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F1 tightens flag rules for qualifying

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Germany Formula One - F1 - German Grand Prix 2016 - Hockenheimring, Germany - 29/7/16 - Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen attends a practice. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski
Germany Formula One - F1 - German Grand Prix 2016 - Hockenheimring, Germany - 29/7/16 - Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen attends a practice. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski

By Abhishek Takle

HOCKENHEIM, Germany (Reuters) - Formula One qualifying will be halted under "double-yellow" conditions starting during this weekend’s German Grand Prix in a tightening of rules aimed at avoiding a repeat of the controversy surrounding Nico Rosberg’s pole in Hungary.

“The procedure now would be to simply red-flag any time that there’s a double-waved yellow flag, then there will be no discussion,” Charlie Whiting, the governing International Automobile Federation’s (FIA) Formula One race director, told reporters at the Hockenheim circuit on Friday.

“It will be done routinely if there’s a double-waved yellow flag,” he said. A spin for Fernando Alonso in the dying seconds of qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix brought out the double-waved yellow flags, under which rules say a driver must slow down significantly and be prepared to change direction or stop.

Several drivers, most notably world champion Lewis Hamilton — who came upon Alonso’s McLaren lying stationary halfway across the track — slowed down enough to hinder their laps.

But Rosberg improved on the rapidly drying tarmac to snatch pole. The German was investigated by stewards but was cleared after they deemed he had slowed down enough.

However, that triggered a discussion among drivers, who plan to discuss the incident with Whiting in their regular briefing with him on Friday, over just how much they had to slow down for it to amount to a significant reduction in speed. “The stewards accepted Nico’s explanation and looked at the data and felt that he had slowed down,” Whiting said.

“But then the question is did he slow down enough, what’s enough? So if you can’t set a time, then that’s that, it removes all that subjective discussion.” Whiting also expanded on the decision by the sport’s strategy group on Thursday to delay the introduction of a cockpit-protection device by a year to allow more time to develop it.

The FIA had been keen to have the ‘halo’ concept, which looks like a wishbone with a central pillar supporting a protective loop above the driver's head, on cars for next year.

But, while Whiting said the concept was ready for introduction with all the tests complete, teams felt drivers didn’t have enough experience driving with it fitted to their cars.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)


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