Guenther Steiner, Sochi Autodrom, 2019

Give qualifying races the benefit of the doubt, says Steiner

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In the round-up: Haas team principal Guenther Steiner says F1 should experiment with qualifying races next year.

What they say

Steiner said F1’s unsuccessful two-race experiment with the unpopular ‘elimination qualifying’ format three years ago shows it shouldn’t be afraid of trying new ideas:

It was decided not to do it [elimination qualifying] and therefore forgotten about it. It didn’t do any damage to Formula 1. Therefore I say [by] trying, at least you learn.

Sometimes you just get the reality [of] what people are doing when they try it. You can do simulations and everything but we try it.

I’m not saying we have to do this, I support if they want to do it, if you don’t want to do it I will not go there and say ‘please do it’. It is one of these things, sometimes you have to be supportive of ideas and just try to do them.

But my thing would be do not insist that it was good even if it wasn’t. That I’m against. If it is good, that’s good. Let’s try it but I’m not going in there saying we need to do this.

Personally I don’t feel a need for it but if FOM wants to test and we are a part of this thing it’s not about us it’s about the sport. They are the experts in promoter, it’s their show, so we need to try to help to make the show better in my opinion.

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

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Comment of the day

What was behind Williams sponsor Orlen’s call for an explanation for Robert Kubica’s retirement last weekend?

I think we should rather see this in the scope of (almost certainly) ongoing negotiations on terminating the sponsorship in line with Kubica leaving the team and how much money they still have to pay or not.

In Williams’s case running far behind achieving nothing AND having a slight worry about breaks (or even about whether the wheel is fitted sufficiently?- depending on the exact cause of Russell’s accident) is a good reason to stop the car. Especially when we know the team is tight on parts.

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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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38 comments on “Give qualifying races the benefit of the doubt, says Steiner”

  1. Overtaking is at a premium now and is next to impossible on some circuits, so why should we give it the benefit of the doubt. Qualifying is one of the few things in F1 that actually works, so hey lets change it for the sake of change. Morons!!(said in my Vizzini voice)

  2. Craig 1 Steiner 0. Sorry Guenther, only Netflix can give you a chance now

    1. I wonder if F1 has considered the Netflix element against its plans to experiment. If they’re gonna keep the series going, then any embarrassing experiment implosions will br very well documented.

      Steiner thinks we all forgot about Elimination Qualifying. He’s wrong, but it won’t be as well documented as anything that backfires stupendously next year.

  3. ??? So Haas can get humiliated twice per race week?

  4. James Coulee
    4th October 2019, 0:55

    I always defended that the current qualifying format is the best F1 ever had. It’s fair, entertaining to watch, and there’s always something happening on track.

    But the idea of a qualifying race on Saturday set the the reversed championship standings makes more sense to me every day.

    Not for the race itself (I’m sure it would be fun to watch) but because it would force the top teams do develop cars that can drive close, race and pass on dirty air.

    Right now it’s better for them to make them fast enough so they are at the front, and no rules can change that.

    1. Also drivers would have the added challenge to race in low downforce setups.

    2. This. If F1 is serious about close racing, then this needs to happen.

      Otherwise there is to much incentive on starting from pole and controlling the race.

      I bet if George Russel would start quali race in P1 there would be no fuel and tire saving on lap 3.

    3. I couldn’t have said it better myself. A few years ago Gary Anderson did an article for Autosport Plus that pretty much said the same. Since reading that I’ve been convinced that it’s the way to go. Force the teams to make cars that can overtake not just be fast in free air!

      The only concern I have about doing it as a quali race is that a crash could rule someone out for the main race

    4. I fear to do this now would be to put the cart before the horse so to speak. Too many circuits, combined with the current cars make it too difficult to follow and then pass. There will be races won by back markers who were rewarded quali race pole by having being rubbish all season and as a result would be able to control the pace at the front and block the track. Ricciardo and Hamilton are a great example from the last 2 Monaco races!!! The main priority to make this qualifying race work would be to sort the cars out to follow and pass more easily. Too often the faster cars are held up trying to pass the slower cars for too long.

      1. James, I think you may have just won me over, a little bit.

        1. The battle to be in last place in the championship going into Monaco will no doubt draw up some interesting ideas, especially if we start throwing grid penalties into the mix. Someone is going to have really think how the rules are worded.

    5. Duncan Snowden
      4th October 2019, 13:02

      That’s an excellent point, and Ross Brawn made a good case on C4 at the weekend.

      Remember it’s only a trial next year at a couple of races, but he hinted that perhaps it wouldn’t be used at every race even if it’s kept on, and I kind of like that idea. For example, as he said, the first race of the season is a bit difficult unless you use the previous year’s championship order, which doesn’t work for new drivers. Maybe it could be used only at tracks where the current system throws up problems, like – for very different reasons – Monaco and Monza.

