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No Sunday qualifying on ITV

British Formula 1 broadcaster ITV is unlikely to show the decisive Sunday qualifying sessions live this year, according to this week's Autosport magazine. The television company's decision may lead to further criticism of the new-for-2005 aggregate qualifying regulations.

Under this season's revised rules, aggregate times from two separate qualifying sessions on Saturday afternoon (in the traditional time slot) and Sunday morning will determine grid positions with cars allowed to use low-fuel levels in the first session before putting in their race fuel prior to session two. The change was suggested as a means of providing additional entertainment for fans at the circuits on Sundays, in the absence of the old race morning warm-up session.

Many European TV companies used to broadcast the warm-up live and have welcomed the new arrangement, but an ITV insider suggested to Autosport that UK viewers will only get to see the Saturday session live. ITV has confirmed that this will be the case for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, with the issue up for review as the season progresses. Highlights from session two could be broadcast as part of the pre-race build-up show.

ITV's move had been widely anticipated, as it had been thought unlikely that mainstream channels would want F1 to dominate their Sunday schedules.

"The decision by ITV not to televise Sunday qualifying comes as no surprise whatsoever to me," said Frank Williams. "Most TV viewers are not petrolheads and there won't be the interest. This format is not good."

Responding to ITV's decision, FIA president Max Mosley said: "That is their decision, but (German broadcaster) RTL have been complaining to Bernie that there is no warm-up so they cannot sell the advertising for the warm-up.

"To me the warm-up is like watching paint dry but apparently they put the TV on and people watch it.

"It is not really up to me to stand out against it but personally I am not terribly in favour and people who watch it on TV are not either. The teams all like it because in Japan (when poor weather forced qualifying to switch to Sunday morning) they all said it created a buzz on Sunday and I think it was an emotional reaction to that."

Mosley believes that the system will remain in place at least through 2005, regardless of broadcasters' reactions, because any change would require the unanimous support of all ten F1 teams.

"It has got a year unless everyone agreed to change it and that is unlikely," he said. "To get all the teams to agree, unless there is a manifest disaster that we haven't foreseen, will be difficult."

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