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F1 faces calls for change after Hamilton penalty
Alan Baldwin | March 24, 2008 20:21 IST
Formula One's governing body faced calls to modify qualifying procedures for safety reasons after McLaren's Lewis Hamilton [Images] and Heikki Kovalainen were penalised in Malaysia at the weekend.
Championship leader Hamilton and his team mate were demoted five places on the starting grid at Sepang for impeding rivals when they slowed to save fuel after completing their final qualifying laps.
The rules have changed this season, preventing the 10 drivers who take part in the third and final session from refuelling between the end of Saturday's qualifying and the race on Sunday.
The final session has also been shortened by five minutes, allowing enough time for each driver to do only two laps with new tyres.
The revised format has raised safety concerns with drivers slowing to save fuel immediately they finish while some others are still at full speed.
"I clearly don't like the dangers implicit in this situation," said BMW [Images] Sauber team boss Mario Theissen at the weekend.
"The speed differentials are so great that this is a problem which we need urgently to resolve, hopefully by the next race in Bahrain."
Williams technical director Sam Michael expressed similar concerns.
"I am sure it will come up in the team managers' meeting because it was a bit too close," he told the autosport.com Web site. "The speed differential was massive."
BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld [Images] and Renault's double world champion Fernando Alonso [Images] complained after Saturday's qualifying that their final flying laps had been slowed by drivers cruising round in front of them.
"I think it is because this year's rules of Q3 (final qualifying) being shorter, the people finish the timed lap in a different time and different position," said Alonso.
"They (the McLaren drivers) finished their timed lap a little bit earlier than us, but for me I am sure it was the worst thing," added the Spaniard.
"They are running at 60kph and we are at 300kph so it is too big a difference in speed and a little bit dangerous."
Poland's Robert Kubica, who finished second in Sunday's race for BMW Sauber, said the solution would be to impose a maximum lap time for cars heading back to the pits after qualifying similar to that in force when drivers do the formation lap before the race.
"On the way to the grid, we have a limit in time," said Kubica. "It would be better to have the same rule in qualifying."
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