Analysis: new qualifying for 19-race 2006

Formula One will try a knockout qualifying system in 2006 when Bahrain opens a 19-race season, the sport's governing body (FIA) said on Wednesday

Analysis: new qualifying for 19-race 2006

A session of its World Motor Sport Council in Rome confirmed rule changes agreed at a meeting in London earlier this week, including the new three-part qualifying system and a return to multiple tyre changes during races.

Qualifying, a point of contention in recent seasons, will now climax in a 10-car 'shootout' for pole position. The current single-lap format has been criticised by teams and broadcasters.

For 2008, there will be a single tyre supplier, with cars using slick tyres and larger wheels.

A new rear wing concept, designed to help overtaking and improve Formula One as a spectacle, was approved and could be introduced for 2007 if an 80 percent majority of the Formula One technical working group agrees to it by the end of this year.
 
There were no surprises in the draft calendar which expanded to 19 races for the first time this year. Mexico, which had been mooted as a possible newcomer in 2006, was not mentioned.

Bahrain, instead of Australia, will start the season on March 12 with Malaysia following a week later on March 19 and then Melbourne on April 2.

The Australian Grand Prix has been the season-opener since 1996 and has been pushed back to avoid a clash with the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.

Brazil, rather than this year's season-ender China, will close out the Championship on October 22 subject to the Interlagos circuit's contract approval.

World Cup

The new qualifying format involves three sessions which start with all cars out on the track together.

At the end of the first 15 minutes, the slowest five cars are eliminated and take positions 16-20 on the starting grid.

The remaining cars take part in a further 15-minute session, with the slowest five again being weeded out before a final 20 minute shootout for pole position between the last 10 cars.

The FIA added that should an 11th team enter the championship then six cars would drop out after each of the first two sessions. Should there be two new teams, then 12 cars will participate in the final 20-minute stint.

Any car eliminated before the final stage of qualifying would be allowed to refuel before the race. Those involved in the final 20 minutes would not be allowed to add to the fuel levels they started with.

Each driver will be allowed to use seven sets of dry weather tyres during each event, with changes allowed at any time.

The decision reverses a ruling introduced this season to help reduce speeds on safety grounds that forced drivers to qualify and race with the same set of tyres.

As an additional safety measure for 2006, team personnel and spectators will be banned from climbing on the pitwall fencing during or after races.

The calendar includes six pairings of back-to back races, including Canada and the United States on June 25 and July 2 during the soccer World Cup in Germany.

However, there will be no clash with the final on July 9 in Berlin and the only European race during the competition will be the British Grand Prix at Silverstone on June 11, which coincides with the opening group stage matches.

The Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps, whose promoter is experiencing financial difficulties, was confirmed for September 17, a week later than this year.

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