Australian Grand Prix qualifying: What went wrong?

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Paul di Resta, Force India, Melbourne, 2013Instead of setting up the first race of the season, the first qualifying session of 2013 gave us one-quarter of a grid and two hours of sodden marshals sweeping water around.

This is the third time an F1 qualifying session has been postponed. It happened twice previously at Suzuka in 2004 due to the approaching typhoon Ma-On and again three years ago due to heavy rain.

Could it have been avoided? Or are occasional disruptions to sessions unavoidable?

Race control: Too cautious?

The rain grew heavier and lighter at different stages causing first Q1 and, later Q2, to be repeatedly delayed. The start of the session was held up by half an hour and the beginning of Q2 was delayed by a further hour before being postponed until tomorrow.

The chief concerns in wet weather are visibility and aquaplaning. When the cars took to the track for Q1 it was clear the conditions were challenging: Lewis Hamilton, Felipe Massa, Giedo van der Garde, Charles Pic and Esteban Gutierrez all crashed during the 20 minutes of running.

Some tracks are better equipped to cope with heavy rain than others. Temporary venues such as Albert Park do not have the advantage of being custom-designed to aid drainage and pose other hazards such as painted lines on the surface which become slippery when wet.

All this, as well as input from Medical Car driver Alan van der Merwe who made regular inspections of the course, will have factored into the decisions taken by the FIA’s Charlie Whiting. But some believe the sport has become overcautious when it comes to risk management.

Start time: Too late?

The Australian Grand Prix start time was moved back to 5pm in 2009 so the race would be broadcast at a less inconvenient time for audiences in Europe. Qualifying is held at the same time.

However this leaves little room for manoeuvre if the session is disrupted. With sunset due at 7:38pm, as the rain delay wore on it became increasingly clear that poor visibility due to falling light levels would be a problem.

The stewards cited “inclement weather conditions and the failing light” as reasons for the postponement. Had the session started earlier in the day there would have been a larger window in which there might have been good enough weather to hold qualifying.

Qualifying format: Too complicated?

Although qualifying was not run in its entirety, all 22 cars did take to the track and set times. Why then, is this not sufficient to form a grid?

The regulations do not allow the times for Q1 to be used to form the grid. This is fair and logical, as drivers are compete in it with the goal of progressing into Q2, not necessarily to achieve the best possible lap time.

But the point remains that if the qualifying format were less complicated – if, say, a single hour of qualifying were used as was the case in 1993-2002 – the limited amount of running the cars were able to do today could have been sufficient to form a grid.

Over to you

How do you think F1 should respond to qualifying being postponed? Which solutions do you prefer?

Or was F1 simply the victim of bad luck? Have your say in the comments.

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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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121 comments on “Australian Grand Prix qualifying: What went wrong?”

  1. It’s just weather. Not a lot you can do but just weather it. It’s a postponed qualifying session, hardly something to get upset about. Disappointing, yes, but I’d guess a lot more disappointing for the teams and drivers than for us.

    We’ll get over it, worse things have most definitely happened…

    1. Yeah, and it’s not like they’ll run out of time from 11am tomorrow.

      I like the late starts, it’s easier for you guys to see it, and it gives the aussies to go straight to the pub after quali and still be able to get up for the race the following afternoon!

      1. Lucky for some eh? I decided to stay up all night given P3 was on 3-4am here. Was very disappointed that having gone to the effort of staying up it got postponed. I know there was nothing they could do, but it’s gonna mess with my sleeping pattern and it wasn’t really worth it.
        At least tonight it’ll be at midnight so I can grab a few zzz’s before the race.

    2. The Next Pope
      16th March 2013, 11:20

      The most sensible comment I have read for today, my hats off to you sir.

    3. For me it’s quite ok, so I can see quali session tonight at mid-night, as I didn’t wake up at 6.00 am in the morning. As it had been said “it’s just weather”, nothing to be worried about. But they should cast the start of the race for 16:00pm local time, it’ll be always a risk if any delay arises.

    4. For this weekend, yes: it’s just weather and get over it. The thing is that we are talking about future races: do we want the same thing to keep happening or do we want things to change?

      1. This track is a regular street circuit and not designed primarily as a F1 track so has no adequate drainage and on top of that the black paint used to cover the white paint use for normal traffic turned out to be the cause of many of the spins and you would not find it on a regular racing track so this turn of event would not happen on many other circuits.

  2. The start time is a factor, but the main issue is that F1 has become too cautious in responding to wet weather. It is not necessary to throw the red flags at the first sight of rain; drivers should be trusted to drive according to the conditions. They certainly have the ability to do so.

    1. +1 And more cars on track will dry the circuit faster

      1. +1 also if the australian race started at 11am (midnight for uk) thats easy to stay up for. its at a good time for american audiences too. and is still fine for australia its self.

        And gives breathing space for moments like today.

    2. It’s a GLOBAL event, it is allways going to be inconvenient for some-body, what’s OK for EU is lousy for USA East (+Canada) so LOCAL time that allows for delays should be the rule.

  3. I’d like to see a clause in the regs that states any time qualy is stopped, for whatever reason, the results AT THAT POINT will be used to form the grid.

    Keep the three stage qualy though, it rocks!

    1. OmarR-Pepper (@)
      16th March 2013, 11:59

      +1 We would have the grid right now!!!!

      1. +1 It would also increase running. would risk NOT going out if it would mean starting from the back? Is there any reason why Q3 shouldn’t be a basis for the grid? Why not drive the car as fast as you can?

    2. I don’t think anybody would want a return of old-style qualifying. After trying out different formats I think F1 has found a format that works and provides excitements through full hour instead of a yawn-fest for a first 45 minutes.

