Daniel Ricciardo, Renault, Shanghai International Circuit, 2019

Unpopular Q4 plan for 2020 season likely to be rejected

2020 F1 season

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A plan to add a fourth ‘Q4’ session to qualifying in the 2020 F1 season is unlikely to be approved due to a lack of support from teams.

Team principals have previously indicated they were open-minded about the plan. The qualifying shake-up would see four drivers eliminated in Q1, Q2 and Q3, leaving eight to compete for pole position in a new, 10-minute shoot-out at the end.

However RaceFans has learned from multiple sources that having run simulations of the new format, all bar one of F1’s 10 teams now oppose the plan. Renault is thought to be the exception.

“The prevailing view amongst sporting directors is that the current system is not broken, so why try to ‘fix it’ and risk introducing something that doesn’t work?” a team source said.

Formula 1 had intended to put the matter to an electronic vote of the F1 Commission by April 30th. But if nine teams vote against the plan it is unlikely to obtain the necessary two-thirds majority of the commission to secure its approval for introduction next year. If the plan is not passed by the end of this month, unanimous approval will be needed to approve it for next season.

The sport’s commercial rights holders Liberty Media first raised the possibility of adding a fourth round to qualifying last year. It told the F1 Strategy Group research had indicated the idea would be popular among fans.

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2019
Poll: Should Formula 1 add a ‘Q4’ session in 2020?
However a source told RaceFans the Q4 plan is favoured because it would create space within the qualifying hour for at least one extra advertising break, making the session more valuable for broadcasters.

During the Chinese Grand Prix weekend Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said the sport needed to be certain a four-part qualifying system would be an improvement over the current format.

“It’s good that they’re looking at various concepts,” he said. “I think qualifying is one of the things that works very well but if it can by optimised further by a fourth session and it’s more exciting for the fans, why not?

“I don’t think it’s going to be a game-changer but we needed to be open-eyed and if you can optimise, optimise.”

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Adding a fourth stage to qualifying would have implications for F1’s tyre allocations. Given the current state of competition in F1, there are concerns any midfield teams which reached Q4 would be likely to do so by exhausting their allocation of soft tyres, and therefore be unable to set a competitive time on new rubber in the final round.

Romain Grosjean, Haas, Shanghai International Circuit, 2019
Grosjean ‘doesn’t see the point’ of adding Q4
The current tyre regulations mean each driver usually begins qualifying with five sets of the soft compound. Giving all drivers an extra set of tyres for the race weekend would increase costs.

But as teams are able to do two runs per segment of qualifying they may require more than just one extra set, Pirelli motorsport director Mario Isola pointed out.

“If you add Q4 and you want to run two sets per segment you need eight sets of soft, not just one additional [set],” he said.

“So which is the target: to have one run, two runs, a mix of one and two? [Do] you want to add unpredictability limiting the number of tyres, or you want to give everybody the possibility to run two sets per segment? It’s important to define that target.”

“We have a good format,” Isola added. “If we want to change it we have to pay a lot of attention not to make a mistake.

“I’m not saying that the current format is perfect. There are some details that can be improved like I know that nobody wants to see part of the quali where we have no cars running on track, for example, it’s quite boring. But if you want to change it we need to pay attention because at the moment we have something that is working. There’s probably something we can improve but we have to pay attention.”

Among the drivers, Sebastian Vettel, Max Verstappen and Nico Hulkenberg have previously said they don’t see the need for a Q4 session. Romain Grosjean echoed their comments last weekend.

“I don’t really see the point,” he said. “I think three is pretty cool. Having a top 10 shoot-out is quite nice. I think we’ve tried many, many qualifying sessions. It hasn’t really changed the world.”

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16 comments on “Unpopular Q4 plan for 2020 season likely to be rejected”

  1. Melchior (@)
    16th April 2019, 10:24

    That’s good news.
    Perhaps they should add a few minutes to q3 particularly after last weekends effort by a few teams ;)

  2. robinsonf1 (@)
    16th April 2019, 11:02

    Good! Now, can we get through this smokescreen and concentrate on the juicy 2021 stuff please? Time for Liberty Media to really show their hand!

