Four-part F1 qualifying format “a neat idea”

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In the round-up: FIA race director Charlie Whiting is in favour of moving to a four-part qualifying system to Formula 1 but says tyre allocations will need addressing.

What they say

After some teams avoided running to save tyres in qualifying, Whiting said the tyre rules may need revising, especially if the mooted ‘Q4’ is introduced next year:

I think it’s should be part of a another fresh look at tyres in general. The idea of having this four-part qualifying, personally I think it’s quite a neat idea, but it needs to go hand-in-hand with a look at how the tyres were allocated during the whole weekend.

Then we’ve had a couple of discussions also about the use of wet weather tyres on the first day of practice and the influence that has on the amount of running that’s done.

So there are a number of things that I think we need to just don’t try and do it one bit at a time but take stand back and have a good look overall at what we might need to change to try and make the situation a little bit better.

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

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Comment of the day

As he nears the end of his second season at Mercedes, is Valtteri Bottas any closer to Lewis Hamilton’s performance?

To be fair to Bottas – and for the people slating him – just remember that we are talking about the very best drivers, who are expected to be able to do a 90 second lap consistently within a couple tenths, lap after lap, in a car you can barely see out of, and which has enough power to put you in the scenery at any time. Which is itself just incredible. Not to mention, adapt immediately to changing temps, different set ups, and then twirl knobs on the wheel and then adapt to those changes too in the next corner.

The difference between the greats and the goods, as Bottas says, is that Hamilton can get it right every time, when he is on form. He needs to buckle down, like Rosberg, until he sees Hamilton’s telemetry traces with his eyes closed, and get after it.
DaveW (@Dmw)

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 41 comments on “Four-part F1 qualifying format “a neat idea””

    1. About the security to and from the circuit in Brazil:
      Didn’t they have security all along the route in the past, but only up to a certain time in the afternoon or evening, and the people that got attacked (if not last year, in another previous year) had left the circuit after the security was finished for the day?

    2. Four-part F1 qualifying format “a neat idea”

      No, It really isn’t!

      Look at & focus on the things that actually need improving rather than fiddling with the stuff that doesn’t.

      All any change to the actual format of qualifying will be is change for the sake of change to try & show that there doing something as apart from that there is zero reason to change the format. Things such as the tyre rules can certainly be tweaked but the actual format is perfectly fine as it is & simply doesn’t need changing.

      1. @stefmeister: Agree.

        However, why stop at 4 part qualifying? 5 part would be even better. 8 part would be twice as good. But 10 part qualifying could stretch into a 3 hour spectacle with just 2 hours of adverts.

      2. They could also introduce VSC qualy.
        Whoever gets the fastest lap under VSC conditions. If you are faster then the allowed time you get a penalty.

      3. @stefmeister @jimmi-cynic – you are all so small-minded. We need 19-part qualifying. Each part knocks out one car. After about half a day of running, we’ll finally have a starting grid. Everyone says qualifying is fun, so let’s give them more of qualifying (and more ads).

        1. Oh… @phylyp, you and your inflationary language. But…if I can be so expansive… why just the one day of qualy? Skip the boring FP1, FP2 and FP3 sessions and run two full days of qualification – all on the same tyres, of course. And adverts.

          1. @jimmi-cynic – attaboy, now you’re thinking big!

          2. And please don’t deny the fastest guy his own (20th) qualifying, with Coulthard doing a live interview from the sidepot.

            To make it extra meaningful for that last bit (during prime time of course) they should put the fastest guy on pole with the slowest guy at the back.

      4. @stefmeister I think there should be separate sessions for each sector. So Q1-1, Q1-2, Q1-3 individually. Just be sure the fastest guy starts first.

        How else can we absolutely ensure a procession?

        Oh wait… is that not the aim?

