Who’s defending new qualifying format? These guys

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The new qualifying format didn’t go down well with fans and pundits alike but who was behind the change? Why did they want to change it?

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said this week that perhaps they shouldn’t jettison the concept completely and perhaps it would be good to re-examine it, tweak it and make it a better functioning system. That had me believing that he may have been one of the people that was supportive of the change although I can’t imagine why as it was mostly designed to upset a Mercedes domination.

Today AUTOSPORT reports that, in fact, Force India are very much in favor of the new qualifying format with team boss Bob Fernley saying:

“Part of the reason the qualifying [change] was done was the race,” he said.

“How can you make that decision if you have not even done the race?

“We didn’t vote for it [to be changed back].

“I asked for it to be noted that we were strictly against it on principle and time should be given for it.

“I hope that more people will take our position with a bit of time to think about it.

“The tyres, the qualifying, everything had an impact on this race. Maybe we should wait a little bit more.

“It was too knee-jerk a reaction and I think some very interesting things came out of it.”

Here’s the rub. The change was intended to have an impact on Sunday and I’ve read fans commenting on that very notion. Why throw it out because everything that happens over a GP weekend is really just a precursor to the ultimate show on Sunday. The comments have been nearly dismissive of Friday and Saturday activity as a standalone entertainment package and event suggesting that they are mere distractions to the really important thing which is the race.

Perhaps you feel that way? I can say that I don’t and while I understand full well that Friday and Saturday are contributing elements to Sunday’s race, they are part of the entire package of entertainment and should be intriguing elements on their own and additive when combined with Sunday’s race. Why? Because you’re charging me money to watch them!

If the qualifying change was merely meant to upset the apple cart on Sunday, then don’t charge fans to sit in stands and watch cars not run. If they can tweak the system and make it more effective, then perhaps we could look at that and I’m open to that although I’m not quite sure the system needs to be changed to improve the qualifying experience.

Once again, the series is looking for cheap gimmicks to disturb the real issue of imbalance in performance and a lack of equilibrium amongst the teams creating processional and predictable racing. Why not address the aero issues, hybrid engine performance issues and other key elements that prevent the kind of racing fans want to see instead of trying to implement regulations that might catch race strategists and engineers off guard forcing errors to mix up the racing?



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I don’t get their logic on this. Do they really think that forcing Merc down the order will somehow prevent them from winning? I hate to break it to them but even if Merc started from pit lane every race they would still win a majority of the races. Thats what happens when one car is massively quicker than the rest of the field.

Negative Camber

If Franz Tost is right and they could lap the field if they wanted to, then no, it won’t matter. :)

Don Thorpe

But before anything else will work, they have to kill the aero dependency that prevents following close enough to set up the car ahead for a pass.


There have been attempts to do that by changing the technical regulations, making them ever tighter. This has resulted in cars that look more similar than ever before. If the entire grid was presented in bare carbon fibre, most fans would struggle to tells which car was which. Perhaps it is time to try attacking the problem using the sporting regulations? Change the blue flag rules back to merely an indication that a faster driver was behind, then the leaders would have to overtake traffic they were lapping, not wait until it pulled out of the way. Replace FP2, FP3… Read more »


I +1 the Blue Flag regression to make the leaders defend instead of running away all the time, and trust that your observation that they have been attempting to deal with aero dependency by tightening regulation is perfectly accurate. But if they’ve been trying to help by tightening regulation, maybe they should try and loosen regulation instead. They appear to be going the wrong direction.


I think is a huge part of the issue. There shouldn’t be a physical penalty for trying to pass. Maybe some how make the aero work in a way where it neither hurts or helps a car behind pass.

