Teams and drivers alike will face a new challenge on Saturday and Sunday as they come to terms with the 2005 qualifying format. The two sessions, one without any restrictions on fuel load and one requiring enough fuel for the first race stint, may...
Teams and drivers alike will face a new challenge on Saturday and Sunday as they come to terms with the 2005 qualifying format. The two sessions, one without any restrictions on fuel load and one requiring enough fuel for the first race stint, may appear similar on the surface, but they will provide very different challenges. Fernando Alonso and Pat Symonds explain…
"The new style of qualifying will be difficult for the drivers, and especially on Sunday," explained Fernando Alonso. "For the Saturday session, we will have done lots of laps beforehand so we will be completely ready. But on Sunday morning, we will have to find the limit with no practice, lots of fuel in the car and old tyres. I think it will be a good test of the driver's skill."
Executive Director of Engineering Pat Symonds concurs: "The drivers will go out cold on Sunday morning, and they will be driving a very different car to the day before. It's a new skill they have to learn... and I think it will place a premium on their natural talent."
The format itself has generated much discussion, but from the driving seat, what does it look like? "It's interesting for us," replied Fernando. "At some tracks, the Saturday session will be really good fun -- driving to your maximum, on new tyres, is when you really feel the adrenaline of Formula 1. Sunday will be a big challenge."
For the engineers, the challenge would appear to be providing a car that is quick in qualifying, yet also set up to enable good race performance, as they cannot modify the car's settings between first qualifying and the race. But is that the case? "The set-up is slightly compromised to take account of the race," concludes Symonds. "The ride heights are higher, to cope with higher fuel loads, and the suspension camber is tuned to minimise tyre wear for the race."
"But in reality, the one-lap format already forces us to adapt. In the pre-2003 style qualifying, we would set the car up to handle quite nervously, but perhaps go faster. The single lap format, however, allows no mistakes at all, which means we tend to make the car understeer a little more to give the driver confidence. That is just as important as pure performance in this qualifying format."
One final stumbling block could be the promise of rain on Saturday in Melbourne, which would disrupt first qualifying before a dry second session on Sunday morning. "There is every likelihood that at least one session this weekend will be wet," smiles Symonds. "If it rains on Saturday, we could see some interesting problems as teams decide what strategies and fuel loads to run for the second session..."