Mercedes explain 2019 F1 rule changes to watch out for

Ahead of the second Formula 1 preseason test starting on Tuesday in Barcelona, Mercedes have released a comprehensive interpretation of the new rules for 2019, with input from technical director James Allison and engine guru Andy Cowell.

Aero Adjustments


The biggest changes for 2019 from a regulation point of view are aerodynamic.

They have been introduced to try and make the races more exciting, more manageable for drivers following other cars and trying to improve overtaking.

The most obvious difference is to the front wing, and this is undoubtedly the most important change, as it’s the first part of the car to hit the air. Put simply, the front wings are bigger and simpler.

They are 200mm wider, meaning they are now the same width as the car itself, and 20mm taller to make them less sensitive to stall. The wing has also been moved 25mm further forward.

Complex endplate designs have been outlawed and teams are limited to two under-wing strakes.

“The wake from the front wheels tended to spoil the downforce of the cars behind, so taking away a lot of the furniture of the front wings and making them simpler is aimed at taking the dirty air and putting it on your own car, therefore disturbing the car behind less,” explained Technical Director James Allison.

“The challenge for us has been to try and recover the management of this tyre wake,” James added. “Of course, that means trying to find other ways of getting the dirty air away from our car.

“So, within the scope of these regulations, trying to find newer and subtler ways of managing the tyre wake in a way that restores performance to our car.”

At the back of the car, the rear wings are 20mm taller and 100mm wider, to create a larger hole in the air for slipstreaming, while the DRS opening has increased by 20mm to boost its power and make it more effective.

On each side, the bargeboards are 150mm shorter in height and have moved 100mm forward, to help improve airflow, while the aero elements around the brake ducts have been simplified.

Tyre Tweaks

“F1 has simplified what happens over a race weekend, so there’s only going to be three tyre colours – red, which is the Soft, yellow, the Medium, and white for the Hard compound,” James Vowles, Chief Strategist, explained.

“They will remain those colours throughout the season. Previously, with six tyre colours, it could be slightly confusing for people at home, so maintaining the same colours and names every weekend should make it easier for everyone.”

However, while there will be only three tyre colours, there aren’t just three tyre compounds. This year, there are five, named from C1 for the hardest compound to C5 for the softest.

Pirelli can choose three of these five compounds for each race. For winter testing, though, there are more compounds than colours. So, there are two white tyres and two reds.

To differentiate them, the softest compound (C5) is red but missing the coloured brackets around the tyre, and the hardest (C1) is white but also missing the brackets.

James added: “Whenever you get a change in tyre, no matter how much we learn from the Abu Dhabi test, the reality is all teams will be learning all the way through the year.

“It’s a different tyre, different construction, the range has changed. There’s a lot to learn for all teams. We should expect some variability in understanding the performance and how to use it.”

Minor Modifications

There are also a lot of smaller, less obvious changes to the regulations for the 2019 season. The rear wing now features additional lights, one on each endplate, to increase visibility and improve safety.

Drivers can now use 110kg of fuel during a race (up 5kg compared to 2018), although the fuel flow rate will remain at 100kg per hour.

“If you have got an efficient engine with efficient aerodynamics and you are prepared to do a little bit of lift and coasting, then you have got the opportunity to start the race at less than 110kg,” explained Andy Cowell, Managing Director of Mercedes AMG High-Performance Powertrains.

“For every 5kg of weight you save it’s about two-tenths of a second a lap quicker, so there is a natural reward to starting the race a little bit lighter.”

On the subject of weights, the minimum weight of the car without fuel has gone up 10kg to 743kg and 80kg of this must be made up of the driver, his seat and driving equipment. If this doesn’t reach 80kg, ballast must be positioned in the cockpit area.

Racing Revisions

While a large chunk of the focus is often on the technical side of rule changes, there have also been some important amendments to the sporting regulations too.

Drivers must now wear biometric gloves – which feature sensors in the fabric – for improved safety, monitoring a driver’s pulse rate and blood oxygen levels. This data is then transmitted to the FIA doctor in the medical car at the track.

Helmets have changed for 2019, too, with a new FIA standard that must be met by suppliers. This includes advanced ballistic protection and improved energy absorption, while the front visor is now 10mm lower to increase safety in the event of impact from debris. The shell features advanced composite materials to improve resistance.

Race restarts have a new rule, in that drivers have to wait until crossing the finishing line before they are allowed to overtake. The previous rule stated overtakes were allowed once drivers had passed the Safety Car line.

Meanwhile, F1 races will continue to conclude with the traditional waving of the chequered flag, but the official end-of-race signal will now be made by a chequered light panel activated by race officials.