Esteban Ocon, Renault, Circuit de Catalunya, 2020

Drivers concerned over “dangerous” slow out-laps in qualifying

2020 Spanish Grand Prix

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F1 drivers have warned the very slow out-laps they have to do in qualifying are creating potentially dangerous closing speed differences between cars.

In the hot conditions at Circuit de Catalunya drivers had to treat their soft tyres delicately on their out-laps in order to ensure they performed at their maximum over a qualifying run.

They faced the added challenge of needing to find several seconds of clear space to start their laps in, to ensure they did not have to run in the turbulent air of another car. This created long queues of slow, sometimes stationary traffic at the end of the lap.

“On my last run in Q2 there was all of us backed up into the last chicane,” said Daniel Ricciardo. “I was just literally in neutral, rolling down the hill before the last chicane, trying to get get some space.

“The reality is, it’s the tyres. They’re so sensitive and if you push them too much on an out-lap, they don’t last the whole lap. So everyone’s trying to figure out the best way to get them cool and prepared for the lap. In these conditions with this heat and with the third sector being so critical on lap time, that’s where your biggest gains can be just on pure grip.

“Everyone’s trying to just keep the tyres good for the last sector so that’s why we’re protecting them on that out-lap or on a cool-down lap. The reasons for these speeds is really just due to the tyres and their behaviour. We don’t want to be doing that, of course, it’s not fun when another car comes flying past you or you’re always pulling off line and getting marbles on your tyres.”

Ricciardo’s team mate Esteban Ocon says F1 should consider introducing a maximum lap time for out-laps, to prevent drivers going too slowly.

“It’s not really acceptable to have a queue of cars,” he said. “If there is someone coming up at race speed it can be dangerous.

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“This has been the trend, in hot conditions we are a minute slower in a cool-down lap or to prep the lap. It’s very, very slow. So I would say we would need to limit it, that would be a good thing.”

Ocon said he also had to come to a stop on the track during qualifying. “To start my last lap, I was basically clutch in and I was stopped, I was literally doing zero kph in the middle of the line.

“That’s the state where I was. It’s the first time that’s happened to me. In ’16, ’17, ’18, I’ve never saw something like that. So it’s very, very extreme nowadays.”

A ‘gentleman’s agreement’ between drivers to not overtake each other before starting a qualifying lap is not working, says Alexander Albon.

“I didn’t want to do the same thing as Hungary, basically. I was like, if it comes to it, I’m going to overtake these cars in front.

“We have this kind of gentlemen’s agreement where we don’t try to overtake each other just before we start. So I kind of wanted to do it early.

“But I was watching and some guys were overtaking right into the last corner, which looked a bit sketchy.”

Albon also believes the problem could be fixed with changes to the tyres. “We have all these tyre blanket rules now and just the way the tyres are, we have to drive so slowly on an out-lap. Our cool-down laps are insanely slow, it just creates issues.

“If we had a more forgiving tyre where you could just go out and push and not worry so much about being in the perfect one, two degrees of the operating window then you wouldn’t have these issues.”

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Keith Collantine
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24 comments on “Drivers concerned over “dangerous” slow out-laps in qualifying”

  1. I’ve got better solution!

    #F1DitchPirelli

  2. Well DOH!
    A disaster waiting to happen…

  3. GtisBetter (@)
    15th August 2020, 19:16

    I love it how they create a problem, complain about it and then tell the FIA what to do. And also blame the tires obviously.

    1. Actually imposing min lap times on out and in laps could reduce the danger and issue we have seen.

      1. @jeanrien
        I hugely disagree with minimum lap times.
        We saw in Formula E last week during quali where Di Grassi was caught behind Vergne and Da Costa but couldn’t get past, and subsequently none of them set a lap time. Di Grassi was unfairly punished because of being held up by other drivers and I fear we will have the same thing.

        With a minimum lap time we will have drivers that wont meet it because they were caught behind other drivers and couldn’t overtake.

        Rather than trying to over-engineer a solution, why not ask why the drivers are doing such slow out laps in the first place, and try and solve that issue? With tyres that have a larger operating window they wouldnt need to slow so dramatically.

        1. @minnis I had come to the same conclusion since if all the cars leave the pits at once then the ones at the back will always struggle to go fast enough if the person at the front diligently keeps to the time.

          Either the teams need to go early not be caught (won’t happen as teams won’t ever accept less sub-optimal conditions than their competitors) or there needs to be a traffic light system at the exit to keep a gap between cars. This introduces other issues so not a complete fix.

