Qualifying: revolutionary or ridiculous?

New F1 qualifying procedure could provide some ridiculous situations... The new qualifying procedure F1 will use in 2006 is somewhat complex and we will get to how it works in a minute. The teams came up with the scheme in an agreement and the...

New F1 qualifying procedure could provide some ridiculous situations...

The new qualifying procedure F1 will use in 2006 is somewhat complex and we will get to how it works in a minute. The teams came up with the scheme in an agreement and the FIA had little choice but to accept it, even though Max Mosley, the FIA president, said to the French sports daily 'L'Equipe': "I think that the public is going to be just like me when I watch an American football game. I can watch it. It's a great show, but I don't have the slightest idea about what's happening."

So clearly Max thinks the average viewer will be confused, as well they should be. He went on to say, "At least the public will know who is the fastest driver as the times will appear on a board." However, that is not the case and the procedure could result in some ridiculous situations.

Here is how it works. For the first 15 minutes all 22 drivers can clock times. The slowest 6 will take up the last 6 positions on the grid and be eliminated from the rest of qualifying. The remaining 16 drivers will have their times deleted and clock times in the next 15 minutes. The slowest 6 of those 16 will take up positions 11 to 16 and not participate in the rest of qualifying. The remaining 10 drivers will use the last 30 minutes to decide the top 10 positions. Got it?

Here are the troubles I can see with this:

1) How'd you like to be a fan that pays an arm and a leg to go to qualifying and you see your favourite driver for 15 minutes? Nice, isn't it?

2) What happens if no cars go out for the first half hour? Or even 7 cars?

3) F1 seems to forget that it occasionally rains. How about this situation that contradicts what Max said about the public knowing "who is the fastest driver"?

Say the start of qualifying is dry. So for the first 15 minutes everyone puts in a fast time. The slowest 6 are eliminated with their time. Then it starts to rain. The times in the next 15 mins are slower. The slowest 6 are eliminated and sit in positions in front of the other 6, who have official times faster than the 6 in front of them. (Remember, the times of the non-eliminated drivers were deleted.) Then as the rain gets harder and harder, the last 10 drivers put even slower times in, yet sit ahead of guys behind them who have faster official qualifying times.

A casual fan, the person in the everyday public, wakes up Sunday morning and looks at the qualifying results. The guy on pole has the 13th fastest time, the guy in 10th has the slowest time, the guy in 17th has the fastest time. Yikes, explain that. Yes, it is a bit of an extreme case, but it is very possible.

In my 22 years of watching F1 I have drawn a lot of friends into the sport, most of them just casual fans, but at least they watch with some knowledge. In the last few years though, forget it. It was too much to explain 3rd Friday drivers (some teams), one engine per two races, combined single-lap qualifying, one set of tires per race (unless it is "damaged"), race fuel in qualifying, etc. And now? No chance.

We fans want to see drivers blasting around the track, pushing as hard as they can, for as long as we can get. At the end of the day we want to look at the time sheets, and know the guy at the top really was the fastest. We're not, at the very least, even getting that.

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Series Formula 1