      1. JimmyTheIllustratedBlindSolidSilverBeachStackapopolis III
        16th March 2013, 20:40

        Absolutly agree. Btw does anyone know if maldonado actually hit that bird during his off?

        1. It escaped.

  4. Starting the afternoon sessions early would be a start. Even though that would mean changes in the already stretched TV schedules all over the world, at least such a situation would be avoided. Anyway, now it’s all haywire, so the payoff is worse. You cannot have the cake and eat it too.
    I have no problems with the current quali format, but they could have shortened the sessions slightly for this special case where we were running out of daylight.
    As for the overcautiousness of Race Control, well, I think we’ve had sessions under green flags in worse conditions before. Yep, cars will crash, spin, run off, but doesn’t that always happen. It’s not that everybody were having problems.
    Overall, keeping in mind the incessant 20-minute promises, things could have been handled better.

  5. The problem is that there were clear windows of light rain but due to the notification requirement they need to give the teams they kept missing the clearest parts if the weather. We even had sun on us at one point.

    1. @theoddkiwi True. Instead of giving those stupid 20-minute promises, they should’ve given a 5 minute flag warning within with all teams would have to get ready to get their cars out.

  6. Not really an issue for me, disappointing yes but doesn’t bother me too much.

    Much prefer this start time though, wouldn’t get up in the middle of the night to watch it!

    1. Allright for you George but what about the people on Americas E seabord, a large and important market F1 is trying to woo, cancellation was due to light, the lack thereof, caused by Bernie forcing the promoters to start late so EU and UK viewers wouldn’t have to get up early to watch live.

      1. Michael Brown (@)
        16th March 2013, 16:45

        @HoHum I live in Eastern Canada. For this race and the Asian races I get up at 2am. For most European races I get up at 7am. That’s probably one of the obstacles keeping F1 from truly winning over the American audience, but I don’t mind it; it’s a World Championship (yet catered to Europeans).

  7. The only problem, this time around, was that the stewards thought there was too much water on track, whilst several shots showed indeed puddles here and there, but the track as a whole was not too wet to race. There were several crashes but many drivers did not crash. If the reasoning was that with 5 rookies spinning around on track the situation was dangerous then fine, but not only was that not the case as Bianchi and Chilton weren’t shown spinning, but race control admitted the weather was too bad. Why did Alonso, Button and Vettel not spin? Surely there’s a speed at which you won’t spin. If the weather requires you to lap over three minutes, then that should be it. Those spinning were taking too many risks and pushing over the limit, so that was their fault. Those who took no risks still passed through to Q2, so that shows that what they did was enough.

    1. No, the problem was darkness, not on TV but in reality on the track.

    2. I can assure you watching from turn 2 everyone slide about at one point or another. Button had a big slide, and vetted almost went on the grass too

  8. Chris (@tophercheese21)
    16th March 2013, 10:24

    The stewards made the decision to run the first qualifying session because the conditions were good enough, and postponed Q2 and Q3 because they weren’t.

    If its only happened 3 times in almost 10 years, then I don’t see anything wrong with postponing it.

    You can’t control the weather, so just work around it.

    On the plus side, it gives us a double dose of Formula 1 tomorrow :)

    1. Chris (@tophercheese21)
      16th March 2013, 10:26

      Also, I’m all for the qualifying format in today’s F1. Much better than the hour long session.

    2. Exactly. There’s been great (hot) weather here lately. It’s just bad timing there’s a cold front passing Melbourne today. There’s no need to change anything. It’s just bad timing, but great for tomorrow’s spectators Q2, Q3 & Race

    3. Yes it’s only happened three times in ten years, but it has become increasingly frequent.
      Quality wasn’t cancelled in the first 54 years of the championship, though admittedly there were plenty of times when no one set times on Saturday due to rain after a dry Friday quality.
      Brazil 2009 could potentially be shown in this mix, as it took over 3 hours to complete quality then.

      1. Yes it’s only happened three times in ten years, but it has become increasingly frequent.

        First it was six years between occurrences (2004 – 2010). Then it was three (2010 – 2013). At that rate of progression, we should have another quals session rained out sometime in 2015.

        I think the sport will survive.

  9. I had a power failure here in India due to heavy rain the previous day. So, couldnt watch quali. This is what I believe: The session must continue no matter what because it leaves open doors to an unexpected lineup. With race control being too cautious, it leaves us with a very predictable quali tmrw :(

    1. i wouldnt like to predict whats going to happen aha

      1. very hard to refraing frm predictions when playing F1F predictions championship @scuderia29

        1. its just you said the qualifying is now very easy to predict..
          i would hate to try and predict it since weve seen very little to guess exactly where the cars are going to be in terms of pace

  10. I live in Europe, and still I hate this fuss about pandering to European audiences.

    Anyone who bothers enough and feels the need to watch the qualy/race live is going to watch it even at an earlier time.

    Anyone who does not bother enough will watch the replay later in the day.

    This setup is favorable primarily to those, who want their fix of F1 live but are not willing to get up early even during a weekend (when they could sleep it off immediately afterwards).

    That is, basically, the “I want the best of both worlds” crowd. I say, to hell with them.

    (Sure, getting up at, say, 4:00 in the morning instead 7:00 would be a bit more inconvenient, but perfectly manageable. Now I have a qualy till 2:00 AM, then a race starting at 7:00 AM. Great!)

    1. I completely agree with you, and equally dislike this modern “I want everything my way, ’cause I deserve it, ’cause I’m special!!”-attitude. What’s so special about European audiences that we must be spoiled at the expense of the people in who’s town the race is held? Surely the people of Singapore dislike the late evening war zone that their city is turned into. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the special flavour a night time race like SG adds to the circus, but if it’s made to pamper the European audience then I think it’s done for the wrong reason. It is completely unnecessary and, in my opinion, a lost opportunity.

