Start, Melbourne, 2005

Why aggregate qualifying was dropped the last time

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Six races. That’s how long Formula One’s previous attempt at introducing an aggregate qualifying system lasted.

Now the sport is again considering setting the qualifying grid by having each driver set two lap times and adding them together.

But if it didn’t work the last time, why should it work this time?

A familiar problem

Start, Hockenheimring, 2004
Ferrari dominated in 2004
For 2015, read 2004, and for Mercedes, read Ferrari. The 2004 world championship was a one-sided affair; Michael Schumacher’s F2004 led the field home in 12 of the first 13 races.

Ferrari’s success in previous seasons had already impelled the sport’s governing body to tweak the qualifying rules to enliven the action. For 2003 out went the ‘one hour, 12 laps’ system which had been familiar since 1996 and in came a new format where each driver had a single lap to set their times.

By mid-2004 Bernie Ecclestone felt this too was not entertaining enough. He tried to introduce a new format for the British Grand Prix which would have involved drivers setting one lap time each in a pair of 20-minute sessions, and forming the grid by adding the two together. The concept failed to gain support, but the seeds of the aggregate qualifying plan had been sown.

During the final race weekend of the year the aggregate system was signed off for 2005. Drivers would do a single lap in low-fuel trim on Saturday, then a further lap with their race start fuel loads on Sunday morning. The two times would be aggregated together to form the grid.

As in-race refuelling was permitted at the time, the system promised to add a gambling element where teams could assess their position on the provisional Saturday night grid and use that to decide how much fuel they could risk putting in the car on Sunday: run light for a better grid position, or risk carrying more fuel in the hope of benefitting their strategy.

But right from the first race the scheme flopped.

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A flawed solution

Fernando Alonso, Renault, Melbourne, 2005
Rain thwarted some in F1’s first aggregate qualifying session
The weather gods were unkind to F1’s new qualifying scheme at the opening round of the 2005 championship. Giancarlo Fisichella, 12th in the running order to set him time, had just set the quickest time when drops of rain began to fall.

Felipe Massa was the unlucky 13th driver to head out onto the track on dry-weather tyres as the heavens began to open. He abandoned his only attempt at a run and tiptoed back to the pits, passed on his way by Schumacher who had ventured out on intermediates which also soon proved inadequate for the volume of water.

Inevitably he and the following drivers all set much slower times on the wet track. The Sunday morning session to finalise the grid was therefore almost irrelevant: Schumacher needed to find almost 25 seconds to take pole position, a task far beyond even his considerable skills. Most drivers had no realistic prospect of improving their grid positions and so cruised around the track.

The aggregate system had got off to a poor start. But even though subsequent sessions were held in dry weather frustration with the arrangement remained. The race-fuel element failed to inject the expected excitement.

In Malaysia Jarno Trulli came thrillingly close to beating Fernando Alonso in the low-fuel session but on Sunday the gap between them opened up as Trulli took more fuel onboard. In Spain Mark Webber vaulted from fifth on Saturday to second on the grid thanks to a low-fuel run, only to slip back during the race. Was this racing or an exercise in juggling fuel loads?

The last appearance of the format in Monaco was ironically one of the most interesting. Kimi Raikkonen produced a superb lap to take provisional pole position by half a second on Saturday. Now McLaren faced the question of how much fuel they dared to run on Sunday morning, at a track where overtaking was almost impossible. They judged it perfectly: Raikkonen took pole by 0.083s.

But by now Ecclestone had turned against his plan. Television broadcasters complained of a sharp fall in audiences for Saturday’s running which was no longer decisive for setting the running order. Few had been able to find time in their schedules at short notice to cover the new Sunday morning session.

Ralf Schumacher, Toyota TF105, Monaco, 2005
Poor viewing figures killed aggregate qualifying
That spelled the death of F1’s aggregate qualifying experiment. From the next race the Sunday session was scrapped and the grid set instead by a single timed lap for each driver on Saturday.

For the following season an entirely new, three-part qualifying system was devised. It proved popular and remained in use until it was dropped at the end of last season for no apparently worthwhile reason.

Then and now

The aggregate qualifying format being proposed for this season is quite different to the one used 11 years ago. But the circumstances under which it was pressed in amid concerns over one team doing all the winning are familiar.

Some of the options mooted at the time haven’t changed at all. When Ecclestone’s original 2004 proposal failed to win support he suggested picking the starting order at random via a ballot, a scheme he put forward again recently.

Then as now changes were made in haste which the sport quickly regretted. Between 2003 and 2006 the qualifying format was subjected to endless tinkering which produced, by accident more than by design, a working solution.

How quickly those in charge have forgotten that. Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the tedious political games currently being played with F1’s qualifying format is not just how destructive it is for the sport, but that it went through it all little more than a decade ago.

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Keith Collantine
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  • 96 comments on “Why aggregate qualifying was dropped the last time”

    1. Heads need to roll for trying to force this on us.

    2. Aggregate lap time qualifying can work if implemented correctly: see WEC, where the aggregate/averaged lap time for qualifying requires two drivers to set a laptime in the same car, and the famous four-lap qualifying runs at the Indy 500 (but that’s also to do with tradition). F1 is once again trying to bring in an overly-complicated system without forethought and prior planning, ignoring what other series may have done to make similar systems work.

      1. FlyingLobster27
        6th April 2016, 13:48

        There’s also a good reason for aggregate qualifying taking place in those sports in the first place. Tradition, for the Indy 500 for instance, can be good enough, but because this tradition works: a single lap at the speeds they’re doing is ultimately quite short, the drivers are alone like single-lap qualifying was in F1, and they stop for rain which ensuring fairness. After all, they have all of the month of May to do it! As for the WEC, they used to do double-aggregate: two laps for two drivers, so an aggregate over four laps. That was a bit much and the double-lap rule was dropped (note to F1: the WEC dropped double-lap aggregates), but it makes some sense, when three drivers are sharing a car, to spread the qualifying duties out.
        I do not see a single reason – from a practical, sporting or entertainment point of view – why F1 qualifying should be decided on anything other than one lap time though.

