Countless reports are being produced these days in regards to Formula 1 as most teams have unveiled their 2011 contenders and are testing their machinery during official test sessions. The term “new rules” is being thrown around but what are the new rules?

We have decided to come up with this article so you will be up to speed with the new rules introduced for this season. Read the full details after the jump.

107% qualifying rule

Adding to the refueling ban that was introduced last season, the FIA has re-introduced the 107% qualifying rule. With this, the driver has to set a time that is within 107% of the fastest time in Q1 of the qualifying session. Team Lotus, HRT and Virgin who were classified as rookies last season will have to be mindful on this. However, the stewards will look at other factors before handing out the verdict, which is to disallow the driver from taking part in the race.

The stewards will look at, for example, lap times that were set during practice. If there are acceptable lap times, the driver will be allowed to race. As far as I can remember, Alex Yoong was the last driver who failed to comply with the 107% rule, when he was racing for Minardi quite some time ago. However he was allowed to race after obtaining the green light from other drivers.

Team curfew

In 2011, there is a curfew on team personnel in terms of working hours connected to the car. Basically they won’t be allowed into the circuit between midnight and 6.00am, before practice which starts at 10.00am. If practice starts at 11.00am, then the curfew is between 1.00am and 7.00am. This means that teams will have to make even earlier preparations before a race weekend. However, each team is permitted four individual exceptions to this rule, through out the season.

Penalties

There are also changes in the penalties department, where the stewards are given more types of penalties of hand out. They include time penalties, exclusion of drivers from race results and suspension from subsequent events. We are usually familiar with drive through or stop-and-go penalties during a race.

Team orders

Team orders have been around for a while now and is usually used by the teams when they want their other driver to finish ahead in a race. This is usually linked to championship contenders and in 2010, Ferrari gave team orders to Felipe Massa to allow team mate and championship contender Fernando Alonso to win the German Grand Prix and subsequently score more points. It is quite difficult to implement the rule as teams can be quite discrete with it. Teams orders are now permitted. Perhaps now we will see team orders blatantly carried out.

Adjustable front and rear wings, F-ducts and double diffuser

The FIA has banned the use of adjustable front wing flaps as well as the F-duct system which was pioneered by McLaren. The former ultimately allowed drivers to follow the front car closely during a race which meant higher chance of overtaking while the latter allowed drivers to stall the rear wing to reduce drag and subsequently increase top speed.

The FIA has also banned the use of the double diffuser system which was first seen in 2009. Championship winners at the time, Brawn GP (now known as Mercedes) used this system. The double diffusers were used to increase downforce. McLaren is now trying to overcome this shortcoming by introducing the U-shaped sidepods for its 2011 car. Only time will tell if it really helps.

However the FIA has allowed the use of an optional adjustable rear wing with certain regulated deployment zones. Drivers have unlimited use of the system during qualifying but during the race, they can only start using it after two laps. Drivers can only choose between two set positions and they can use the system at specific points of the circuit.

Furthermore, the system can only be engaged when the car is less than one second behind the car in front. It is controlled via the steering wheel and some drivers are complaining that it is becoming too cumbersome to control various things, including this on the steering wheel. The system will allow the cars to hit a higher top speed on straights (probably by 15km/h). This will help increase overtaking which is always good for the sport and the fans. Teams like McLaren, Ferrari, Mercedes and Williams are running this.

Minimum car weight of 640kg

The FIA has also increased the minimum vehicle weight from 620kg to 640kg. The change in minimum weight has come about thanks to the re-introduction of KERS. Previously, when KERS was allowed in a Formula 1 car, refueling was allowed. This time around, the KERS system has to co-exist with a larger fuel tank, as refueling is banned.

Fixed weight distribution of between 45.5% and 46.5% on the front axle

In 2011, all Formula 1 cars will have to work with a front weight distribution of between 45.5% and 46.5%. The reason behind this is to avoid cars with different weight distribution settings to have different performance levels when using the new Pirelli tires. This is a good effort in trying to maintain a more leveled playing field.

Extended gearbox life

The FIA has also issued a rule that will see gearboxes last for five races, compared to four last year. This rule is part of the FIA’s cost-saving and environmental efforts for Formula 1. McLaren for example has said that even in 2010, gearboxes were already able to last for up to five races.

Second wheel tether and extended driver protection panels on chassis

All cars must make use of a second safety tether on each wheel. This will reduce the likelihood of wheels coming off in an impact. These wheel tethers are flexible and they are contained within the suspension members, as seen in the sample image above. Each tether is able to withstand a tensile force of 70kN in any direction within a cone of 45° measured from the load line of the relevant suspension member.

The rule should have been implemented long ago. Some of you might remember that a lose wheel as a result of an accident killed a marshall at the 2001 Australian Grand Prix. The incident involved Ralf Schumacher’s Williams and Jacques Villeneuve’s BAR Honda. Talking about safety, the FIA also said that there must be extended driver protection panels on the chassis which can protect the drivers from debris penetration.

KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems)

KERS is now back in Formula 1, again as an optional feature after it was last seen in 2009. In essence, KERS takes the waste energy generated under braking and turns it into energy. The system is controlled by the driver via the steering wheel and it can produce 60kW at maximum power and 400MJ per lap is allowed.

As mentioned when we talked about the new minimum weight rule, 2011 cars with KERS will be packaged differently compared to their 2009 counterparts as the new cars have larger fuel tanks, to make way for the refueling ban carried over from last year. Cars equipped with KERS are of course heavier. Most of the teams including Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari, Mercedes, Williams and Sauber have opted for this.

New Pirelli tires

All teams will have to use Pirelli-supplied tires after Bridgestone made a departure at the end of 2010. Teams will have to get used to the new rubber and some have stated that the Pirellis tend to wear and degrade quicker. This may result in more than one pit stops in races that can make do with just one pit stop.