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Construction of the Circuit of the Americas in Austin has been a stop-start affair since its inception, with the most recent bits being mostly stop. A missed deadline with the FIA had put the track's completion and inclusion on the 2012 Formula 1 calendar in doubt, but today, the FIA confirmed it is still on the schedule. A number of rules changes were also announced.
Being on the schedule isn't a guarantee the Austin-based U.S. Grand Prix will actually happen, of course. The Bahrain GP was on the schedule this past season and was canceled due to civil unrest. The Circuit of the Americas continues to face challenges in its road to reality, and may yet be pulled at some point in 2012. Nonetheless, as American F1 fans, we're happy to see it's still, at the least, a possibility.
As for the changes to the technical regulations, the FIA but up a short bullet list of plain-language changes that are primarily aimed at making the racing safer and, in some instances, more competitive. The full list of changes, as well as the confirmed 2012 calendar, is below.
Changes to the 2012 Technical Regulations
All engine standard ECU set up and control parameters, which were formerly contained only within a Technical Directive, are now contained within the relevant parts of the Technical Regulations.
The exhaust tailpipes are now strictly regulated in order to ensure that the aerodynamic effect exhaust gases have on the car is kept to an absolute minimum.
Better marking of in-car emergency switches operated by marshals are now stipulated.
The side impact structures will now have to be subjected to a further (upward) push-off test.
Changes to the 2012 Sporting Regulations
Cars may no longer take part in pre-season testing without having passed all crash tests.
There will now be a maximum race time of four hours to ensure that a lengthy suspension of a race does not result in a race that could run up to eight hours if left unregulated.
Before the safety car returns to the pits all lapped cars will be allowed to unlap themselves and then join the back of the pack, ensuring a clean re-start without slower cars impeding those racing for the leading positions.
Cars which were in the pit lane when a race is suspended will now be allowed to re-join the cars on the grid in the position they were in when the race was suspended.
Drivers may no longer leave the track without a justifiable reason, i.e. cutting a chicane on reconnaissance laps or ‘in’ laps to save time and fuel.
Drivers may no longer move back onto the racing line having moved off it to defend a position.
One three-day test will be carried out during the season, formerly there were none.
All stewards’ decisions which are not subject to appeal are now in one place instead of being in various places within the regulations.
All tires allocated to a driver may now be used on the first day of practice; formerly only three sets were permitted.
The 2012 FIA Formula One World Championship calendar was confirmed as previously published.
2012 F1 Calendar
01 2012 FORMULA 1 AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX (Melbourne) 16 - 18 Mar
02 2012 FORMULA 1 PETRONAS MALAYSIA GRAND PRIX (Kuala Lumpur) 23 - 25 Mar
03 2012 FORMULA 1 UBS CHINESE GRAND PRIX (Shanghai) 13 - 15 Apr
04 2012 FORMULA 1 GULF AIR BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX (Sakhir) 20 - 22 Apr
05 FORMULA 1 GRAN PREMIO DE ESPAÑA SANTANDER 2012 (Catalunya) 11 - 13 May
06 FORMULA 1 GRAND PRIX DE MONACO 2012 (Monte Carlo) 24 - 27 May
07 FORMULA 1 GRAND PRIX DU CANADA 2012 (Montréal) 08 - 10 Jun
08 2012 FORMULA 1 GRAND PRIX OF EUROPE (Valencia) 22 - 24 Jun
09 2012 FORMULA 1 SANTANDER BRITISH GRAND PRIX (Silverstone) 06 - 08 Jul
10 FORMULA 1 GROSSER PREIS SANTANDER VON DEUTSCHLAND 2012 (Hockenheim) 20 - 22 Jul
11 FORMULA 1 ENI MAGYAR NAGYDÍJ 2012 (Budapest) 27 - 29 Jul
12 2012 FORMULA 1 SHELL BELGIAN GRAND PRIX (Spa-Francorchamps) 31 Aug - 02 Sep
13 FORMULA 1 GRAN PREMIO SANTANDER D'ITALIA 2012 (Monza) 07 - 09 Sep
14 2012 FORMULA 1 SINGTEL SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX (Singapore) 21 - 23 Sep
15 2012 FORMULA 1 JAPANESE GRAND PRIX (Suzuka) 05 - 07 Oct
16 2012 FORMULA 1 KOREAN GRAND PRIX (Yeongam) 12 - 14 Oct
17 2012 FORMULA 1 AIRTEL GRAND PRIX OF INDIA (New Delhi) 26 - 28 Oct
18 2012 FORMULA 1 ETIHAD AIRWAYS ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX (Yas Marina Circuit) 02 - 04 Nov
19 2012 FORMULA 1 UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX (Austin) 16 - 18 Nov
20 FORMULA 1 GRANDE PRÊMIO DO BRASIL 2012 (São Paulo) 23 - 25 Nov