New knockout plan for formula one

Formula one will introduce a new qualifying format and revert to tyre changes for the start of next season after a positive meeting of the Formula One Commission in London on Monday.

A spokesperson for the sport’s governing body, the FIA, confirmed that a knockout proposal is set to be introduced for qualifying and that the single-tyre rule introduced this year will be scrapped after just one season.

The return to slick tyres, a move to run a single-tyre supplier and a new split rear wing to improve overtaking were also passed for a provisional introduction in 2007, pending the input of the teams’ technical directors.

Red Bull Racing boss Christian Horner said it was all positive.

“It was a very positive meeting and I think we have seen a positive outcome. The changes for next year will be good and it is encouraging for the bigger picture of formula one.”

The meeting was attended by Max Mosley, the president of the FIA; formula-one commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone; the team bosses; and representatives of the sport’s key sponsors and promoters.

It was the culmination of a long discussion period over the future of the sport and was described by an FIA spokesperson as “all pretty positive”, as most of the FIA’s 2006 draft regulations were voted through.

Knockout format

It is understood that the qualifying format was voted in unanimously by the commission, while the return to tyre changes received some opposition but was carried through in the meeting.

The knockout format will see five cars drop out after 15 minutes, and then another five out after a second 15-minute session before the remaining cars battle for the top grid spots in a final 20 minutes.

To retain the successful element that has mixed up grids this season, the final 10 cars will have to qualify carrying the amount of fuel with which they will start the race, bringing race strategy into the grid-deciding runs.

“I think qualifying will be an interesting spectacle now,” said Horner. “What we will see is it will build to a crescendo and it has the best of everything, a busy finish, with and without fuel; it is a good solution.”

But Minardi boss Paul Stoddart, who will hand his team over to Red Bull in November, was not so convinced by the qualifying solution and believes the tyre changes will create a costly tyre war once again.

“The qualifying, time will tell, but the tyre changes will bring a tyre war and a massive escalation in costs and I do not think it is the smartest move,” said Stoddart.
“Only time will tell if it is a good day for formula one or a bad day for formula one, but unfortunately, and I don’t like to say this, I don’t think it will prove to be a good day.”

The banning of spare cars for 2006 and the end to third cars running in Friday practice sessions were not accepted, however, due to opposition from many of the smaller teams who benefit from that ruling.

“There was a bit of a split opinion on that,” said Horner. “The promoters were keen on keeping it because it brings extra interest to Friday mornings and we, of course, were in favour of keeping it because it is to our benefit.”

New rear wing

The proposed new rear wing is the result of a long investigation by the FIA into the problems of overtaking, which have apparently increased this season, and was only unveiled just hours ahead of the afternoon meeting.

“This new research is important for the future of formula one,” said Mosley. “By introducing the [new] wing we can give motorsport fans exactly what they have asked for, wheel-to-wheel racing with much more overtaking.

“It is our hope that the teams will collaborate with us in the optimisation of this radical new idea so that the aerodynamic benefits can be introduced into formula one in 2007 rather than having to wait until 2008.”

However, Horner warned the jury was out on this measure’s potential effectiveness.

“It is a very interesting concept, but the question is: Does it work? If it does, then it should be a good thing. It will be referred to the technical committee and we will see what happens.”

Stoddart warned that it might not be imposed before 2008.

“Much was made over the new split wing car, but it does require an eight-out-of-10 majority from the technical working group to be brought in before 2007, so I expect it will have to hold until 2008.”

The results of the vote will now be passed to the FIA World Motorsport Council when it meets in Rome on Wednesday for a final confirmation, but it is understood that Wednesday’s vote will merely be a formality.—Sapa-AFP