‘Elimination qualifying’ will mean changes but won’t trouble Mercedes

2016 F1 season

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One of the most enjoyable racing modes in Codemasters’ Formula One-styled Mario Kart clone F1 Race Stars was ‘elimination’, where whichever driver occupies last place is periodically booted from the race.

This was almost certainly not what inspired F1 team bosses to concoct their new ‘elimination qualifying’ plan for the upcoming season but the principle is much the same.

Sticking within the current Q1/Q2/Q3 framework, with some adjustments to the timing of each session, the slowest driver will be eliminated every 90 seconds until the chequered flag falls. Seven drivers will drop out in the first two sessions wnd Q3 will end with two drivers on track for the final 90 seconds.

Elimination qualifying obeys the unwritten F1 law that every alteration to the rule book must make the sport more complicated. Staying true to form, the powers-that-be authorised to shake-up without consulting drivers or fans, nor explaining what was wrong with the old system and what’s better about the new one. So what difference will it make?

Will it stop Mercedes taking pole?

Don’t expect Mercedes to suddenly struggle
The FIA vaguely promised “a faster, more spectacular” championship when the plan was announced on Wednesday. However comments made by Bernie Ecclestone indicated a clear hope the new rules will make it harder for Mercedes to sustain their run of success in qualifying which has seen them take pole position for 36 of the past 38 races.

“I think if we had a different grid we would certainly have different racing,” Ecclestone told Reuters. “It’s no good just seeing Mercedes in the front, without any competition. That’s what I complained about.”

Eric Boullier reinforced this line when speaking to Autosport, “There may be times, though, when Mercedes will miss pole,” he said, “which will be good for the show.”

But if Mercedes enjoy the same performance advantage this year that they did 12 months ago, there is no reason to believe elimination qualifying will make it significantly more difficult for them to take pole position.

In order for Mercedes to fall victim to elimination their rivals will first have to set quicker lap times than them – something which almost never happened during qualifying last year. In the 16 dry Q3 sessions in which Mercedes took pole position in 2015, on 15 occasions their rivals were unable to beat Mercedes’ first run times even later in the session when track conditions had improved.

If Mercedes’ rivals can’t beat the lap times right at the end of Q3 when track conditions are usually at their best, they are not going to be able to beat them by setting their lap times earlier in the session when the conditions are less favourable, which they would need to do in order to force one of the W07s into elimination.

Only once in Q3 last year were Mercedes’ initial lap times beaten by the competition later in Q3. This was in Bahrain, where the Ferraris were quicker on their final runs than Mercedes had been on their first. However the Ferrari drivers set those times in the final minute of qualifying, at which point they had fallen to sixth and seventh places. So under the new rules they would have already been eliminated and not in a position to knock out the Mercedes drivers.

This at least demonstrates that the new system is going to force teams to rethink their tactics.

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Q1, Q2 and Q3 tactics

Drivers will have to choose carefully when to set a lap
At present teams go into Q1 and Q2 having studied their rivals’ pace and calculated a target lap time which they need to achieve in order to progress to the next stage. That goal will remain, but teams will also have to consider the need to avoid being the slowest car once eliminations begin.

We will therefore see drivers setting lap times earlier in the session. Under the new system drivers will start being eliminated seven minutes into Q1. In the final qualifying session of last season eight drivers were yet to complete a lap at that point.

Having more cars on track together earlier on will also create more congestion and no doubt more accusations of impeding for the stewards to sort out.

However it may also make drivers less willing to abandon a lap if they find themselves in the slipstream of a rival. Better to set a slightly compromised lap time than back off to find space but risk falling to the bottom of the times and being eliminated.

Teams will choose when to set their first lap in each session based on the expectation of whether they’ll need to do a second. The front-runners can wait until close to the seven-minute mark in Q1 in the expectation that a single good lap will guarantee they go through.

However those expecting to be among the slowest qualifiers will need to make sure they’re able to get back out on track in order to set fresh lap times when the eliminations begin. The first driver eliminated will only have had time to do a single flying lap at most tracks due to the time needed to go in and out of the pits to change tyres and because the current tyres generally give their best grip only on the first lap.

The process will be repeated in Q2 with a slightly tighter time limit putting an even greater premium on nailing that first lap. As is already the case, any drivers who reach Q3 will have to start the race on the same tyres they used to set their fastest time in Q2.

The new format may make the most noticeable difference in Q3. Instead of seeing up to ten cars on-track at once for a final blast, the final 90 seconds will feature just two cars on track, the rest having been eliminated.

At 14 minutes, Q3 is now two minutes longer than last year. That means drivers will be able to get two runs in – providing they stay in the session long enough. Again, those hoping to stay in long enough to remain in contention for the best starting places will have to choose carefully when they run.

More shocks for the show?

Vettel might’ve dodged his Q1 exit under new rules
It’s not difficult to imagine how the pressures of the elimination system could catch drivers out. Fail to nail that first flying lap in Q2 and you can forget about reaching the top ten shoot-out. An over-running repair job from final practice could now be much more of a problem in Q1.

However the elimination system could also prevent some of the shocks we’ve seen in the past from happening, and you only need to look at the most recent qualifying session for an example.

In Abu Dhabi last year Ferrari misjudged how quick Sebastian Vettel needed to lap to reach Q2. When other drivers went quicker, Vettel was sensationally knocked out in the first round.

Two drivers who had originally set slower times than Vettel – Jenson Button and Felipe Nasr – were among those who posted significant improvements late on and knocked him out of the running. However under the elimination system planned for this year it’s likely they’d have been knocked out before they had the chance to post those improved times.

