London: Formula One`s governing body has kicked up a controversy with a new super licence points system for 2016 that, if applied in the past, would have kept even Ayrton Senna waiting for a debut.
The revamped criteria, in an appendix to the international sporting code buried inside the fia.com website and published quietly last month, will ensure all drivers are over 18 and experienced enough.
They must have earned at least 40 points, on a scale set by the FIA, through competing in other series over the previous three seasons.
There is currently no age limit and drivers can satisfy the experience requirement by completing 300km in a recent F1 car over a two-day test period and demonstrating `outstanding ability`.
The new rules would have kept out 17-year-old Dutch racer Max Verstappen, who is due to make his debut in Australia in March as the sport`s youngest ever driver, on all counts.
They would have forced 2007 champion Kimi Raikkonen to wait for his 2001 debut while Brazilian Senna, the late triple champion who debuted in 1984, would also have acquired insufficient points.
"My main F3 rival and I went (British) F3 directly to F1," commented former racer Martin Brundle on Twitter. "New 2016 Super Licence rules prevent that. Ayrton Senna turned out to be quite good though..."
Others pointed out that seven times world champion Michael Schumacher would have faced an obstacle when he made his comeback with Mercedes in 2010 after three seasons in retirement.
Britain`s 2009 world champion Jenson Button, who made his debut with Williams in 2000 as a 20-year-old, would have fallen short on experience too.
Drivers whose places have owed more to cash than talent may also find it harder to obtain a licence in future.
The FIA said that from next year, any new applicant for a super licence must hold a valid driving licence and be at least 18 years old.
Only five series will offer the chance to acquire 40 points in one year, and the one with the most on offer does not yet exist: The `future FIA F2 championship`. The others are GP2, European F3, the world endurance championship and Indy Car.
The winners of the GP3 and Formula Renault 3.5 world series, both of which have served as a springboard into Formula One, will get only 30 points.
Verstappen finished third in last year`s European F3 championship, meaning he would have had insufficient points to qualify for a super licence as well as being too young.