      Some of my best memories are of me and my brother sneaking around the house at midnight to watch the season opener that was Melbourne when the old folks specifically told us not to do so. In a way I feel sad for the young people(if there are any) watching today. They don’t know what it’s like to watch your favourite driver pull off some amazing moves and then be unable to sleep because the race was so awesome.

      1. +1 I’ve been up for the Australian GP every year since 96′ when I was 4 years old. It was always my job to wake up the rest of the house to come down and watch it. That was most of the thrill about it for me, first race of the season, no one knows what’s gonna happen and you’re sitting around a rubbish TV with the family looking half dead trying to pump as much caffeine in themselves as they can drink. Now I’m getting older I usually stay up all night and sleep after Quali/Race and there’s no need to find something to keep me up cause I’m just brimming with excitement.

      2. Yes, it’s always a big happening for being awake during the night to watch a F1 grand prix. I’m doing this since I remember and it’s weekend so you can deal with it and make all the adjustments on your daily routine. And for sure they cannot please everybody by trying to fix a world wide time zone.

      3. Since qually was starting at 2am here, not the 11pm it used to be before Bernie forced the organisers to delay it for EU, I set my PVR to record it and planned to watch it over breakfast, but my mind woke me up at 3.30 am and I could not get back to sleep knowing it was there to watch, so not much sleep last night and I will have to get up really early tomorrow so I can watch Q2-3 before race and still get to 10am Sunday breakfast with friends, so no sympathy for EU here.

        1. Michael Brown (@)
          16th March 2013, 16:55

          That’s why some are pushing for a night race – for the European audience.

    2. Totally agree, the race should be run at the best time of day for that country. There should not be a problem to a true fan watching at any time of the day.

      Lets hope that next week is ok, don’t want a repeat of 2009.

      1. I couldn’t agree more but unfortunately they must pander to the pay-masters as it costs a few quid to run the show.
        I’m guessing this matching of start time to a more ideal time in the Eurozone is because that’s the biggest audience – which in itself doesn’t surprise me – and so the advertising revenue is higher.

        I do miss the days of sitting there at 3am (and various other time slots) as the only hardcore F1 fan in the household. It always felt special. Then when the race was over I would go for a blast around the wonderfully quiet empty roads.

        1. @psyng, the paymasters would really like some US coverage, how do they expect to gain US fans if everything is designed around convenience in the EU.

    3. The Australian Grand Prix start time was moved back to 5pm in 2009 so the race would be broadcast at a less inconvenient time for audiences in Europe.

      That really ****** me off, always. Eve since they got the race to start later in the day, it’s been a problem. With the weather-sensitive cars of today it’s a big mistake to have such a tiny window of manouvre (forget about reaching that 4 hour limit… the AUstralian GP has a self-imposed 2, 2 and a half hour limit because of sunset) just because the Europeans can watch the race “a little bit more comfortable”.

      People all over the world wake up at 2, 3, 4, 5 to watch the Aus, Malasyan, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian Grand Prix. Why can’t the European too? not to mention the Aussies themselves have to wake up at ridiculous hours or stay up late to watch the race at a very uncomfortable time and THEIR GP gets moved so it fits the European schedule just fine.

    4. @ MJ4. I completely agree. I got up early this morning and sat here in dressing gown (plus tea and toast) with the BBC radio coverage and the F1 Fanatic web site and enjoyed it. I’ll be here again at midnight with a glass or two of plonk; it’s fun.
      With races around the world, timing is always going to be inconvenient for someone. Tough, deal with it. And I do think the Australian organisers might start Qualy an hour earlier next year. Light levels are important if there is any delay at all.

      1. I’m an European and I completely agree – on weekends I usually sleep in so I had to get up earlier for qualifying anyway. Before 2009 I would get up for 4 am start just like today I got up at 7 am start. F1 is a global sport and those few races that start at inconvenient time aren’t that much of a bother for me – especially in the case of Malaysia where late starts have so far guaranteed a race-stopping amount of rain.

    5. I’m in the UK and i would get up at whatever time the session is on, i literally dont care if its 7am or 2am.

  11. Let’s go through them one-by-one:

    I don’t think the race stewards are over-cautious: Q1 was pure madness. In my opinion, a session should be stopped the weather conditions make drivers (who are driving relatively cautiously) lose control of their car. One of those crashes we saw could have had more serios consequences than just some front wing damage, so the argument “drivers should be able to handle the conditions” is just nonsense.

    The starting time is just too late. I understnad that it might attract a few more people to watch it, but with the risk of postponing qualifying or worse the race being cancelled, it just isn’t worth it.

    Finally the qualifying format: I quite like the current system, as it creates more anxiety and also results in more attention for the smaller teams, without affecting the results too much. It does create problems like the one we have discovered today. In my opinion, the qualifying format should stay the way it is.

  12. They need to put the race before one section of viewers, view times.

    Running a successful event without messing the rest of the world around is more important in my opinion.

  13. I don’t think the qualifying format can be blamed. In the 60 minute format the best drivers and teams used to do their best times at the end of the qualifying. So forming a grid after 30 minutes of driving would be as unfair as forming a grid after Q1.

    I think it’s the combination of running the qualifying too late and being too cautious about the weather that is to blame.

    I don’t think there is any reason running qualifying later for European viewers. Only fans will view the qualifying anyway if it starts 5am or 7am on Saturday so I think it makes little difference. The race itself is a bit different thing.

    Then again I think Formula One is too cautious about the weather nowadays. I admit that sometimes the weather is so bad that it becomes too much of a safety risk, but most of the time crashing when wet means basically that the driver drove too fast considering the weather and his skill level. Or in other words, he made a mistake. However, most of the fans love to watch wet qualifying/race even if the cars will go a lot slower than on dry.

