For next year’s Formula One season, the rules on driver’s who jump start races have been tightened. The new rules open up the possibility for penalties even if the automated detection is not triggered.
The issue with false starts and the penities that they incur first came under scrutiny at the Austrian Grand Prix back in July. The winner f the race, Valtteri Bottas, appeared to move off the start line early but received no penalty as the FIA deemed him within a reaction time to the lights changing that was not caused by an early release of the clutch. The FIA have a reaction time that is deemed humanly possible. If a driver reacts to the lights changing faster than the designated time from the FIA then it is classed as a jump-start. Bottas’ reaction time to the lights in this instance was fast, but not so fast as to be faster than the pre-decided time.
However, this explanation did not sit well with other drivers as they deemed that Bottas could not have reacted as quickly as he did without anticipating the start and releasing the clutch early. Because of this incident, the FIA has been looking into jump-starts and how to rectify penalty giving in these situations.
Sebastian Vettel’s grid positioning at the Chinese Grand Prix has forced the FIA’s hand as they have now significatly changed the wording of the rule against jump-starts in a Grand Prix. Vettel was apparently so far out of his assigned starting position on the grid that his start did not register with the FIA, meaning that if he jumped the start there was no way of detecting it.
Currently, the sporting regulations of article 36.13, in reference to jump starts, says: “either of the penalties under article 38.3c) or d) will be imposed for a false start judged using an FIA supplied transponder which must be fitted to the car as specified.” The penalties mentioned refer to a drive-through or 10 second stop/go penalty.
However, from the 2018 season onwards, the rule will be worded thus: “Either of the penalties under article 38.3c) or d) will be impposed on any driver who is judged to have: a) moved before the start signal is given, such judgement being made by an FIA approved and supplied transponder fitted to each car, or; b) positioned his car on the starting grid in such a way that the transponder is unable to detect movement at which the car first moved from its grid position after the start signal is given.”
The additional rule has clearly been added to prevent incidents like Vettel in Shanghai. Drivers will have to be careful next season to make sure their car is in the right place, or there could be more penalties given out at the start of races.