“There’s definitely going to be a crash”: F1 drivers concerned ahead of qualifying

2020 Italian Grand Prix Friday practice analysis

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The word that came up again and again from drivers when asked for their expectations ahead of qualifying at Monza was, “mess”. And, a couple of times, “nightmare”.

There is real concern that with up to 20 F1 drivers all trying to benefit from a slipstream from a car ahead, a collision may be inevitable.

“The margins are very narrow,” said Sergio Perez. “It’s going to be a close competition tomorrow.

“It’s going to be tricky with everyone looking for a tow. It’s going to be a very messy qualifying. So we just have to be on it and try not to get caught out because it can end up being very costly.”

Others, such as Lewis Hamilton, were more stark in their warnings. George Russell also has serious worries ahead of qualifying.

“It’s going to be a nightmare,” said the Williams driver. “I don’t know what the FIA can do but it’s getting a bit ridiculous and pretty dangerous.

“You’ve got cars behind trying to overtake, cars ahead slowing down to let you by so you’re trying to look in your mirrors to look where they are. Cars are braking.

“There is definitely going to be a crash. But like I said I don’t know what they can do and I’m sure we’ll talk about it tonight in drivers’ briefing. I think you just need a bit of common sense really.”

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Monza, 2020
Mercedes were as quick as ever in practice
On the face of it, if all drivers are seeking a tow and they all head out to qualify at roughly the same time, the problem should be manageable. The difficulty is the teams have different requirements for how they prepare their tyres, and therefore how quickly they need to go, and how slowly they can stand to go, on an out-lap.

From Saturday they will have to juggle that with the FIA’s imposition of a maximum time between the two Safety Car lines. In his note to drivers today Formula 1 race director Michael Masi indicated this is will be used as a “guide” to judge whether a driver has gone too slowly on an out-lap, meaning other factors could be taken into account.

It’s possible not all drivers and teams may seek out a slipstream. At Spa-Francorchamps, another circuit where slipstream is beneficial on a qualifying lap, Hamilton felt he could do without one and took pole position despite not having a tow. Will Mercedes feel that confident this weekend?

On the face of it, they may well do. Hamilton was almost nine-tenths of a second quicker than anyone in another car today. Despite the banning of ‘quali modes’, he may therefore feel similarly confident about his chances on Saturday.

The competition may be slightly slower than they appeared on Friday. Daniel Ricciardo had a 1’20.905 lap deleted for violating track limits, indicating he is clearly a contender for ‘best of the rest’ behind the W11s. And Pierre Gasly’s pace in the AlphaTauri surely indicates there’s more to come from the similarly-powered Red Bulls.

Enough for them to offer a serious challenge to the Mercedes? That seems like wishful thinking.

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

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Combined practice times

PosDriverCarFP1FP2Total laps
1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’20.9481’20.19259
2Valtteri BottasMercedes1’20.7031’20.45457
3Lando NorrisMcLaren-Renault1’21.7471’21.08948
4Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri-Honda1’21.6671’21.12152
5Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda1’21.6411’21.22852
6Carlos Sainz JnrMcLaren-Renault1’21.8211’21.31357
7Daniil KvyatAlphaTauri-Honda1’21.5551’21.37666
8Lance StrollRacing Point-Mercedes1’22.1311’21.38953
9Alexander AlbonRed Bull-Honda1’21.5001’21.88366
10Charles LeclercFerrari1’21.9041’21.50357
11Sergio PerezRacing Point-Mercedes1’21.7471’21.59456
12Esteban OconRenault1’21.9841’21.69760
13Sebastian VettelFerrari1’22.9881’21.73352
14Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’22.5521’21.78656
15Daniel RicciardoRenault1’21.7891’22.08051
16Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari1’22.4221’22.08851
17Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’22.6191’22.14761
18Romain GrosjeanHaas-Ferrari1’22.4091’22.25454
19Nicholas LatifiWilliams-Mercedes1’23.1201’22.82554
20Roy NissanyWilliams-Mercedes1’22.82625
21George RussellWilliams-Mercedes1’22.92734

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2020 Italian Grand Prix

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Author information

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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17 comments on ““There’s definitely going to be a crash”: F1 drivers concerned ahead of qualifying”

  1. This kind of puzzles me. Like, it used to be more of an ‘incidental’ thing, like, sometimes a driver would get a better-than-average lap because he happened to end up in a tow. But only ferrari ever tried to actively use it and they usually failed miserably. So why is this escalating so much since 2018, getting worse and worse at Monza and also finding its way to more and more other tracks? (Watching since 99)

    1. larger front wing. this was mentioned last year in a few interviews if i remember right.