      2. Indianapolis’ 4 laps are averaged, not added together. Just a side note.

        1. Essentially the same, the only difference is the final number looks different. For example say two times were 2 + 3 = 5, and 3 + 3 = 6, the average of which is 2.5 and 3. Whether the final numbers are 5 and 6 or 2.5 and 3 makes no difference to the grid, in fact I don’t see it making any difference to fans either. I guess averaging does make it easier to compare a qualifying result to a race result, but I don’t recall drivers being asked to compare their qualifying results with the racing results, so I don’t think it is that important.

    3. This could work if it’s designed properly. Of course, we all know it’ll be rushed in, won’t improve anything and will be rejected before enough tweaks are made to ensure it works right.

      The real shame is that the very best they can hope for is for us to once again have a functional qualifying format – something we already had! All of the other problems in the sport remain untouched!

      1. @petebaldwin – Your last point is the real point of all this, I think. Create something horrible and universally hated, try to replace it with more horrible stuff. Everyone focuses on it and when they either (again) stumble upon something good or finally cave and revert, the bulk of the season is gone with nothing fixed, 2017 regs are either (horribly) set or delayed, Pirelli is forced into focusing on (again) the wrong things via contract, and more and more money is sucked out of F1 by CVC/BE.

        As much as I hate this format, and hate the idea of aggregate qualifying even more (I remember the last time), if they fixed other things, I wouldn’t care much if qualifying was stupid.

    4. Arguably, rain would be one of the few things that could help the current elimination format. Or sprinklers, starting Q1 fully wet and the slowly but surely decreasing water until the final q3-run is just between inters and dry tyres.

      That said, the harm to qualifying wasn´t only the format. What played a significant part in making qualifying less exciting was also all the ties constructed between qualy and race, the parc ferme, having to run the same car, having to use tyres from the same pool. That´s when it began that running more than neccessary in qualy was a potential harm to the race, and that´s also what caused drivers not being able to go for a make-it-or-break-it kind of lap anymore. Look at late 80ies qualifying-sessions in monaco: They were trying to slightly kiss every barrier on corner-exit, they were giving it well and truly (and spectacularly) everything. That did of course mean they did sometimes hit the barriers somewhat harder. Now take the T-car away, force them to use the same engine and gearbox in the race (and the following races), and they are all cautiously cruising around.

      If they wanted to improve qualy, stay with the “old” 2015 format (or just go back to an hour of running), but make qualy and race more independent from each other. At least the amount of tyres used on Saturday shouldn´t haunt them on Sunday, otherwise they´ll obviously not want to use them (this is something I think they could realistically do, as I don´t expect them to bring back qualy-engines and T-cars anytime soon, as much as that would do).

      1. 100% agree. The second they moved to this “race with qualifying fuel loads/tires/engines/whatever” they turned what should be a maximum effort into somewhat of a conservation.

        How to make qualifying more interesting? Give the teams freedom to make their cars fast in qualifying without having to compromising their race. For instance- the teams select 3 sets of tires for qualifying that have to be returned at the end and nobody has to worry about saving tires during qualifying. If someone has to use all 3 sets to get out of Q1 then so be it! Then let the teams adjust suspension settings to the race settings, put on a new set of chosen tires, fuel the car and let them race Sunday.

        1. I’m quite happy to allow them to have a qualifying set-up and a separate race set-up, although arguably that is one of the primary factors for relative performance differentials between teams for qualifying and the race.

          What I would like is a lifting of the fuel flow restriction, so they can run the cars at ridiculous power levels should they so choose for qualifying (at the risk of blowing up engines).

    5. If the intention is genuinely to shake up the grid this looks like it would give with one hand but take away more with the other. It could certainly punish those that cock up – in this way it would reward consistency (ignoring the likelihood that they would run more laps to allow for this). But equally it would punish those who manage to exceptionally out-perform their car, who might otherwise pop up higher up the grid than they “belong” because they’ve managed to string together a logic-defying lap in second class machinery. That moment when a Toro Rosso manages a pole-lap-meriting time because all the stars align would not result in a “shaken up grid” because the car’s other lap was just normal. It would be harder to make up for this special event, which genuinely does spice up qualifying, by simply running more laps (or they’d do it anyway). So the net effect would be to move towards a more average grid by rewarding consistency and reducing the chance of minnows playing at giants. I get more of a kick when the latter happens than the former, how about you?

      1. My thoughts exactly.

        Hulkenberg, Brazil 2010 always springs to mind.

      2. Agreed as well. An aggregate qualifying system would actually _punish_ those who attempt to push their car to the limit. The 2015 system gave enough time in each session for drivers to learn from errors and post a good time with their last lap. But now they would need to have at least two good laps to gain a decent place, and pushing too hard on one of them could easily wipe out any gains made from a nailing it on the other. I very much doubt we’ll see a significant increase in the session time to allow for more laps – this is limited by commercial considerations.

        Pushing hard always involves a risk – put the car in the wall and it’s game over. But we don’t gain anything by artificially increasing the risk in this way.

    6. I managed to find a few qualifyings on YouTube from different eras (in full – albeit with the breaks for adverts). The ones I found were the 2001 Canadian Grand Prix and the 2004 Australian Grand Prix.

      My thoughts on the 12 lap/one hour system was that it simply felt tedious. A session of a quarter of the length would have been sufficient enough, and even with tyres that did not chew up after one lap, drivers were generally restricted to a single lap because they did not fuel the car for more than just one flier. The Minardis cleaning the track up for the first half an hour was so, so dull. Sure it got a bit more interesting when all 22 cars were out on track and the Ferraris and McLarens were trading fastest times for a while, but five minutes of excitement in the middle of the session didn’t make up for 55 minutes of twiddling my fingers waiting for it to finish.

      It was clear to see why the one-lap superpole format was dropped in the first place as I watched the 2004 Q2 session (they had Q1 and Q2, with Q1 determining the running order for Q2). If a car failed to do a lap, there was precisely zero on-track activity for a few moments, which was just painful. Sure, a few drivers were punished for the odd off here and there, but until some big names came out later in the session, it just was incredibly tedious – and that’s despite the beloved V10 engines being blasted through my headset.