Complications and consequences

A big unknown in all this is the effect the new tyre rules will have. Drivers now have the choice of an additional softer compound and whereas last year all the drivers went into qualifying with the same tyre allocations, now they can vary.

Furthermore, the rules require that all the teams have already informed the FIA of their selections for the first four races of the year, so they will not have been able to take these rules into consideration.

Track evolution – the rate at which lap times fall as the racing line becomes cleaner and coated with rubber – will also influence tactics from circuit to circuit. At high-evolution tracks such as street circuits the risks and rewards of setting a lap a late as possible will be greater.

Will elimination qualifying happen? The clock is ticking
Inevitably there remain areas which need to be clarified. For instance, if two or more drivers are yet to set a time when eliminations begin, which one drops out?

With the first qualifying session of the season just three weeks away and the rule not due to be ratified by the World Motor Sport Council one week from today, there is little time to work out and plan for any unintended consequences. And Formula One Management will need to have new timing software and television graphics ready or the first grand prix.

What will F1 gain from this change? We may see some surprise qualifying eliminations but we already did with the previous system and as explained above this one could prevent some of the shocks we’ve seen in the past. And it’s not going to stop Mercedes sauntering to pole after pole if they still have the performance advantage they enjoyed last year.

More to the point, what was wrong with the old format that suddenly meant it had to go? The knockout system was the product of a six-year period during which time eight significant changes were made to the qualifying rules, and since then has undergone further refinements. It was still able to catch top drivers out from time to time – both Ferrari drivers fell victim to it last year and though it never tripped Mercedes up that was clearly because they had a huge performance advantage.

It’s been widely reported that what Ecclestone was in fact pushing another of his gimmicks which would have seen the most successful drivers given ‘time ballast’, forcing them to start lower down the grid. Fortunately there were enough other people at the table who saw another double points fiasco coming and thought up elimination qualifying as the lesser of two evils.

On paper, that’s about the most positive thing you can say about it. As a solution to F1’s real ills, it doesn’t even merit the term ‘sticking plaster’.

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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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107 comments on “‘Elimination qualifying’ will mean changes but won’t trouble Mercedes”

  1. does the clock stop fr yellows and they have to go into virtual safety car mode otherwise people could be eliminated due to bad luck

    1. I asked a very similar question when this idea was first reported, no one replied and so it would seem to be unclear. Even a local waved yellow will be a major problem as the drivers are supposed to show evidence of slowing down and the Stewards will be watching carefully for that. With more cars on track at the beginning of Q1, we are bound to get a yellow somewhere sooner or later; and then what? Stop the clock and add on time to compensate for someone’s wasted partial lap? Cancel everyone’s times and restart the session? Toss a few coins?

    2. If I am reading the rules correctly and intentions of Bernie, there won’t be any stoppage of clock for yellow flags as Bernie wants chaos and a shuffled grid. So a yellow flag can upset the pecking order of the grid – which is what he wants.

      PS – This is just my interpretation, there are no clear rules set as of now for this.

      1. Then, this is a safety issue. Remember Bianchi’s fatal accident, it happened under yellow flags. So, if they want more chaos, why bother to “protect” drivers even more?

        If something works out, don’t touch it!!!

        1. @fernanzazpi – Indeed it is a safety issue and I hope I am wrong in my interpretation.

          If something works out, don’t touch it!!!

          I think almost every F1 fan right now is having this thought, but FOM/FIA are going by their habit of fixing things which are not broken.

        2. How does that follow? The drivers still have to slow down (and far more than they do currently, actually). They’ll just be robbed of a chance to set a competitive laptime.

          1. Any extra slowing down for yellow flags will have to be designated and enforced by separate decree, as nothing requires them to slow down more than the amount in 2015. It encourages the closest skirting of the limit possible – as if racers weren’t already incentivised enough to do so. Not only is this dangerous, but it means people will get through on the grounds of cheating (to a more severe extent than can already happen with 2015-style qualifying).

      2. So the best way to take advantage of the new format is to whizz out immediately, do a quick lap and then spin in a dangerous place, forcing everyone else to slow down.

        1. That doesn’t sound like something F1 drivers would ever do. :s)

  2. Chris (@tophercheese21)
    26th February 2016, 12:27

    So if I understand this correctly, the driver with the slowest time at each 90 second interval will be eliminated, irrespective of whether he is currently on a faster lap? Or do they allow him to complete that lap and if there is no improvement he is then eliminated?

    1. petebaldwin (@)
      26th February 2016, 12:51

      No idea – I’ve asked the same on another thread. If they can finish the lap, it’ll be incredibly confusing! 5th could be eliminated before 6th if they’re still on a lap!

      1. Drivers will be eliminated when the time is up even if they are on a faster lap, so there will be no point in completing the lap as it will not count. The only exceptions are at the end of the session i.e. the last eliminations in Q1 and Q2, and the end of Q3 when the drivers will still be able to complete any laps started before the chequered flag as they do now and those laps will still count.

        1. I think the idea is that drivers will go full out all the time instead of warming tires, so there would not be a “faster lap´” anymore..

          1. “Faster laps” are usually because the circuit evolves, especially on street circuits or after support races. It will still happen.

    2. I think you are right. The cut off is time based and doesn’t allow them to complete laps they are already on. So if you improve and miss the cut off, you are out.

      It of course logically means that there could be a situation where the fastest lap of the session doesn’t count.

    3. @tophercheese21 I think at the cut off time, any driver in the last place will be eliminated irrespective of whether he is on a lap or not.

