing?

Some of the changes are more technical, the main one involving exhaust diffusion -- a big bone of contention in the past two seasons.

In the gallery above, CNN has attempted to explain and simplify the host of rule changes which have been brought in ahead of the new campaign so you can fully appreciate all of the elite motorsport's thrills and spills.

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