    1. … but most of the time crashing when wet means basically that the driver drove too fast considering the weather and his skill level. Or in other words, he made a mistake.

      Take the crashes at turn 12: Massa and Guttierez spun when their car hit the black line and there was absolutely nothing they could do about it, nor were they too ambitious. In my opinion, when the conditions make drivers lose control when he is driving at normal speed, then that’s just plain dangerous. F1 is a dangerous sport, and when drivers crash randomly, then the session should be stopped.

      1. Guttierez and Massa spun because they put their foot down. In these conditions, you have to be prepared for the fact that you could hit a white line or a puddle or other hazard and drive accordingly. If the drivers are accelerating in the wet without being sure then that’s their problem. Also, if it was really that bad we would have seen more cars spin at that point.

        I do accept that painting over white lines is an accident waiting to happen, though.

  14. For sure the situation could’ve been handled better, but that is easy to say in hindsight.

    As for point number 3, the current qualifying system is very good I think – it forces people to run in each session as apposed to a whole hour where they may only run in the last 10 minutes. It also adds an element of pressure and helps to prevent unnecessary traffic in the top-10 shoot-out, so the current system is sound and should remain. It is only in very adverse circumstances (such as today) that it may have shortfalls, but the benefits more than account for this.

  15. I have no problem with postponing Quali to Sunday morning although one wants to see a result at the time. It gives me another opportunity to look forward to more F1 viewing.

  16. it was quali so no need to take unnecessary risks. Also it’s the first race of the year and on a street circuit that lacks all the things a regular track has to cope with wet weather (drainage, even surface, no white lines in the middle of corner exits etc.)
    If guys like Hamilton, Massa and Webber have troubles to stay on track then it’s on the limit and no need to go thru with it if there is the possibility to postpone it.

  17. If I was re-writing the rule today, my plan of action would be:
    Once the sessions has started, it cannot be postponed due to weather conditions, it is either finished but in the extreme conditions like today, the grid is based on the latest result, therefore the grid is all based on times set in the same or very similar conditions.
    If it is deemed unsuitable to qualify, the entirety of qualifying should be postponed to the next day then at least everybody gets to qualify in the same conditions and can take an equal fight to each position.

  18. David not Coulthard (@)
    16th March 2013, 11:00

    3.If you want to change it, looks like somebody’s got an opinion about it , 0:15 .

  19. One of the problems that has been highlighted is the fact the ground clearance is insufficient in wet conditions: the tyres can displace the water fine, but the cars aquaplane on the skid blocks when there is a sufficient volume of standing water allegedly. If that is the case, it’s a simple solution of making bigger radius tyres, which would prevent so many offs occurring.

    1. wets are of a bigger diameter to raise the car

      1. @lebesset – they do, but it’s minimal. I like the thinking behind that @hohum and it may also solve the following in dirty air problem, but I’d only like that idea if it did indeed solve the aero problem. Then we could get rid of DRS also…

    2. Maybe the rules should demand a more realistic ground clearance for all races and bigger tyres to compensate for lack of downforce.

  20. I’d also like to see wet weather tires that can handle more water on the track. I just don’t understand how in the past they had races and qualifying in much wetter conditions than these days. I did find that Bridgestone tires in 2010 could displace 61 litres per second at 300 km/h while Pirelli in 2011 did 60 litres at the same speed. So a small change to the worse but not significant. I wonder what the tires could displace 10-15 or 20 years ago.

    Btw, @keithcollantine do you know how many races that have been delayed in the past 10 years? It may be just 3 qualifying sessions but I’m sure a lot of races have been affected by the overcautiosness too.

  21. There are some opinions that nowadays drivers are like sissies and want the race/qualy stopped when they feel there’s too much water on the track; they are considered the best drivers in the world and they should cope with everything the weather throws. But it’s enough a tragedy to happen and everyone suddenly becomes all sympathetic and talks about the human side of the sport. F1 is risky enough in dry conditions, there’s no need to push it only because some fans didn’t get to see who’s on pole on Saturday afternoon and poor them have to wait till Sunday morning. It’s not the end of the world especially if it happened only 3 times in 10 years.
    About the qualy format – I think it would be better if teams had an hour (or less) to set their best time (with limited sets of tires). I consider so because of the following benefits:
    1. It would keep the fans even more interested till the end because the (more) drivers would be able to change their grid position until the last minute.
    2. Considering that top teams use a set of tires just to drive around in Q1 and Q2 for the sake of setting a time – economy-wise ii would be more efficient as the teams could be given less sets of tires or at least they can be used to set a time that actually counts.
    3. It would show a clearer picture of who’s really the fastest as such factors like traffic, yellow flags, changeable weather/track conditions etc. would be reduced to minimum.

    1. Of course. Human nature is to adapt to whatever the circumstances.

      When you get it your way you don’t have to and whole mentality shifts. Why would team bother making the ride high higher if they can get away with it. Before they had to actually think what to do to get most out of those type of condition, now they sit there and wait for stewards to call it off.

  22. Τhe stewards were overcautious. As they generally speaking in the last few years

  23. I was at turn 13 for the majority of qualifying today and whilst I’m aware there was a few puddles and the rain kept on falling it didn’t seem half as bad as the rain on race day at Silverstone 2008!

    I think these days they are overly cautious in the rain but also too slow to react! There were plenty of occasions when the rain stopped but whilst waiting for a round time (10-20-30), they missed their opportunity!

    As it is I’m lucky, I live close to the GP so will pop down for Quali and then go back later on as well, but people who aren’t on the door step, and with chances of more rain, it could be pretty long cold day for a lot of people tomorrow! It would have been better to have finalised a grid one way or another tonight.