  3. Good. Common sense has finally prevailed.

  4. WOW! We can rejoice!!!

    Not. Really, I got the feeling they come up with these idiotic ideas and then reject them just to make a visibility that they are “listening” to anyone (teams, fans, voice of reason and logic…)… But in reality they don’t care and just do whatever they want.

    1. Blastermaster
      16th April 2019, 16:32

      Sounds like my boss

  5. “Research”, “popular among fans” & “extra advertising space” is all I needed to hear. It’s been said many times to not fix what ain’t broke. Great article Keith!

  6. However a source told RaceFans the Q4 plan is favoured because it would create space within the qualifying hour for at least one extra advertising break

    I believe this. American football is a series of advertisements punctuated by periodic gameplay.

  7. Adding a Q4 would probably be last in my list, should it make it. After standardized parts, cost caps, revenue distribution, ticket prices, overtaking researches, free tyre pressures, you name it …
    Glad it didn’t got through so that they can now focus on game-changing adaptations.

  8. Bjornar Simonsen
    16th April 2019, 13:36

    I take exception to a way of doing business where one claim it is in the interest or the desire of the consumers, when it is in fact the opposite. To claim that “research indicates” that people would like it, when it’s really about squeezing more profit out of it by adding more commercials is Orwellian-speak and a very American way of doing business. It’s short-term thinking and displays an arrogant attitude towards consumers. They should be ashamed.

    The best way to increase profits is by making a product that is better, so that value is created by having more people consume it.

  9. However a source told RaceFans the Q4 plan is favoured because it would create space within the qualifying hour for at least one extra advertising break, making the session more valuable for broadcasters.

    absolutely disgusting.

    1. They could split Q1 into two sessions, with half the cars going in Q1A and the other half in Q1B. This will mean no more tyres than currently and, in theory, less chance of claims of impediment. Yes, it will affect the people who are sitting on the cusp of being knocked out, and that maybe some will say they wouldn’t have been eliminated but for the condition of the track deteriorating, while others take advantage of a better track to claim their appearance in Q2 is proof they deserve to be there.

  10. ”However a source told RaceFans the Q4 plan is favoured because it would create space within the qualifying hour for at least one extra advertising break, making the session more valuable for broadcasters.”
    – Except that not all broadcasters or TV channels feature ad breaks ‘during’ their programmes, so it’d make zero difference to all of these channels.

    1. @jerejj: Then this is Liberty’s message to those broadcasters… “Get More ‘Murican!” – Advertising is what makes ‘Made in the USA’ made in the USA. ;-)

    2. @jerejj Also, not all countries permit ad-carrying channels to decide how many ad breaks to have. In the UK, for example, the number of ads (not counting self-promotion exercises) are limited to 9 minutes per hour (unless it’s a public service broadcaster – which at this point means the BBC, but could potentially expand into other channels in future – in which case it’s 7-8 minutes per hour depending on the time of day). The blocks can’t exceed 3 minutes and 30 seconds.

      Currently, the hour-long session has only 45 minutes of running, with gaps of around 7 minutes. So if, say, Channel 4 got the 4-session system, all it would mean is they would have to get more non-ad “filler” in between sessions or run one gap with no ad break.

      I’m not sure how many non-American broadcasters stood to gain from the financial idea in the first place. Given that I stopped going onto F1 Fan Voice because I got fed up with the (allegedly inadvertently) biased and badly-programmed surveys, I can also imagine the research done would have a flaw in it one way or another.

  11. Funny how it was proposed because “research suggested it would be popular” yet is likely to fail because ist not popular.

    Just goes to show how survey results are being twisted to support a proposal and given how some of the Fan Voice surveys are structured, there seems to be a trend towards surveys targeted at a particular result instead of gathering accurate and valuable data.

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