There were some less than happy comments about the new back-to-back Saturday qualifying sessions after the Melbourne weekend, but Ferrari boss Jean Todt sees no big difference from last year. Qualifying has been one of the less than successful ...
There were some less than happy comments about the new back-to-back Saturday qualifying sessions after the Melbourne weekend, but Ferrari boss Jean Todt sees no big difference from last year. Qualifying has been one of the less than successful changes in F1 in recent years and there could be more changes to come. One of the main complaints is that the new system is simply too long, taking two hours.
Some say the first session is now pointless, as with the second immediately afterwards, drivers are conserving the engines for the lap that really counts. Bernie Ecclestone has always advocated reverting to the system of all the drivers on track together for one hour, and other ideas have been put forward.
Todt, however, thinks two sessions gives trackside spectators more to see. "The only real difference is the qualifying lap on Friday which is now on Saturday. Maybe it takes more time on Saturday, but the people who come to the circuit have more to watch, and maybe the people who are unhappy about the TV coverage could switch on the TV a bit later and watch only the second part of qualifying."
"There's more to see. But we cannot change it every race. It's nothing unexpected. If we know that there will be a first qualifying lap to determine the starting order of the next one, and then the next one is going to determine the starting position, it's nothing unknown."
Reports suggest that qualifying could be changed as early as the next race in Malaysia, returning to the two-day format as used last year. BAR boss David Richards has proposed an initial session of 30 minutes in which all the drivers go out together to decide the running order for the second session.
After the German Touring Car (DTM) series changed its qualifying format last year, Mercedes motorsport director Norbert Haug suggested F1 adopt the same system. In the DTM, all the drivers go out for half an hour to set the grid positions 11 upwards, then the ten fastest drivers have a session of one flying lap each to set positions pole to ten.
The FIA thinks it's too soon to be changing the system: "It's too early, far too early," a spokesman commented. "People did not warm to the changes immediately last year, yet the season turned out to be one of the best." The smaller teams on the grid may also be unhappy with a change, as the one flying lap per session gives them more television exposure than previously.