New qualifying format should shake up starting grid

Wed Feb 24, 2016 11:34am EST
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By Alan Baldwin

BARCELONA (Reuters) - A new qualifying format will shake up the Formula One starting grids this season, adding to the stress on teams and drivers and making races more exciting, strategists said on Wednesday.

Whether it will improve the show on Saturday afternoons, when qualifying takes place, is less certain.

"I don't think it's going to improve qualifying itself... but what it has a good chance of doing is improving the race," Williams engineering head Pat Symonds told reporters.

"It's quite a difficult situation, it's done at very short notice, so we're not going to have a lot of time to get our thoughts together and optimize everything and write loads of software to help us."

Symonds has seen a variety of qualifying formats come and go and suspected the latest, which will see the slowest drivers eliminated at 90 second intervals during sessions, would catch out even the best.

"I think all of us are going to make mistakes, particularly early on and that means there will be occasions when cars are out of position (on the grid)," he said.

"We will see some of the quicker cars a bit further back, and we all know that's given us some great races in the past."

The new format was approved by teams on Tuesday and is set to be introduced at the season-opener in Melbourne on March 20.   Continued...

Formula One - F1 - Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2015 - Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - 28/11/15. Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton during qualifying. Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Hoch Zwei