Why F1 needs to change its qualifying format

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We’ve argued the case repeatedly and you’ve heard our position if you’ve listened to our podcasts with Paul Charsley. Formula One should change its qualifying format to improve the spectacle of Formula 1…specifically in the Q3 session.

Currently the teams must start the race on the tires they use during qualifying in the Q3 session. This begets very little action and most teams prefer to conserve their tires rather than use them for the ultimate flying lap. It also is becoming a regular occurrence where a team who has no aspiration for pole position but is competing in Q3 will just sit the entire session out.

SPEED’s own Steve Matchett has equally suggested that an additional set of qualifying tires for Q3 would solve the issue. The good news is that it seems Pirelli, always willing to help and improve F1, is able to provide these additional sets. They told Autosprint:

“We could do it immediately,” Hembery told Autosprint. “We could come up with a specific compound, or maintain the current ones.

“But the teams say that the format is fine as is, that the public enjoys tyre strategies.

“But if a fan on the grandstands doesn’t see much running in Q3, then that fan casts the blame on Pirelli thinking that we don’t want to spend any more money in order to supply more tyres.”

The road block is, seemingly, that the teams aren’t in a particular hurry to adopt this strategy for whatever reason. The tactical element of running an extra set of soft compounds or missing the heat cycle or being stuck with a qualifying performance that hampers race strategy is always something teams might like to keep in teh grand prix weekend. You can imagine these elements adding to the challenges and all a team needs is for their competition to be on their back foot with one set less of the soft compound Pirelli’s in order to gain an advantage come race day.

Perhaps it’s this tactical element that has teams perfectly fine with the current qualifying format but fans are not pleased with the lackluster Q3 session. You can understand Hembery’s point in that the tires take the blame and this year, the teams are really struggling to come to grips with the new compounds and this has them even more apprehensive about using tires in Q3. This also lends itself to Michael Schumacher’s recent commentary suggesting that the tires are dominating the sport.

Is it fair to suggest that Pirelli’s 2012 compounds have dominated F1? Most likely, no. They have impacted the sport because the chassis’s are not the same this year and the down force is not what it was in 2011. The elements have all combined for a tenuous concoction that has teams still trying to determine how best to use the tires and chassis in harmony. The tires, as Schumacher suggests, have impacted the race and they have equally impacted the qualifying session.

Keep in mind, this is no fault of Pirelli’s, they’ve done exactly what F1 asked them to do.  In Formula 1’s ever-present pragmatism, they can rarely see beyond their “good idea” and discern how teams will react with new regulations and how they will exploit said regulations to the detriment of the fan’s experience. These are brilliant people and I am often astounded at how a suggested new regulation is seemingly never simulated and run to its logical conclusion to vet the idea before initiating it in series.

Good on Pirelli for offering a Q3 set of tires to improve the “show”.


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