The Australian Grand Prix will showcase Formula 1’s newest qualifying format at next weekend’s 2016 season-opener at Albert Park.
The sport is set to introduce yet another change in the qualifying format in a bid to shake up the grid and generate more fan excitement in the lead-up to Sunday’s feature race.
The concept has attracted divided feedback from drivers and fans, following previous iterations that have included a three-part qualifying format, aggregated qualifying, and one-lap shootouts.
The forthcoming season will again feature a three-part qualifying session, although this time there will be a progressive knockout as each segment runs.
Following final sign off from the FIA, Q1 will run for 16 minutes with the slowest driver eliminated from proceedings at 90-second intervals after the seven-minute mark until there are 15 cars remaining.
Those fifteen runners will then compete in a 15-minute Q2 segment, with the slowest five drivers knocked out at 90-second intervals after the six-minute mark until there are eight drivers left.
The final eight runners will then contest a 14-minute Q3 session following the same elimination procedure until there are just two drivers left, who will then battle it out for pole position.
The format was originally going to be delayed until the European leg of the season kicked off, following initial concerns by the FIA that the necessary updates to its timing software would not be ready in time for the start of the season – those concerns are now allayed as the work has been completed.
Speaking ahead of this weekend’s race at Albert Park, Australian Grand Prix Corporation CEO Andrew Westacott believes that the new qualifying format will generate more excitement for fans, provided it is clearly communicated and understood.
“We will be seeing it for the first time in Melbourne and I’m very happy to be showcasing it to the world,” he told reporters.
“One of the things Formula 1 needs to do is to make sure it (the new format) is easy to communicate to people at the circuit and watching the world feed.
“When you break it down in tabular fashion as to how many people get knocked out in each of these sections of qualifying, it is rather simple. There is going to be a degree of uncertainty and excitement for the drivers and the teams.”
Westacott predicted that “a few dark horses” would no doubt benefit from being in the right place at the right time at certain Grands Prix, which will help produce more mixed-up grids.
The 2015 season saw the Mercedes AMG Petronas team win pole position in all but one Grand Prix, while also locking out the front row in 15 of the 19 races.
Image via Red Bull Racing
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