      As for aggregate qualifying, I agree with all of the above and I do acknowledge that some series do use it, and to good effect. However I just cannot help but feel that all it will achieve is to have cars out on track for one extra lap or one extra run, but at the cost of exposing the strengths of the top teams even further than is already the case. With the field clearly much closer than it was last season, we could have seen plenty of shocks with the format which was in place last year, and I’m talking beyond Daniil Kvyat failing to make Q2 at each event so far.

      1. That’s the worry – this new format will help teams like Mercedes. They can do a banker first lap and then go for it with the second. The other teams will need two full-on laps to even get close!

        There is always the chance a driver in a slower car gets their lap in at the right time or just hit every turn perfectly and pull out a mega lap to qualify above where they should – now they’d have to do that twice which is even less likely….

    7. May i be wrong, but why all the trying on qualy format is pointed to average/consistency and team capability, it’s not the race itself for that? Qualy i think should be about how quick a driver can be with his car, balls out, fastest tyres, low on fuel, max perf on the engine, and a reasonable amount of time and tyres to let drivers show when they can perform above the limits of his car, and i guess such format could mix better the grid.

      1. Stop talking good sense, F1 runs on nonsense.

    8. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      6th April 2016, 14:18

      This is classic misdirection by Ecclestone and the FIA – the issue is in the racing, not the qualifying. Everyone except Bernie unanimously loved the old qualifying format. Next thing we hear from Todt and Bernie is that F1 desperately needs to fix FP2. That is what has caused all the problems in formula 1. How on earth can the qualifying and the races be the best they can be when FP2 has so many problems?????????

    9. The biggest problem I have with the aggregate format is that it turns qualifying into a fight for consistency rather than all out laptime.

      Rather than go out & work on putting together 1 stunningly fast all out qualifying lap we are instead going to see drivers aiming at putting together 2 consistent laps where they are unlikely to be pushing anywhere near there maximum for fear of making a mistake.

      That was also one of the biggest flaw’s with single lap qualifying when F1 used it. Rather than seeing those mega all out laps that we got towards the end of the previous 1 hour sessions (And what we saw again with the knockout system, Especially when qualifying on race fuel was dropped from 2010) we instead saw drivers holding back slightly & that was a big part of why watching the laps in single lap qualifying was never quite as exciting as watching the hot laps with the other systems (And why even in the low fuel sessions why lap times were slower).

      In my view the thing that is so great to watch in qualifying is that its the one time over the weekend where we get to see drivers pushing flat out on the limit & its where we see the fastest lap times of the whole weekend. Look at Bahrain, We saw Lewis Hamilton drive the car on the limit & set the fastest ever lap time around the Bahrain circuit… That is what qualifying should be about.

      1. Top drivers can run 2 laps at the limit very close to each other it what makes them truly exceptional, the consistency they can pull fast times. Before the crazy tyres drivers could run times within hundredth’s of each other for a number of laps. The caution you speak of is for lesser drivers or ordinary drivers like me.

        1. The top drivers can (And even the lesser drivers are capable of it) But the problem is they won’t because the ‘pain’ of making a mistake isn’t worth the risk.

          As I said it was the same when we had the single lap format. Even the very best drivers at the time held back because 1 slip could see you start several places further back. That is why even with the low fuel sessions with the single lap format the lap times were slower than they had been under the old 1 hour system, They were all holding back to put in a consistent lap rather than an all out proper qualifying lap.

          1. Holding back will cost top drivers as someone will just go for it. These drivers have 100 percent confidence in their abilities and will push to the limit. Same on a single lap, Hamilton had 1 chance last race after messing up his 1st q3 attempt and nailed it.

            1. @gt-racer. I did have tongue firmly in cheek. Yes it’s not just the inscrutable orientals that don’t like losing face. I’m pretty sure this is all part of the preamble to re-negotiating contracts for the circus to run post 2020.

            2. Markp, as you say LH nailed it, on his second lap, after blowing it on his first, what place would his aggregate have given him?

      2. Drivers also have to be consistent to drive one insanely fast lap, so I don’t think a qualifying based on one or more laps makes too much of a difference. Traffic will be more of a problem, but tire wear and the hybrid power probably need some managing, so the driver skills may become more important.

      3. @gt-racer, If it was that simple the genii that run F1 would know it. Wouldn’t they?

        1. @hohum They that run the sport don’t care because for them its about more than just qualifying, Its a power struggle plain & simple.

          The teams know what will happen as do the drivers & it was actually a team member that raised the concern I mentioned.

    10. I think there seems little point in figuring out how to make this new (old) quali format work, or any change they have proposed this season that is different from last year. They do not care about a ‘working’ format on Saturday. If they did they would have left things alone.

      They (those who are pushing change) have decided that the only format that now ‘works’ is one that somehow will switch up the grid. They seem willing and even eager (read desperate) to forgo a good show on Saturday to create a ‘more exciting’ race on Sunday by theoretically putting a few top cars a little further down the grid at the start.

      The problems are: it’s extra artificial and blatant, it still will do little to shake up the grid, and artificial DRS will see that the grid soon settles back to it’s ‘normal’ order with little effort, unless the likes of BE are hoping for some crashes before that happens.

      When even the team principals are no longer being diplomatic with their feelings on this, and yet change is being foist on them anyway, we know this is not about logic but about pure manipulation for reasons that are between BE and CVC.

      1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        6th April 2016, 14:49

        @Robbie If the teams are unanimous, they should just inform BE and the FIA that they’ll be using the old quali system in the meeting. What can they do – disqualify all the teams?

        1. @freelittlebirds Problem is that FOM & The FIA control the sessions, All of the data, Timing, TV graphics would all still be set to the official regulations.

          The teams could all go out there & run there programs to the old format but all of the timing data they & fans would be getting, The on-screen graphics & all of the official session classifications would all be set to the format that is in the regulations so all we would end up with is a confusing mess with everyone doing something different with fans unsure of what the ‘true’ classifications were.