      Or here’s an idea: only after the summer break, in the run to the Championship. By then the order would be fairly settled, and the objections some people have – such as sandbagging to improve your starting position on Saturday – might actually throw up some interesting strategies in the first “half” of the season. It could mitigate against favouring one driver early on, for example, by balancing the few extra points he might gain against a better Saturday starting position later in the season.

      Gunther’s right: give it a chance.

      1. Well said :)

  5. My doubt on quali races is how much teams would push the PUs for gain a position on those sat-races.
    As far as I know, PUs run on different maps as to allow them to stand 1/4 of the season.
    It is a thing to use party mode for 5-6 laps on Q1-Q2. Those quali races are expected to take at least to times that.

    Another point is how much can a driver improve its position.
    As seen in some occasions, top teams need about 10 laps to getting top 6 positions when they start at the back of the grid or from the pits. Top teams get a 1-2 seconds per lap advantage to anything below 7th.
    So, a 15-20 laps quali race wouldnt have any effect on the expected grid, even considered the reversed grid start on the quali race.

    Eventually there would cause some confusion and somehow mixed grid, but I have no faith that would bring something good. I can clearly see a prequali briefing on Alfa, Haas, Renault, Racing Point: “Listen, the simulations say that we can barely gain a position or two on this quali race, just as we do on the usual races. Lets do the following: save the PU for tomorrow when we can get points, do not risk a front wing of a floor with a blown tire, and if you see red or silver on the mirror, do not lose time, let them pass.”

    And finally, how many tracks can properly hold quali races. Exclude street tracks and tracks that are not very good for overtakes. I didint count but there wil be only 6-7 tracks left to test the quali race.

  6. Another cost cutting proposal.
    Saturday could be a demolition derby, wouldn’t they need spare cars?

    1. My concern as well @budchekov
      The less well financed teams can already struggle to have enough spare parts for a race weekend.
      An extra sprint race on Saturday could quite easily leave us with a reduced grid on Sunday.

  7. I still haven’t quite figured out why people are so extemely against having couple of qualifying races next year? Say they try it at sochi, paul ricard and singapore. What is there to lose? Nothing of value. At worst you still get your procession. At best you get the best race those circuits have ever produced even if it is just an average race. As far as gimmicks go the current qualifying format is not exactly pure either. Three knockout sessions instead of one just for the single reason to make it more entertaining. Not to make it more fair or to provide better racing on sunday.

    For me there is only one downside I can think of about the qualifying races. It gives the teams more information for the upcoming race to get the tires and other bits right. Which could lead to more processional races. That being said there is not a lot the teams can do about it as they can’t change the car between the sessions. Qualifying races also could solve one issue of the current system. The starting tire issue with top10 vs the rest.

    I really don’t think it is that bad.

    1. So if they pick a somewhat difficult track to pass to do the experiment once next year, imagine the situation where an improved Renault manages to get on the front row and then secured the race win.

      There’d have to be a big giant asterisk by that win, and it would kind of feel sort of cheap.

      It’s hypothetical of course but it underlines the problem with the whole thing. An F1 win or pole should both never feel cheap.

      It would be just a different form of success ballast no matter how small the net effect would be.

      For the record, this past year of FE was my least favorite yet because of the reverse qualifying order they enforced. It made nearly every pole sitter thankful for their crappy points position. It was horrible quite frankly because I couldn’t get totally behind them. Random order would have been at least tolerable.

      F1 should equal purity – period.

      Oh, and you’d be skipping the normal flat out qualifying laps, just to boot.

      If they want to try it, I’ll happply watch of course, but I don’t know what I’d be watching anymore.

      1. How do you define purity? Taking the purity aspect to its extreme you can always get both extremes to be pure based on how one defines purity. Is it more pure that drivers need to use 2 tire compounds in the race as it tests the driver’s skills more as he needs to be able to perform on two different tires? After all any sport is about finding the most skilled individual. Or is it more pure to have just one tire compound everywhere to take out the tires totally out of the equation? Is one 1 hour qualifying session more pure than a short race session or 3 knockdown qualifying sessions? What is pure qualifying session anyways? The fastest guy on pole or best racer on pole? What does single lap speed tell us about a driver? Surely from purity perspective it would be more pure to have a qualifying with 10 lap stints as the race is not 1 lap long anyways.

        I think everybody agree that we must be willing to sacrifice some level or purity to make the qualifying session itself enjoyable and making it more pure doesn’t necessarily make it better. I think everybody agree that what we have now is less pure than the 1 hour session where drivers could go for a lap whenever they wanted. Then you have the question should the qualifying make the race more enjoyable. I think it would be better to talk about what is the goal for a qualifying session and for a race session from sporting and entertainment perspective.