    4. The BBC news item says drivers can complete the lap they are on if it is the last one of the session, implying that all other eliminations occur at the moment of cut-off. I don’t see many situations where there will be cars on the track for that to be relevant, but it’s useful to know.

  3. Madness. This is the only term it merits. Just look at how complicated the whole thing is to explain.

    1. Well, at least we finally have some consistency. These new rules are consistently as hard to explain as the new tyre rules.

      1. sadly, i think this will do more to confuse and push away new fans to the sport. It’s hard enough to explain as is.

  4. I don’t really know why they changed something that was never the problem, and won’t affect races at all. All the qualifying changes we’ve seen over the years have only had 1 result: more cars on track all the time.

    It’s their aim to make it worth watching. But why does it have to be a “thing” to make qualy worth watching? it’s always been boring, and you don’t win points on saturday!

    And by the way, how many people work at Mercedes? are they really going to be affected by this? not at all! they have never been! they have the fastest car and the best chance, if anything it’s the other teams that will fail to make an impression, knocking each other out.

    It’s just madness. It’s going to be really tedious to watch. That and the fact that it’ll change so fast that we won’t see any relevant action on track because the camera will be somewhere else all the time. On the 12 lap system, we often got to watch the full pole lap, even better in the single lap system. Nowadays, it’s a real fuzz once the flag drops and there’s so much to watch in so little time that we always miss the best part.

    And with a system this complicated, we’ll miss even more. The TV director is rubbish even during boring races: and when things spice up a bit, he tends to fail even more, following the wrong car or not catching an incident worth watching. So kudos to F1 for giving him a much harder time!

  5. Inevitably there remain areas which need to be clarified. For instance, if two or more drivers are yet to set a time when eliminations begin, which one drops out?

    I Think it will be the same as now. The last driver who set the same time will get eliminated.

    1. The last driver to set a time out of two drivers who haven’t set times?

      1. ColdFly F1 (@)
        26th February 2016, 14:28

        seems clear to me @keithcollantine: The first one not to set a time goes through :-/
        Thus expect all drivers rushing to not set a time :-?

      2. They could eliminate both drivers and skip the next elimination.

      3. @keithcollantine, @coldfly I guess there are 2 possible (illogic) ways to solve that.
        – The one with the best first sector.
        – The higher qualifier in the previous GP. (Well, if 2 cars don’t go out in Australia, it could be a trouble).

    2. I think it will be the same as this year: fastest FP3 times (assuming either of them got round to setting one), then fastest FP2 times if neither managed to do so, then fastest FP1 times, and if no free practise times were set, whoever can get out of the garage faster to join the pitlane queue (in the unlikely event that any car in such a situation were permitted to have their breach of the “no racing without doing a lap at some point beforehand” rule waivered.

  6. Chris (@tophercheese21)
    26th February 2016, 12:50

    It’s their aim to make it worth watching. But why does it have to be a “thing” to make qualy worth watching? it’s always been boring, and you don’t win points on saturday!

    Actually quite the contrary, in the last few years Qualifying has often been the most exciting part of the weekend.

    I just hate that the rule makers are trying to use the rules to generate unpredictability, when it should be originating ‘organically’ from the sporting competition. If Mercedes go on to win every race and take every pole, so be it. They’ve done a fantastic job. Don’t penalise them with gimmicks like this new qualifying format, sprinklers on track, etc. etc. It’s absurd.

    It’s the F1 equivalent of Roger Federer vs Rafael Nadal, only Roger starts every game at 30-0 down and Nadal has to play in roller skates. Sure it’s be entertaining for the first few games, but it’s not why people watch sport. Sport is watched and enjoyed because it’s an equal fight between competitors with it’s unpredictability arising naturally, not through stupid regulation changes.

    1. @tophercheese21 Couldn’t agree more.

    2. But F1 is not a sport, its “entertainment”.

    3. I think it is designed to improve the TV spectacle at the expense of the fans at the circuit. That helps Bernie make more from the TV rights and reduces the circuit owner’s share of the takings as attendance figures drop.

    4. @tophercheese21

      Roller skates you say? Good idea, son, let’s have Mercedes on roller skates.

      Kind regards,


  7. How have I not heard about the F1 Racing Stars game before!?! Need to get on that.

    The new qualifying systems sounds like a spectacularly ill-thought-out ball of unexplainable chaos and I’m quite looking forward to it…

    1. OmarRoncal - Go Seb!!! (@)
      26th February 2016, 14:37

      @olliej don’t bother. I got it and you can’t change keyboard, and steering wheels don’t work. The game looks fun, but that kind of setback makes gameplay irritating.

    2. It’s the same as Sonic All Stars, only worse! Don’t bother with it.

  8. As I see it, it makes the first run of Q2 the most important of all. It should basically qualifies you for Q3 on a single lap or you are damaging tyres for the race if you don’t. It could mean an even greater advantage for Mercedes as they were the only team capable of such thing on previous season.

    Still curious to see what it will provide. Surely we will have congestion during Q1. We will have more multi laps runs from team and slower cars which are dropped and manage their tyres back to the pit.

    I think we may have some mayhem at the first races but teams will quickly get over it and it will be back to normal with some rare exceptions.

  9. How they decide which driver to eliminate if e.g. two of them didn’t finish a lap? By driber number? WDC position?

    1. New drivers will think carefully about choosing higher numbers if that becomes the criterion!

  10. So not only is it a completely unnecessary (and generally unpopular) change, but it will prevent some of the shocks we saw last year? It’s just another case of changing rules (and they really got the quali format nailed down for 2014 I feel) for the sake of changing rules, when the actual problems in F1 are left untouched.

