Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Singapore, 2019

‘Positive feedback’ to plan to experiment with new qualifying format in 2020

2020 F1 season

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The plan to evaluate changes to the qualifying format at selected races next season has been met with mostly positive feedback, says Formula 1 motorsport director Ross Brawn.

However he stressed no decision has been taken on whether a new qualifying format will be tested during the 2020 F1 season.

As RaceFans reported previously, teams are conducting evaluations of potential new qualifying formats as the sport considers whether to test them at up to three events next year. The exact structure of the formats has not been decided, but could include mini-races featuring a reverse-grid component to set the starting order for the grand prix.

However reports elsewhere claimed an agreement has already been reached to run ‘qualifying races’ next year. During the Singapore Grand Prix weekend some drivers were asked whether they thought F1 should introduce reverse-grid races, and gave largely negative responses.

Brawn stepped in to clarify the situation, pointing out that no plans have been agreed yet to test a new qualifying format in 2020.

“In recent days I’ve read a variety of statements from drivers and pundits concerning ideas to make the race weekend format more spectacular,” said Brawn in a statement issued by Formula 1.

“To try to clarify the situation and avoid misunderstandings, there are discussions about experimenting in 2020 with changes to the qualifying format with the aim of making a grand prix weekend a little less predictable.

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“I want to emphasise the word ‘experiment’ because this is what it is about – a small sample to establish the directions for the future. We are all too aware that the current qualifying format is exciting and spectacular but what is also important is to make sure that the race, the highlight of the weekend, is the best it can be.

“And since, no matter how many simulations you run, there’s no measure more accurate than the track, Formula 1, the teams and the FIA are studying the possibility of a revised format for a small number of events for next season. With stable sporting and technical regulations in place for 2020 it is the perfect time for such evaluations.”

He said there has been a positive response for the plan to test new qualifying formats next year.

“No decision has been taken yet because we are finalising all the details, but feedbacks [sic] received so far are, in the majority, positive.

“I understand that the purists might be concerned, but we should not be afraid to conduct an experiment otherwise we cannot progress. We don’t want change for the sake of change; we want to improve our sport, because, rather like the development of the cars, if you stand still you risk slipping backwards.”

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

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  • 52 comments on “‘Positive feedback’ to plan to experiment with new qualifying format in 2020”

    1. “We are all too aware that the current qualifying format is exciting and spectacular but what is also important is to make sure that the race, the highlight of the weekend, is the best it can be.”


      The current qualifying format is exciting….perhaps too exciting….as it is more interesting than the main event….the race… we need to find a balance where qualifying is still exciting….but at the same time less exciting than the race itself.

      1. Jose Lopes da Silva
        23rd September 2019, 21:52

        Return to 1996-2002.
        I don’t like current qualifying format anyway.

      2. The current qualifying format is exciting….perhaps too exciting….as it is more interesting than the main event

        Only at Monaco and Singapore where drivers can run 10+ seconds off the pace in the race and the entire thing is won and lost in the pits. zzzzzzzz

      3. It’s exciting for 2-3 minutes at the end.

    2. Understand. The one area where F1 does not need improvement, they want to improve.

      The pathetic areas where F1 does need to improve, like 20 starting laps at below F2 pace because… tyres, they’re happy to maintain the Pirelli status quo.

      Also… increasing unpredictability with the predictable F1 gimmicks doesn’t improve racing. Is this just a big bait and switch plan from Liberty?

      They tell us that we told them we wanted unpredictable racing far more than we wanted fair and fast racing and the 2021 technical regs will do that. But then they tell us, sorry we couldn’t make enough technical tweaks, so… Formula Spec 1 Racing it is.

      1. @jimmi-cynic They are aiming for more durable tires that can be pushed harder for longer & are less sensitive to temperature with a wider operating window for next year with further improvements been aimed at for 2021.

        1. @gt-racer: Nice to have you join us, Ross. ;-)

          So happy to hear you’ve renewed the contract with Pirelli again. They’ve proven over the past decade to aim to be better every year.

        2. @gt-racer
          I don’t doubt they’re aiming for that, but i do doubt they’ll achieve it.
          I feel Ross doubts it too!

          Basically I’ll believe it when I see it and hope that I am proven wrong.