      5. You’re all missing the golden opportunity here – have 3 days of qualifying and dump the race – fastest person wins!

        1. They could just do time trial stages, like Rally. But the same track sectors, over and over. All week. With “fan boost”-ed adverts. Pick your favourite ads with AdBoost! And the paywall could be time-based, first 2 mins is free and then price increases exponentially. With more ads. :)

          1. With “fan boost”-ed adverts.

            Tsk tsk tsk. Ads? Pshaw!

            Heineken will sell cans of beer to fans/viewers trackside, with drivers pictures on them. The driver who has the most sales will get the biggest fan-boost. Fan-buzz? Fan-goggles?

            While “don’t drink and drive” messaging is all noble, nothing beats “drink to help me drive faster” for sheer capitalism.

      6. @stefmeister – Totally agree.

        The constant insistence on mucking up the one thing that surely does not need fixing in F1 is incomprehensible. Leave the qualifying format alone, please!

      7. Why have qualifying and free practice at all?
        F1 is ‘going green’ so why not do it like the lotto draws and have a ‘big production’ TV show with F1 celebrities hosting the spinning wheel.
        Think how much less fuel the cars would use. There could be a limit of one engine and gearbox for the next decade. Think of all those lucrative ad-breaks pulling money into Liberty’s coffers.
        There we go, non-problem solved

    3. The fact that qualifying is again on the agenda is an indication that the marketing machine is still bereft of ideas.

      As an attendee, yes I want to see a bit more track action. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be F1 cars – it does however need to be interesting.

      Why doesn’t F1 take a leaf from moto gp. They have 3 world championship events each race weekend (motogp, motogp2, motogp3) and racegoers are treated to a feast of racing. Quite often the lower categories produce more exciting racing than the top one but punters go home happy.

      Sure, there’s logistical and cost issues that would have to be addressed (and could be for 2021) but the benefits I believe would far outweigh the issues and would only serve to strengthen F1 as a “must attend” spectacle and would also increase dramatically the interest in the 2 lower categories.

      Leave qualifying alone and actually focus on really improving what we get F1!!!

      1. @dbradock, they already have secondary support races to an F1 race – usually in the form of a Formula 2 or Formula 3 race, sometimes with a Porsche Supercup race as well.

    4. In my opinion I feel that the tire allocation issue is a lower priority than what F1 thinks it should be.

      Being able to pass and the issues that keep it from happenings should be the high light of what they should take on first. All this four-part qualifying is going to do is force the teams to not run as hard because they are having to preserve something. How many times have we seen teams in FP1 or FP2 not do much running during a part of the season because they got a new part and there is a marked improvement, but want to save it for qualifying or the race because they only have that one so binning the car into a wall or gravel trap is something they want to avoid? How often have we seen teams not do much running during the weekend due to power unit allocations and the associated penalties?

      F1 is suppose to be the pinnacle of motor sports but when you have the huge split in performance differences so that it actually becomes 2 separate races when the lights go out it isn’t healthy.

      1. (@docnuke) F1 is the pinnacle of motor sport for several reasons. But the disparity between cars and teams and drivers has been part of F1 since the beginning. I agree restrictions on fuel, engines, tyres e.c.t have not made it better. This thought bubble about qualifying is just that.

    5. Regardless of its historical origin, Qualifying is now used to determine the Starting grid for the Grand Prix.
      What I think is great about Qualifying is the driver on Pole got there by merit, admittedly because of the time it took to lap the circuit once, but nevertheless it is on merit. Also, all the other drivers were initially graded by time as well, with penalties demoting their final placement.
      People actually study the history of F1 and compile statistics about it. Changing the format means changing the relevance of events. Maybe Vettel is still the youngest driver to have achieved Pole position, but what if Verstappen (or someone younger than him) was given it by virtue of a lottery, would that mean he has bragging rights over Vettel? Or would Vettel still have bragging rights because Verstappen (or whoever) didn’t earn his Pole position but got it via a lottery?
      So maybe there is a place for an improved Qualifying session, but this is high on the list of Low Priorities … well … umm … not really even high on the list of Low Priorities, more like of middle importance really. Can someone please tell Liberty Media there are actually things on the High Priority list, and this isn’t one of them?

