Michael Schumacher today came out as one of the drivers critical of the decision to run the first qualifying session at Monaco with all 24 cars on the grid.
What surprises me, though, is that he seems to just not get it.
The Autosport story on this ends with this final line quoting the seven-time champ: “That’s not much for qualifying, so it’s going to be interesting for Q1.”
And there you have it, Michael. “[I]t’s going to be interesting.” Did you need to think of anything else before you knew how the Monaco qualifying issue would come out?
Let’s back up a minute, though. Schumacher does make some straight-forward points about the crowded qualifying session (which seems to be as much as problem due to the length of time, just 20 minutes, as to anything else).
“Some team bosses felt they would rather have the chaos and maybe take the profit from this than to have a reasonable, clean qualifying,” Schumacher said. “So that’s what it is, that’s what we have to deal with, and let’s see who has to suffer or not.”
Although Schumacher has raced at Monaco in times when Formula 1 had more than the current 24 cars, the sessions also lasted longer so there was less chance of all the cars being out on track at once.
“In a way the field is probably a bit tighter [now] because in the past it was normal to have five or six seconds difference between the first and the last cars, and staggering backwards there were bigger gaps,” he said.
“Now you have more cars in close competition in terms of laptimes, but when you have 24 cars on a track which is 3.6km, it comes down to less than 200 metres between each car if all the cars are on track. That’s not much for qualifying, so it’s going to be interesting for Q1.”
There’s that quote in context. Which, I think, makes it even more apparent why we’ll see a crowded Monaco harborfront come tomorrow. [And why I feel we all can ask Schumacher: Are you new to F1?]
There are at least two things operating here. One, as Schumacher says, there is the gamble of a few teams (anyone want to take a stab at which ones) that are rolling the dice and hoping the crowds might push some of the faster teams out of Q1. Barring a full accident, I wonder if that will happen, although I realize we have seen it occur already this year.
The second thing operating is Bernie Eccelstone. The spectacle and show (and subsequent media coverage) are potentially much more exciting the way qualifying will be run. And that is good for business. You have to know Bernie could have made this happen, if he’d wanted to.
Of course, as Michael not so subtly suggests, the ones who might be hurt by all this — and hopefully not, and hopefully not seriously — are the drivers.
I suppose if they really were adamant, they could refuse to drive. Now that would create headlines.