Formula One mulling changes to qualifying

The aim would be to create more excitement for fans and greater unpredictability.

FILE: Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton celebrates pole position at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix. Picture: @ausgrandprix/Twitter

LONDON - Formula One is considering changing qualifying, by possibly expanding it to four stages from three, but nothing has been agreed for next season, according to managing director for motorsport Ross Brawn.

The aim would be to create more excitement for fans and greater unpredictability.

“The qualifying format has now been well established for several years, apart from the unsuccessful experiment at the start of 2016, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look at ways of improving it,” Brawn said in a review of last weekend’s Russian Grand Prix.

He said a recent meeting of the sport’s Strategy Group had considered the four-part idea.

That would see four drivers eliminated in the first three phases with eight competing for pole in the final one rather than five in the first two and then 10 in the third.

Each segment would take less time with a shorter gap in-between.

“No agreement was reached on introducing it for 2019 but the seeds of discussion were planted, now we have to make sure they grow well,” said the Briton.

Qualifying at the Russian Grand Prix exposed a flaw in the system when five cars did no timed laps in the second phase.

That was because three, including the Red Bulls who would normally expect to be in the final phase, had penalties that sent them to the back of the grid.

The other two Renaults then had no incentive to try and beat them because starting outside the top 10 gave them a better tyre choice.

Race director Charlie Whiting suggested the system of penalties could change to encourage drivers to take part in qualifying.

“When you’ve got five drivers with exactly the same penalty, you then have to establish in what order they are supposed to be (applied),” he told reporters. I think there is another way, I’ve been talking about it to a few teams.

“If you have five drivers you will arrange them at the back in the order in which they qualified. That would provide some incentive for drivers to actually go and qualify, and try to qualify as high as they could at least.”