    6. I wonder what are Liberty’s motivations to change qualifying. I have suspicions it is not to improve the sport/show.

      Dieter’s recent feature indicated that pressure was mounting on Liberty from their investors. Liberty know they have multiple time-consuming balls of wool to untangle, when it comes to technical regulations, circuit contracts, and broadcast contracts. Liberty also have to be seen (by their investors) as “doing something”.

      Fiddling around with qualifying is a quick win. A change like what is proposed can be touted as an improvement (again, to their investors). Further, by just introducing one more session of the same nature, it will reduce the noise and complaints from fans – quite unlike what happened when the knock-out session format was attempted in 2016.

      1. @phylyp I can’t speak for whether or not this qualifying consideration is meant to just appear to be doing something for the sake of shareholders, but I don’t mind the concept. And I also respect that Liberty has big plans none of which can be instigated until some pre-Liberty contracts run their course. So sure, if they just appear to be picking the low hanging fruit for now, I think that is understandable. They’ve made very clear the bigger plans for when they can affect things more.

        For me, by adding one more qualifying session, that would reduce the amount of down time ahead of cars coming out, or between runs within each session. Simple as that. Less downtime and more action for the hour that is qualifying. I see that as Liberty doing something to improve the show. No, not a fifth or a sixth session then. That would be unnecessary. But as it is with the three sessions, while that works and is fine, a fourth would be even more action packed for the hour, more of a frenzy, or more with a sense of urgency than we have now. I don’t really care if they change it, and don’t have an issue with the three seasons, but now that they have brought it up, I do think there is good merit to it in terms of on-track action for the hour.

        1. @robbie – you make some good points there. Specifically around how 3 or 4 sessions can be fitted into an hour meaningfully.

          And I also respect that Liberty has big plans none of which can be instigated until some pre-Liberty contracts run their course. So sure, if they just appear to be picking the low hanging fruit for now, I think that is understandable. They’ve made very clear the bigger plans for when they can affect things more.

          Dieter’s column indicated that questions are even being asked whether Chase and co. are the right people to be running F1, nearly two years into Liberty’s acquisition. That sort of pressure is liable to drive people into abandoning long-term plans with long-term benefits, for short-term plans that turn out to be short-sighted. For instance, a (hypothetical) reduction in the prize money pot for teams, so as to increase the dividend being paid out.

    7. While qualifying itself is probably the session which needs the last attention, I still think there is a benefit to be had with investigating new qualifying formats.

      We all know that the current qualifying format works pretty well. It is the races which have issues, the main one IMHO being that you need to be significantly faster than the guy in front to get close enough to overtake.

      I still believe that forcing the teams to work on this problem is the best way to solve it, which is why I think a reverse championship order sprint race would be a good qualifying system (maybe only for Q3). In this way, the fastest cars must overtake their rivals on track either in qualifying or in the race, which would force the teams to design cars which can get close and overtake. It would also force the top teams to lobby for rules which made it easier to do so. It would also be another race to watch on a weekend. Finally, it would probably lead to more “mixed up” grids, making the races more exciting to watch.

      It’s not the only solution, but it’s one possibility and a good one, even if I do say so myself.

    8. I’ll pitch for my adjusted quali session again.
      Q1 all drivers. Fastest driver in team go to Q1.
      Q2 the slower teammates battle for P11-20.
      Q3 the faster teammates battle for pole.

      Q1 becomes interesting as you are battling an adversary in the same car (I think only few team will use team orders).
      Fast drivers will start from P11etc which guarantees an interesting overtake race for the midfield.
      No longer 3 teams only cruising through Q1 & Q3.

      1. Q1 all drivers. Fastest driver in team go to Q1.

        You mean “go to Q3”, right? Missing that edit button? :) @coldfly

        It’s an interesting format. A bit artificial in that it enables overtaking by forcing about half the cars to start above/below their potential, but otherwise a nice scheme.

