F1 to consider reversing the grid to promote better races

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Formula One could force its fastest cars to start from the middle of the grid to improve racing.

The reverse-grid proposal is expected to be made by F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone in a meeting between series stakeholders in Geneva on Tuesday, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said on Monday.

The top qualifiers would be dropped on the grid to keep them from pulling away early, in a bid to try to make F1 more attractive to fans and television audiences. The changes could be in effect as early as 2017 if an agreement is reached.

“There’s an opportunity to do it properly and come up with a great set of regulations for 2017,” Horner said on the first day of preseason testing in Barcelona. “Tomorrow is really a great opportunity to do something fantastic for the fans, to come up with a car that is absolutely spectacular. And I think that’s what we should be aiming to do.”

Ecclestone said this week in an interview with the Daily Mail in England that F1 “is the worst it has ever been,” and he “wouldn’t spend money to take (his) family to watch a race.”

The meeting will involve teams, promoters, and FIA, motorsport’s governing body. It could be the last chance for an agreement in time for the 2017 season. Changes made before a March 1 deadline can be approved by a majority of the stakeholders, but after that a unanimous decision would be needed, making it virtually impossible, as the top teams usually prefer to keep things unchanged.

The rule changes that will be put on the negotiating table were first discussed a few months ago, Horner said.

The Red Bull boss said Ecclestone was “quite keen on” the reverse-grid proposal.

To push drivers in qualifying, points would be awarded to the top qualifiers, and the pole winner would keep the honor statistically. The rule is used in many other series, including the GP2, considered F1’s second-tier series.

Horner said double points for the final race and other chances would also likely be discussed in Geneva.

“Let’s see what happens,” he said. “(Ecclestone) wants to shake things up a bit. He is a promoter, he’s got to sell Formula One around the world, and he wants it to be the most exciting and spectacular that it can possibly be.”

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Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

In a final session Thursday night, Matt Campbell was fastest (1:35.802) in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 but still was off the times set by Westbrook and Taylor.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

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But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Click here for Session III (by class)

Combined speeds