Formula One rule changes for 2012

Updated 0939 GMT (1739 HKT) March 19, 2012
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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." Getty Images
Teams can no longer use engine exhaust to produce large amounts of downforce -- a practice which has been prevalent for the last two years in the form of blown diffusers. Now exhaust pipes must exit in a defined area at the back of the car, not run along its underbelly. Getty Images
Many of this year's cars feature a dramatic stepped-nose design. Whiting said this is to make sure the height of the nose was lower than the sides of the cockpit, therefore reducing the risk to the driver in the event of a collision. Getty Images
In previous seasons, cars had to pass crash tests in order to compete in races. Now, cars must pass the FIA's 18 mandatory tests before the official preseason test events. "It is indefensible to have drivers testing cars in the winter that haven't met the safety standards we demand for a race," said Whiting. Getty Images
As bizarre as it may sound, drivers have been told not to drive off the race track without good reason. "We've seen drivers taking shortcuts on in and out laps, either to save time or fuel," explained Whiting. Getty Images
Pit stops are a crucial part of F1, and a race can be won or lost depending on how quickly the crew are able to replace a car's tires. In an attempt to save valuable time, teams have been known to power their wheel guns with compressed helium instead of air. But not anymore. "It saved fractions of a second," Whiting said. "It would have been a very expensive method of gaining no advantage." Getty Images
The gulf in class between some cars means that the leading drivers often lap back-markers during a race. The safety car is deployed if there has been an accident on track or if conditions become dangerous. Drivers are not allowed to overtake each other under such conditions, but in 2012 strugglers will be able to un-lap themselves by going past the safety car and reforming at the back of the field. Getty Images
Each driver is allowed 11 sets of tires to use over the course of a race weekend, but they must last through practice, Saturday qualifying and Sunday's race. Previously teams could only use three of their sets during Friday practice, but they will now be able to use as many as they like. Getty Images
The highlight of any grand prix is seeing drivers attempt daring, fast-paced overtaking maneuvers. But now, when a driver has someone behind them, they are allowed to make only one defensive move to protect their position. This rule is to prevent potentially dangerous blocking strategies. Getty Images