From this season drivers will have at least a five-minute window in Q1, Q2 and Q3 to set a time – but after that point, the slowest driver will be eliminated every 90s. From the 22 entries this year, 15 will progress into Q2, and then eight into Q3 – until there are just two men fighting it out for the right to start from pole.
In theory, it sounds like a recipe for a fun, fast and furious set of qualifying sessions.
In reality – and yes I was up at 5am this morning to watch (I am such a car geekette!!) – meh!!!!
The problem is that the format works well when all the cars initially race out on to track to set their times, but then there is not enough time to turn the car around, i.e., do an in-lap, change tyres, re-fuel, re-jig set-up etc. and get back out and do an out-lap prior to another flying lap before the clock starts ticking.
So, what we ended up with was a lot of cars sitting in the garage and not bothering going back out.
Thus making the first qualifying session of the new season rather dull and lack-lustre.
I think in an attempt to try to make F1 more interesting this new format was pushed through too quickly with not much thought to the actual practicalities of time constraints, turnaround and more importantly, the fact that super-soft tyres don’t do more than 1 lap before they go off and as an aside there’s also the fact that not all tracks take less than 90 seconds to go round!
BUT, on the flip side, I think it is possibly unfair to just write this new qualifying format off after one attempt. After all it was a new system, it will take time to get used to, and it probably threw the engineers as much as the drivers and the viewers., and with a few tweaks could provide the excitement that it was intended to.
So, what would I tweak?
Well, I actually thought the system worked really well in the Q1 and the initial part of Q2 sessions – you saw all the cars on the track and there were some surprises in the knock-out stage – this could, of course, have been caused by actual car problems. Then, there was the excitement of 1 car being counted down to knock-out and then improving its time so the car above then being in the knock-out zone, etc. In my humble opinion I thought that worked, but again it was OK for TV viewers, but the spectators in the stands at the actual track had no clue what was going on.
So, a big thought needs to be put in to how to let the live spectators know what is going on.
But the final part of Q2 and Q3 was just a complete damp squib. No excitement whatsoever. No 90 second shoot-out between the last 2 cars standing. In fact, nobody bothered going out again with 3 minutes and 4 seconds remaining on the clock! It was all over and done with. That fat lady, so they say, had sung!
Maybe an idea would be to lengthen Q1 session and knock half the field out with the new elimination format.
Thus leaving 11 drivers for Q2 and Q3.
Then go back to the old format for the last 2 sessions, but reduce the time and have, say 2 x 10 minute sessions. At the end of Q2 knock out 6 drivers, which should leave 5 standing and then we’ll have a fairly empty track for 5 cars to shoot it out for the top 5 positions.
But even if qualifying becomes more exciting, will that stop the tedium of some of the races that are pretty much just parades? Once the first lap is over there is no overtaking, just the spectacle of cars going round and round.
Much as I love cars, F1, speed, etc., there is no getting away from it, some of the races are dull.
The race should be about the drivers pushing themselves and the car to the limit, going as fast as they possibly to win, rather than it being about tyre management, fuel saving, team orders, etc.
And I fear that until the race can be about that, then whatever you do to try to spice things up won’t make any difference whatsoever.
So, what do you think about the new qualifying format and how would you improve F1?