    11. It’s not even worth commenting on these ideas; last year qualifying was the best we ever had.

      1. While I’m obviously in the minority, I still have to say that you can’t speak for everyone:
        Last year’s qualifying was, in my opinion, the worst of all the different fomats we had since I started watching in the early 90s.

        While I have no hope that we’ll be going back to my beloved Fri & Sat, 12 laps/hour-format, I’m still greatful for every attempt at changing the borefest we had since the introduction of Q1/2/3-qualifying.

        1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
          6th April 2016, 20:10

          @dh1996 how could you possibly find the staggered elimination where everyone drives like crazy to make it through to Q2 and Q3 boring? Even top teams and midfield teams have tremendous pressure in Q3 – there are also the intrateam competitions. It just gets more and more exciting until Q3 where everything is on the line and you have just a few laps to make it count. It’s actually one of my favorite things to watch possibly as much as the race.

          1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
            6th April 2016, 20:11

            @dh1996 sorry I meant “have tremendous pressure in Q1”

          2. The only part I found to be somewhat exciting were the last 3 minutes of Q3. Everything before that was so predicatable and virtually every time you already knew the results of Q1 and Q2 before it even started.

            I’m not saying it’s going to be better now, just that it can’t get worse.

    12. Even though I am commenting on this it is wasted effort as the powers that be are so clueless about very basic fundamental concepts. Aggregate qualifying will NORMALIZE the performance- not spread it further as Bernie wants. For example- say aggregate qualifying was the average time of 100 laps- would you ever see a change in the order of the cars?

      How do you shake things up? Let people do crazy things to catch each other out. Submit 3 sets of tires for qualifying which the teams have to return. Then there is a chance that top teams will try to get through Q1 and Q2 on one set of tires to save 2 for Q3. There is also a chance that a lower team will burn all 3 sets in Q1 and squeak into Q2. This would bring back strategy, reacting to the opposition and create excitement (if the viewers at home could see new vs used tire selection).

      Also- let the teams put qualifying set-ups on the cars- spend more time in practice on qualifying or race trim? That is a strategy choice that can mix things up too.

      The FIA and the FOM are a bunch of clowns. I personally am happy the teams are fighting them back and trying to stop this idiocy.

    13. 2015 quali needs to come back but we have no say in it. Aggregate quali was rubbish last time as 1 run was with race fuel. This time it would be low fuel on both, WEC use a 2 lap format in quali.

    14. If a top team get to q3 using Soft and Supersoft in q2 what tyre do the start the race on?

      1. Same as now, Whatever set they had on when they set there fastest lap in Q2.

        1. Even if it is not their fastest lap that counts but the aggregate?

    15. Pretty soon Bernie is going to propose a qualifying system in which the drivers literally fight it out for pole position, or one in which drivers have to eat insects or raw food, the one who eats it the fastest recieving the pole position…

      1. Imagine reverse grids, q3 everyone will put on the hardest tyres and drive as slow as possible to get 8th place or as close as they can to 8th, they go out right at the start of the session and try to cross the line last right at the end of the session so a 12 minute lap to get the real pole once the grid is reversed.

      2. Once he’s ruined qualifying, he’ll move on to race day, and introduce aggregate race times. So the result of the Italian Grand Prix (at its new location in Qatar) will be added to the time of the Islamic State Grand Prix. One or both race results may be reversed, if the Strategy Group decides it’s better for the championship.
        He’ll also bring back the old scoring system everyone loved so much, where only a driver’s best 11 results counted.

        1. The best 11 results rule allowed Senna to be a 2 time champion rather than 3 and Prost would be a 5 time champion. Prost would also have beaten Senna in both their years together. That was a silly rule but added to a legend.

    16. Am I the only one who feels he’ll stop watching F1 altogether if this rubbish proposal goes through? With all the things going on – management who’s deaf to fans voices, no options for free-to-air F1 broadcasts, BERNIE, etc. – I think I’m on the edge of just not bothering anymore.

      1. Duncan Snowden
        6th April 2016, 16:28

        I’ve never been in this position before. In over 30 years of following it, I’ve always defended F1 from its critics – at least overall; obviously it’s made mistakes over the years like… oh, 2004’s aggregate quali – but over the last few weeks I’ve come to sympathise. What really struck me was the row over Monza: the historic venues are hugely important to the sport, but I realised that if I’m never actually going to see a live race from there after 2018 anyway, it doesn’t really affect me. I don’t care. And in fact, if it disappears from the calendar before then it’ll just make giving up that bit easier.

        Another thing I’ve never been in favour of is a breakaway series. But right now it looks like the best thing that could happen. This is the biggest mess the sport’s been in since 1982.

        1. I only wish the teams could tell Bernie and the F1 management to stick it! They could then form their own series. Bernie has done a lot to make F1 what it is over the years so I cannot understand why he is so blind. And why does money matter to him so much at this stage of his life. I despair.

      2. I’m right there with you postal, I’m getting more and more selective about which articles I read in the roundup because I no longer really care, I don’t know where or when the next GP is for the same reason, I’m sick and tired of being treated like I don’t have a brain of my own.

    17. That’s it. F1 governance wins. I don’t care what they do with qualifying any more. Or the rest of the rules.

      I’ll keep watching because I’ve been a fan for over 50 years now through all the many twists and turns that is Formula 1 racing. But, I’m stepping off the merry-go-round now as a formerly vested passenger. I’ll watch the circus from the sidelines as it hurtles towards self destruction. The drivers and teams are fantastic with what they accomplish in spite of the governance’s mismanagement. I will continue to cheer for my favorites wholeheartedly. However, I really do not care what Bernie, Todt, FOM, FIA, CVC and all the rest do at this point.

    18. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
      6th April 2016, 16:00

      I think we can all see now that this is a proxy in a more fundamental struggle between the manufacturers and the FIA and FOM that first made itself known during 2017 talks back in February. Presumably, the FIA and FOM wanted a more mechanical formula, in keeping with the pleas from fans, pundits and drivers alike, but was blocked by manufacturer teams with too many resources vested in aerodynamic performance.