  24. I’d rather deal with being a bit upset for a few hours whilst waiting for the postponed qualifying to restart than alter the current qualifying format.

    The start time should probably be earlier, but if it’s too wet it’s too wet. I’m not going to comment on whether or not the conditions were suitable because I’ve never driven a Formula 1 car at speed, or even slowly, in the dry or in the wet. So I don’t have a clue.

  25. Gazzaguru (@garygushbiz-com)
    16th March 2013, 11:47

    Race control is far too cautious. If the conditions are undriveable you obviously cancel. The aim is for the drivers to decide what the risk/reward in those conditions should be. When it rains the skill of the driver is far more important than the car – and so it becomes a much more level playing field for the drivers and as such the spectators to watch.
    Pity therefore that we are deprived from watching who the real talent in F1 is currently.

    1. @garygushbiz-com

      When it rains the skill of the driver is far more important than the car

      Yes but unfortunately when a less skilled driver crashes and brings the yellow flags just before a skilled driver’s flying lap it becomes all very sad for both of them no matter the talent.

      1. Gazzaguru (@garygushbiz-com)
        16th March 2013, 12:20

        If a skilled driver has too slow as a result a yellow flag by someone spining off andf/or crashing when it’s wet – can be corrected by a simple rule change that for instance would enable them redo their run in an extended session if the time ran out.

        Stick to my viiew – Race control is too cautious and the current drivers given the option become sissies.

        1. I’m sorry, but that rule change would be horrible. Drivers would have to pit for more fuel, prolonging sessions a lot. Also the conditions would never be identical with their first attempt due to track and tyres. Also there would always be speculation whether drivers’ first lap was any good before the yellow flag.

          To sum it up: such rule wouldn’t decrease unfairness or speculation at all, but it would prolong sessions a lot.

  26. i agree that race control is becoming gradually more cautious, which is not a bad thing on a regular basis. problem is it’s becoming way more intrusive too. this have to do with regulations, penalties assignments and decisions they take that in the end are not up to them. Today it was up to the drivers to decide, as ever, as in any other motorport race.

    On the other hand, today’s cars are “allergic” to water and acquaplaning happens very easily compared with the past. Why not change aerodynamics regulations to make these cars less extreme?

  27. Your synopsis of events neglects a major factor. Q2 was initially delayed long enough for the track to again become waterlogged because it took so long to remove debris from the multiple shunts in Q1. If not for that, cars would have been running long enough to post at least one timed lap before Q2 was washed out, possibly more if the teams were prompt at the start of the session. With cars on-circuit when the heavier rain came, much of the water would have been displaced by the rain tyres, which might have even permitted Q3 to go ahead.

  28. The solution is easy – a comeback of the 60 minuten/12 laps qualifying on Friday and Saturday and cars (drivers?) that are capable of driving in the rain.

    1. *minutes

      Sorry, my German came through there.

  29. I think they did the right thing; no-one would be complaining about delaying quali if someone had crashed due to the wet conditions and then been hospitalised, as was the case in Brazil 2003.
    Additionally, you can’t compare quali today with such races as Fuji 2007 and Silverstone 2008, simply because Melbourne is a street track which is plastered with white lines, which instantly makes it more demanding due to the lack of grip.

  30. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
    16th March 2013, 12:20

    There really is no debate to be had here. Race control have been too cautious in the past, but today was not one of those days. With the poor drainage of the track, the darkening conditions, suffering fans, 750bhp, a slower-low ride height and the parc feme disallowing the installation of wet setups, I really saw this postponement as a positive decision. I know that everyone is rolling their eyes thinking “in the good old days…” but this is not the 1984 Monaco Grand Prix (perhaps the most controversial session stoppage ever). Cars now fundamentally require air running over the aero surfaces of the car in order to produce grip, and these Pirelliis need at least 65 degrees centigrade in order to offer any grip whatsoever, two things that certainly were not present this morning. At under 100kph an F1 car doesn’t work; in fact you might as well be driving the Mercedes C63 AMG Medical Car. Fact. I would say that it was almost certain that there would have been a hefty crash in later stages of Q2. Now I can gaurantee you that an elderly chap by the name of Stirling was sat there watching this shouting, “IT’S MEANT TO BE DANGEROUS!”, which it is, but it isn’t meant to be stupid. Tootling around at 80kph with no grip means things get to a stage when its no longer about car quality or driver skill, it just becomes luck. That is not F1. And just imagine if we had a fatality in F1 within the context of the modern day. It could even spell the death of a sport already condemned for its extravagant, alien and rather dictatorial connotations. In essence, when Fernando Alonso says “we cannot drive in this”, believe him. When an ex-racing driver says, “You should be racing” from the comfort of his home, roll your eyes. I really cannot stand “armchair experts”…oh, errr…awkward…

  31. But the point remains that if the qualifying format were less complicated – if, say, a single hour of qualifying were used as was the case in 1993-2002 – the limited amount of running the cars were able to do today could have been sufficient to form a grid.

    There’s your solution for this morning, if you ask me…

    1. Tell it to a guys who gets the part when it rains heavily.

  32. The start time of Q2 and Q3 is great! Nice and convenient for watching just before bed.

    They should take note of that for 2014. It would be awesome if qualifying was at 11pm UK time on Friday and the race was at 11pm UK time on Saturday. They could still show a repeat the following day.

    Then there would be no problems with light and no doubt the TV audiences for the live broadcast would be significantly better.

  33. As I was only listening to commentary on the radio I can’t really comment on whether race control was overly cautious, but in general from the races I have seen, I think in general, they are overly cautious when it comes to running in the rain.

