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F1 unveils initiatives to improve the spectacle

Formula One is to revamp the appearance of its cars, change its qualifying system and introduce a ‘Driver of the Day’ award as part of continued efforts to enhance the motor racing series amid concern over a downturn in television audience figures.

Following meetings of the F1 Strategy Group and the F1 Commission yesterday (Tuesday) in Geneva, the International Automobile Federation (FIA) today announced that a number of “constructive proposals” had been agreed. Upon the recommendation of the Strategy Group, the F1 Commission has passed a series of new measures designed to deliver a faster, more spectacular Formula One world championship.

The FIA said that a meeting of the Strategy Group – which includes the governing body, six top teams and commercial rights-holders – agreed to postpone the deadline for the finalisation of 2017 sporting and technical regulations from March 1 to April 30. It said that was to allow all stakeholders “the best opportunity to complete all relevant work.”

New bodywork regulations for 2017 aimed at creating faster and more aggressive cars were adopted. The new-look cars will deliver additional downforce in a bid to increase speeds and lower lap times.

A new qualifying format was passed unanimously, meaning it will be introduced at the 2016 season-opening Australian Grand Prix next month instead of waiting a further year. Under the new procedure, the slowest drivers will be eliminated as each session progresses rather than at the end of each phase. The final shootout for pole will be between two drivers rather than 10.

The F1 Commission also agreed to the introduction of a Driver of the Day award, to be implemented by the commercial rights-holder, Formula One Management (FOM), in conjunction with broadcast partners, with the intention of driving greater fan engagement.

Viewers will be encouraged to vote online for their Driver of the Day throughout a grand prix, with the winner to be announced as part of the race broadcast immediately following the conclusion of the race, when the driver will be presented with their prize.

The FIA reported further progress with the four manufacturers, Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault and Honda, about providing cheaper power units to those teams who want them, making the engines noisier and reducing performance advantages. A working group aims to reach an agreement on this matter by April 30.

Speaking ahead of the FIA’s statement, Formula One chief executive Bernie Ecclestone (pictured) said that the sport would face a brighter future as a result of the changes. Earlier this week, Ecclestone had said that F1 was currently in the worst state it had ever been, adding that he would not buy tickets for his family to watch races.

However speaking to the Reuters news agency, he said today: “I think there’s lots of things we can do and will be doing. What people needed was a bit of a shake up. I seem to be the only person that has thought we should do something in Formula One, to wake everybody up a little bit. And maybe that’s what’s happened. I wasn’t talking down the sport at all, quite the opposite. I was trying to sort of explain that unless we did something, that’s the way we’d be going.”