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Formula E reveals new qualifying format and safety car procedures

A new qualifying format will be introduced from Season 8 onwards, Formula E has announced.

The new “knock-out” style format was confirmed at the World Motorsport Council today along with other rule changes for the upcoming season.

Formula E’s current group qualifying system has earned criticism from some drivers, as it’s seen as punishing drivers at the top of the championship standings.

The new format is intended to be fairer for everyone, and easy for fans to understand.

Drivers will now be split into two groups rather than four, and have 11 minutes on track to do as many laps as they want.

The top four from each group will go through to the knock-out stages, which is styled similar to a tennis tournament draw.

The eight drivers will be paired up and go head to head in quarter final sessions. The fastest driver from the first group will go up against the fourth quickest driver from the second group. The fastest driver over one lap in the quarter final will progress to the semi final.

The fastest drivers in the two semi finals will then go head to head in one last duel to determine pole position.

From its inception, Formula E has used a group qualifying system to determine its grids. In the inaugural season, groups were chosen by a lottery, but this was later adapted so groups were determined by championship order.

In 2018, the series removed all lottery aspects from the system, with those at the top of the championship standings always the first on track.

Due to the street circuit nature of the series, the track surface improves significantly over the course of the qualifying hour, leaving those on track last with the best conditions.

In recent seasons, being the first on track didn’t necessarily result in a poor qualifying, however. In the 2020-21 season, drivers in the first qualifying group made it through to Super Pole at six races, though the format still heavily favoured those in group three.

Champion Nyck de Vries spent almost the entire season in Group 1.

Safety car procedure changes

The safety car procedures will also change for the upcoming season.

In Season 7, the amount of useable energy available to drivers would be reduced after each Safety Car period. This rule was introduced in response to driver complaints that safety car periods removed any strategy options as they would no longer have to worry about their energy consumption.

However, this rule caused problems last season when a late safety car period meant drivers ran out of useable energy due to the energy limits being changed in the final laps of the race.

Many called for this rule to change.

Now, rather than an energy reduction, time will be added on to the end of the race for safety car and Full Course Yellow periods. For every minute cars spend behind the safety car or under full course yellow conditions, an extra 45 seconds will be added to the end of the race.

However, if a safety car or full course yellow period extends into or occurs after minute 40 of the race, it will not be counted for the “extra time” calculation. 

Bethonie Waring

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