          A better compromise could be to do what they do in Indycar and have the timing start and stop midway through the lap rather than at the start finish straight.

  4. It’s boring!
    – Make for more volatile conditions

    We’re having to be dangerous!
    -Make safer

    Rinse, repeat

  5. So, again “it’s like driving on raw eggs”. Michael Schumacher said so about Pirelli tyres back in 2012.

    1. @bulgarian Yep, I think it was Bahrain 2012 where Schumi said it was like driving on egg shells. Pirelli is no longer forced to make tyres that degrade the way they do but their tyres still overheat, can’t last a full lap in quali at max pace. Driver’s cant attack for long periods of time. If they bring a harder compound, drivers complain it’s too hard, with no grip & you can’t get temperature. If you get them in the temp window, then its too sensitive to stay in the right window to get proper grip.

      What a terrible product.

    2. It has to be said though that the early 201X Mercedes did like to fry its rear tyre eggs and eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

  6. They just need to ask Pirelli to make better tires that don’t need to be babied as much as the current one’s do.

    They are far too temperature sensitive with far too small an operating window, That is the only reason they need to be driven so slowly to prevent them either melting & falling to bits or simply been outside the working range & therefore offering no performance.

    Not even the extremely soft 1-2 lap qualifying tires of the 1980s/90s were this extreme in terms of needing to be managed on the out laps. And back then you had more cars with vastly greater performance differences & a far bigger talent difference between drivers on far narrower, More dangerous circuits & much smaller mirrors without the benefit of GPS.

    But of course like typical F1 they will probably throw a band aid over the ‘issue’ with a minimum laptime rather than actually working to fix the root of the problem. Another ‘Pirelli rule’ brought in that was never needed when F1 had proper racing tires!

    1. @roger-ayles Pirelli’s new contract never mandated these crappy tires. They have the freedom to do what they want but their clearly have a terrible product because drivers can’t even do 1 full lap in quali without the tires dropping in sector 3. When they last longer (the harder compounds), the drivers complain, which they have done for years, that the tyres are too hard, no grip, can’t get temperature in them. When they are softer, they can’t handle being pushed like back in Bridgestone/Michelin era for 10-15 quali laps in a race. They overheat, can’t cool down & then drivers don’t even bother defending or attack other cars.

  7. Didn’t Pirelli do exactly that for the 2020 tires?: designing a more durable and stable compound in response to the complaints from the previous year?

    … and then the teams voted unanimously to not use them because they were shaped slightly differently and so they didn’t want to have to redo the aerodynamic work to compensate for the change in airflow around the tires and floor area. The drivers can tell their teams thank you for that decision.

    1. Even more so, the drivers had active voices in that. Guess Pirelli was on point with saying those tyres would not have ruptured like those two weeks ago.

  8. How could there be a ‘minimum’ time for out-laps? I think he meant ‘maximum,’ which is something that is already in place and has been for a while. For each event, after Friday’s running, the FIA sets a maximum time within, which drivers have to do their ‘slow’ laps for the remainder of the event in question, and for this weekend it’s 1:29.000.

    1. FIA sets a maximum time within, which drivers have to do their ‘slow’ laps for the remainder of the event in question, and for this weekend it’s 1:29.000.

      Do you have a source for this?

  9. “I was literally doing zero kph in the middle of the line”. I think Ocon either does not know what literally means, or he just stopped in the middle of the track (pretty sure there is a rule against doing such thing with a healthy car).

    1. He was probably thinking of Magnussen at the time 😀

  10. Let’s all leave the pits together and complain about being on the track together.

  11. Remove this nonsense over flagging slower cars and get on with it you soft pansies!

    1. @Fred Without the blue flags, the whole thing would become even more dangerous.

  12. How about the teams stop all waiting until the very last second to send their cars out so we end up with all the cars at the last corner at the same time.

    Surely all that stupidity is not maximising the supposed track evolution because their initial tyre prep must be getting so disrupted.

    Why doesn’t someone actually try sending their drivers out during that lull in the minutes before the rest get in each other’s way? It’s just crazy that teams keep on doing the same thing over and over and then complain about traffic.

    1. @dbradock Indeed. They never seem to learn from past errors.

  13. Pirelli make dangerous and unsuitable tyres for F1.
    Sack them now. Should have been done after British Grand Prix in 2013.

    No artificial tyre degradation should be promoted in ANY racing series but especially in F1.

    As an F1 fan from the early 60s, I have an appreciation of the change in F1 against finding the real winner, and putting crazy emphasis on “the show” – whatever that is.

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