    I do feel that it will encourage middle of the grid teams to run more sets of tyres in qualifying, which will hurt them in the race, which I don’t see as a positive at all.

    As for watching just two cars (most likely two Mercedes on every occasion) circulating at the end of qualifying, I can’t see how that appeals to anybody.

    1. the last line makes me laugh.

      1. The last line also won’t happen, because Merc will realize it is in the team’s interest to not have their drivers race for pole, taking life out of the car / tires and risking an accident. Expect to see silence in the last couple of minutes in every qualifying session where Merc have a significant advantage (that is to say, most or all of them), accompanied by the two Merc drivers already out of their cars and twiddling their thumbs. If there are complaints, expect to see the Mercs come out and put on a show of “fighting” for pole, but without actually pushing anything even near to the limits.

        On the plus side, more time for the drivers to stroll over to the interviews, so there’s that.

    2. I think that on many occasions we will see everyone just sitting in their pits after the first 7 minutes in Q1 and Q2.

  11. Lol, excellent, pity Bernie couldn’t get to read this article before it became necessary @keithcollantine.

  12. All this means is fewer people will bother watching qualifying, because the barmy rules just put them off doing so. Losing people getting interested for Saturday also risks fewer people bothering with Sunday. The sport is disappearing up its own backside.

    A sport as big as F1 with no effective governance is ridiculous, even if it’s more entertainment than sport now.

    I’m a long time fan and have accepted quieter-but-more-interesting-sounding PUs (I love the technology), I understood the need for some form of control over PU development so forgave 2014 and 2015, and in truth I don’t mind if lap times are lower now than the old V10/V8 era because the cars are technological marvels. Mercedes have done a superb job and deserve the domination they’ve enjoyed. I was even looking forward to what Q3 qualifying mode would look like in 2016, with both new Ferrari and Merc PUs turned up to 11.

    What I do care about is consistency. With Formula 1, there is none. Nor is there an admission of the real problems (i.e. money, competitive equalisation). I’m quickly losing faith, even if I will still tune into Melbourne qualifying just to see how quick these new cars can go. Once I’ve seen that, I’m not sure I’ll bother with qualifying much more.

    1. +1



      +1. Changes are what costs money. Consistency would save money. Somehow the rulemakers just don’t get it.

  13. This may be a stupid question, but what constitutes a full lap? Is it crossing the chequered flag? Because if a driver passes point A twice he will have completed a lap at that point, even if he doesn’t make it to the flag. Does his lap count or is he eliminated?

    1. @eduardogigante The rules state lap times are only measured starting and ending at a single designated timing point, not any other point on the track.

  14. Isn’t it the other way round:

    If you’re likely to be eliminated, you try to post a lap time as late as possible, when track conditions are better.
    That means 6 minutes into Q1 the track will be busy with all the cars bar Mercedes and maybe the second fastest team, beacause they’ve already set a banker lap early in Q1, which should be easily quick enough to make it to Q2.
    Plus they avoid the traffic later in the session.

  15. Honestly if Mercedes is as dominat as it’s been in the past couple of years nothing is going to keep them from getting pole position (except the time ballast thing, but that is absurd).

    But in general I don’t think that the elimination qualifying will be a disaster. I think that it will be similar to what we have now with different strategies. Arguably there was no need to change it, but I don’t want to be too negative without having seen it in effect. What bothers me is that it’s all a compromise.
    Ecclestone was pushing that ridiculous time ballst idea, but they compromised and they did the elimination qualifying.
    Then someone pointed out that the broadcasters needed ad breaks, so they compromised again and they put this elimination concept on top of Q1, Q2 and Q3. A single qualifying session with the elimination system could have been interesting, maybe just for the fact that the drivers in the “danger zone” would have had a bit more time to react, compared to the mere 90 seconds that they have now. I mean, in many tracks the drivers have to start the lap before they even eliminate the previous driver, which is very complicated. And then we add the new tyre rule on top of it and it becomes impossible to fully understand what’s going on.

    But, as I said, I don’t want to be too negative yet. I would have preferred if the current system had been confirmed, but hopefully the elimination qualifying won’t be as bad as we think.

  16. Just to be a contrarian a bit – I don’t think Mercedes will be immune to qualifying issues with their pace advantage.

    First of all, we don’t know how many of the teams lower on the grid will be running ultra or super soft tires when Mercedes may be trying to get through on softs/mediums. Teams lower on the grid that don’t expect to get through Q1 or Q2 don’t need to worry about saving tires for the race or for later in Qualifying. They may not be fast enough still to beat a Mercedes, but maybe fast enough to cause traffic issues, in those first few laps. They may also bring more sets of the softest compounds – with plans to use one to get into Q2 and one to get into Q3.

    Speaking of the 3rd tire option, how many will teams bring? Will they be used as qualifying tires? What if Ferrari brings 2 sets and uses them in Q3, but Merc only has 1 set?

    We’ll also have 20 cars circulating in those first 7 minutes and finding the gap could be a problem, regardless of pace advantage.

    More than once we’ve seen cars not put in a banker when needed. I think Rosberg may be more susceptible to the elimination, but it’s hard to say. For instance, both spun on their final laps in the Austrian GP – what if that had been their first lap?

    Getting out of Qualifying may also result in compromising tire strategies for the top teams – choosing to go with their fastest tires in Q1, leaving them vulnerable later on or in the race.

