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FIA confirms qualifying change

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05/04/2008

A week after revealing that there might be changes to the qualifying rules - though admittedly they've had other things on their minds in the meantime - the FIA has confirmed that the third phase is to be amended in order to avoid a repeat of the incident in Malaysia in which McLaren drivers Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen were penalised for driving slowly, having completed their final flying laps, and impeding Nick Heidfeld and Fernando Alonso who were both on hot laps.

There were fears that such speed differentials would ultimately lead to an accident, Pitpass citing the example of the 1982 incident at Zolder which claimed the life of Gilles Villeneuve.

In a statement release yesterday, FIA Race Director, Charlie Whiting, confirmed the change.

The statement read:

"In order to avoid the possibility of an incident caused by the speed differential of cars on out laps and in laps during Q3, in addition to reconnaissance laps whilst the pit lane is open for the race, any driver deemed to be driving unnecessarily slowly during these laps, or in a manner which might endanger other drivers, will be reported to the stewards.

"Cars leaving the pits will be timed between Safety Car line 2 (50 metres before turn 1) and Safety Car line 1 (after turn 15), any car exceeding a time of 1.39.0s between these points will be deemed to have been driven unnecessarily slowly."

Although the Grand Prix Drivers' Association (GPDA) never spoke out regarding the Sepang incident, a number of drivers expressed their unease.

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