By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) - Formula One moved on Wednesday to close an engine loophole that has allowed world champion Lewis Hamilton and other drivers to stockpile power units by taking multiple and meaningless penalties at race weekends.
The governing International Automobile Federation (FIA)'s World Motor Sports Council said in a statement that in future only the last element fitted could be used at further events without penalty.
Mercedes driver Hamilton, who had suffered engine failures earlier in the year, took a 55-place starting grid penalty at last month's Belgian Grand Prix for exceeding his permitted allocation of engine components.
There are only 22 slots on the grid, which meant the Briton started at the back but did not have to carry any of the leftover penalty places to future races.
Mercedes had fitted three new power-units beyond Hamilton's permitted allocation of five, expanding his pool of engines for the final races.
The Briton is currently eight points behind German team mate and championship leader Nico Rosberg with six races remaining, including Sunday's in Malaysia.
The FIA also announced a new procedure for wet weather starts.
"From 2017, if a safety car is deemed to be required for the beginning of a race due to wet weather, a normal standing start will occur once the track is deemed safe to race," it said.
"The process will see the safety car return to the pit lane and the cars assemble on the grid for the start."
Drivers, who at present cannot change their helmet designs substantially over the course of a season to ensure easy recognition, will be allowed a special livery at one race of their choosing.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis)