Formula 1 announces new qualifying format for 2016 season

Lewis Hamilton testing the new Mercedes in Barcelona ahead of the new F1 season. Credit: PA

The FIA has confirmed an overhaul in qualifying which is likely to be introduced in time for the new Formula One season.

Formula One's Strategy Group, which consists of the all the sport's major players, as well as Bernie Ecclestone and FIA president Jean Todt, met in Switzerland on Tuesday to discuss ways to spice up the show.

The new qualifying format, now set to be introduced at the season opener in Australia on March 20, will see the slowest drivers eliminated every 90 seconds after a timed period - rather than at the end of the three sessions - in hope of providing greater unpredictability.

The FIA also announced a new "Driver of the Day" award which will be voted for by fans, while discussions on the revamped technical regulations for 2017 have now been postponed until April 30.

Improved cockpit protection is also due to be introduced in 2017 with the 'Halo', a concept first designed by Mercedes, being the FIA's preferred option.

Formula One's governing body has also revealed the new bodywork regulations which have been adopted to make the cars more exciting for 2017. These include wider tyres and bigger wings to create additional downforce and a greater challenge for the drivers.

Tuesday's discussions in Geneva took place just days after Ecclestone, 85, described the state of the sport as the worst he has seen it. But it is hoped that the revamped qualifying structure will lead to mixed-up grids and, as a consequence, more exciting races this year.

Indeed Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes team, who have won 32 of the last 38 races, started from pole at all but one of the races last season.

The new format is still under evaluation, but after it was unanimously accepted by the Formula One commission, it will almost certainly be introduced for the first race of the season in Melbourne.

Reflecting on the format, Briton's Renault driver Jolyon Palmer said: ''It is a strange idea as I don't see it will make a massive difference. I didn't see qualifying as an issue. I didn't even know there were talks.

''Obviously I hear about all the other things that may be going on, but I thought qualifying was alright as it is."