Mr Bernie Ecclestone, Chairman of Formula One Management, announced today that major changes to the format of the Australian Grand Prix would be possible following the result of decisions taken at a recent meeting of Formula One promoters and ratified by the F1 Commission.
Mr Ecclestone said the F1 Commission had approved an increase to the pit lane speed limit. The limit, raised to 100kmh, will apply to all FIA Formula One World Championship venues from the beginning of 2004.
In addition, Melbourne's Australian Grand Prix circuit has now been instructed to straighten, and thus substantially shorten, its pit lane entry - a move that will make its event a three-pitstop race for competitors.
Mr Ecclestone also revealed that investigations were underway by Formula One Management (FOM) and the world governing body of motor sport, the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) that will allow faster refuelling of F1 cars during pit stops.
It is anticipated that the changes to Melbourne's pit entry and the increase in the pit lane speed will cut three to five seconds off the length of pit stops.
Quicker refuelling could increase the emphasis on team strategy that plays such a crucial and exciting role in Grand Prix racing today. Time saving tactics such as faster refuelling stops will heighten the strategic battle between the leading teams such as Ferrari, Williams, McLaren, Renault and Jaguar - and the world's top drivers, including six-time world champion Michael Schumacher, Juan Pablo Montoya, Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso and Australian star Mark Webber.
Traditionally the leading drivers and teams have made only two pit stops during the Australian GP. The changes announced toady could put this up to three further adding to the excitement and drama of the race.
The FIA and its Australian affiliate, the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport, have approved the changes to the track layout.
Mr Ecclestone said new F1 rules introduced in 2003 had already made the sport much more competitive and exciting to the fans and millions of television viewers around the world. He added that the latest moves demonstrated an on-going commitment to exciting racing.