      Bernie’s position has been characteristically odd: describing the Saturday show in Melbourne in fruity terms, seeming to subsequently lead the initiative to retain it and all the while making no effort to qualify its continuation. Todt hasn’t even been that specific, and simply regurgitated some standardized political euphemisms for the journalists in Bahrain.

      In reality, the FIA and FOM are being increasingly brazen in their attempts to reference their political sovereignty over the top teams, so we can expect a return to 2015 qualifying to remain off the agenda until that point has been made to Bernie and Jean’s satisfaction. Bernie and Jean can also expect to have a fair few less fans…

    19. The thing they have forgotten about is tyre allocations.

      They keep wanting to change the format of qualifying but the teams had to nominate their tyre choices ages before these changes came in and they’re choices would have been based on 2015 qualifying.

      Change the rule back for pity’s sake and plan something properly for 2017. But that would be sensible wouldn’t it.

    20. Tobacco concerns aside, the cars and liveries were great in 2004/2005!

    21. Black n Blue
      6th April 2016, 16:45

      One idea I’ve had floating around in my head, if the perfectly fine 2015 system won’t suffice is Duel Qualifying.
      Have one sixty minute session. However it would be sub-divided into a series of eleven-five minute duels. One driver against another in a one lap showdown to set the faster time on Qualifying-only tyres. The slower driver would be demoted to the ‘bottom eleven’ bracket. The faster of the two, elevated to the ‘top eleven’ bracket. The winners of each duel would have their times compared to create the top half order of the grid, with the same carried out for the losers in the bottom half.

      How would the duels be determined? I’d reckon the duels would work best based off of championship position, or alternatively to have them pitched as team-mate duels. Here is what the Bahrain grid could have looked like under a team-mate duel system.
      Winners:
      1. Hamilton 2. Vettel 3. Ricciardo 4. Bottas 5. Hulkenburg 6. Grosjean 7. Verstappen 8. Vandoorne 9. Wehrlein
      10. Ericsson 11. Magnussen.
      Losers:
      12. Rosberg 13. Raikkonen 14. Massa 15. Sainz 16. Gutierrez 17. Button 18. Kvyat 19. Perez 20. Palmer
      21. Haryanto 22. Nasr.

      The team-mate duel format mixes up the grid, but importantly rewards those who obtain the maximum from the car. Under a system like this one, there’ll always be on track action, and say a Hamilton-Rosberg duel could be left to the end to create a worthy climax to the session. But knowing Bernie, if he were to come across an idea like this he’d probably have the formation of the duels decided by a fan vote or something!

      1. Honestly good idea… Duel elimination…

      2. But 2014 would have been a walkover for Rosberg, if a car is dominance only the teammates can challenge but 1 will be 11 places behind. Plus if someone is in a battle with a driver from anowhere team the final qualiflyings will be a farce with the title battle drivers teammate not bothering. How about the straightforward 2015 rules?

    22. For someone who has a basketfull of tricks and ideas, Bernie is really disappointing F1 fans. Since his intention is to spice up the show, one would have thought he would come up with a more interesting method of making Saturdays very entertaining.

      Has he not thought about giving the drivers swords and sending them up to the podium platform? Fans can all be entertained in the comfort of their homes by the show drivers put on while slugging it out, with the TV cameras circling them in order to capture every blow that is truck until the winner finally throws the slain driver off the stage.

      Now, that’s more like it. How about that for spicing up the show?

      If it’s not broken, don’t fix it Bernie.

    23. Very informative, thanks for that. I have a feeling the powers that be will be more stubborn this time around.

    24. James Coulee
      6th April 2016, 17:21

      There’s one thing that shocks me about this whole ordeal: qualifying was great as it was. There was nothing wrong about it: it was exciting and there were always cars on the track even after checkered flag. But because of this hardly anyone is talking about F1 for the racing, the results or even the real F1 problems: just this lunatic issue.

      About the aggregated system: it’s just an added point of complexity and I believe it will make everything even more predictable. While now a driver usually does a “banker” lap before doing a second one more on the edge, we will see drivers doing both laps conservatively, which will provide, for sure, a better average result than risking with laps on the edge. In the end everyone will be perfectly ordered with quite less unpredictability than before.

      Curiously “added unpredictability” is exactly the argument they are using for this system…

    25. If all this comes down to gimmick and sparking interest for saturdays i will like the following:

      Sprint race in saturday with a partially reversed grid depending on the WDC positions the finishing order decides the grid for sunday.

      I think with this format everyone will be motivated to put on a show on saturday and by logic the front runners should be able to overtake most of the midfield with the engines turned up. Problem i see is the tyre allocation but anyway with 3 qualis theres a decent amount of rubber burned on saturdays as it is.

      1. It will be just amazing to watch the mercedes and ferraris overtake half the grid in a few laps and then battling between them for pole.

    26. Yeah 30 minute reverse grid race on saturday, then winner gets pole for sunday…

    27. They should make the start straights 22 cars wide and have the cars lineup 22 abreast. Best start takes the lead at the first corner. I’ll tune back in for that.

    28. So, with the non-aggregate system, currently minnow team A uses a whole bunch of super softs to get into Q3 knowing that they’ll earn a free set of super softs to set a Q3 time. They maybe spring a surprise, nail a lap and get a decent qualifying position.

      With the aggregate system, suddenly they have to do one lap on the free super softs and the next lap on a set of softs OR a used set of super softs. Meanwhile monster team B who’s sailed through Q1 and Q2 and saved a set of super softs can use them alongside their free set and nail a good aggregate time. Suddenly the minnow team’s epic super soft lap is nullified by them also having to run on a slower tyre… Any surprise is gone.

