With the refuelling ban made official F1 fans can look forward to the return of proper, low-fuel qualifying in 2010. The following passage deleted from the 2009 regulations for 2010 confirms the decision:
Fuel may not be added to nor removed from any car eligible to take part in Q3 between the start of Q3 and the start of the race
This means all cars will now qualify for races in low-fuel trim, which should make for more spectacular, unpredictable and meaningful qualifying sessions.
Low fuel qualifying was last seen in F1 in 2002. It was banned because it was felt that making drivers qualify with their race fuel loads could help mix up the grid.
This was faulty reasoning to start with: in 2002, Juan Pablo Montoya qualified on pole position seven times yet never won a race. The presumption that drivers were always winning races from pole was false.
In fact, introducing ‘race fuel’ qualifying made it easier for the most competitive teams to start from the front of the grid on light fuel and dominate the race from there – as Michael Schumacher did almost every weekend in 2004.
Meanwhile the switch away from ‘low fuel’ qualifying disconnected F1 from its history. Comparing today’s drivers with great qualifying specialists like Ayrton Senna and Jim Clark has been rendered impossible.
Happily, that is all set to change. Proper qualifying is back next year, and long may it remain. In the meantime, chalk it up on the list of Max Mosley’s U-turns…