      2. @jimmi-cynic ”like 20 starting laps at below F2 pace because”
        – Not an awful lot to do about that, though, due to the fuel-loads. Qualifying-laps are run with as little fuel onboard as sustainable, but the races are started with close to the maximum allowance, so, of course, the lap times are significantly slower than in qualifying-trim, but that’s been the case ever since 2010.

        1. @jerejj: This perfect 20 lap boredom storm was the combo of pathetic tyres on a pathetic street track. One Monaco on the calendar is probably one more than needed.

    3. I would consider only two alternatives for quali: 60min free for all or shoot out (one by one – Indy500 style) in reverse order to drivers champ.
      Optimal scenario: 20-30 min free for all, faster times go last on final shoot out.
      Reserve grid – No.
      Quali race – No – utterly pointless in Monaco. But yes to shorter races on saturday in selected tracks.
      And anyway, quali races would demand alternative PUs, otherwise, the same PU conservation mode willl play out.

      1. Jose Lopes da Silva
        23rd September 2019, 21:53

        shoot out (one by one – Indy500 style) in reverse order to drivers champ has been tried in 2003.

    4. if qualifying is that problematic then abolish it altogether. Instead the grid would be determined by the finishing positions from the previous race. If a driver is new then they start last.
      Saturday can then be given over to interviews and a feature race where they all drive karts or something

      1. Also mushrooms and red shells

    5. I am all for one-shot qualifying in Q3. No banker laps. You got 1 chance for pole. Any mistakes are punished.

      1. @spafrancorchamps They tried single car/lap qualifying from 2003-2005 & it was pretty much universally hated.

        Reverting to that for a top 10 shootout or similar has been considered in the past but ultimately rejected as it’s felt it’s less exciting than having multiple cars out there with the order changing a few times in the closing seconds as each car crosses the line. With the single car formats you tend to have an idea of where the cars will slot into the order by sector 1 which removes the tension & excitement you can currently get in the closing moments.

        There is also an inherent unfairness as the cars that go last will always have the best track conditions as well how temperature & changeable weather conditions can also give some an advantage over others in a one lap format.

        1. I don’t think it was universally hated at all. It had some issues like pre-qualifying session which set the running order for the actual qualifying. Plus I don’t think it was all that great to watch full laps of the backmarker teams. And having to use race fuel loads for qualifying is pretty stupid too. Not just because it gave the best strategy for only one of their drivers but because carrying extra fuel for qualifying goes against what it was supposed to be. Fastest laps you can do. But these are all solvable issues unlike the teams endlessly waiting if it was just a one hour session with unlimited laps.

          But in principle the idea of one lap shootout is fine. I think having the current format of three Q sessions is fine if the last one of those was one lap qualifier for the top 6. I have my own version which I can’t help to not mention everytime qualifying is talked about:

          I think the f1 qualifying format is essentially fine. On some tracks slipstreaming can be worth some time but I feel it is pretty much the only major issue with the qualifying. Although the tire rule for top10 cars is a bit annoying and being 11th is typically much better than being 10th. Q2 is a bit of a boring because you know which cars will be top 6 almost everytime and for the other 4 it isn’t really exciting either because the tv focuses on the top teams anyways.

          However if F1 qualifying was changed to shootout format here is how I’d do it. You’d have 3 sessions like now. Q1, Q2 and Q3 which decides the pole. But only the last Q3 session would be a shootout.

          Q1 is where everybody drives. 18 minutes long, exactly like Q1 now. The difference would be how drivers progress from Q1 onwards. In my system the top 6 go to Q1 directly from Q3 and the positions from 7 to 14 go to Q2. The rest 15-20 are out. Q2 is 12 minutes long and is where positions from 7 to 14 participate. They do their session like now and that sessions defines the positions from 7 to 14. Maybe the top qualifier get to Q3.

          Q3 is the one lap shootout with maybe 15 minutes in length. The driver with fastest lap in Q1 decides whether he goes first or last and that sets the order for the rest of them as well. In the session drivers do an out lap, one fast lap and then back to pits. As one car starts their fast lap the next one leaves from pits to do their warmup lap.