      Also, the non-aggregate format usually sees drivers set a 1st banker lap, then attempt a balls out lap on the 2nd run. Now, they won’t, as they cannot risk a mistake and producing a poor aggregate time. So the extra set of the softest compound is almost wasted anyway, as nobody will really push it right to the very limit…

      1. @cdavman Except with aggregate system, the monster B team can’t save more set than minnow team A because they both need to run twice in Q1 and Q2, unlike current or last year format where the monster B team can run once only. The only way for monster B team to have more fresh set of tires is if minnow team A run more than twice on Q1 and Q2, or monster B team can run twice with same set of tires in Q1 and Q2 (note their start tire will be at least 4 lap old if starting tires is still the best from Q2 and they run out lap-fast lap1-fast lap2-in lap with it)

    29. Bring back the old qualifying, it used to be so exciting even if it is just between the mercs. :(

    30. We don’t actually need to have qualifying at all. If you look at the old system, and, as I understand it, the current system as well, the grid was the result of a drivers fastest single lap. You could have got a result from the previous race, although it wouldn’t have been on the currently to be raced on track, which arguably should affect the result, but that fact it isn’t might make it worth considering. So, using the Bahrain race, the grid could have been formed by a driver’s fastest lap during the race at Melbourne.
      So, using the fastest laps as shown on our F1Fanatic website, the grid top ten for Bahrain would have been: Ricciardo, Vettel, Rosberg, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Verstappen, Sainz, Button, Massa, and Magnussen.
      The actual grid (top 10) for Bahrain was: Hamilton, Rosberg, Vettel, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Bottas, Massa, Hulkenberg, Grosjean, Verstappen. As you can see, the first 5 are the same drivers (although in a different order), and 7 of the fastest lap drivers also appeared in the top 10 of the racing grid.
      So what about the differences? Sainz (7) appeared at number 11 on the Bahrain racing grid, Button (8) appeared at number 14 at Bahrain, and Magnussen (10) appeared at … err … 22 because he broke a rule, which would mean that a grid based on the top fastest Melbourne laps would have also excluded him … meaning Alonso would have moved into the top 10 instead, but since he wasn’t going to race then, for the purpose of this exercise we could say Vandoorne could have got his place, and he was 12th on the Bahrain grid.
      Going the other way, and looking at those who were in the top ten in the Bahrain starting grid, where did they lap fastest in Melbourne? Bottas had the 14th fastest lap time at Melbourne, Hulkenberg was 16th fastest, and Grosjean was 17th fastest.
      One consideration is drivers currently have no motivation to do a better fastest lap other than simply for reasons of that race, if their start position at the next race depended on it, then they would make sure they had got at least one really decent fastest lap during the Melbourne GP, and in fact they would be vying for a better “next race” position towards the end of a GP. My guess is if this method was used then you’d have got a result that was much closer to what the actual Bahrain grid was like, at least for the top 5 anyway.
      If you look at the aggregate system, it is the aggregate of two fastest laps, and again these could have been taken from the last race.
      The only race where this wouldn’t work is the first race of the season because all the cars are new, and some of the drivers are new, and some of the drivers have changed teams. I guess you could have a Qualifying session of some description for the first race, but equally a grid could be obtained from looking at all of the practice sessions times at that race track and using the best of those to form the grid.
      Which just leaves the people like Vandoorne, who appear in the middle of a season. In the exercise above I simply slotted him in where Alonso would have been, but one other way to do it might be simply to compare his practice session results with the other drivers and to find the driver who lapped the track the closest but faster than his own fastest result, and then slot him in behind that driver.
      So there you go: Qualifying is a relic of the past. F1 doesn’t actually need it. Yes, not entirely fair, one that teams will quickly understand and try to rig to their own advantage, but you’ve got a starting grid, and it wasn’t the result of a ballot.
      http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/2016/03/20/2016-australian-grand-prix-lap-times-and-fastest-laps-2/
      http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/2016/04/02/2016-bahrain-grand-prix-grid/

      1. @drycrust The problem with your idea is a team outside of points will simply pit for fresh softest compound at the end of the race and use it to set fastest lap, meanwhile the teams in points can’t do that. And what about drivers who DNF? They got double whammy after not finishing the race, but also start at the back of the grid because their “fastest lap” will be on heavier fuel than others that finished the race. It will mix the grid but for wrong reasons I think.

        1. @sonicslv Yes, I agree, things like that would happen. Is that wrong? Would it be wrong if a Sauber or Manor car got up the front on the grid at China? It isn’t uncommon for the winning driver to not have the fastest lap in a race (and you can see Rosberg had the third fastest lap time in Melbourne). Another example would be Vettel and Palmer, who didn’t post times at all in Bahrain, so they’d be last on the grid at China. Also there’d be complaints from drivers who want to do a faster lap and can’t because there is someone in their way. As I said, teams and drivers would understand it and know how to rig it in minute, which puts them all at the same level.
          Part of the reason was to see if you could form a racing grid based on something akin to what a Qualifying session does based upon the last race result, and it appears you can. Yes, it isn’t entirely fair, but that seems to be what those in charge of F1 want. The grid would probably be a bit more mixed up than it currently is, but not a lot more. A ballot would take away the need for a Qualifying session, it would become another practice session. If it came to a choice between a ballot and this, I think this is better than a ballot because at least there is the potential for merit to be used to form a grid, whereas a ballot doesn’t.

          1. @drycrust, Your idea has merit if a mixed grid is the aim, I think it a little less successful if making Saturday more compelling is, as stated, the aim.

            1. @hohum It really comes down whether they want to run a Qualifying session or not. If they do, then they should do it properly; if they don’t, then there are other ways to get a grid.

          2. @drycrust My biggest problem is because 1) I think every race should be it’s own separated event, they only connected by championship points, and penalty that is an exception, not the norm. 2) Every driver should get reasonably equal fighting chance. Your proposed solution is literally a lottery disguised as lap time.

            1. @sonicslv Thanks for your comment. I agree with most of what you say. I didn’t see the suggestion as it being a lottery in disguise, and I still don’t, but if you do then maybe I have missed something. I don’t see what I wrote warrants arguing over any more.

            2. @drycrust My lottery remarks is because the result is completely random, not remotely close to each driver or car strength. A Mercedes might still get pole then at the back of next race because DNF, or in the middle if it experienced damage during the race. A Manor might be last or might be in top 10 depending on how many cars DNF’ed. In short, the drivers and team not really have a control of their own result, hence I say it’s a lottery.