    The start time I think should be one that suits the local audience rather than an international one. After all the event is part of the Formula One WORLD Championship, and there are events spread across a lot of the worlds time zones. Just as the championship is moving away from being Europe centric, it’s audience should too, and to help that spread, surely the races should start at a time that suits the locals hosting the race rather than European TV audiences. That way all audiences will lose out at some point and have races at inconvenient times, but I think that’s only fair when its a world championship. Presumably in the case of Australia that would mean an earlier start time to allow time for unexpected delays to happen and sessions still to finish before it gets dark.

    Finally the current format of qualifying is fine. Reverting back to the old 60 minute / 12 lap system wouldn’t help, you would still end up with people complaining about the outcome if sessions were stopped early. And after all there are contingencies to form a grid using number order, run qualifying early on race day, or the stewards can decide something else.

  34. I’m based in Europe, but was more concerned with the Aussie fans. To have braved the weather themselves, only to be told that it was too wet for the cars must have been a big disappointment.
    I plan to take my young (4yo) son to Spa for Saturday Quali. I’m not sure he’s sit still for a whole race but think he’d manage 3 Quali sessions. I’d hate to take him and it be cancelled due to weather

    1. Why are you taking your 4 year old to an F1 race, he’s probably gonna hate every minute of it. Plus I don’t think the noise would be good for him, and 4 year olds are not known for diligently keeping their earplugs where they belong.

      1. @M o M why are you here?

  35. Lets say the race should start at 1pm local time in Australia. That would mean 2am here to watch it, which would be perfect. Qualifying should have been on earlier too. If Bernie is really worried about exposure to the fans, have cheaper tickets, more races and season available on DVD and not picking rubbish tracks cause they will pay him like Bahrain. True fans will always stay up for the live action.

  36. I think a lot of time was wasted by being cautious. There were clear periods when the rain had abated sufficiently to atleast have Q2 in the bag. Instead, playing the watch and wait game meant that those precious periods were lost. I am sure once the cars would have take o track during those moments, the track would have been dried enough atleast for inters to be used on a proper racing line. There have been races in weather much worse than this. I think this is becoming an increasingly common occurrence during rain. Even Montreal 2011, when the rain was low enough to get a proper race saw the safety car circulate for around 10-11 laps.

    In my view they could have atleast let the cars out to circulate for a few laps and then begin the qualifying. If they can do it in races I am sure this could be done in qualifying as well. If the conditions became worse as they did then by all means call it off. But at the very least, try!

  37. The light wasn’t really an issue in my opinion. A contributory factor for sure, but it continued to rain after dark so it’s a bit of a moot point. As for the start time, yes if the session was at an earlier time we could have had a complete session, but that’s the same as saying; “Well, if we did the race last week it wouldn’t have been rained off.” It’s a nothing argument, the race is scheduled at a certain time well in advance, if it rains during that time then it’s just bad luck and you work around it to achieve the best possible result.

    I think the sessions should be scheduled for no later than a 3.30pm start – or four hours before sun down in any location for that matter. If the limit on a session is 4 hours, why not leave enough time to accomodate the full time allowance should it be needed? Silly.

    1. @nick-uk

      yes if the session was at an earlier time we could have had a complete session, but that’s the same as saying; “Well, if we did the race last week it wouldn’t have been rained off.”

      Of course I’m not saying “it was dry earlier, they should have held qualifying then”, that’s obviously a useless, after-the-facts line of reasoning.

      The point is that the earlier a session starts, the higher the chance that we’ll get sufficiently good conditions to hold a session in.

      For example, if you start a two-hour race two-and-a-half hours before it goes dark, then a delay longer than half an hour (for any reason) will cause a problem.

      But if you start the race earlier, you have a larger window of opportunity to hold the race. That half-hour delay isn’t a problem any more.

      I think the sessions should be scheduled for no later than a 3.30pm start – or four hours before sun down in any location for that matter.


      1. @keithcollantine Yeah I think we are on the same page. My comment was relatively generalised in response to the article and sitiation in qualifying. I wasn’t accusing you of making the suggestion that I highlighted.

  38. Antonio (@frosty-jacks-racing-team)
    16th March 2013, 14:25

    I have only just watched the highlights on BBC and I was a little confused the weather didn’t look THAT bad compared to some I have seen. Is it more the modern cars are less suited to rain or the track being temporary being too treacherous? I’m guessing the circuit must have quite a change in elevation or something, maybe you locals can knowledge me :D

    1. Firstly, Tony, TV cameras compensate for “Low light” so it was a lot darker at the track than it appeared on TV, secondly the track is flat so the water does not run off quickly.

  39. Michael Brown (@)
    16th March 2013, 14:32

    Did they actually change the start time for this race?

    1. @lite992 It was last changed in 2009 (as noted in the article).

  40. Current Quali format is the best I’ve experienced. I’ve followed F1 for more than 20 years and we have had really boring Quali formats. Lets stick with this one!

    The main reason is that race time is too late. Same for Korea (?)! Just make the race and Quali start earlier local time, and you have more room to play with.

    And the tyres. Cars should have even more extreme tyres. Is it so impossible to make? I think the wet-weather tyres haven’t changed a lot for years and years. Maybe time to improve their capability in clearing water?

    1. @f1lauri Can’t imagine that creating a monsoon tyre would be that difficult. If my memory serves me correct (and it may not), such a thing existed in the 90s, though I could be talking rubbish.

      I’ve no idea how much water the Pirellis clear in relation the the old Bridgestones, but I imagine it’s around the same amount. I suspect that’s somewhere in the fine print of the contract.

      1. It’s not about tyres. Teams basically don’t even look at what they can change for rain conditions anymore. Why should they, if they can get session stopped at their convenience.

