Why is FOTA worrying about qualifying when F1 faces far greater problems?

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Would FOTA\'s new qualifying system disadvantage drivers like Jarno Trulli?
Would FOTA's new qualifying system disadvantage drivers like Jarno Trulli?

Fiddling while Rome burns. Re-arranging deckchairs on the Titanic. There are plenty of cliches to be thrown at FOTA’s plans to radically overhaul qualifying yet again.

Why is FOTA trying to change a system that has already been tweaked eight times in the past five years? Its not as if there aren’t more serious problems afflicting F1 at present.

Another Saturday revolution

FOTA has proposed to turn qualifying into a session not unlike the old TOCA Shootout, where cars are eliminated in turn lap by lap. Every car would start the session on track, and one would be eliminated on each lap depending who had set the slowest time.

This would continue until only six cars were left. They would then set individual laps on identical fuel loads to determine their starting order. Got all that?

This would amount to a complete re-thinking of qualifying. Grid position for most drivers would no longer be a question of who can drive the quickest individual lap, but who can consistently lap as quickly as possible. Bad news for F1’s qualifying specialists like Mark Webber and Jarno Trulli.

It would at least resolve the only real problem with qualifying at present, which is that the top ten drivers’ starting positions are largely dictated by fuel load, making it impossible to judge on Saturday whether the guy on pole position drove a terrific lap or merely qualified on fumes. (As Clive discusses here).

But if the teams can agree to such a drastic overhaul of qualifying, could they not just as easily agree to amend the present system so that Q3 takes place with the cars using low fuel? That’s what I’d like to see.

Which teams are behind the idea?

According to Autosport:

FOTA will meet on December 4th and if the proposed format is agreed upon by all teams, it is expected to be submitted to the FIA for approval.

Dieter Rencken explains voting precedure in FOTA meetings (Sub. req.):

The [FOTA] teams have settled on a majority of 19% more than the minimum called for by Mosley. An important proviso was that the 70% would apply to new discussion points only, not existing business, which would require unanimity.

Assuming the proposal does not have the support of all the teams at present, which are most likely to support it? Presumably those whose cars tend to have better relative performance in races than in qualifying, which suggests the likes of Ferrari rather than McLaren.

Will the FIA even listen if all the teams did agree on it? When FOTA suggested banning refuelling during races (a much better idea) Max Mosley refused to discuss changes to ‘the show’.

Missing the point

Is this the most important thing FOTA will be discussing in its December 4th meeting? Surely not.

The full consequences of the global financial crisis are beginning to be felt. Rafts of F1 sponsors are facing falling profits, others like ING and RBS are being propped up with public money.

The Formula 1 calendar is in an increasingly parlous state. The vital North American market will have zero representation on the 2009 F1 schedule with Indianapolis and Montreal lost in the past two years. Even China is now saying Bernie Ecclestone’s race hosting fees are too dear.

France, birthplace of Grand Prix racing, is gone next year, and Britain will be too in 2010 unless Donington Park’s owners can conjure $100m out of we know not where.

Meanwhile F1’s owners have to pay off $2.4bn in debt within five years and last year only paid back $95m.

Faced with this, when FOTA assembles discuss qualifying, can it not simply agree to ditch the race fuel requirement in Q3, and then get onto more important business?

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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20 comments on “Why is FOTA worrying about qualifying when F1 faces far greater problems?”

  1. i agree with u there mate!
    Q3 is a farce with the fuel loads!
    i do however, miss the old 12 lap 1 hour system!
    who cares if the 1st 20mins were dull, all that means is there’s more cars on track in the last 40mins!

  2. if they really want race stategy locked in before quali begins then they could lock in the strategy, giving fuel loads to the officials etc, cut it to 2 x 20mins sessions, running on low fuel for both sessions! all cars in the 1st session and half the field eliminated for the 2nd session! the the cars in q2 qualify for pole!
    it’s silly perhaps but as it could be seen as a touch confusing for some they may go with it!
    the V8 Supercars here in OZ use the f1 3 phase quali system all on low fuel!
    next year they r having a top 10 shootout returning which is for some reason popular over here, not sure y!
    perhaps cos u get the see the pole lap when it happens! they do it for bathurst and it works out there……..

  3. Won’t there be even more controversies with regards to drivers blocking each other?

    Since; all 20 drivers will be simultaneously setting laps. On a short track like Monaco or Interlagos; surely someone or the other will be baulked.

