F1 gives go-ahead to new qualifying process

Sebastian Vettel (AFP)
Sebastian Vettel (AFP)

Barcelona - Formula One bosses approved on Friday a new format to qualifying for this year's world championship, despite some driver reservations.

The new format will see drivers eliminated one by one in a type of knockout format that will see its debut at the opening race of the season in Melbourne on March 20.

Qualifying will remain split into three segments as before but rather than a block of drivers being eliminated at the end of each session, they will go one by one.

The first segment will last 16 minutes and after seven minutes the slowest driver will take no further part in the session. Every 90 seconds thereafter, the slowest driver will be knocked out until there are only 15 remaining.

A 15-minute second segment follows a similar pattern with the slowest driver eliminated after six minutes and then a further driver knocked out at 90-second intervals.

The final block will last 14 minutes with knockouts beginning after five minutes until the two final drivers are left to fight it out for pole position.

The format was approved by the World Motor Sport Council having previously been unanimously accepted by the F1 Commission.

The aim of the changes is to improve the spectacle of qualifying for the fans but not all drivers have been seduced.

Former world doubles champion Fernando Alonso complained that making too many changes would be confusing for the fans.

"I'm sad for the sport because it doesn't look right from the outside when in one week we change the qualifying format three times," he said on Thursday.

Last week reigning champion Lewis Hamilton said he didn't think the changes would make a great difference.

"I don't really feel like it is going to change much," said the Englishman.

"I hope it is a surprise for us all, I hope it does generate excitement.

"I think performance will be the same, it just puts more focus on making sure you get your laps in and keeping people out on the track at all times, so hopefully it is good for the spectator."

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