    For sure it’s better to be in Mercedes shoes, with the pace advantage, but it’s a bit glib to think that alone is enough to get them to be the last two cars standing in Q3 race in and race out.

  17. I really want to see this qualifying format in action. ONE mistake from Merc at the wrong time and that car potentially starts from the back of the grid.

    Also cars that qualify P1 each race will have completed loads more laps than a team that gets eliminated in Q3 each race, possibly enabling the weaker team to run higher engine settings in the race and the P1 team to run lower settings to make the engine last. Of course by the sounds of it merc will have no problem “outlasting” anyone else.

    This format would also only work if you have tires you can push as hard as you can for 16 minutes.

    1. I really want to see this qualifying format in action. ONE mistake from Merc at the wrong time and that car potentially starts from the back of the grid.

      I think that if that happens at the start of the season it will actually be the fastest way to ship this idea out of the window, as it will be a lottery messing up the championship fight @aliced. Just look how many felt Hamilton not having a chance in Melbourne 2014 skewed the championship in Rosbergs favour from the go in 2014. And that was something mechanical (which has always been part of motorsports) not a random rule

  18. Fasts questions.

    + What happens in circuits such as Singapur or Spa, with lap times even LONGER than the elimination interval?
    +If a driver is knocked out, the “remaining” lap (the returning one, you know, I am not english speaker, the lap after you set the time, how do you call it?), will have to be under a delta time, so it won’t slow down other drivers?
    +Will see blue flags (increasing his delta)?
    +What about red flags?
    +What if two drivers set the exact time, as it happened in Jerez 96 (97?)?
    +Will be any modification in case the qualy is under bad weather?
    +How much time will the steawrds have to decide in case any application regarding drivers impeding other drivers from round to round?

    And, yeah, as Keith pointed out: what about the software for this? And the TV clocks and so on? Are this being properly developed, delivered, packaged and tested? I guess not.

    So, well… not a neat idea at the moment :(

    1. I’m not 100% sure of my understanding of the new rules yet, but here’s my thought:

      1. It’s not a problem because you expected to set your lap before the eliminations. For a single driver, he obviously can’t improve his own time every 90 seconds, but the overall positions of the field can and probably will keep changing on every eliminations.

      2. It’s called in-lap. (the sequence for usual 3 lap run on qualifying is called out-lap, fast-lap, in-lap in case you want to know :). Also the rules will be the same, they can drive slowly, but have to give way immediately to faster cars or risk having penalty for impeding.

      3. There are no blue flags in qualifying.

      4. Probably keeping the order before red flag and continue from there. This probably the end for the 2 or 3 slowest driver at that time because there won’t be enough time to complete the our-lap and 1 fast-lap within 90,180 and 270 seconds in some circuits.

      5. As current rules, the one who set it earlier is positioned ahead of one who set it later.

      6. Don’t think so. It will be chaos, but any qualy rules in bad weather is always chaos.

      7. As current rules, before the start of the race.

    2. + What happens in circuits such as Singapur or Spa, with lap times even LONGER than the elimination interval?

      Assuming any cars are actually on track during the elimination part (I believe most will do all their laps before eliminators, with the exception of dominant cars in Q3), they will need to make sure any lap puts them in a high enough position to escape both eliminations, in cases where there’s two in the same lap.

      +If a driver is knocked out, the “remaining” lap (the returning one, you know, I am not english speaker, the lap after you set the time, how do you call it?), will have to be under a delta time, so it won’t slow down other drivers?

      There’s a rule about not being unnecessarily slow at any point in practise or qualifying, which would cover this situation. I don’t think there will be a delta, but if anyone feels impeded and it can be demonstrated, expect a post-qualifying penalty to be issued to the offender.

      +Will see blue flags (increasing his delta)?

      Blue flags won’t happen in qualifying, since nobody can possibly be a lap down on anyone else.

      +What about red flags?

      Session would stop and be restarted (if a restart is possible), as before. However, if this happens during people’s make-or-break laps (as is most likely), tyre supplies mean it’s unlikely that many cars will bother resuming – just the ones marginal for making the next session (or, in Q3, those who haven’t yet burnt through their ultrasofts) and not due to be knocked out in the next 2 1/2-4 minutes (the effect in Austria will be less pronounced than if it is at Spa).

      +What if two drivers set the exact time, as it happened in Jerez 96 (97?)?

      As @sonicslv says, the first one to set the time will get the higher position. (And it was Jerez 1997 when Jacques Villenueve, Michael Schumacher and Heinz-Harald Frentzen set identical times, and started in that order due to when they set their times).

      +Will be any modification in case the qualy is under bad weather?

      I see no reason why there would be any modification to the rules, though this would assuredly have effects on team strategies in qualifying – if rain was intensifying, the “banker” lap would become the only lap to count, and if the weather got drier as qualifying went through, there would suddenly be an incentive for drivers to time their make-or-break lap according to something near the elimination point set by their banker lap. It would likely be the only time the eliminator system worked in anything like the way its proponents presumably thought it would.

      +How much time will the steawrds have to decide in case any application regarding drivers impeding other drivers from round to round?

      As much time as now – penalties blocking drivers going into the next session haven’t been issued to drivers since Nurburgring 2006, so there is no particular reason to think this format would place any requirement on stewards to have speedier decisions. Strictly speaking, there is a limit – of 4 hours before the start of the race.

  19. This really frustrates me.

    F1 has a massive opportunity this year, HAAS isn’t just a new team. It’s F1’s chance to grab the American market. So why now of all years do we make it complicated? The whole stigma against F1 is how silly and complicated it is. And now they will make it even worse. Do they hate the sport they run?

