Rule change looms for formula-one qualifying

A change to formula one’s qualifying system will be put to a vote this week, International Automobile Federation (FIA) spokesperson Richard Woods said on Friday.

Woods, the FIA’s director of communications, said the teams unanimously agreed to change the current set-up.

At this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix, there will be a one-lap qualifying session on Saturday and another on Sunday morning to determine the starting grid with the combined times.

All that could soon change.

“The proposal is now being sent to the World Motor Sports Council and to the Formula One Commission for a fax vote,” Woods said.

“The teams unanimously agreed to one session from 1pm to 2pm on Saturday,” Woods added, “with running order reversed from the finishing order of the previous race, [meaning] the winner of the last race goes last.”

The fastest time will be the pole position. Changing weather conditions during the period could affect the race’s starting positions. If it starts raining midway through the session, the earlier cars will have the advantage of a dry track.

Still, that did not deter the teams from voting for the change.

“We are optimistic that the qualifying could be changed for the next race [the European Grand Prix at Nürburgring, Germany, on May 29],” Woods said.

Woods said he is optimistic because the FIA has the unanimous support of all the teams “which is usually the key ingredient”.

“We should know by Wednesday, probably,” he said.

Qualifying now consists of one timed lap on Saturday and another on Sunday morning, four hours before the race.
The total time determines the starting grid and pole position for the race.

The current procedure was voted in after last season. At the Japanese Grand Prix last October, a typhoon cancelled Saturday’s qualifying and a change was put in only for that race to run the cars on Sunday morning.

For the past two seasons, there have been variations of pre-qualifying laps and a one-lap timed qualifying.

Before 2003, the main system of determining the starting grid was the fastest lap during a one-hour session on Saturday afternoon. With warm-up laps and changing tyres, the teams could have four fast laps to try over the 60 minutes.

The two one-by-one sessions proved to unpopular among the formula-one teams and TV networks. Teams have been seeking different solutions over the past two years, but never agreed on anything.

If the new system is passed, that would mean there would be no formula-one racing on Sunday until the race in the afternoon.—Sapa-AP

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