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F1 proposes 2016 qualifying shake-up

New rules could see ‘knockout’ sessions introduced for next month’s Australian GP

Formula One could be on the verge of implementing a brand new qualifying format for the start of the coming season after talks between teams and bosses at a meeting in Geneva.

The plans still need to be formally agreed and ratified by the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council, but if approved the sport could adopt an elimination-style setup in time for the first grand prix of 2016 in Melbourne next month.

Although still divided into three sessions, the slowest cars would instead be knocked out one after another in Q1 and Q2 at 90 second intervals, with a set number of drivers progressing in each case.

The final session would see eight drivers whittled down in the same manner until just one remained, claiming pole with the fastest time as has always been the case.

It is hoped that the new format will make qualifying more unpredictable, leading to shuffled grids and more exciting races.

The proposals explained:

Q1

  • Session lasts 16 minutes, with the slowest driver eliminated after just 7 minutes
  • The slowest remaining drivers are eliminated one by one every 90 seconds until the chequered flag
  • 7 drivers are knocked out, with 15 progressing to Q2

Q2

  • Session lasts 15 minutes, with the slowest driver eliminated 6 minutes in
  • Slowest remaining drivers knocked out one by one every 90 seconds until the chequered flag
  • Another 7 drivers are eliminated, with 8 progressing to Q3

Q3

  • Final session lasts 14 minutes, with the slowest driver knocked out after 5 minutes
  • Again, the slowest cars are eliminated every 90 seconds until the session ends
  • The final 90 seconds will see the two fastest drivers battle for pole

Although the changes appear to be quite radical, there are concerns that they ultimately won’t make much difference to how qualifying unfolds.

Pirelli’s tyres are still only good for one or two hot laps at a time, and the proposed rules don’t appear to compel drivers to stay out on the circuit for the duration of each session.

However, forcing all 22 cars to set a time in the early part of Q1 will inevitably lead to drama over track position, and events like red flags or sudden rainfall could make surprises more likely.

New regulations for 2017

Meanwhile, other changes have been agreed for next season. Head protection provided by a ‘halo’ appears to have the support of teams, who would all use the same standard design of two ‘arms’ stretching from behind the driver’s head if given the green light for next year.

Progress has been made on efforts to reduce engine costs for customer teams, and fans will soon be able to vote online for their ‘Driver of the Day’ in an award organised by “the Commercial Rights Holder in conjunction with Formula One broadcasters”.

With so many developments yet to be formally agreed, the deadline for 2017’s rules has been pushed back to the end of April so more discussions can take place.

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