The GP2 Series organisers have decided that the format for qualifying for this year's Monaco feature race is to be modified, in an effort to reduce the overcrowding on track that led to a spate of collisions between cars in 2011.
"There'll be 2 groups," revealed the official Twitter account
for the feeder series. "Each group will run for 14 minutes. The overall fastest driver from both groups will take pole."
Even-numbered cars will run in one group and odd-numbered cars in the other, meaning that each group has one car from each team. This does result in the risk of the second group to go out having the crucial advantage of better track conditions, as more rubber is laid down and grip levels increase, so there will be a ballot to decide which 13-car group runs first.
The one-off change to qualifying at Monaco is in response to a problematic qualifying session last year that saw multiple collisions as 26 cars proved too much traffic for the notoriously tight and twisting street circuit. The incidents included an accident between two DAMS team mates that left both cars with significant damage.
Three drivers ended up with grid penalties, one of which cost Giedo van der Garde the pole position he thought he'd won. Eventual 2011 GP2 champion Romain Grosjean was also penalised for causing a collision. However, the penalties handed out were less severe than usual because "the stewards consider[ed] other competitors must also share some of the responsibility."
Stewards also took the the extraordinary step of releasing a statement slamming the driving tactics seen in qualifying, and especially the way that cars had crawled to a halt as car back as the Swimming Pool as they queued up trying to find space to start a flying run out of Rascasse.
"The stewards consider this practice as unacceptable, potentially dangerous, and it is this that has contributed to an unnecessarily problematical qualifying session which did not do justice to the GP2 Series," said the stewards following the 2011 session. The stewards went on to take an equally strict view of incidents in the F1 sessions, with Lewis Hamilton memorably coming off the worse for his outspoken post-race comments over two penalties he received during the Grand Prix.
As for tyre choices this year, Pirelli will be supplying two sets of soft tyres as the prime choice for tyres for the Monaco race weekend, with the two sets of option tyres consisting of the super-soft compound. In all other GP2 races in 2012, the split is three sets of primes to just one set of options.
"The new tyre rules for GP2 are an exciting development that will introduce a bigger element of tyre strategy and management to the race weekend," said Pirelli's racing manager Mario Isola. "With two sets of the softer compound available to them at any point in Monaco, the GP2 drivers will need to think really carefully about when to use them, but they will end up with more experience of running on a faster compound."
In order to fit around Monaco's unique shifted timetable, the 30-minute practice session for GP2 cars will be held a day earlier than usual on the Thursday at 12 noon local time (11am BST), with the new-look two-part qualifying session following at 4.55pm (3.55pm BST).
The schedule see the 42-lap feature race held on Friday morning at 10.30am (9.30am BST) while the 30-lap sprint race will be held on Saturday afternoon at 4.10pm (3.10pm BST) following the qualifying session for the F1 Grand Prix of Monaco. Coverage of all GP2 sessions will be available in the UK on Sky Sports F1.
The GP3 Series is also undertaking its first-ever Monaco race weekend this year. Practice will be on Thursday at 6.15pm (5.15pm BST), qualifying on Friday morning at 7.40am (6.40am BST) and the first race at 12.30pm (11.30am BST). The second race will be on Saturday at 5.55pm (4.55pm BST).