    And imagine; if Piquet crashes midway. What a stupid suggestion ! !

  4. Sounds like a nightmare for the drivers. Traffic would prove horrendous and since every lap counts, you can’t slow and give yourself a gap to the guy in front for the next run.

    Yet another ridiculous way of mixing up grids in an effort to artificially create exciting races.

  5. I like the current qualifying system, the only change I’d make is to go to low fuel runs in Q3 rather than running with race fuel.

    I think Pete’s got it right, this is just another artificial way to mix up the grid.

    If they want a random grid then why not just get the drivers to pick a numbered ball out of a bag ?

    Keith hits the nail on the head, there are much, much bigger things that need sorting out before they start messing with qualifying, again.

  6. Keith – agree with you 100%. Just change Q3 to low fuel. Sorted.

  7. I think they are forgetting that it’s qualifying, it doesn’t need to be super exciting. It’s like they are trying to make it more meaningful than the actual race or something.

  8. “Why is FOTA worrying about qualifying when F1 faces far greater problems?”

    That is a very good question, and one to which I, and presumably many other F1 fans, are not sure of the answer.

  9. If FOTA are going to want to change qualifying – why can’t they just not back down like they did before and stick with banning refuelling?! Why is that so hard?!

  10. “You know the most exciting bit of F1, the bit that it’s took ages to get right and doesn’t need changing? Let’s change it!”
    I’d love to be in these F1 meetings. Surely it’s just one guy in a strait jacket saying whatever pops into his head, with a dozen yes men nodding and patting him on the back?

  11. HounslowBusGarage
    23rd November 2008, 21:12

    FOTA and Bernie are interested in making qualifying on Saturday nearly as much as a spectacle as the race on Sunday.
    It’s about getting TV coverage on Saturday and pre-exposure for the race on Sunday. The perfect qualifying event would be a prang between a couple of midfield cars and a shouting match between teams on Saturday. That would create a legitimate news interest on Saturday and guarantee a larger TV audience on Sunday.
    And that would result in an increase in the price of the TV rights.

  12. Why change anything. Qualifying works fine the way it is.

  13. First off, all of the comments before mine are very good and I pretty much agree with everything you all have said.

    2008 was my first year of following the sport, so the current quali format is the only one I know well. I think it is just fine the way it is, except for the light/heavy fuel load deal. The only change I would make is having everyone start the race on the light fuel load, as many of you have suggested. Honestly, I don’t think changing the format will make any more people watch qualifying than they do now- the diehards will tune in while the casual fan may not.

    As is the case with so many other things in F1, Bernie and Max continue to ignore the sensable old slogan of “If it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it.”

  14. Gman: This is a FOTA proposal; Bernie and Max have nothing (yet) to do with it until the FIA makes a decision.

    If the F2009 continues to have tyre-heating problems over 1 lap, Ferrari may not like the idea. Also, 1 spin can ruin the whole of qualifying for a driver.

  15. So if you have a scruffy lap, just one scruffy lap, you are toast. Hardly likely to be any cars on the racing line when all 22 have to be on track all at the same time… in fact, you won’t have anyone on a slow lap if somebody’s being eliminated every lap. How the heck is that going to work. Everyone will want to be on track at the same time. They’ll have to start quali off the grid!!!!

  16. cars eliminated lap by lap? what a silly idea! this will lead to many problems over the whole season….. and with the stewards reaction time to incidents being so slow many drivers will loose out and many drivers will be dropped places on the grid
    the answer could be to set instant penalties if a driver is blocked on a hot lap, no 30 to 40 minute debate with a cup of tea in the stewards room
    i would keep the format the same but not let teams choose their fuel loads for qualifying and the actual race
    x amount for Q1 and Q2 but a set amount for Q3

  17. Does anyone like FOTA’s idea? I’ve not seen much support for elsewhere, except perhaps Clive.

  18. Hang on, who is proposing the idea now if FOTA have to vote on it on 4th December?
    This sounds suspicously like a Bernie or Max suggestion which will become a FOTA proposal, and be either welcomed or laughed away by FOM and the FIA depending on who suggested it first, and why.
    I don’t see why any of the teams would support it any more than those commenting above. The teams would be having similar thoughts, surely?
    Lets just see what happens – has this been suggested as a means to get the teams arguing and divert them away from the more urgent problems?

  19. You don’t cover the Sun with a finger, there are far more important issues than this. Bernie’s selfish acts are ruining F1

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