Despite already providing a fan-pleasing spectacle, the A1 Grand Prix series has decided to tweak its rulebook in search of added excitement ahead of its fourth season.
Changes have been made to various elements of the weekend schedule, as the World Cup of Motorsport raises the bar for its regular competitors. The pressure will be even greater for the teams and drivers alike when the season starts at Mugello in September, as the alterations increase the intensity of both racing and qualifying.
An extra mandatory pit-stop has been added to the weekend - this time to the shorter sprint race - to, in the words of the organisers, 'make the racing even more exciting'. The stop, which mirrors those already in place for the feature race, has to be taken between laps four and eight.
“We never stop looking for ways of improving the action on the track," A1GP chairman Tony Teixeira claimed, "The two pit-stops in the feature race have proved to be the really high pressure points of the events [and] we felt an additional one would not only add another variable into the sprint race mix, but also give the crews another opportunity to display their team work.
"When we sat down to discuss ways of improving the series, from every viewpoint this was a popular addition. However, we have also made other changes that will give the teams greater flexibility in certain areas.”
The duration of the sprint race, which will continue to get underway with a rolling start, has been increased from 19 to 24 minutes plus one lap, while the feature race, from a standing start, remains at 69 minutes plus one lap. The points allocation for the shorter race has been reduced, however, with only the top eight teams home scoring, in line with current F1 policy, and taking 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 points respectively. The feature race remains the same, with the top ten receiving points on the scale of 15-12-10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1.
The unique qualifying format, which has proved very popular with spectators since it was refined last season, has also been tweaked slightly to increase the drama and tension. Each of the four sessions has now been reduced from 15 to ten minutes in duration, with the same five-minute break between them. The sprint race grid will still be determined by each driver's best time in sessions one and two, with the feature race grid decided by sessions three and four.
Friday's rookie sessions have also come under the microscope, with the removal of the age limit that was in place through seasons one to three, while the break between the two 30-minute sessions has increased from five to 20 minutes.
Testing for the coming season - the first to feature Ferrari chassis and engines - will begin with a first session at Silverstone over 19-20 August, although this will no longer be a press event with teams attending, but a closed session with just the series test cars on track. The teams will instead begin running at the two-day test at Donington Park scheduled for 9-11 September.