        1. Yeah I guess what I meant by purity was just the lack of success penalty.

          We see reverse grids and reverse running order in rallying and other series all the time, and I suppose that without those other series to watch for real exciting racing, I might tend to want the same thing in F1. But it’s not the only series I watch thankfully.

  8. The thing with this qualifying race idea is what would they consider a success?

    I’m completely against the idea for many reasons but we all know based on occasions from the past that a race in which the fastest drivers start at the back is going to generate a fair amount of overtaking, That watching them fight from the back is going to be fun to watch (For many) & is going to mix up the grid which is therefore going to make the main race less predictable.

    Thing is that we also know that Bernie’s sprinkler idea would have spiced up the racing but that was still no reason to do it & the same is true with reverse grid qualifying races. It’s shifting the balance too far towards the show/entertainment side of things.

    Not to mention that we would never see the cars running on low fuel through a weekend or going for ultimate pace given how they would have no reason to do so. As well as making pole position irrelevant among other negatives.

    1. @stefmeister:

      It’s shifting the balance too far towards the show/entertainment side of things.

      Bingo! Watched a pre-race interview with Liberty’s new Show & Entertainment Director, Ross Brawn. While he mouthed the words ‘DNA of F1’ he quickly moved on to embrace the exciting display of underdogs in rugby. And how Liberty doesn’t actually need the agreement of the teams at the end of the month – just the world motorsport council to play along.

      Thought it might be a Ross-impersonator, pulling one over on the paddock. But then it daw… brawned on me. Liberty wants more money out of F1. And soon. If it means bending the sporting line into WWE on Wheels, so be it.

      Maybe there’s only going to be F1.5 teams in 2021, so reverse grid qualifying races wouldn’t upside the pecking order much, but improve the ‘show’. Oh… and sprinklers and free doughnuts for the kids!
      A Merc and Renault F1 Works team exit could be at play as well.

      Wonder if the Merc/Renault

      1. Ooops… sprinklers on the keyboard…

        Wonder if Merc/Renault Works teams are leaving F1 sooner than expected…

      2. Show and Entertainment Director .. WWE on wheels..

        I just spat out my coffee @jimmi-cynic

        I too was wondering if they were talking to Bernie wearing a Ross disguise. Expected better from him and fully expect at least 1 of the big teams to spring a surprise just after the end of the month.

      3. @jimmi-cynic – times like these are when I’m grateful that my local broadcaster who provides coverage of F1 over the internet starts said coverage at the start of the formation lap. :)

        Sometimes it helps to imitate an ostrich with my head in the sand.

    2. @stefmeister – Exactly. The reason that drives from the back used to be exciting (to me they are less so now because the top 5 drivers are so far ahead that it happens all the time), is because it happened rarely and was a fluke. The reason that changeable conditions races are so great is because they happen rarely and teams don’t know how to deal with them. If we had sprinklers, this would happen every race. And just like every other variable, the teams would get on top of it very quickly.

      Make changes to drive the teams closer together—presumably cost cap, and 2021 regs—and that is what will make exciting races where a good weekend for an STR or McLaren or Renault would be a podium or even a rare win. Not moving the best cars to the back every weekend.

      For those saying that it would cause teams to make cars that can race closer, I think that is giving them too much credit. I think it would cause them to work on cars that can maybe pass, but they wouldn’t care about the wake they are leaving. If you want to reduce the wake left behind, mandate that. Mandate that the disturbance at 5m, 25m, 100m, 200m (or whatever) be X. They use CAD, they have wind tunnels, require it. They can pursue aero all they want but it cannot disturb those behind beyond a set point.

  9. Magro only leaves slim pickings. Cotd, soap opera much, what do I know, ugly if true.

  10. No, Mr.Steiner.


  11. I agree with Craig Woollard’s column in the F1statblog-article thoroughly (especially on the qualifying format) except for the single paragraph about DRS. He claims ”But now we have a situation where it is often impossible to defend a position.” – Which, frankly, is far from the reality as I’ve pointed out many times before. Most of the time, using DRS anything but guarantees an overtaking move to happen. Leclerc’s inability to pass Bottas for P2 last time out in Russia despite both the DRS, as well as, a straight line-speed advantage, is just one of numerous examples over time.

    1. @jerejj – But I think that is very, very track dependent. There are a number of tracks where once you are in DRS, it is a guaranteed pass. There are also those (Sochi, Singapore, Monaco (hmm, a theme)) where it doesn’t equal a pass. But until/unless they plan to tune DRS to the point where all tracks have a DRS benefit but not a DRS easy pass, then it is a problem.

      1. @hobo But still not a ‘guaranteed’ pass, though. That’s the point. An overtaking move is never automatically guaranteed to happen (not even in Spa) unless the car ahead goes off, or faces a problem that slows the car down massively. For example, a sudden loss of power/top-end speed on a straight-line as was, for instance, the case with Nico Rosberg in Canada and Abu Dhabi in 2014. Yes, on some tracks overtaking is easier than on others, but the fact about it still not being ‘fully guaranteed’ beforehand remains valid everywhere.