    Here’s what I would do.

    Q1 and Q2 would be the same as last year. With free tyre choice for everyone for the race.

    Q3 would be called the top ten shootout.
    This is when all the cars are given a special one off set of ultra soft tyres. A 5 minute timer starts at the beginning of the session. Each driver gets one timed lap which they must start before the timer hits zero. The lap times determine the top ten starting order.

    its easy to understand, it’d be exciting on TV and there is potential for mistakes and unexpected results. It also forces the drivers to fight for track position if they try to lap late in the session.

    For sure, it’s probably not as good as we had last year. But it’d be great I think for the new audience and for TV. If presented properly it would be very dramatic I think.

    1. Still needs to be approved…how big is the chance that it won’t be?

      1. Good point. I certainly hope it’s not.

    2. FlyingLobster27
      26th February 2016, 15:39

      I made a similar suggestion the other day, Mike, but with no intermediate knock-out: one rather long session, 30 minutes minimum (long enough for first runs, improvements and reactions), followed by Superpole, which could work exactly as you described, 5 minutes to start one flying lap for the session’s top 10.
      None of this Chase for Pole business! I emphasise the comparison with NASCAR because I have explained their Chase system to a few friends, and it’s always taken five minutes solid. So now, we need five minutes to explain qualifying, another five to explain the tyre allocation system, another five for the PUs and penalties drivers get for replacing each part, and so on… QP will be over by the time everyone understands!

    3. Actually, Bernie thinks Americans want their sports to be complicated, that was his main justification for introducing re-fuelling, to give American commentators more statistics and strategies to talk about, supposedly to get the American audience more involved.

    4. You nailed it.

      I’d even grow to appreciate having LEDs flashing on cars who were on their hot laps for the Q3 shootout; this would still be easier to take in than the new system.

      What do you think about having the top 10 draw lots for determining the order of going out for Q3? Not being facetious–if they want to shake up the grid/spice up the show then this might be a simple way to do it. If you’re not ready when you get called up, you get sent to P10.

  20. Y’ know, I think I suddenly understand it all.
    Bernie wanted to have some kind of championship success time penalty to spice things up a bit. The teams really didn’t want that and so agreed unanimously for this alternative. But it’s still got to be ratified by the FIA Sporting Council or someone apparently. Someone is going to object to it, pointing out that as the teams were required to select their grades of tyres before these changes were announced, it represents a significant and unfair variation. So the Council stop the implementation of the new system, we go back to the existing system and Bernie is thwarted for another year at least.

    1. I actually think this is very likely. So many obvious and practical problems have already been raised that I can honestly not see how this will be approved.

    2. @nickwyatt That’s it, comment of the year.

    3. I sincerely hope you are correct, Nick. If nothing else, by Pirelli hopefully vetoing it because it had to decide its tyre compounds without knowing the qualifying system they were intended to be used in.

  21. Why do it at the last moment, why not do a test round in the last few races of 2016, so that if people/drivers like the format they continue it in the next season and if not then scrap it.

  22. If this were a techincal change, I’d read it and be interested in what it does and why. I expect engineering related changes with F1. But rule changes for “The Show” I am not interested in and the thought of having to digest it and work it all out just annoys me and puts me off watching it.
    I like the old format and pretty much most of the qualifying formats preceding this idea. The “take it in turns” for 1 lap was not a favourite of mine but at least it was a single driver and car against the track. As with the old formats of qualifying at least we knew that it was about a driver in a F1 car pushing themselves to the limit over 1 lap. This however seems a desperate attempt to upset the dominant car \ driver combo each weekend by shoving traffic on track. Because there will be traffic as drivers fight to get their laps done in time. We have Sundays for traffic and passing in the race. Leave the Saturdays for 1 lap banzai magic.

  23. Ok this over complicated rules probably mean I’ll just skip Q and wait for the grid (after penalties) being posted here or elsewhere.

    Bravo Bernie, you just lost an audience.

  24. To be fair, I think many people hate it because they subconsciously think “this won’t stop Mercedes”. Mercedes dominance is an anomaly in F1. If we remove Mercedes level of dominance from the equation (which is logical because it will end, most likely before the qualy format changes again) the new rule could provide more unpredictability. Heck, I think behind Mercedes we won’t see many rows occupied with 2 cars from same team now, which happened a lot last year.

  25. Do you get to complete the lap you are on during the elimination or is it tough luck? At tracks that take more than 90 seconds to lap you could start a lap with 5 seconds to go and be last but at a place like SPA unless you can complete the lap there is no point in trying if the lap you are on does not count?

    1. It’s tough luck, unless you’re competing to avoid the last elimination slot of Q1 or Q2 (or trying to get pole in Q3).

  26. Very glad to see that at least you have thought this through, @keithcollantine

    1. @picasso-19d-ftw Haha, thanks :-)

  27. Good analysis. I think the main point of the elimination qualifying is simply to try something different. Lewis Hamilton might not be amused by the new rules but he said himself last year that the weekend format had stayed almost the same since he arrived in F1 and that some changes were needed.

    I have to admit that I often felt a bit bored when I watched qualifying sessions last year. There were probably several reasons for this – predictability, frequent grid penalties and also the knowledge that the qualifying result often does not matter much because even when the qualifying produces a surprise or two, the combination of a spread out grid, DRS and Pirelli tyres usually ensure that everything is back to normal on Sunday. And yes, an “old” qualifying format also reinforces the feeling that “nothing ever happens” on Saturday.

