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FIA alters F1 rain rules, refuses to up number of sprints

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Red Bull’s Dutch driver Max Verstappen (right) drives behind the safety car during preliminary laps as the race is postponed over rainy weather during the Formula One Belgian Grand Prix on August 29, 2021. AFP

FIA alters F1 rain rules, refuses to up number of sprints

The International Automobile Federation (FIA) said on Monday it had changed a wet-weather rule that helped Max Verstappen snatch last season’s Formula One title and had dialled back plans for six ‘sprint’ qualifiers.

The FIA made its announcement after a meeting of its commission and its newly-elected FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem with Formula One teams in London.

The FIA said in a statement that there had been “detailed discussions” of a second controversy, at the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi.

Lewis Hamilton was poised to capture a record-breaking eighth world title in December before a controversial safety car restart allowed Verstappen to pass on the last lap.

“Feedback from the commission on matters raised will be incorporated into the president’s analysis and he will publicly present news of structural changes and action plan in the coming days,” said the FIA.

The FIA did address an earlier controversy at the Belgian Grand Prix in August. Verstappen was declared the winner and awarded half the points for a victory, even though the race was cancelled because of heavy rain.

The FIA said it had approved changes to rules for weather-affected races.

“No points will be awarded unless a minimum of two laps have been completed by the leader without a Safety Car and/or Virtual Safety Car intervention,” said the statement.

It has introduced a progressive points system based on the percentage of the planned distance covered.

If the cars have raced less than 25 per cent of the distance, the winner will get six points and the next four cars will collect four, three, two and one points.

If the race was between 25 per cent and 50 per cent complete, “the winner will get 13 points (then 10, 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 for the following).

“Between 50 per cent and 75 per cent, it will be 19 points (then 14, 12, 9, 8, 6, 5, 3, 2, 1).”

Sprints were introduced at three races last season and the teams favoured an increase this season. Formula One and its sporting director Ross Brawn had talked about an agreement in principle for six.

The FIA capped the number at three: Emilia-Romagna (April 24), Austria (July 10) and Brazil (November 13).

The FIA statement said there was “a recognition by all that the format created positive benefits for the sport.”

But, it added, that teams were facing a challenging year because of car redesigns and three was accepted “as a sensible number in light of the pressures already on the teams for this season with the introduction of major changes to the regulations.”

Under the sprint format, the classic qualifying is moved from Saturday to Friday. It determines the starting grid for the sprint race of about 100km (30 minutes) on Saturday.

The sprints offer championship points and in 2022,these will be increased to eight for the first down to one for the eighth. In 2021 only the first three gained bonus points.

The FIA also tweaked the way the grid for the main race on Sunday is decided.

Pole position will be awarded to the fastest finisher in Friday qualifying but all the other grid places will be settled by the sprint.

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