          Benefits from this new system is that Q2 is more exciting as you have the mid field battle with 100% tv focus on them. You have midfield teams getting more publicity and there is also excitement who is fastest and gets to Q3. If some driver does bad job in Q1 then he can still attempt to get to Q3 from Q2. Q3 is exciting as it is just one lap and we get to see their full laps. There are no slipstreaming pancake games and teams forcing their second drivers to slipstream their number one drivers. The top6 are out of reach for the rest so stop pretending and have top 6 have their own session. Makes no sense to 10 cars in q3 when the last 4 barely have any reason to even participate in it.

          But like I said the current format is essentially fine and the issues are mostly very track specific like the monza slipstreaming issues. One solution that was proposed some time ago was going from 3 qualifying sessions to 4. I think it would be a major downgrade as Q2 is easily the dullest session of them all and having two of them just makes things worse.

          1. +lots. Perfect, especially having something to fight for in q2

          2. @socksolid I quite like this idea. They ought to think about it as an option.

          3. @socksolid
            While i agree with your ideas in principle (certainly a refreshing change), i would like to know how your idea would fit the scenario we had in Canada this year. Daniel qualified P4 (Renault does very well on power hungry tracks).
            Now, if i apply your idea to this case, assuming 2 drivers make it thru to Q3 from Q2, wouldn’t it apply more pressure on the drivers? Now Daniel had three chances to go for that position. In your case, the third chance to fight for P4, excessively relies on the first 2 in Q1 and Q2. right ? Wouldn’t it be fair to give more chances in a field that has so much disparity?
            Also, i would like to know what you think about the idea of just sending the top 3 to Q3 from Q1 instead of the top 6. That way, we would have an extended Q2 for posns 4–14 and a shorter Q3 with 4–5 drivers for the shootout.

            1. I don’t think having a driver occasionally being able to luck inside the top 6 to be a meaningful factor when talking about different systems. What I think is more interesting is that you don’t need ricciardo in p4 for you to notice. Being p7 is literally winning the 2nd division and with the top 6 in their own session that midfield battle should now get the attention it deserves. If ricciardo keeps winning it and always finishes in p7 you notice it more because he is truly winning the midfield qualifying battles and all the attention will be on him in Q2. If you put 3 of the fastest drivers from Q1 directly to Q3 then in Q2 all the attention will be on the 3 remaining top6 drivers with the division 2 battles being ignored.

              I don’t think having more chances is better. I think having less chances is better as that is what makes it more likely for a driver like ricciardo in renault to be high or even on pole if gets to Q3. But I don’t want a total one lap shootout format because watching the full laps of grosjeans and kubicas is not interesting. Seeing the full laps of the top6 drivers is enough because realistically they are the only ones who can be on pole anyways.

              I think putting all of the top6 straight to Q3 from Q1 is absolutely essential because it allows the focus on Q2 to be fully on the midfield battle. If you put 3 division 1 drivers into that mix in Q2 they are going to get all the attention just like they do now in Q2 despite it being a sure thing they get through. In fact this is one of the main things I am trying to fix with the top6 going straight to Q3. The top6 drivers are going to get there anyways so let’s just have that out of the way as quickly as possible so we have two big fights with full focus on each as they happen.

              Q2 is about finding the winner in division 2 and Q3 is about the pole which we always know for certain is most likely a mercedes, or ferrari, sometimes a red bull. Never ever a mclaren, renault or haas. This is why I am mostly against even the Q2 top driver progressing from Q2 to Q3. In 99.9% cases he is going to finish 7th in Q3 so what is the point to have him there?

        2. I like the current format just fine. At least you can count on one day of an F1 race weekend being fun to watch.
          You might even get lucky and get a good race on occasion.

    6. Something I heard yesterday was that Sky were talking about the proposals during there Friday practice coverage & the response from viewers was so overwhelmingly negative that they were asked to not mention it again for the rest of the weekend.

      I was also reminded that every fan poll/survey thats been conducted over the last 10-15 years has seen a majority voting massively against qualifying races, reverse grids & even sprint races.

      Outside of some members of the media i’ve not heard a great deal of positive responses to any of the suggestions.

      1. @gt-racer) they get their numbers from somewhere else. They claimed market research showed interest in bonus points for fastest lap but never heard anyone here, for instance, the stating they wanted exactly that.

        They probably ask 5 random people on the street somewhere close to their headquarters and that’s it, market research done.

        1. Jose Lopes da Silva
          23rd September 2019, 21:56

          I had a boss that turned his ideas upside down after talking to some person outside of the company on the elevator.

