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FIA to change qualifying rule

NEWS STORY
29/03/2008

Following the incident at Sepang, which saw McLaren drivers Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen penalised for driving slowly on the racing line, having completed their own final flying lap, and thereby impeding (and endangering) Nick Heidfeld and Fernando Alonso, the FIA is to revise the rules.

"Our clarification to the teams and drivers will be that cars returning to the pits having completed their flying lap or laps will be required to do so within a time that we will set," an FIA spokesman has told Reuters. "This could be approximately 120 percent of the normal time as we do to prevent drivers going very slowly to the grid (on the pre-race formation lap) to save fuel."

While the drivers' 'union', the Grand Prix Drivers' Association (GPDA) has not commented on the incident, many within the paddock have been highly critical of the current system, most notably BMW team boss, Mario Theissen.

"I clearly don't like the dangers implicit in this situation," said the German, following last weekend's qualifying session. "The speed differentials are so great that this is a problem which we need urgently to resolve, hopefully by the next race in Bahrain."

Following the Sepang incident, Pitpass editor Chris Balfe commented that it was frighteningly similar to that at Zolder in 1982 when Gilles Villeneuve, on his flying lap, was fatally injured following a clash with Jochen Mass, who was slowly returning to the pits.

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