    31. So, if I read it correctly, the reason why previous aggregate qualy failed is actually because:
      – The first is on Saturday and the second is on Sunday which makes the Saturday show is not important anymore (end result will need to wait on Sunday) and not many people/TV watch/showed the Sunday session.
      – Second qualy under race fuel actually become anticlimactic because the gap between the supposedly close drivers become very big, and actually makes Saturday result even less relevant.
      Of course there’s weather factor too, but rain will always messing up qualifying to I’m going to left it out.

      Based on that, the proposed qualifying now is actually not having those problems:
      – Both run is on Saturday, each session has 2 run, assuming each session length is the same, then the fans will still spent same amount of time on Saturday and get the final qualy result.
      – Both run is on low fuel so each driver performance should still relatively same on both runs.

      So the article itself actually showing why the new aggregate format might work?

      1. More why old one didnt…

    32. Boo hiss! Qualifying! Down with this sort of thing! Etc.

      Ok how about this instead:

      – FP 1 and 2 happen as normal
      – Overnight all the cars are stripped to their component parts.
      – On Saturday each driver is confined to a garage unit by themselves with all the tools and parts needed to build their car.
      – Each driver has 12 hours to complete their build. They are allowed an instruction manual but that manual must be produce to an IKEA specification.
      – They will be allowed a radio headset to communicate with their engineers, but the engineers will be limited in how much help they can give. An arbitrary list of restrictions will be drawn up by the FIA
      -Grid order is decided by who finished first
      -At the end of the 12 hours the cars will go into parc fermé until the following morning. During this time no changes will be allowed to the cars but the teams engineers will be allowed to look them over and make a list of any issues they find.
      – On Sunday morning the teams will get 1 hour tinkering time before the race. During this time they can make adjustments to the car and fix any issues created on the Saturday. It wont be a free for all though. There will be a token system enforced so that the teams will have to prioritize issues (fix suspension on upside down = 10 tokens etc). The only people allowed to work on the car during this time will be the race engineer for the driver of the car in question and either (but not both) of the following :
      —–Team Principle
      —–Reserve Driver
      who will only be allowed to apply the livery. T.P./.R.D. will be assigned to the drivers cars based on their current championship order.
      -At the end of the 1 hour tinkering time pre-race points will be handed out to the top 3 entrants which look most like actual formula one cars. Also any drivers whos livery differs significantly from the spec submitted to the FIA at the start of the season will be automatically disqualified from the race and take a 5 grid penalty into the subsequent race. For every subsequent grand prix a driver gets disqualified over a livery infraction the grid penalty will be increased by a further 5 positions. Should a driver reach a grid penalty greater than the number of cars in the season that driver will be removed from the season and for the subsequent season have their race engineer replaced by Eddie Jordan.
      -From this point the race weekend continues as normal.

      …. maybe I just miss Scrapheap Challenge too much :(

    33. Sviatoslav (@)
      6th April 2016, 20:11

      I don’t get why Bernie wants this “aggregate” qualification. If he wants to “push” Mercedes back in grid positions, then he will not achieve this.
      If Ferraris lose around half a second in one run, how much time will they lack if two lap times are added? I assume they will be off the Mercedes pace for seven tenth up to 1.5 seconds depending on a track. I don’t even want to think about the gap between Mercedes and any other than Ferrari team. Mercedes will become even more unbeatable and unreachable.

      1. What would have been the starting grid last race using aggregate times in q3?

    34. Formula One – The only sport that absolutely refuses to learn from the benefit of its own hindsight.

      1. Yeah if this was football they would make stadiums more unsafe post Hillsborough disaster.

    35. The grid should be decided on merit not some crap shoot intended to mix up the grid otherwise what’s the point in having qualifying if they’re just going to tamper so much to force as random a grid order as they can?

      It either takes a valid grid spot off someone who gave a great lap on one run but maybe caught traffic or had an error whilst pushing hard on another run, or encourages more cautious, less balls to the wall laps.

      With an aggregate system Hamilton would have been 4th on the grid in Bahrain. That’s just wrong after delivering a fastest ever lap.

    36. Justin (@vivagilles27)
      6th April 2016, 23:50

      I love that this is being looked at on this Blog as a F1 history lesson because I think the best solution to “mixing up the grid” is to look at the sport’s history. I remember the days when there were essentially no technical rules when it came to qualifying. There were special qualifying tyres that only had one, maybe two laps of life in them. Some teams even had qualifying engines that were tuned so close to the edge that they often expired before they made it back to the pits. There were essentially two different cars for Saturday and for Sunday. This quickly became prohibitively expensive and regulations were changed to eliminate qualifying engines and tyres. As time passed, backup cars were also eliminated along with open testing all in the name of cost savings. Then the powers that be decided that Parc Ferme conditions should be imposed where the cars are now essentially untouchable the instant qualifying ends, barring rain. What this means is that everyone must essentially qualify the exact car they are going to race. So why is it such a surprise that the complaint about the races has been about the predictability when you don’t have any difference between the cars in qualifying and the race? I say that Bernie and the FIA need to study their history if they want to mix up the grids again. Certainly there is no way there will be special engines allowed again, but let the teams tweak the cars in qualifying. Let them run the softest tyres, without a limit on the number of sets you can use. Tape up those brake ducts. “Turn up” the engines to their maximum output (no restriction on fuel flow?). Trim some downforce out of those wings. Let’s go as fast as the car and driver will allow. You know, what qualifying is supposed to be all about. The result, in my humble opinion, would be a slightly more mixed up grid because you would have every car and every driver on the absolute maximum which would lead to more mistakes. On top of that, as history teaches us in these conditions, there is an increased likelihood that the fastest car (and driver) on Saturday may very well not be the fastest car (and driver) on Sunday. They say that those who don’t study their history are doomed to repeat it. Well count me as doomed if it means that Formula 1 come to their senses and make qualifying all about Saturday and not mostly about preparing for Sunday.

      1. If you ask the engineers why the focus has switched to reliability from pure speed they will tell you that the current points system must take the blame. It penalises failure more than the old 6-5-4-3-2-1 system.

        1. Justin (@vivagilles27)
          7th April 2016, 0:33

          My point exactly. If you remove the penalty (or risk) for maximum performance on Saturday then the show will be considerably better and the results just might mix up the grid a bit.