        Look at the rain setup 10 years ago or more now you can hardly find a difference, it’s inconvenient.

      2. @lin1876
        I believe too that there was a monsoon tire in the 90’s but it was rarely used so they stopped making it to save costs. I was trying to find some info about it but I couldn’t really find any good source.

        I found that the 2010 Bridgestone tires could clear 61 litres of water at 300 km/h while the 2011 Pirellis could clear 60 litres. I don’t know if that has changed since the 2011 season though.

        1. So these couple of races just have to start earlier, to be able to postpone and stop the sessions for 2-3 hours.

          But do the cars go to water slide because of tyres can’t cope with the water or because the floor “floats” on the water?

  41. The answers to the three questions asked? No, no and no.

    The difference between tracks like Silverstone and ones like Albert Park is that Silverstone is a purpose built racetrack. Albert Park is not, we’ve also had a lack of rain over the last few seasons there so if there’s a problem, we just haven’t noticed it. Note that Montréal and Albert Park are two very similar tracks, and last time it rained there, we were sat waiting for two hours.

    The start time, is one with a no-win situation. You can either have the start time at 3/4am and have hardly anybody watch it (I know I would struggle if I had work or coursework to be able to mess up my sleeping pattern), or you can have it at 5/6am with the risk of running low light. Alternatively, the date of the race could be a few weeks earlier, where the sun stays up a bit longer, but I doubt the teams would be up for this…

    As for the quali format, I’d keep it as is. If you have a situation like this, or one where in the event of somebody being seriously hurt, I think it would be harsh to turn around to a driver, who may have not gone absolutely flat-out in Q1 for example, and tell him “yeah, you’re starting there tomorrow.” despite having the potential to be further up the grid.

    I just think this is one of those weird situations. Canada 2011 and Brazil 2009 seem more like a decent reference than Europe 2007 or Silverstone 2008. We all remember what happened in Canada and Brazil.

    1. @craig-o, not everybody who watches F1 lives in your time-zone, and note that in Montreal the race started earlier (local time) so we could have 2 hours of delay and still watch a great race.

  42. Let’s assume that race control are not being too cautious, and that anything significantly worse than intermediate conditions really does require a red flag (I’m not convinced, but for the sake of argument let’s proceed with that view). Surely that’s a problem with the cars, which seem unable to survive conditions which cars could a decade ago. Are the tyres less effective? Are the cars significantly lower to the ground? Is the suspension gemoetry ill-suited to a wet track? I’m no engineer, but the fact that other series can and do run in far worse conditions suggests this is a problem which affects F1 far more than other series.

    What of the solutions? Pirelli could create deeper wet tyres to raise the ride height and move more water. Perhaps the teams could be allowed to make wide-ranging set-up changes in the event of weather changes, hence removing the problem of cars set up for dry running having to cope with a sodden track. As for the spray issue, perhaps F1 could consider IndyCar-style wheel guards which would act as mud flaps.

    It’s clear that the status quo is not working, because we have seen needless disruption at several races in recent years. With the sport visiting countries like Malaysia, China and Japan where heavy rain is very likely, a solution needs to be found because the weather can and will be worse than what we saw this morning. Solutions like deeper wet tyres and allowing set-up changes would be quick to implement, and the FIA have acted quickly in the past, like after the tyre fiasco at Brazil 2003.

  43. It was a farce and its time Charlie Whiting retired, his rain calls are getting more and more timid. These are the best drivers in the world and they have rain tyres, get on with it! I bet Sir Stirling Moss would be staggered at the wusses that run F1 these days. Pitiful!

  44. If drivers don’t want to drive, they can just *not* drive… there are options in the rules for cars which don’t set times…

  45. Speaking to some guys at the track, Seems the conditions were much worse than they looked on TV.

    The rain was apparently extremely heavy for a large portion of the delay while on TV they didn’t always look that bad.

    The painted lines round the track have been painted by something which has made them twice as slippery at they usually are & all 22 drivers were complaining about them.

    Also there were 2 rivers going across the track which cameras couldn’t really pick up right due to the angles. The 1st was where Pic crashed exiting turn 10 & the other was in the kink going down to turn 13.
    The one exiting T10 was draining from a massive puddle that had formed behind the concrete wall.

    There was also a big puddle through the T8 sweeper, They showed on the Sky coverage that Hamilton had a big moment there early in Q1, The puddle was said to be much worse after the heavy downpour that came down after Q1.

    Regarding how decisions like this are made, Its not just Charlie Whiting sitting up in race control deciding these things. He’d have got some input from teams/driver, Got feedback from the medical car driver, Been watching the weather radar to see if there’s any rain on the way, He’d also have been getting input from marshall’s & FIA people around the track. The marshalls & FIA people around the track would inform him of any standing water & any places where rivers are going across track.

    Regarding the medical car, Its sent out more so the driver can look at where puddles have formed & he can surprisingly get a pretty decent gauge on how much or little grip the surface is providing.

  46. I love the current quali-format, qualifying has never been as exiting as now. What happened today is just the session starting to late and unwillingness to let the drivers use the fullwet tires. Having qualifying tomorrow should not be any problem and it would be boring to just use the q1 times. Qualifying is not something to just get out of the way before the race, it is often one of the highlights of the weekend, right up there with the start and the final laps of the race!

    1. unwillingness to let the drivers use the fullwet tire

      I don’t follow your meaning – all the drivers used full wet tyres during Q1.

  47. Why on Earth does a sport as rich as F1 not have even a rudimentary version of the Air Titan track drying system used by NASCAR? Even a simple “jet engine on a truck” would make a huge difference. Far better than brooms…

    1. Give it time (hopefully)

  48. I just want to know, does Australia not have Street-Sweeper trucks that can suck up the water & leaves? A few of those out on track going around would’ve easily taken care of the water (& leaves) standing on track at the time and allowed them to run Q1 on time followed by having those trucks back on track between the sessions so that Q2 could’ve got going, etc.