  12. MotoGP proves weekend after weekend that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the classic format of a race weekend.
    Quali is in fact far more watchable than in F1, because instead of watching a start/finish line with a timing list, you actually to see them do a lap live!

    MotoGP shows every single time that the format isn’t the problem, its the formula.

    I get the impression Liberty just wants to change everything for the sake of change not for the sake of improvement.

  13. Just reading through the comments here, I started wondering, has anyone ever considered to do qualifying with equal cars, for instance, f2 cars, or perhaps some custom made f1 spec car?

    Format could be the same as current Q1/2/3, but starting position would become much more driver dependent, although providing additional 20 cars, even single spec, would probably be a logistical nightmare and possibly a financial one as well.

    Another flaw I can see with this idea would be removal of “setting you car up for qualifying, then suffer in the race” option which teams can take at the moment, every car would be set for race.

    Do the flaws outweigh the positives here?

  14. How about the Qualifying race using a “standard” car instead of the actual race car themselves?
    The “standard” car could be small sporty race cars like the Caterham Sevens, which you could even race around Monaco and have overtaking. This has the advantage that this race would be a test of the drivers skill since they all have the same car, plus the additional benefit of saving wear and tear on the race cars and their PUs.

    1. @ijw1 – While I love the idea of putting the F1 grid in identical cars (hey, what about an F2/F3 car?), I think this idea will receive pushback for that very reason – the drivers who are ahead in the championship by virtue of their skills and their car will be unfairly hamstrung in the qualy race in a car that doesn’t give them an edge.

      I get that one could argue that if they’re so good, they ought to be able to do well even in such a car… but in a way it would again feel like a stronger version of a success penalty – “you and your car are so good that you’re leading the championship, let me send you to the back for the next qualifying. And oh, while we’re at it, let’s replace your good car with a spec car.”

      If we’re putting all 20 drivers in identical cars, then it’d only be fair to start them all from the same grid slot (physically impossible, so maybe something like what they do in WRC? But that would just end up being very similar to the “one qualifying lap” technique”).

    2. @ijw1 – I completely agree with this kind of idea. Not sure what my opinion is on the format, maybe just the exact same format as now but in identical cars(?).

      Or even make this a separate championship. The drivers race this single-make race on Friday or Saturday in place of one of the practice sessions. There is a championship on offer completely separate from the WDC/WCC that would really highlight the driver. And then Qualifying and Race for F1 would stay as is. Would be more happening on the weekend, more draw for attendees and viewers. And wouldn’t futz with a working qualifying format.

  15. I’m opposed to any system that punishes success. It’s insane to me that anyone thinks a team is going to invest in $250m in a car so it can start from the back of the pack every qualifying race. This scheme inevitably creates mediocrity in the sport.

  16. There are plenty of motorsport categories already that goes against what sport is all about. May the best competitor win. The moment you start penalizing anyone for being too good, you’re in very, very dangerous territory, no matter if it is by adding ballast to the winner of the previous round, or reversing the grid so the best have to start last. Even WEC are running with a handicap system, not only as a band aid for the current season, but for their new era. If not even Formula 1 can keep away from punishing success, then it will be a very sad moment for motorsport overall. What’s the point?

    Motorsport is of course different to “normal” sports by being so depedant of the machinery, but to me, that just shows how much of a team sport it really is, even if so much credit goes to the 2 drivers rather than the 1000 others working hard to improve the car day by day. It’s so much more about the team than the single driver. Is it fair that the top teams can spend so much more money, and thus have far more people and better facilities working for them? In a way, you could argue that it is up to each team to raise enough funding to do that. Why don’t Williams start making road cars to earn money that they could spend on their F1 cars, for example? But fair enough, raising money should perhaps not be seen as part of a sport. With the plans of a budget cap for 2021 hopefully being enough to equalize the field (partly, at least), that should surely be enough?

    Reversing the grid would also deprive us and the drivers of the thrill of going flat out. It would also make the historical statistics of pole position totally irrellevant. It will also heavily skew the fight for the lower positions in the championship, because, for them, it will be all about being last before Monaco, where the big points can be scored.

    I can understand that reversing the grid might make the race more unpredictable and entertaining, seing the top cars having to fight back. But it goes against everything that sport is all about. Would anyone actually have wanted to see Usain Bolt start 5 meters behind everyone else in the olympics final, just to add to the unpredictability? Would anyone like to see Federer in his prime start the Wimbledon final 2 games behind to make it more exciting? Because if any handicap you give them would be just enough to have them lose for that reason only, that would surely be amazing for “the show”?

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