The way Formula One's controversial grid penalties are handed out will change slightly in 2018 in an attempt to prevent confusing situations for fans.
Grid penalties were a contentious issue throughout 2017, with a huge raft applied to various teams and drivers in the latter part of the season. The Italian Grand Prix was a good example, where nine of the 20 drivers had penalties for either engine or gearbox changes, meaning the starting grid looked a lot different to the final qualifying result.
Until now the regulations carried a confusing quirk which would weigh an engine-related grid penalty based on which component had been changed. Once a driver surpassed their four components of each engine part (which is split into six: internal combustion engine, turbo charger, MGU-H, MGU-K, energy store and control electronics) allowed for the year, he would take a ten-place penalty for the first fifth component taken, and a five-place penalty for any other fifth components taken after that, and so on. That meant drivers' grid penalties were often larger than the grid itself -- for example, Stoffel Vandoorne served a 65-place grid penalty in Belgium for multiple component changes.
With engines being limited to three per driver for 2018, there were fears of even more penalties being applied throughout the season.
At the final meeting of the World Motor Sport Council of the year, motorsport's governing body the FIA has tweaked the rule, meaning in 2018 any driver who reaches a 15-place grid penalty (the same as three new elements for a race) will automatically start at the back of the grid, rather than accumulating more places with each change after that. In the case of multiple drivers reaching this number, they will be sent to the back of the grid in order of the penalty being enforced.
Also agreed at the meeting was the dates of the final race calendar for next season, which will look as follows:
March 25 - Australian Grand Prix - Melbourne
April 8 - Bahrain Grand Prix - Sakhir
April 15 - Chinese Grand Prix - Shanghai
April 29 - Azerbaijan Grand Prix - Baku
May 13 - Spanish Grand Prix - Barcelona
May 27 - Monaco Grand Prix - Monte Carlo
June 10 - Canadian Grand Prix - Montreal
June 24 - French Grand Prix - Paul Ricard
July 1 - Austrian Grand Prix - Spielberg
July 8 - British Grand Prix - Silverstone
July 22 - German Grand Prix - Hockenheim
July 29 - Hungarian Grand Prix - Budapest
August 26 - Belgian Grand Prix - Spa-Francorchamps
September 2 - Italian Grand Prix - Monza
September 16 - Singapore Grand Prix - Singapore
September 30 - Russian Grand Prix - Sochi
October 7 - Japanese Grand Prix - Suzuka
October 21 - U.S. Grand Prix - Austin
October 28 - Mexican Grand Prix - Mexico City
November 11 - Brazilian Grand Prix - Sao Paulo
November 25 - Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - Abu Dhabi
Other points were discussed that the FIA said were being put into the regulations, including:
Regulations relating to procedures for starting or resuming a race behind the safety car.
Changing the event timetable to increase flexibility.
Ensuring that testing of previous cars may only take place on tracks currently holding an FIA Grade 1 or 1T licence.
Provision for demonstration events in previous cars which does not constitute testing. No such demonstrations may exceed 50km in length and only tyres manufactured specifically for this purpose by the appointed supplier may be used.
Changes to ensure that oil cannot be used as fuel.
Introduction of a detailed specification for oil.
A minimum weight and volume for energy storage (batteries).
Changes to position of cameras and wing mirrors to accommodate the Halo.