      1. There is also the issue of Tyre Preparation and their limited “life” .
        It seems the car and tyre preparation for that One-Flying-Lap is part of the problem. Then add in the benefit of the tow and you have a nasty mix.

        1. agreed, need tire temp to be perfect for the one lap they last.. and also perfect gap to tow, nasty mix indeed.

      2. @abananasplitz The larger front wing has been in use since 2009, though.

        1. try to keep up with the technical regs. (you’ll look less like a boomer if you do)


          wider since 2019! and why we also saw the cringe q3 last year at monza bc now it is so much wider that the tow benifit is massive compared to what it was in previous seasons

          1. front wing 200mm wider along with a wider rear wing which means more drag which means tow is more powerful.

            please dont make me dumb it down further.

    2. I’m just guessing out loud, @mrboerns, but I think it is due to the tow now extending much further back (maybe due to the latest front wings as suggested above).
      When the slipstream was only a few seconds it didn’t work as it required the towing car to move out of the way at the end of the straight. Thus it could only work between teammates and sacrificing one of they them.
      Now the slipstream is said to be up to 5,6,7 seconds (and being renamed ‘tow’). Thus you can get a tow and not being disturbed (as much) in the curvy bits. Thus any car can be used when on a flyer, and especially the faster ones. Thus instead of 1 sacrificing lamb teammate, you now have 19 candidates to help you.

      PS I don’t think FIA needs to do anything except penalising dangerous(ly slow) driving on the out lap. Let the F1 stars sort it out between them!

      1. I was going to ask a very similar question. We never seem to hear of this happening until the last couple of years. We know the answer…redesign the cars?

        Hopefully from 2022 this will change or get better. We’ll still be stuck with the Pirelli tyres though.

    3. @mrboerns i have been confused about this too during these past few days. I Don’t remember this tow thing being an issue even when F1 had 2006-2008 aircraft level cars which were wide and with huge wings. The same qualification format was in place and i never remember this being an issue.

  2. Suggeston: if you could maybe put the fastest sectors of each driver in the both sessions, and their fastest theoritcal time which would be the combination of their best sectors in the analysis that would be great!

  3. Maybe qualifying should be in timeslots, like SuperCars in Australia, with FP3 timings used to determine the order in which drivers are allowed onto the track, with each driver given, say 4 minutes to get an out-lap in and then post their lap for that session?
    No slip stream, no funny business, just the driver, the car, and the track. No tows, nowhere to hide, no queuing on the track, no mess.
    @keithcollantine has this ever been considered for F1?

    1. There was a season of one-lap qualifying (2006 I think) and it was awful, evolving weather and track conditions made it an absolute lottery, wasnt great and the 3 session format is definitely an improvement

      1. @dean111181 @ NeverElectric There were several seasons, with constant tweaks and changes to try to make it work well and understandable to the viewere and it was pretty consistently rubbish, hence the change to the first version of the current format which was a huge improvement.

        Perhaps it could work if it was only used for the top 10 shootout but I think 10 is still too many cars to make it work well, if it was down to a top 5 shootout then maybe they would get through it quickly enough that changing conditions shouldn’t be too big a difference between each of the cars runs?

  4. It’s hilarious, they all know that messing around before start finish is going to mess up their lap more than a tow will bring them.
    Yet, only very few drivers have go the balls to go out before and try to drive a perfect lap in clean air..
    All point at each other and playing the victim.

    Well if you can’t take responsibility, get burnt.

  5. Been very interesting to note, that this season.
    Mercedes have often been the earliest out on track.
    Getting out there, getting the lap banged in.
    Then keeping out of the way of the traffic jam!

  6. Bring back one-shot qualifying but only for Monza. And at least one driver per run.

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