    37. Surely aggregate qualifying is more likely to give a predictable result than single lap qualifying? Any time you average more samples from a distribution you reduce the variation of the output.

      The guys in the teams are good at running simulations of everything. Let them simulate different qualifying formats and show us the results before any decision is made to change it. We will know just how much it will mix up the grid.

      But then, if mixing up the grids is the objective, why have qualifying at all? Why not draw lots for grid positions and fill Saturday afternoon with a second race?

    38. To find a ‘proper’ solution you first have to define the problem.
      What is ‘mixing up the grid’ supposed to solve?
      We’ve already seen from previous races that you can put the Mercedes and Ferrari cars at the back of the grid and they will still end up on the podium.
      Do we want to mix up the starting order or the ending order?
      If we want different winners for races then the only adequate solution comes from horse racing, which is some sort of handicap system.
      This could take one of several forms:
      A fuel handicap, either less in total or lower flow rates.
      A weight handicap, some form of ‘winning’ ballast.
      A time handicap, perhaps starting the cars at intervals depending on relative performance e.g. a gap of 3 seconds per lap between fastest and slowest would translate to a 3 minute delay between the start of the slowest and fastest in a 60 lap race.
      There are many potential solutions but until the actual problem that we are trying to solve is properly defined all of them may seem silly.

      1. Your solutions, especially the last one, assume that a faster car can overtake a slower one. That is not necessarily true, especially at Monaco. There is the crux of the problem: overtaking needs to be less difficult. To do that we need to reduce the aero so cars can follow closely through fast corners and then overtake on the straights.

        Of course all that braking and accelerating will increase fuel consumption, which will need refuelling or dangerously large fuel tanks. On the plus side it will give more impression of speed, even though average lap times will be slower.

    39. Last time aggregate qualifying was used F1 simply copied the idea from Alpine Ski competitions where such racing format works without even understanding WHY it works. There, skiers who start on a fresh track have advantage as opposed to F1 and it isn’t uncommon for a skier who barely made it to a second run (only top 30 from the first run qualify for it) to jump ahead dozens of places and faster skiers have to work hard to “defend” their place in classification.

      Why qualifying needed to be fixed at all is beyond me…

    40. I’d quite like to see a qualifying RACE.

      Start in reverse W/C order, rolling starts, 22 cars, 22 laps, open pit-lane (maybe mandate 1 stop), where you finish = where you start the Grand Prix. No knock-out’s, no eliminations, just a straight up race. Simple :).

      1. @thef1engineer Problem is you then rob fans of the only time over a weekend where they get to see the cars on low fuel been pushed to the max over a lap which is something I believe most fans enjoy about qualifying.

        And speaking personally i’ve never been a fan of qualifying races or multiple race weekends as I feel having more than 1 race kind of dilutes the main show, Especially if 1 race is better than the other. I’ve also mentioned this before but you also tend to find that in categories that do have 2 races over a weekend that 1 always gets significantly lower viewers & thats why Indycar for instance have moved away from the double header weekends they were trying out a few years ago.

        Something else you tend to see is that if the 1st race is dull it affect’s how many watch the 2nd.

        1. The problem with setting grids by “fastest lap” is we all know how the session is likely to turn out atm, and I would suggest that leads to more people switching off than it does to people switching on.

          Driver’s in search of that one-lap I agree is a pretty exciting spectacle, BUT, whilst these cars are so far apart in performance, I just don’t really see the point in it tbh.

          I think it depends on the personal view you want to take on it. It’s like with the advent of T20 cricket and ODI’s. Some would argue that’s taken away from the spectacle of test match cricket. Other’s would argue it’s actually made test match cricket better, more “watchable,” and the shorter formats have brought more people into the sport, who then take more of an interest the longer format of the game.

          I for 1 am in that camp. T20’s and ODI’s are great for entertainment and draw in the “casual” fan. I see no reason why a shortened reverse-grid qualifying race couldn’t do the same for F1.

          At the end of the day, what have they really got to lose by trying it? All we’re doing is substituting out a system where we can all pretty much guess the grid order, for a system where none of us would probably have a clue.

          I don’t see how that’s a bad thing.

    41. Have to say I agree with @dh1996, pressed for time I would often watch the quali sessions last year in fast forward or on catchup and skip to the last 3 mins of each session, possibly watching the ‘banker’ laps in Q3 if the director happened to be showing a relevent driver’s times.

      As a purist, I LOVED the one-at-a-time, one-shot format. I got to see every driver’s entire lap, sponsors got perfect tv-time and the hour was filled as well. You could directly compare each performance. I’d love to see it return and would happily watch the entire thing. A random slot allocation could be drawn 10 mins before the session, slots could move a place each race, or Bernie could even have his reverse championship order whim!

      I hate missing a driver’s lap!

      Disliked anything where drivers and teams had to decide ‘how hard to push’, so same-tyre-use at the start of the race or fuel-gambling were dreadful.

      @black_n_blue ‘s idea is nice too. I can see split-screen viewing in my daydream!

      I actually think the aggregate system has more merit than the elimination one (if those are our only two choices). In reality, are we really suggesting that THESE drivers will not relish the chance to better their chance in their second shot, or desperately make up for lost ground after stuffing it the first time? Really?

      1. @webbo82 “Disliked anything where drivers and teams had to decide ‘how hard to push’”

        Then surely you should have disliked single lap qualifying because that was how the drivers tended to run it. There was virtually never a time when anyone did a flat out on the limit proper qualifying lap with that formula because the penalty of a mistake wasn’t worth the risk, Thus they all scaled back how hard they pushed.

        And as this article says the tv ratings for the single lap qualifying systems (In all 3 years it was run) were always awful (Significant drop from what qualifying was drawing before & after) because the system was pretty much universally unpopular.

    42. Was told earlier that the teams are going to vote down the aggregate system & that it should be a unanimous vote.

      There going to again insist on the 2015 system although given Bernie & Todt’s opposition to that the person I spoke to is fully expecting China to run to the elimination system again because there is nothing else been put forward that the teams would ever vote for.

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