The FIA have again tweaked qualifying. Instead of splitting the three sessions equally into 15 minute phases, they have now added 5 minutes to phase one (Q1) and deducted 5 minutes from phase three (Q3). The reason behind this change is aimed at reducing the fuel-burning phase that happened in Q3 last season. However, the FIA are attempting to solve the problem with the wrong solution and Q3 was a great disappointment for me earlier today.
Why Did The FIA Change Qualifying?
In 2007 drivers started qualifying with the fuel load they intended to start the race with. As qualifying progressed the drivers received fuel credits and essentially got the used gas pumped back in before the race. However, in order to set a really fast time, the car needed to be as light as possible. And fuel weighs a lot.
The driver would simply drive around the track for 5-10 minutes at the start of Q3, burning off the fuel and reducing the car’s weight. Then they would pit, change tyres and go for a flying lap. Not only was this fuel-burning phase boring to watch, but it kind of goes against the campaign the FIA have for making Formula One green.
Why I Didn’t Like Australia ’08 Qualifying?
The five minutes added to Q1 isn’t too much of an issue, it just means the cars stay in their garages a bit longer. When ITV started their broadcast of Australian qualifying, they cut to Nico Rosberg’s radio and we heard his engineer telling him to wait until the 8 minute point before going out. Ferrari left it even later, only leaving themselves enough time to squeeze in two runs.
However, Q3 should have been a mad dash for pole. We should have seen all ten drivers flying around Albert Park trying to get their last lap in last to ensure the track is at its fastest. It should have been a climax. Alas, it was not. Sebastian Vettel, who surprisingly got into Q3, just went out, scrubbed some tyres and returned to the pits on the same lap; he didn’t set a time. The reason behind this was because he obviously felt as though he couldn’t compete for pole on similar fuel load, so instead he chose to save his fuel in order to run a longer stint in the first part of the race.
At the very end of qualifying, in the last couple of minutes there were only a few drivers really going for it, on the absolute limit. Part of this problem is the change to the fuel credit system – it doesn’t exist anymore. The FIA removed this part in a hope to completely abolish fuel burning, and instead the cars start qualifying with the fuel they will start qualifying and the race with. But the knock-on effect is now the drivers are going for a reasonable grid slot while saving fuel. This means the driver can run longer in the first stint of the race and gain an advantage that way.
And to push the button further, I don’t like the fact that the pole lap is not the fastest set in the whole of qualifying. Take a look at the qualifying times. Kazuki Nakajima in fourteenth set that 1m26.413s lap in Q2. It is a lot faster than Lewis Hamilton’s pole-setting lap of 1m26.714s.
What I Think The Solution Is?
Years ago, the teams were given twelve laps and sixty minutes. “Now go get on with it”. That was pretty much it. Most drivers tended to go for a 4 three-lap runs; an out-lap, a quick-lap and an in-lap. That offers the driver four chances at setting the pole lap and the build-up during the hour was electrifying. The final few minutes of qualifying was a crazy dash with most drivers on track. The FIA moved away from this format though when it became clear a lot of drivers were leaving it until the halfway mark before venturing out on track. We still saw some action as the lesser-funded teams would go out just to get some TV coverage for their sponsors.
So what’s the difference between the top teams leaving it until the 30 minute mark in the old 60 minute session before going out, and the top teams leaving it until the 10 minute mark in a 20 minute session before going out? And this race-fuel issue? We do not need the extra complication and it ruins qualifying. The idea behind deciding the grid positions is that the cars run at their fastest; strategy shouldn’t come into it until the race.
What Did You Think?
I didn’t enjoy it too much, although Vettel impressed, as did Kubica. But regarding the format, did you enjoy it? Have your say in the comments below…