New qualifying rules for F1

McLaren driver Fernando Alonso signs autographs in Barcelona (above) after completing laps in his improved MP4-31 car (left) during the testing session. Drivers will have to get used to the new rules for qualifying, as part of a range of measures to
McLaren driver Fernando Alonso signs autographs in Barcelona (above) after completing laps in his improved MP4-31 car during the testing session. Drivers will have to get used to the new rules for qualifying, as part of a range of measures to increase interest in the sport.PHOTOS: REUTERS, EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
McLaren driver Fernando Alonso signs autographs in Barcelona (above) after completing laps in his improved MP4-31 car (left) during the testing session. Drivers will have to get used to the new rules for qualifying, as part of a range of measures to
McLaren driver Fernando Alonso signs autographs in Barcelona after completing laps in his improved MP4-31 car (above) during the testing session. Drivers will have to get used to the new rules for qualifying, as part of a range of measures to increase interest in the sport.PHOTOS: REUTERS, EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Teams unanimously accept new format as one that can be used in season's first race

BARCELONA • Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone yesterday said the sport faces a brighter future after teams agreed to a new qualifying format from this season onwards.

Speaking two days after he said the current F1 was the worst it had ever been and he would not buy tickets for his family to watch races, the 85-year-old sounded much more positive.

"I think now I'd be a bit more confident that we are going to see some good racing," he said in a telephone interview. "Then I'll be happy."

 

Ecclestone said teams, who agreed to the new qualifying format on Tuesday, had finally woken up and taken a step in the right direction, with more change to come.

"I think there's lots of things we can do and will be doing," he said. "What people needed was a bit of a shake-up. I seem to be the only person that has thought we should do something in Formula One, to wake everybody up a little bit. And maybe that's what's happened."

F1's core strategy group, which includes Ecclestone and the top six teams as well as governing body International Automobile Federation (FIA), approved a range of measures - yet to be formally ratified by the FIA - in Geneva on Tuesday.

The changes are aimed at making cars faster, louder, harder to handle and more aggressive for the 2017 season. The new qualifying format was passed unanimously, meaning it can be introduced at this season's opening race in Australia on March 20 instead of waiting a year.

Under the new procedure, the slowest drivers will be eliminated as the session progresses, rather than at the end of each phase.

The final shootout for pole will be between two drivers rather than 10.

"The idea really is that it will be the same as qualifying in wet conditions. Maybe one or two of the hotshots aren't going to make it. So we won't see the obvious on the front of the grid," Ecclestone said.

The current version is divided into three phases in a one-hour period divided by short breaks. The slowest six cars are eliminated at the end of each of the first two sessions before a final shootout for pole involving 10 cars.

This meant that the driver of a quick car could save a set of tyres by sitting out much of the session and only putting in a late lap to be sure of progressing to the next phase.

World champions Mercedes have been dominant in qualifying in the last two years and turned that advantage into a string of wins - they won 16 of 19 races last year and have taken 32 of the last 38.

Looking further ahead, Ecclestone said the sport needed to do more to reduce the dominance of Mercedes and rivals Ferrari, who between them provide eight of the 11 teams with engines, both on and off the track.

"It's no good just seeing Mercedes in the front, without any competition. That's what I complained about," he said. "I want the public to enjoy Formula One."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 25, 2016, with the headline 'NEW QUALIFYING RULES FOR F1'. Print Edition | Subscribe