Plans for a new qualifying format

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A host of drivers and team bosses are calling for changes to F1’s qualifying format. There is even a very real chance that the new system of back-to-back sessions could be scrapped before the next race. The revised format, which takes two hours to let each driver complete two laps, has been the cause of much critisism from fans, teams and drivers.

Triple world champion Niki Lauda led the criticism. He said: “It was the worst thing I have ever seen. I don't know how intelligent people can think of things like this.”

The drivers were equally unimpressed. Michael Schumacher said even he got bored waiting for something to happen while Rubens Barrichello and Juan Pablo Montoya said there was little incentive to push in the first session.

Now team bosses are expected to get together to discuss making changes before the Malaysian GP on March 21.

Renault boss Flavio Briatore said: “It was stupid for us and stupid for spectators. It was much too long for television and made no sense.

“We must get together and discuss this. Something can be done quickly if we all agree. Only the stupid never change their minds.”

There is a good chance that Briatore will get his way.

One unnamed source closely involved in the management of the sport said: “We are hoping to get a new system introduced before Malaysia.”

There are a number of courses of action open to the sport.

Arguably the most likely option is a return to the 2003 format, with separate sessions on Friday and Saturday.

However, a number of other concepts have been floated. BAR boss David Richards has suggested replacing the first half of the session with a 30-minute period in which the cars go out on the track at the same time to decide the running order for the final showdown.

This would provide more action and should create an incentive for the drivers to take risks, although the knowledge that a crash could mean that the driver would drop to the back of the grid will inevitably lead them to be more cautious.

Bernie Ecclestone has said he would like to see a return to the pre-2003 qualifying format, in which cars were allowed to make four runs at any point during the hour-long session.