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Strategy Group continues drive to improve F1 show

Formula One’s Strategy Group has given its latest update on plans to shore up the future of the motor racing series, stating that important decisions and “innovative evolutions” have been approved.

The International Automobile Federation (FIA), the global governing body of motorsport, announced the changes following what it states was a “very constructive” meeting of the Strategy Group. The Strategy Group comprises FIA president Jean Todt, Formula One chief executive Bernie Ecclestone and six teams – McLaren, Mercedes, Ferrari, Force India, Red Bull and Williams.

Increased restrictions on driver aids and coaching received unanimous support and will be implemented starting from this year’s Belgian Grand Prix on August 23 – with a particular emphasis on race starts – and in 2016. The FIA said in a statement: “These measures will bring back the driver in full control of the car, enhancing races excitement and unpredictability.”

Following the Austrian GP on June 21, an overhaul of the power unit penalties has been unanimously agreed and will be submitted to the F1 Commission via an express fax vote for adoption at a meeting of the World Motorsport Council in Mexico City next week, together with changes to the exhaust system that will improve engine noise for 2016.

There has been mounting criticism of the spectacle of F1 in recent years, while drivers have complained that the modern-day cars are too slow. The introduction of turbo hybrid engines has lessened the noise traditionally associated with attending a F1 weekend, another criticism of the show being offered by Formula One. F1's current engine regulations limit each driver to just four units per season, with both McLaren and Red Bull hit by severe grid penalties owing to issues with their Honda and Renault power units.

Furthermore, it was agreed to allow an extra power unit per driver in the first year to any new manufacturer entering the championship and, for the “sake of fairness”, the measure will apply retroactively to Honda for the 2015 season. The Japanese manufacturer has endured difficulties in its return to Formula One with McLaren this season.

The FIA said a new set of regulations aimed at achieving “faster and more aggressive looking” cars for 2017, to include wider cars and wheels, new wings and floor shape and significantly increased aerodynamic downforce, has been outlined and is currently being assessed by the teams.

In addition, the FIA said several “exciting and innovative changes” to the qualifying and race weekend formats have also been discussed and are being evaluated by FIA and Formula One Management (FOM) for a 2016 introduction. Reports have speculated that a pre-grand prix ‘sprint race’ on Saturday could be added to the schedule for an F1 weekend.