F1 fans to vote for ‘Driver of the Day’

Formula One is to introduce a ‘Driver of the Day’ award with fans voting online during the race, the governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) said on Wednesday in a statement detailing changes for 2016 and 2017.

It also confirmed that a new qualifying format had been unanimously accepted by teams and other stakeholders and was set to be introduced from the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on March 20.

The FIA said the driver award was aimed at increasing fan engagement.

The equivalent of soccer’s ‘Man of the Match’ will be announced straight after the race during the broadcast proceedings from the podium, with the driver presented with a prize.

The governing body also said it intended to introduce some form of cockpit protection from 2017, with a ‘halo’ concept around the driver’s head the preferred choice.

Other options, such as transparent cockpit protection, would continue to be evaluated.

Formula One teams met in Geneva on Tuesday, while their new cars were on track in testing in Barcelona, to agree changes to make the sport more exciting.

With television coverage switching from free-to-air to pay channels in some countries, including Spain, there has been some concern within the sport about dwindling audience figures.

The FIA said a meeting of the core Strategy Group, which includes the governing body, six top teams and commercial rights holders, agreed to postpone the deadline for the finalisation of 2017 sporting and technical regulations from March 1 to April 30.

It said that was to allow all stakeholders “the best opportunity to complete all relevant work’.

New bodywork regulations for 2017 aimed at creating faster and more aggressive cars were adopted, however.

The FIA said it would continue discussions with teams and tyre supplier Pirelli over the best way to test the new tyres required to handle the demands of the regulation changes.

Pirelli are limited on how much testing they can do, with the regulations also restricting their use of current cars, and the Italian company has expressed concern about the situation.

The governing body reported further progress with the four manufacturers about providing cheaper power units to those who want them, making the engines noisier and reducing performance advantages.

A working group aims to reach an agreement by April 30.

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