We might see some changes to Formula One’s qualifying system for the first race of the 2016 season after all. F1 apparently can’t make up its own damn mind.
Last week, the Formula One Commission approved an elimination-based qualifying system that would eventually whittle the field down to two cars at the end of the third session. Then Formula One Management—who handles F1's timing software—mentioned that this last-minute switch would be very complicated for them to implement, and nixed the idea of switching up qualifying until at least the fifth race of the season.
Now James Allen on F1 reports that we might see a hybrid of the two systems while F1 gets their act together on finalizing whatever it is they want to do this season. The first and second qualifying sessions will feature the new qualifying system where one car will be pulled off the track after a certain point in the session every ninety seconds. However, the third and final session won’t pull any cars from the track at all. Instead, all eight cars that make it into Q3 will be left out for the entire session.
Team sporting directors indicated to F1 that they were concerned about tire wear becoming an issue. According to James Allen on F1, F1's faster teams feel as if the new qualifying system will force them to use a faster tire from the start of the first qualifying session. Previously, they could have used the harder prime tire to get through to the second session, saving their fastest tire for the last session.
McLaren racing director Eric Boullier told attendees at a Mobil 1 event, as quoted by James Allen on F1:
The idea is to mix up the grids and the teams will just have to cope with the new system in Melbourne and get on with it.
It is going to create more stress and more mess. So it will put pressure on drivers and teams. Any mistake will be paid for.
Boullier’s less than enthusiastic sounding words indicated that there were still a lot of questions as to how the new system would be implemented. Well, that makes two of us.
Likewise, Autosport reports that the new qualifying system met a “lukewarm response from drivers” when it was first unveiled. The elimination-based qualifying system still needs to be ratified by the World Motor Sport Council before it is implemented.
Of course, one vital component of a race weekend hasn’t been brought up much: the fans. Even if they figure out a way to make this more complicated system work, swapping qualifying formats mid-season seems more confusing than fan-friendly.
UPDATE: Formula One’s drivers have come out against the idea of switching up qualifying, according to Autosport. 13 of the series’ drivers met with FIA race director Charlie Whiting this evening to discuss it, and shared their thoughts.
Force India driver Sergio Perez summed up the remarks to Sky Sports News, as quoted by Autosport:
We’re not very happy with the rules they want to implement. Let’s see if they can change it.
For the fans it can be very complicated to understand. It’s complicated for us already, so for the fans it will just make things more and more complicated.
We feel the qualifying at the moment is really good. I don’t think there is a reason to change that.
Both Perez and McLaren driver Kevin Magnussen indicated to Autosport that they were glad that Whiting asked for their input on the matter, however, it’s probably not the feedback Whiting wanted to hear at this point.
Photo credit: Getty Images
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