    The new qualifying rules obviously aim to solve only one or two of those issues. I think the new format will feel exciting at first but if it ultimately fails to make results more unpredictable, then the infamous Strategy Group will be back at the negotiating table in no time. Since it is unlikely that it will start solving F1’s real problems, we can only hope that the new ideas will not be terrible. While we are at it, I would probably prefer a qualifying race on Saturday…

  28. This level of artifice and gimmickry is the inverse of sport. What the sport is saying about itself is, “it doesn’t matter how good a job you do, we will unfairly manufacturer your position because that’s the only thing that can make the sport watchable.” What a sorry mess. Almost every single rule change in the past ten years has been a mistake. There are too many knee-jerk reactions to big issues and aspects of the sport which were as fair as reasonable get altered needlessly.

    This new system is another farce in a long line qualifying disasters. How long will it be before it’s names out of a hat? There needs to be proper consultation with the drivers on changes like this and there should be a spokesperson explaining the reasons for this decision. I can only see this further complicating the sport and alienating new fans. There will inevitably be a scenario where drivers are approaching the car which has just been knocked out and lose time and there will also be too much squabbling on track. Once again they have managed to come up with an idea which works great in principle (we will have more cars on track for longer) but fundamentally alters the fairness of the sport. Qualifying is no longer about who is fastest, it’s about who is fastest at that point in time which as we know can be down to many factors. Another PR nightmare from a sport destined to kill itself.

    1. “it doesn’t matter how good a job you do, we will unfairly manufacturer your position because that’s the only thing that can make the sport watchable.”

      @rbalonso This, but the fans also equally guilty for this same mistake. Mercedes boys made a super wonderful car? People crying is boring. Team strategist worked their best to give their cars best results with lowest risk? People hate when cars use pit strategy to get ahead.

      1. @sonicslv I agree with you on this one. Fans definitely want to see racing and teams want to see good business returns. That’s the world we have to accept. If it was my team I would have no qualms in orchestrating Hockenheim 2010 say, but as a fan you fell kind of robbed of the battle. My issue is that the fans never called for gimmicks and they have been used to hone the other gimmicks into something watchable. Personally, the start of the 2015 was the worst I have watched. Right down there with 2002 and 2004 simply because it was so artificial yet, predictable. I have watched almost all the races since the start of the 1980s and I have never thought F1 to be boring. Even during great seasons there have always been complaints from fans. The problem is that the sport is on a mission to improve every aspect of the show all the time and it’s realistically impossible. I think the sport should return to first principles and then work on reducing downforce on the top of the car, free the rules and tighten the budgets but that is an unpopular idea. I can only see the sport failing itself as no one wants to see 4 car teams of 4 manufacturers who can pull out ny time they like. The sport is worth more than that, and should at least have believable racing at the front. I can accept Mercedes are faster, what I can’t accept is altering tyre and engine rules that prevent anyone getting closer once a rule change has been implemented and that is no fault of the fans.

    2. @rbalonso

      we will have more cars on track for longer

      In fact, we won’t see as many cars on track for longer. By the end, there will be just two cars on track!

      1. @craig-o haha right enough. Once again it appears to be the sport seeing the problem as “too many cars in the garages when they could be racing” but come up with a convoluted solution that, as you point out, overall achieves little.

  29. If it ain’t broke break it. If someone can translate this to Latin it would make a great motto for the current F1 rule makers.

    1. Si fractum non sit, frangat.

  30. Qualy will end with Mercedes having 100% of the TV coverage. I don’t think Bernie has thought this through at all.

    1. Bernie will deny any involvement.@lockup .

      1. Bernie will blame it on Pirelli or the engine manufacturers.

      2. It’s terrible what people have done to his sport @hohum :)

  31. However the elimination system could also prevent some of the shocks we’ve seen in the past from happening, and you only need to look at the most recent qualifying session for an example.

    In Abu Dhabi last year Ferrari misjudged how quick Sebastian Vettel needed to lap to reach Q2. When other drivers went quicker, Vettel was sensationally knocked out in the first round.

    This highlights the strong point of the previous qualifying system. Perhaps teams or drivers can still be caught out by their arrogance, but as we have a much more gradual elimination process, it is possibly easier to anticipate a possible elimination. On top of this, these changes are likely to lead to more impeding and judging by the stewards as everyone will try to set a lap in the early minutes of the session. Furthermore, there is some confusion when multiple drivers don’t set a time when the elimination begins.
    It may be fun to watch the new qualifying system in the first races, but I do not expect it will change the outcome at all. By the way, the best way to shake up the grid are the engine penalties…

  32. It amazes me how the ‘rule makers’ manage to set up meeting after meeting to agree on fundamental rules (concerning how to build the cars) but delay the decision time and time again, yet plan to implement a proposal for something that
    a) seems like it was brought in on short notice and hasn’t been thought through
    b) changes one of the few things in F1 that actually work quite well

  33. Yellow flags would be a mess. In that case, qualifying will be more of luck than anything else. What a mess! F1 loves patching up the problems than solving it.

  34. No One Better (@)
    26th February 2016, 20:53

    You all will be loving this format after Melbourne. Most of you don’t understand the new changes and refuse to really understand it because your natural reaction is to respond negatively at that which you do not comprehend.

    Qualifying as it stands is pretty dull. Q1 and Q2 drag on forever, yet you already know as a viewer what the outcome will be. As it stands qualifying is not worth watching until the final 8-10 minutes of Q3. The new format makes watching Q1 and Q2 a little more worthwhile. Plus how can you argue with fewer cars on track in Q3 when qualifying really matters. But go ahead kids. Keep crying. We’ll hand you a lollipop in Melbourne and you’ll stop whimpering at a dime.

