Following the decision by the Marussia and Caterham teams to withdraw from this weekend’s United States Grand Prix, the stewards at Austin have decided to alter the format of the qualifying sessions.
With no plan in place for the scenario of only eighteen cars participating in a race weekend, the stewards have decided to change the number of drivers being eliminated after each qualifying session, with four cars being eliminated after part 1, and four more after part 2. The traditional ten-car shootout for pole position remains untouched.
Had they not altered the format, part one would have only seen two cars eliminated with six cars ending their session at the end of part two.
“Having regard to the principles established in the Formula 1 sporting regulations article 33.1, the stewards decide that the slowest four cars in Q1 will [be] prohibited from taking any further part in the session, and the slowest four cars in Q2 will likewise be prohibited from taking any further part in the session,” said the statement from the Stewards.
The change to the format could spell more bad news for the Lotus and Sauber teams, who have traditionally been struggling to get through to the second part of qualifying this season, with Lotus driver Pastor Maldonado in particular missing out on Q2 thirteen times this year.
The session in Austin is likely to only see seventeen cars participating, with Sebastian Vettel likely to sit out qualifying, as he will be starting from the pit lane for the race after Red Bull Racing were forced to change to a sixth Renault power unit of the season and a change of gearbox to boot.