New rules should make the cars faster and the racing less predictable than in recent F1 seasons.

Formula One is constantly changing - but this season the changes are more stark than usual.

The first major regulation changes since 2014 have introduced an air of unpredictability to the 2017 pre-season preparations, and centre on efforts to raise cornering speeds and lower lap times by roughly five seconds.

If the new rules aren't enough to contend with, there are changes to the race schedule, as well as an especially prolonged silly season in the drivers' market, thanks to the late retirement of champion Nico Rosberg.

Here is our guide through everything you need to know ahead of the 2017 F1 season.

Advertisement

Race calendar

In 2016, there were 21 races - with the loss of the German Grand Prix, that's now down to 20.

Last year, when the United States Grand Prix was rumoured to be in jeopardy, it was in the teams' interest to lobby for a solution; rules stipulated each driver could only have four engines instead of five if the number of races fell to 20 or fewer. That is no longer the case for 2017, so there is no incentive to find a replacement for Germany.

The European Grand Prix has been renamed the Azerbaijan Grand Prix for 2017, and has been shifted to avoid a clash with the Le Mans 24-hour race that saw Force India's Nico Hulkenberg unable to defend the title he helped win in 2015 with Porsche.

Driver line-up

There are just two rookies for 2017, in for retirees Jenson Button and Felipe Massa.

The 2015 champion of the GP2 series, Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne, deputised for an injured Fernando Alonso at McLaren in Bahrain last season and has earned himself a full race seat in place of Button.

Lance Stroll, the 18-year-old son of a Canadian billionaire businessman, is set to become the second-youngest driver in F1 history when he lines up on the grid for Williams in Australia. Haas have dropped Esteban Gutierrez in favour of Kevin Magnussen, who makes way at Renault for Nico Hulkenberg.

Force India have filled the seat vacated by 'Hulk' with Mercedes junior driver Esteban Ocon, who competed in the second half of 2016 for tail-enders Manor.

Valtteri Bottas takes the vacant spot at Mercedes alongside Lewis Hamilton, in the wake of Rosberg's retirement.

Regulation changes

Drivers such as McLaren's Fernando Alonso and the retired Mark Webber have previously complained that Formula One cars have become far too easy to drive in the past decade - that, and they can't be driven to their limit for anywhere near a race's entirety.

This current raft of rule changes is aimed to speed up the cars, make racing more exciting, and make some inroads into the eternal difficulties of overtaking.

Opinion is still very much divided on whether these changes will bear the desired results. The broad goal of increasing opportunities for teams to generate downforce, thereby upping cornering speeds, could actually make overtaking more difficult.

The more aerodynamic parts on the cars, the more disturbed the airflow is in the car's wake - and the harder it is for another car to follow closely in that air.

Still, F1 is stuck with these changes for now - so let's have a look what has been implemented for 2017.

Wider tyres, wider cars

For the first time since 1997, the cars will be two metres wide - 20cm wider than they have been for the past 20 years.

With this, the width of the tyres has also been increased by more than 20 per cent - the aim being to generate more mechanical grip and thus raise cornering speeds.

The consequences of these changes include an increase in drag, which will see a commensurate rise in fuel consumption; accordingly, the car's minimum weight limit and fuel allowance have been slackened (702kg to 722kg and 100kg to 105kg respectively).

Longer, pointier noses

The front wings aren't just getting wider, they're getting a bit pointy too. The nose is being lengthened by 20cm in order to create the desired effect.

More technically, the teams now have 20cm more space on the front wings in which to place all manner of aerodynamic drapery - the intended effect being greater scope for cars to generate downforce.

Bargeboards

It's almost getting to the stage where we could call these turning vanes 'retro'. After they were decimated by the 2009 rules'n'regs shake-up, the bargeboards have been restored to their old prominence.

Another route by which designers can now seek to generate downforce, the bargeboards of bygone decades will once against grace the sidepods of F1 cars. They're a big opportunity for designers to encourage the flow of air to push the cars harder into the track surface.

Lower rear wings

Although the height of the cars remains unchanged, the height of the rear wing has been lowered by 15cm. It will also be 15cm wider, be mounted 20cm further back and be angled to have a greater overhang.

These fairly radical reformations of the rear wing assembly are part of the general effort to increase downforce.

Rear diffuser

'Diffuser' entered the F1 layman's lexicon in 2009, when several teams - including eventual championship winners Brawn - succeeded with a novel but controversial 'double-decker' design.

But that was a long time ago - to recap, the diffuser's fundamental job is to speed up the flow of air beneath the car. The goal? Yes, you guessed it - generating downforce.

For 2017, the rules allow an F1 car's rear diffuser to be taller, wider and further forward - changes that allow the diffuser to work more effectively.

Lance Stroll
Lance Stroll

However, these constitute only limited tweaks, amid concern for creating even more disturbed air flow and thus making it even more difficult for cars behind to follow closely, and overtake.

Wet starts with the safety car

Races that are wet enough to warrant starting behind the safety car will now be run from a standing start on the grid - once the track has been deemed safe and the safety car has peeled off.

This is a response to the backlash to prolonged safety-car starts at Monaco and Silverstone in 2016; the safety car stayed out in both cases despite many drivers saying it was fine to race, and cars pitted immediately after the restarts to change their wet tyres for intermediates.

Laps behind the safety car will still count towards the race distance, and if the wet race is subsequently suspended, a good-old fashioned safety car start can be used to get things going again - without the grid procedure.

Quite how this will satisfy fans - using up precious racing laps behind the safety car while the track is not safe to race, rather than simply waiting on the grid for the weather to clear - remains to be seen.

The '75-place grid penalty' loophole: Closed

Hamilton's early-season reliability problems in 2016 ate into his permitted engine allowance - and the 'overdraft' penalties bit later in the season, at the Belgian Grand Prix.

Mercedes used the opportunity to replace all sorts of other worn parts on Hamilton's car. Given the minimum mandatory penalties would put him almost at the back anyway, Mercedes got 75 places worth of grid penalties out of the way all in one go instead. With only 22 cars on the grid, Hamilton was free to just start at the back, despite all the extra penalties. He finished third in the race.

As of 2017, this is no longer possible. You can replace parts whenever you want - but you now have to serve penalties for each one at separate races.