Gordon Robertson

F-1 should not aspire to become spec racing…if they do not change the quali session I will not bother watching

Andreas Möller

I also read that Pirelli/Paul Hembery wasn’t overly keen on reverting to the old system, for the same reasons given – it was introduced to influence the race on sunday, and it did. It didn’t shake up the grid too much, but since it forced the top teams to use the supersofts throughout qualifying, it definitely impacted the race (his words, not mine). For my money, having three different tyre compounds made a far bigger difference, and whatever was gained by the quali format dictating tyre use, was heavily outweighed by the general lack of running in qualifying and the… Read more »


Reading some of the tech blogs on the visibly tiny and complex ways the teams are using to manage aero, eliminating a proportion of it should not only bring closer racing and increased chances of overtaking at tracks like Melbourne were even the fastest cars struggled to overtake, but also reduce some of the runaway spending costs at the same time. I can see how the disadvantaged teams will always vote against any such ruling but if they could just agree to a baseline level of downforce then longer term R&D effort would go in a different direction and possibly… Read more »


I was going to make a comment on lottery draw and then read yours. +1

charlie white

“Why not address the aero issues, hybrid engine performance issues and other key elements that prevent the kind of racing fans want to see instead of trying to implement regulations that might catch race strategists and engineers off guard forcing errors to mix up the racing?” Because that’s too hard, too logical and the teams & manufacturers could never agree any change in that regard.

Negative Camber

They wouldn’t agree, that’s for sure but that’s where Max’s recommendation is for Todt to tell them to like it or leave it.

charlie white

But the harsh Max Mosley-style FIA died when it was supplanted by the all new manufacturer-friendly Strategy Group. Simply put, they(Strategy Group) will only tackle those issues that will present a full consensus and that is a short list.


F1 is a bunch of self selecting lovies going round in ever decreasing circles.

Shane Phillips

The thing that made the race interesting wasn’t the qualifying setup, it was the fact that both mercs made poor starts and had to change strategy to get back to the front.

Negative Camber

So in that line of thinking, Shane, do you feel Mr. E’s concept of reversed or semi-reversed grids might at least make the races interesting? If so, would that be an artifice for you knowing that you’re simply watching the fastest cars hampered and running through the field of slower cars? Curious if that would be ok or if you’d feel a bit tweaked by that concept.

Andreas Möller

I agree with Shane that the two Ferraris taking 1-2 off the Mercs definitely spiced up the show. But that was from real unpredictability, as has been the times when a top driver has had to start dead last or from the pit lane – forcing the faster cars to start further back just because the rules say so is not the same. And neither is it unpredictable… I get Pat Symonds’ theory that a reversed grid (or reversed top 10) would force the teams to start developing cars that can run in traffic. In theory, that makes sense. However,… Read more »

Shane Phillips

No, I don’t support reversed grids. Punishing cars and drivers for being fast is against the fabric of the sport.

Herb Dressing

Reverse grids will surely result in low to mid teams running to a calculated lap time rather than the quickest time. Hell, let’s just draw grid spots out of a hat!


Grid girls assign grid position!


I agree with you about the aero – gotta do something there, but to this point: “instead of trying to implement regulations that might catch race strategists and engineers off guard forcing errors to mix up the racing?” I think the simple answer is the expertise and the technology have reached such a high level that everything is known and predicted. When engineers are presented with essentially complete data and the ability to calculate anything in real time, and a problem to solve where limited resources and a known minimum performance will reach a goal, they’re going to show you… Read more »


“Where I feel they need to go is cutting back on communication, telemetry, computers, etc” +100 percent totally agree. The realtime telemetry feeds have multiple negative entailments including pit/engineer/strategist control of the driver, and optimizing car parameters and controls to meet engineered objectives…. which are not “motorsport” objectives, at least in my book and I think generally among race spectators and fans. As many have said before, just because you can engineer it, doesn’t mean you should. The recent (alleged) cutback on pit to driver comms is kind of silly and just one more example of dancing around the problem,… Read more »

Paul KieferJr

Thing is, if you scream “Imbalance of performance”, they’ll scream “THIS IS NOT A SPEC SERIES!!!” Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. :P

Paul KieferJr

Here’s a thought: Who’s benefitting the most from this screwed-up quali format? I’ll bet those are the ones in favor. That’s why the rules need to be taken out of the hands of the teams. One does not let the fox guard the henhouse.

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