Sat, Mar 20, 2004 - Page 18 News List

Team officials slate new qualifying rules

AP , Sepang, Malaysia

The new Formula One qualifying system, heavily criticized in the first race of the season, is still being examined, some of the teams' principals said yesterday.

The format, introduced at the Australian Grand Prix, replaces two days of qualifying with drivers battling for grid position during back-to-back sessions today.

In Australia, each driver was timed in one flying lap in each qualifying session. The first time determined running order for the second round, and the second time determined positions on the grid.

But the system led to long periods of inactivity and little interest for some drivers to run all-out in the first session.

"I thought last year was more entertaining," said Tony Purnell of Jaguar. "I would like to see it changed."

The system won't be modified for Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix, but McLaren boss Ron Dennis noted that change could be coming.

"We are not resistant to change," Dennis said. "There was a case of some heavy criticism coming after Australia, so maybe it is a case of sooner rather than later."

But agreement would need to be reached between the teams and the sport's authorities. Team owners have discussed changing the format, but they need a unanimous vote and haven't agreed on what procedures to use.

After taking a poll of opinion on the Formula One Commission, the World Motor Sport Council will meet March 24 to slightly adjust the timing so television can have an exact time for the second qualifying session.

Broadcasters want it to start precisely at 2pm local time instead of 10 minutes after the first season ends.

If the measure passes, the new schedule could be introduced at the Bahrain Grand Prix in two weeks.

Meanwhile, New Zealand's Scott Dixon will test for a chance to drive for Williams-BMW, the team said yesterday.

Dixon is currently in the Indy Racing League series and won the IRL title in 2003 with the Chip Ganassi Team. The Williams-BMW team said Dixon will test March 26 at Le Castellet circuit in southern France before a more extensive three-day test at Barcelona in early April.

The 23-year-old Dixon will work alongside regular Williams drivers Ralf Schumacher, Marc Gene and Antonio Pizzonia at the tests.

With Juan-Pablo Montoya definitely leaving for McLaren at the end of the season, Williams is searching for a replacement. Schumacher has also said he has not finalized with Williams for next year and his seat may be also vacant.

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