        2. If you want certain kind of answers you need to ask certain kind of questions and only provide multiple choice answers that give you the answers you want. For example:
          Should qualifying on pole be rewarded with 1 championship point:
          1) yes, qualifying could be better
          2) no, the qualifying is completely fine as it is
          3) undecided
          By not mentioning any negatives the decision looks like a simple one to make. Also adding additional commentary to the answers adds additional statements that one must agree with. Could qualifying be better or is it fine as it is? That is not one answer but two. Having option for undecided also gives out an easy way out in case you don’t fully agree with the prevous statements. Which in turn is likely to being the votes for each options closer to each other and then you could claim there is considerable support for the 1 one point when 30% chose that option.

          1. bring, not being

          2. Yep @socksolid, good explanation, it’s one reason why I stopped filling in the F1 fan forum, the questions tended to be loaded and one sided, with too little ‘any other remarks’ final questions to set the record straight.

      2. Yeah, one has to wonder where the heck they get all this positive feedback Brawn is talking about. Sometimes I think they say stuff like this to justify things that they have already decided to do regardless of how real fans feel about them.

    7. For the TV audience and the broadcasters, they want and need a couple of things … a North American perspective. Likely this is where Liberty is coming from.
      – Qualifying needs to be a “show” that can be bundled and runs for an hour, no more but could be less.
      – It NEEDS to have time breaks in it for commercial advertising, something that the networks can $ell.
      – There needs to be steady excitement and interest generating action, enough that the experts in the following time slot can ruminate over it for some more commercial opportunities.
      The current format does all of this. Sooooo…
      Why would they change it …. as they keep saying, “to experiment”. Yeah, good luck with that.
      I suspect we will see strategy, tyre and power unit conservation measures well beyond their wildest dreams.

      1. I had wondered if those who finished in the points at the previous race should automatically go straight to Q2, meaning only 10 cars need to fight it out for Q1, with 5 not progressing to Q2. This would reduce the number of cars all trying to warm up, do a hot lap, and then cool down at the same time.

    8. Another disappointing moment in Ross Brawn tenure as F1 Motorsport director.

    9. As I said before – for each small positive step foreard they do 10 awfully negative steps back.

      Go ahead, geniuses.

      But if you listen – hands off the qualifying!!!

      1. +1

        I am positive qualifying needs nothing and changes will only make it worse.

    10. Does anyone one know what Operating System the computers that tell the drivers what to do in both race and qually (via the race engineer on radio) run ?

      1. As usual, F1 teams keep their secrets pretty tightly held. The only article I could find that mentioned specific operating systems was pretty dated and focused mostly on Linux:

        Linux and Formula One

        For CFD computation, they also specifically mention SGI, who are now sadly gone. /pours one out. I actually worked with a mad genius buddy of mine to port Linux to SGI Indy and Indigo2, and Sun Sparcstations boxes back in the day, mostly to learn stuff like kernel patching, writing drivers, building software distribution packages and such.

        There was also a more recent article from last year looking at Renault that showed some images of CATIA V5 3D modeling suite running on Windows 7 for designing parts of the car:

        In Formula 1, you have to be amazing just to be average: Going behind the scenes at the French Grand Prix

        For data acquisition from the car and prediction software using GPS and other sensor data, it would need to be some form of Real Time Operating System with a guaranteed level of throughput and responsiveness. RTOS are not trivial to engineer:

        Wikipedia: Real-time operating system

        For analysis and other number crunching, most of the teams are likely using cloud based data clusters to process and store the data. Most of the cloud is run on some form of Linux, with Azure on Windows being the notable exception. For big data analysis, this includes what are called Hadoop clusters which parcel out data into discrete units for parallel processing on hundreds of networked servers. There is probably some use of specialized hardware, like Google’s Tensor processing unit, which accelerates application specific neural network machine learning.

        None of the stuff we interact with directly on our laptops and devices are real time, but behind the scenes of a lot of stuff we use is. Engine computers, network devices moving traffic over the Internet, airplane navigation and control, traffic light systems, etc. Some of it might have some machine learning accelerators behind it as well.

        My current job deals with Application Delivery Controllers, which is what load balancers grew up to be, and ours use a real-time network microkernel to control and massage the flow of application data between servers in data centers, cloud environments and the devices that consume those services. Undoubtedly a lot of the data flows through these types of devices.

