Formula One introducing radical change to Qualifying for Australian GP

Formula One shakes up qualifying for 2016

With only sixteen days to go until the first qualifying session of the year, Formula One is in a race against time to formalise the format.

The Strategy Group met a few weeks ago with the aim of agreeing on the 2017 rules for Formula One. In a surprising move, the Group and the F1 Commission have unanimously voted through a radical overhaul to the 2016 qualifying format.

Days later, it was announced that the sport would not be ready to introduce the new format until the Spanish Grand Prix in May, provoking much ridicule.

A revised version of the new format was then announced, to be introduced at the Australian Grand Prix. Q1 and Q2 would feature the new elimination format, but Q3 would feature eight drivers fighting for pole position as per the 2015 qualifying format. Many criticised the original proposal for being too complicated for fans to follow.

However it was announced that the World Motor Sport Council had approved the original proposal to change qualifying, meaning that all three sessions will see drivers eliminated every 90 seconds until two cars remain to fight for pole position.

The new Qualifying format

Qualifying One

  • 16 minutes duration
  • After seven minutes, the slowest car is eliminated from the session
  • This continues every 90 seconds until seven drivers have been eliminated from qualifying

Qualifying Two

  • 15 minutes duration
  • After six minutes the slowest driver is eliminated
  • This also continues every 90 seconds until a further seven drivers have been eliminated

Qualifying Three

  • 14 minute session
  • After five minutes the slowest driver is eliminated
  • This continues at (you guessed it) 90 second intervals until two cars fight over pole position.

The finer details still need to be ironed out, for example what would happen in the event of a red flag.

2017 rules put on hold

The group expected to announce an overhaul to the rules for the design of the 2017 cars.  Formula One is trying to find ways to improve the quality of racing after complaints the sport has becoming boring due to the dominance of the Mercedes package. This has been delayed until April after no agreement on bodywork and aerodynamics were reached.

A change to qualifying has certainly come out of the blue. Formula One is often be criticised for fixing things that ain’t broken (double points, anyone?). The current qualifying format would have worked for the upcoming season, however the new format might allow teams such as Manor, Haas and Renault to be right in the heart of the action and score some surprise results.

On the other hand, we might just see two Mercedes and a Ferrari cut their way through the field in the opening laps and fight among themselves for the victory.

Formula One returns on 20th March for the Australian GP.

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