        Q1… I think only few team will use team orders

        I think this can be solved/prevented a bit easily. Instead of Q2 to determine P11-P20, use the positions of the Q1 losers to determine P11-P20. So no #2 driver can easily throw a lap in Q1 else they’d be swamped by other cars, they’ll be forced to qualify harder.

        1. If Q1 winners go to Q1 then we could have endless Q1 sessions which a cynic would fill with advertising slots ;)

          1. @coldfly: That’s infinite revenue right there. Take that FONK shareholders, to your infinitely offshore accounts.

            As brilliant as this scheme appears without thinking about it, the sheer dramatic hype would be raised exponentially if only the stodgy old FIA would let the teams run more cars. Not just 3 cars teams. But an infinite number of cars per team!

            Then F1 could run forever! Without us current fans living long enough to see any improvement in racing.

    9. If they’re mooting 4 part qualifying then I fully expect someone will suggest 5 part qualifying in short order. part of me thinks this is a really stupid idea – solving a problem that doesn’t exist (the sport has bigger problems), and potentially ruining one of the most consistently exciting parts of the race weekend. eventually we will end up in elimination style qualifying, which was a complete disaster in 2016.

      however, if we have a constant elimination going on (like devil take the hindmost in track cycling), and no gaps between the sessions, that might actually be quite fun. it would force everyone to be on track throughout the session (and cause no end of arguments) and could catch out a few of the big teams. it’s a bit gimmicky (most of the recent tweaks to the sport have been), and having hamilton, for example, start further back doesn’t actually affect his race much (the sport has bigger problems…), but if the powers that be are determined to fiddle with the edges while the centre crumbles then it’s not the worst idea to experiment with.

      all of this really highlights that the sport has bigger problems.

    10. I can’t help but think Russel has dodged a bullet by not getting the williams drive this year!

      1. @frood19 You mean ‘last’ year.

        1. @jerejj er, ok. I think it still makes sense. “for this year” might have been clearer.

    11. Again, the current qualifying format works perfectly fine as it is, so just leave it alone. Stop meddling with things that aren’t broken.

      ”It’s clear that when you see that a car can start first and end the race first without any – or not enough – conflict, this might be boring. We have to work on this in order to give more cars participating in the race a chance to go on the podium.” – That’s the way F1’s always been, though.

      I wish I could see that Powerpoint presentation.

      I agree with the COTD.

    12. Underwhelmed by the Vietnamese GP news.

    13. No need for big qualy changes. It should be tweaked to avoid the permisive rules for the fastest teams (the advantage of starting the race on harder tyres than the rest of q1 qualifiers). One chance could be no rules for qualy tyres other than 101%, those who can’t beat the 101% of the best lap on the qualy can choose starting tyre for the race, but we won’t know til the end of the qualy. Another could be to force the compound for each session of qualy, the first everyone on the harder, second everyone on the medium, last one on the softest compound.

    14. My idea would be:
      Q1 – as now
      Q2 – as now
      Q3 – dropped out cars from Q1 and Q2 (10 cars) races and top two gets P3 and P4
      Q4 – top 10 from from Q2 decides pole, P2 and P5 to P12 (P3 and P4 decided in Q3).

      This will mix the grid a bit and also allow midfield cars to be in the top of the grid.

    15. want to improve the show? give teams equal money; Deal with the 300 pound elephant.

      1. SHouldn’t we first deal with the gorilla in the bush?

        1. wow did I really mix the metaphor. Egg on my face. should be “… deal with the 300 lb gorilla in the room.”

          (If you think that is bad, remember I do math for a living; we are all doomed)

    16. I like the current quali format and dont think it needs changing, but if it did change I quite like the Supercars format of a free-for-all 30 mins or so, then a top 10 single lap shootout. You get the excitement of drivers trying to get into the top 10, then the pressure of a single lap to nail pole.

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