    1. Thank you for giving us the official FOM point of view.

    2. It seems that in years past most teams sent their cars out in groups all relative in average speed. This insured that drivers could keep a decent gap and turn their best lap times. Later in the session the faster guys would come out and turn their times, again surrounded by cars equally quick.

      Teams then have the chance to make adjustments to get the cars faster, work out bugs, etc. and finally run their best time of the session. The Q1, Q2 elimination process worked in conjunction with this system. Those that couldn’t go fast enough were basically removed from the process. This left the quicker guys with the benefit of going even faster with fewer cars on track to get in the way. The stakes got higher thus each team was compelled to continue with improvements over the session.

      The new system will probably result in less track time for all cars in qualy 1,2 and 3. Most teams will go out early, as they do in Q3, turn their best time, and get off the track. It seems that it won’t be important to go out later as those times won’t matter, or will they? If you have to run a fast time, let the others be eliminated within the new time rule, then go back out to set pole, how is that really much different than now, other than by clarification?

    3. I couldn’t disagree more.

      The interesting bits, especially in the last couple of years have been in the first two sessions, that’s where you could watch everything evolve, mistakes being made etc etc . You could even watch someone “just” make it out on the track before the session ends ( due to tyre failure, mechanical issue etc) and scrape into the next session.

      Not under these rules and what will be “interesting” about watching 2 cars only circulating at the end?

  35. Okay, where is the weigh bridge in all of this.

  36. Qualifying wasn’t broken, just blunted by tyres that responded negatively to fast laps. Back when tyres could be pushed hard it was great watching some of the drivers heroic efforts to grab pole position and often a driver would manage to leap up the grid by setting a pace you could see he would not be able to sustain for more than a few laps in the race, at other times these heroic attempts ended in a spin or time losing wobble, either way the grid was less predictable than it is now with the teams lined up side by side. With a return to proper race tyres being mooted for 2017 it seems a retrograde step to introduce a system that will not forgive a lap spoiled by excessive speed, hopefully if implemented this year it will be dropped for 2017.

  37. These rules sound like Bernie flexed his muscle in that Geneva meeting. It has an Ecclestone-esque lack of common sense as usual, but somehow this one was approved.

    Alternate solution?

    What if you made Qualy into a merged 1 hour session, and spilt the hour into 3 parts, the difference is that the clock wont stop running so after 18 mins, 6 cars get eliminated from Q1 once they clear their laps and so on through to Q3.

    Additionally, even if a driver sets a fast time early in Q1, that time will not reset, essentially you could get pole in Q1, (if the track conditions were changing for the worst), which could spice it up a bit.

    I agree with the other guys, changing qualy was the last thing that needed to be touched :-(

  38. I’m intrigued by what might happen at the end of Q3. Assuming laps started before the end of Q3 count, as now, then the last 90 seconds is enough time to start 2 laps at most tracks, in the dry. Does one pit with 3+ minutes to go for fresh tires and hope to make the last 2?

    Also, with fewer cars running at the end, we’ll see more of the pole or 2nd runner’s lap. That might be an improvement over watching cars come off the last bend in sequence. The lack of cars towards the end of Q3 may also affect how track conditions change. Some tracks are still rubbering in at the end of Q3, and the last runner is seen to have a potential advantage. That advantage will have gone. Same applies in damp conditions, the dry line may be less dry.

    OK, enough grasping at straws.

  39. An initial optimist about this, I’m no longer so sure after reading people’s speculation.

    I wish they’d stop with the ‘improving the show’ nonsense already and remember that this is a sport!

    If you have a good sport, then naturally, it will make for a good ‘show’.

    Increased financial equality between teams, and cars that can overtake eachother without gimmicks.

  40. Of course, I might be wrong. And all the teams think that this is really good idea and the Council ratify it immediately . . . In which case I will turn into a dormouse and hope to wake again when F1 has regained its senses.
    Might be a long sleep.

    1. Sorry, that was supposed to be a reply to @alianora-la-canta back on the first page. Not sure how I managed to mess it up so badly.

      1. Not to worry, @nickwyatt , I found your comment and am rather inclined to agree with you! (This @ notification is helpful at keeping conversations tracked – thank you for including it, Keith!)

  41. So if the Mercedes cars are as dominant as the last two seasons, then it is going to be more boring as they will be the last cars standing in Q3 for most races.

    How soon before Bernie proposes qualifying reverts to previous method?

    1. Minus two-and-a-bit days – Bernie said it hours after the decision was made, a statement covered in that night’s Roundup. Sigh.

  42. Far too often people forget that F1 should be a SPORT, not a show or a tv series.

    1. Exactly.

      Could you see football doing it for example? In today’s English League Cup Final, Liverpool are lower in the league than Manchester City, does that mean the match should start 1-0 to Liverpool?

  43. With all drivers having to post their laptimes early there will be lots of complaints about blocking I’m sure.

    But it also means that by late in the session, the fastest drivers will have their times on the board and not need to go out again (as has constantly happened in the past). Usually the ends of Q3 and Q2 were the lower cars fighting to get through to the next session, except now they will have been eliminated.

    I think there’s a real risk here of the clock ticking down during all 3 sessions with nobody on a fast lap or even nobody on track. Well, that’ll be exciting…

  44. These kind of articles – blog-like, but still fact-based and insightful articles, not the currently dominant, strictly news/PR-type or dumbed-down data stories – are the reason why I became a regular visitor of this site so many years ago.

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