Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Monza, 2020

“Sort out the cars”: Drivers unmoved by call to change qualifying after incidents

2020 Italian Grand Prix

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Formula 1 drivers are not convinced the qualifying format should be changed in response to the problems encountered at Monza during the last two seasons.

For the second year running at the circuit, some drivers were investigated for holding each other up on qualifying laps as they tried to run in the slipstream of rivals to improve their lap times.

However Max Verstappen rejected the idea F1 should introduce a different qualifying format, saying it should instead address how draggy the cars have become, which makes the slipstream effect so powerful.

“It’s just how it goes when you have cars like this,” he said. “I don’t think you can blame anyone.

“It’s so powerful, the tow, with these cars, that everybody wants one. Then you just get these kind of scenarios. I didn’t really have any issues with it. It was pretty OK.”

Asked whether F1 should consider using a different qualifying format for Monza, Verstappen said: “No, you should just sort out the cars. You shouldn’t rely on stuff like this.”

Valtteri Bottas said he likes the current format and doesn’t see an obvious way to address the problems experienced at Monza.

“I like the format, how it is,” he said. “Overall, I feel as a driver it’s pretty nice and exciting. You get to Q3 and those laps you only have one or two opportunities that matter. So I like it.

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“But I understand the point, at some tracks traffic is always going to be an issue. Like Monaco, for example, and Bahrain is going to be the same or even worse. I don’t have the answer what kind of format would work on that or something [but] I would be open to try.”

Carlos Sainz Jnr also said he sees little reason to change the current format, but said he would like to try a ‘super pole’ shoot-out where the final drivers in qualifying get one chance to set a lap time.

“I think the actual qualifying format works and I think the fans are pretty happy with it,” he said.

“Would I like to try something different? Yes I think there might be scope for some experimenting, especially because we’re going into ’22 with new regulations so maybe next year is a good time to experiment a bit.

“I’m a big fan, looking back in the days, of ‘super pole’. I enjoyed really a lot seeing cars on their own and drivers under pressure on their own on track and the cameras being able to focus on you for that one lap and getting that pressure up.

“Maybe it could work that you could make super pole for the last five cars of qualifying, for the top 10 or the Q3 cars. But I think the rest of the format honestly works and it keeps the fans excited.”

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2020 Italian Grand Prix

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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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18 comments on ““Sort out the cars”: Drivers unmoved by call to change qualifying after incidents”

  1. Hm, superpole for q3 doesnt seem a terrible shout at first glance.

    1. No way. The last time we spent half the time looking at someones slow down lap, whilst some other driver got pole.

    2. Superpole could be something worth trying but it doesn’t solve any of the problems f1 has. What would superpole solve anyways? Qualifying is good. If the qualifying breaks then the issue is somewhere else. I don’t even see what the big issue is that needs fixing. Having some slipstream awkwardness in some qualifying sessions during the season to me is just a bonus. It adds variety, it is fair and it is not artificial. All that is bad is total mercedes domination and that can’t be fixed with qualifying change.

      Would it be optimal that every qualifying session is exactly the same? Every car gets their perfect slot and can do a clean lap? No. Monaco should be difficult, monza should have drafting and on some other tracks there should be corners where catching other cars ruins your lap. That is what having a qualifying session with many cars on the track at the same time is all about. It is not a problem. It is a feature. It is something different.

  2. If all Quallys were like this then yes there should be change, but if it is just once or twice a season then it should be viewed as an anomaly, a once in a while shift that forces the drivers and teams to think different for a weekend.

    We all know that Monaco isn’t much of a race anymore but it is a blip on the calendar that makes for a change of pace.

    Do we all really want to see the exact same race every weekend?

  3. I don’t like the idea of any sort of single lap/superpole format as I just find that format to be pretty dull to watch.

    Any sort of single car/lap format be it for the whole grid or just the top 10 or whatever always ends up lacking the build-up, Tension & excitement you get from formats like what we have now with multiple cars on track where the order can change a dozen times at the end as each car crosses the line.

    And then you also have the problem of some been advantaged or disadvantaged based on running order & things like track evolution, Temperature changes & of course a change of weather conditions.

  4. Max already said in an interview on a different site, that the biggest problem to get good racing are the cars.
    They are too big and have too much downforce and are therefore to sensitive to dirty air.

    Which is something we already know, since this has been the problem for 30 to 40 years.

    Atleast it is a far more honest answer, than when Hamilton suggested Pirelli should make a utopic tyre for the racing to be good.

  5. Personally Id rather see 10 cars tripping over each other all fighting for the same piece of tarmac, then one car all on its own. Especially as its only once or twice a year.

    1. Same, I was laughing like a madman at the end of Q1

  6. Bring back the 1 hr qualifying on hard tyres with 25 min/ 20 min/15 min acting as cut-offs.
    Fans get to see more running and drivers try to improve every lap. Everybody wins.

    1. So you mean the same format as currently, just without the breaks in between? Can’t see how that’s going to change much.

      1. How is it the same? The change is stated above.

  7. I think there is only one way to get an unbiased qualifying result with no arbitrariness, and that is to only allow one car qualifying. Well, perhaps two at a time but separated by 1/2 a lap so to insure no one gets an unfair advantage behind the front car. Do you folks care about honest and fair competition? It doesn’t sound like it.

    1. Track evolution. There’s a reason they all go out together at the end of a session.

  8. The only reason that Q3 wasn’t a complete mess like last year was that MB had such a performance advantage that they really didn’t need the slipstream and could just dictate everything.

    This meant that they could leave the pits at a time of their choosing knowing that the others would then all follow. MB left the pits with 5 mins to go (much earlier than would have been expected probably just to annoy the others) and there looked to be a serious scramble for the others to follow them as everyone was caught unawares.

    If MB didn’t have the performance advantage then I guarantee that it would have been 2019 all over again. Therefore the fundamental problem has not gone away.

    I’ve tried to think of some wacky solutions to this that don’t involve fundamentally changing the way qualifying works but everything I come up with has a flaw that would probably make it worse than it currently is.

    1. Not quite. There were still two drivers at Mercedes and both were going hard for pole.

      What they did, correctly was get their cars out into clean air and go hard for pole. Everyone else was still messing around trying to work out the optimal slipstreaming position when Merc proved that this year it was better to just get out and get your lap done.

      Even some of the drivers had come to the conclusion that the tow wasn’t really working for them but still they persisted.

      I’m sure the new generation cars will help in 2022 but until then it would be great to see some independent thinking from a team or two instead of just repeating the same things and getting the same results.

  9. @dbradock Even if the tow was worth 0.5s and could be reliably achieved, MB had such a performance advantage that they could tell their drivers that neither were going to have it and still get a front row lockout without there being accusations of favouritism.

    This level of advantage just meant they could dictate the terms of qualifying and everyone felt they had to play on MB’s terms. Generally no-one goes for their final run with 5 mins left but MB did and it was almost comical seeing the other teams scrambling to go out with them. Part of me thinks they just did it for the lolz!! 🤪

    As you state, there is still something to be said for just going out first and concentrating on getting a fast clean lap. Often the perfect is the enemy of the very good and it seems that the teams can lose sight of that on occasion.

  10. If they bring back one-shot qualifying only for Monza then we won’t have the slipstream chaos.

  11. I’d love to see one-shot qualifying again.

    1 hour session send em out one each minute, 3 times, Best lap wins. And do it in driver ranking order. So Hamilton goes first, then everyone else has a chance for an upset.

    Also we will have a chance to see atleast one driver pushing at all times.

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