You know when you’re having an argument with someone and you realise that you just cannot be bothered to even fight your case anymore, so you just sort of roll your eyes and say “whatever” just to shut them up? That’s a strange, yet accurate comparison to F1’s governing body and its strategy group. A very dysfunctional relationship, that even marital counselling could not recover.
In a weird twist of events that saw the old qualifying return for a matter of hours (yes, Katy Perry’s ‘hot n cold’ song comes to mind), a letter from the GPDA and a response agreeing with the said letter from Bernie himself, the new elimination qualifying is back for another trial; albeit unchanged. Move over Ross and Rachel, this relationship is far more complex than you ever were.
The Australian Grand Prix weekend was heavily let down by the rushed inception of this new format. The race itself was a good opener and if Ferrari had played the game right, it may have been a different victor crossing the line first. Max Verstappen also qualified in fifth, not that anyone noticed because we were all too busy slating this new system; not many even congratulated Lewis Hamilton for his stunning lap. Both of those performances shadowed by a monumental mistake, that potentially could have been avoided if 1) they hadn’t rushed or 2) they didn’t even try to alter it.
That being said, I do grudgingly like the idea of the elimination qualifying. No, there isn’t a problem with the old system, but, whether you admit it or not, a whole bunch of you disliked the old version when drivers were sat in the pit lane or when they didn’t go out at all. As someone who has sat trackside for a few years, there is nothing more boring than sitting in the rain or sun with absolutely nothing on the track in front of you, apart from a stray marshal or bird if you’re lucky. Talk about excitement…
In a previous blog post, I spoke about another idea for this qualifying, read that here. But, from a lot of deliberation, most people were fine with Q1 and Q2 – though, the 90 second intervals need to be increased more than anything. It is Q3 they have a problem with. A lot of ideas stem from using the old version of qualifying in the final qualification, but after a lot of thought, I don’t think it would make much of a difference. The whole tyre conservation will just come to play, again. Surely you want to see a Dany Kvyat or a Nico Hulkenberg having a go at beating the usual top four? They are not likely to waste a tyre trying to beat a time they probably won’t top.
What we want is a shock. Like you get in some wet qualifying sessions. Someone to get their timings wrong and someone to get it spot on. Someone to make the jump onto the softer tyre and spring a surprise catching others out.
The system should have been simulated hundreds of times before Australia, that’s blatantly obvious. It was a shambles, a mess and embarrassing that our sport came up with that idea. On the other hand, I think they’ve laid the foundations down. Now it’s time to build on it. Formula E tried something new with their super-pole – it worked.
I think Q1 and Q2 should stay as the elimination form, with the adjusted time intervals. I also think the graphics for viewers needs to change. A big countdown clock needs to be on the screen somewhere with a noise to count down the last ten seconds. I don’t think drivers should be allowed to finish their lap; if that was the case, qualifying would last too long and there would just be a train after every knockout.
Esteban Gutierrez was on a lap that would have promoted him to fourth in Q1. But tough; he should have gone out sooner. Simply put, they were told that they’d only have 90 seconds and you can’t finish the lap. Don’t blame the system for your mathematical error. Gene Haas even admitted to knowing where the team went wrong.
Q3 should be a one-lap shoot out. It should last for about five minutes, so no one has time to mope around in the pits and it should be compulsory to set a competitive lap time. You’re probably thinking “er, what?” but, picture that system in Monaco or a wet Canada. I don’t know about you, but I am rather bored of all of the conservation in Formula 1. I want them to go all guns out and show us what they can really do. F1 is supposed to be the fastest sport in the world, so let it be that. These drivers are supposed to be the fastest drivers in the world (debatable), so let them show us. If they lock up? Tough. If they run wide? Tough. If they screw up? Tough. That’s the pressure and intensity of a one-lap shoot out.
The other option I see, is scrapping Q1, Q2 and Q3 and just having one 45 minute qualification like GP2 and GP3 have. Every two minutes a driver is knocked out until it’s just the final eight left out on track to do their final lap.
Bahrain will probably be the exact same as Australia, there’s not really a doubt about that. And it’s all well people like me having a good grumble or suggestion, but if the GPDA can’t even make a difference, then there’s no hope for anyone else.
“If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.”