McLaren fury over knock-out qualifying plan

Prior to the Brazilian Grand Prix a fortnight ago, all of the team principals signed an agreement to retain the existing format of a one-hour session with single-lap runs per driver. The Renault team principal, Flavio Briatore, has now withdrawn his signature to the intense anger of the McLaren boss, Ron Dennis.

Their lack of unanimity opened the door for Max Mosley, the president of motor sport's world governing body, to circulate a fax to the teams here which contained a new list of proposals for 2006, largely based on the original ideas of the commercial rights holder, Bernie Ecclestone.

"There is not enough justification for change," Dennis said. "We all signed in Brazil to keep qualifying the same, and then one individual said that his signature was no longer valid."

However, Nick Fry, the team principal of BAR-Honda, is also in favour of the new proposals. "We have always said that we want minimal changes, but in this case we can see clear benefits," he said.

The latest proposals feature a knock-out system in qualifying and the return of tyre changes in the races. The latter is an unusual step for Mosley, the champion of the current single-tyre rule, since it would once again accelerate tyre development and reduce lap times, and appears completely at odds with his avowed 2005 aim of slowing cars down.

The new qualifying proposals from the FIA call for the five slowest cars to be knocked out after 15 minutes of low-fuel running in a qualifying session in which all cars take to the track at the same time. A further five would be knocked out at 30 minutes and then the remaining cars would take on their race fuel and go into a 20-minute shoot-out to decide the front half of the grid.