        1. Great response, @lunaslide.
          You deserve your own dedicated article on this site.

        2. @lunaslide
          Very informative. Thanks.

    11. I’ve been thinking about this and it’s plain that they’re haven’t really given enough thought to ways they can “improve” qualifying so I’ll add a few more.

      1. The FIA stewards secretly remove random parts from all cars and hide them in team garages which are locked from P3. At the start of a two hour bonanza Qualy session, the doors are thrown open, the teams have to find the parts and fit them before the driver can take to the track.

      2. Only reserve drivers can do the qualifying and practice sessions. The drivers only get in the car for the race.

      3. There’s a whole 2 weeks between most races. Let’s get rid of real cars and have all drivers compete in televised e-sports races on the next track in a “qualifying championship” (they could run one every night). The one who wins the most is on pole. That way we could get rid of Friday and Saturday at the track and fit way way more races in.

      4. Have a fan vote on who should be on pole.

      5. Have A list celebrities drive a qualifying session for each team in a specially prepared Kart in team colours.

      So many options, so many things that could and should be improved. I only wonder why they haven’t been looking at this most important, and clearly the worst part, part of F1 for years.

      1. 1. The FIA stewards secretly remove random parts from all cars and hide them in team garages which are locked from P3. At the start of a two hour bonanza Qualy session, the doors are thrown open, the teams have to find the parts and fit them before the driver can take to the track.

        @dbradock That’s gold Jerry! Gold!

      2. 6. Replace qualifying with milk drinking contest.

        1. 7. Base the qualifying positions on a drinking contest held on Saturday night. The person drinking the most gets pole. They’d have to balance track position against size of hangover. Last place qualifier gets to choose the drink for the next event.

    12. Now that Greta Thunberg is in charge of the world. I’m wondering what things would look like if they scrap qualifying and start the next race in the order of the last one finished.
      Would it be so bad? Let’s see some examples.

      1. “Now that Greta Thunberg is in charge of the world”

        Hahaha…I want a T-Shirt that Says that!!

      2. @bigjoe
        How dare a young lady call out the BS politicians! She must be ridiculed!

        Since this is a racing form, we’ll use F1 as an example. Brilliant managers like Brawn clearly have great ideas, and we should all play along, since he clearly understands what is in the best interest of F1.

        1. @slotopen

          I admire her determination and kids should be encouraged to stand up for what they believe in. However the more she speaks and becomes hypocritical, the more I see these are words of the far-left loonies. She is being used. I think this might affect her wellbeing in the future. She would have been better off promoting better air quality ,picking up litter etc

    13. I could see the concept of a reverse grid qualifying race leading to an unfair advantage for team’s with poor performance. So let’s say your a back marker team like William’s are this year, they are dead last in the championship so their cars start in 1st and 2nd at the Monte Carlo qualifying race. They then finish the race in those positions because its Monte Carlo (and assuming the qualifying race does not have a mandatory pit stop) leading to them starting on those positions in the Grand Prix. They then use the driver in 2nd to hold up the pack while the driver in 1st gets away and is safe in the pit stop phase of the race. Therefore picking up an easy win and probably moving themselves ahead of the teams in 8th and 9th in the championship, by being worse.
      They could make some exception in the rules for Monte Carlo and maybe Singapore and Hungary to combat this but then it becomes difficult for the casual fan to follow and we are back to square one.

      I think something does need to change though, at the moment I think there is too much practice in F1 and that makes it hard to justify the cost of buying a weekend long grandstand ticket for going to a Grand Prix.
      My personal suggestion would be to scrap Saturday morning P3 and instead have the current format qualifying session in its place. The results of this qualifying session then determine the starting order for both a Saturday afternoon short 1 hour sprint race which only awards half the number of points to the top 8 (12 points for 1st through to 1 point for 8th) followed by the standard Grand Prix on Sunday.
      This has the benefit of making qualifying a lot more important and challenging the teams to make a car that is good for qualifying, a short (hopefully more flat-out) sprint race and a full length Grand Prix.

    14. How about 60 minutes qualifying, slowest car eliminated every 3 minutes?

      Cars can run around the track for 5 minutes before qualifying starts so they can start on a flying lap.

    15. “positive feedback” from all but us, the core fans / the multipliers / the sport’s ambassadors…

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