    1. Exactly. In the States, Airports, baseball stadiums, IndyCar and NASCAR have been using pretty simple but effective pickup truck jet dryers for decades. They are widely available for a <$350k (peanuts, in F1 terms).

      And the Air Titan system I mentioned previously would be mega. That thing could have easily dried the track fast enough to start Q1 and Q2 on time, potentially allowing Q3, too.

      I'm an open wheel diehard for life, but it wouldn't kill our beloved sport to borrow some good ideas from NASCAR every now and then.

  49. What an absolute farce, on so many levels. F1 is supposed to be about the best drivers showing their worth, the top calibre of which should have the ability to prove themselves in the most challenging conditions. It seems a good portion of the drivers were keen to get on, and get out on the track, even Max Chilton, dumped out in Q1 felt it was possible to continue.

    But no, the FIA feared that if one driver broke a finger nail in a gravel trap, they’ll have Gladstone Brooks on their case for an injury at work. The drivers pay extorntionate fees for their licenses and most have come a long way to get into F1, often competing and qualifying in more difficult conditions.

    How would great drivers of yesteryear who drove around in inferrior and, in some cases, more powerful than todays with little or no driver aids have shown their worth? If the FIA were as pathetic in 1984 as they were today, Senna wouldnt have blitzed the field in Monaco, and arguably would not have got the promotion onwards and upwards.

    I also feel for the fans. I appreciate it was a live qualifying session, but a lot of people paid a lot of money to get to and see the event, some may have only been able to get qualifying day tickets. I know it’s a live qualifying session, but couldnt two seaters been sent out to a) judge the driving conditions in a car more compareable to todays F1 car than the medical car, and b) give something for the fans to view?

    Finally, one has to ask what the point in full wet weather tyres are? The FIA either throws a red flag or puts out the safety car when they’re needed. When they’re not, the track only requires intermediate at best most of the time. How about just binning full wets? It’s obviously a waste of time transporting them half way accross the globe for nothing.

  50. Quali is not too complicated but it is too long and dull anyway. If they knocked out 7 and 7 (8 & 8 with 24 cars) and ran the sessions shorter, it would make Q1 and Q2 really mean something, which too often they don’t. Q1 is just a snoozefest usually.

  51. I agree, the format for qualifying is unnecessarily complicated, and what’s more, it doesn’t set the grid up correctly for the start of a race. The grid should be set up for the fastest accelerating cars to be at the front, not the fastest running cars to be at the front.
    To me, a much simpler solution is get each driver to do a standing start sprint for a predetermined distance, e.g. the length of the main straight, one lap of the track, etc, the order being somehow related to the results of the last race, e.g. same order as the last race results (or, since this is the first race of the year, by the car number), by reversing the results of the last race (so winner goes last), etc.
    Fastest accelerating car gets Pole.
    “And what,” you say, “happens when a car runs off the track, crashes, breaks down, has a puncture, or for some reason fails to set a time?” Simple: go to the back of the grid. The order for cars there can be determined by a number of means, e.g. pure chance, by car number, being given a second chance (so fastest car here is the front car of those that failed to complete a track time).
    Ideally each driver should be the only car on track at that time, but you could do them in twos if there weren’t any corners involved e.g. each team has their two cars sprint at the same time.
    So what would have happened in this case, where qualifying wasn’t completed due to rain? The problem you have here is the track conditions are / were changing, so some people, especially those with poor times, will believe they were unfairly treated compared to those that got good times (as is the current situation for those knocked out at the end of Q1). You would have had a partially complete grid (as is the current situation), so there would be cars that you knew for certain were at the back of the grid, car x is in front of car y, etc. The remaining unqualified cars can be given their chance later on, as is the current situation, so in this case it is on Sunday morning.

    1. Sarcasm?

  52. I was glad they postponed it. It was very cold and had been raining for hours. Even sitting in the stands at the first corner wasnt fun in the very heavy rain! Looking forward to watching the rest today in about 3 hours.

  53. Unfortunately for us US fans it was disappointing after keeping awake till early hours of the morning.

    As a F1 fan I was happy that they stopped the qualifying. It was too dark too wet and to dangerous out there. I thought they might bring up the red flag in the q1 after Massa’s accident. Overall a good decision by FIA.

  54. I was a drowned rat at the track, but at least I could get out of the rain in the paddock club. I certainly felt really bad for the fans in the stands and GA who were out in the elements waiting for Q2 & Q3 to get underway.

    I left the track at 7:20pm, 30mins after the announcement that they postponed qualy to sunday and the track was virtually empty… In the 17 years I’ve been going to the GP, it was the eeriest sight walking back with only a few people here and there.

    In the end, the FIA had to make a call, and they made one, someone is going to be unhappy and someone is going to be happy. That’s life as an official…

    I’d just like to point out, that as an F1 fan in Australia, there is no doubt that we get the raw end of the deal with some of the races, most races in Europe are at 10pm on Sunday Night, then when the races head into the Americas or South America, the race is at 3am or 4am on Monday Morning. Meaning that I have to organise time off work to watch these races live, or worse, go into work really tired (done that too many times than I care to remember)…

  55. Weather happens, it is part of any sport. I was sorry to see the weather affect the qualifying and people were disappointed. such is life.
    For the idea of having one solid hour of qualifying, it could be interesting, but I like the way it is now. They both have the advantages and disadvantages, but I feel the way it is now is more interesting.
    This weekend is and will be interesting in a variety of ways and I ended up, like someone else said early, with more F1 time overall due to mother nature.

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