New qualifying format ratified by World Motor Sport Council

04 Mar 2016 19:23

Formula One's controversial new qualifying format is set to be introduced at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix after it was ratified by the World Motor Sport Council on Friday.

Bernie Ecclestone, the sport's chief executive, claimed software controlling the elimination-style format would not be ready until the fifth round of the championship in Spain.

But Formula One's governing body the FIA have announced they plan to press ahead with the new format - which will see the slowest driver eliminated every 90 seconds - at the first race of the campaign in Melbourne later this month.

While stopping short of saying the new ruling will definitely be implemented for the Albert Park race, a statement released by the FIA on Friday night read: "The World Motor Sport Council approved the new qualification format, the principles of which were unanimously accepted by the F1 Commission.

"The new system should be introduced for the first round of the 2016 FIA Formula One World Championship."

The revamped format will still be split into three sessions. The opening stint, Q1, will last for 16 minutes, and after the first seven minutes, the slowest drivers will be eliminated at 90-second intervals until 15 remain.

Those left will all progress to Q2, which runs for 15 minutes, and the elimination process will begin again after six minutes of the session until eight drivers are left standing.

The same format will be repeated in Q3, a 14-minute session - to determine who starts on pole. The knock-out phase will start after five minutes.

A number of drivers have spoken out against the new format with world champion Lewis Hamilton saying he "doesn't really feel like it is going to change much", while Force India's Sergio Perez warned the revamped system would be too complex.

"We've heard that it can definitely mess up the rules and for the fans it can be very complicated to understand," Perez said.

"It's complicated for us already so I think for the fans it will just make things more and more complicated. We feel that the qualifying at the moment is really good. I don't think there's a reason to change that."

Race director Charlie Whiting met with some of the drivers in Barcelona this week to discuss their concerns although Hamilton, the triple world champion, was a notable absentee.

The World Motor Sport Council also agreed to extend the deadline to determine the sport's technical regulations for 2017 until April 30.

Wider tyres and bigger wings which will create additional downforce and a greater challenge for the drivers have already been proposed. In Friday's statement, the FIA claimed initial simulations of the proposed regulations will improve lap times by up to five seconds.