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Will new qualifying format shake F1 up?

04.03.2016

It's no secret that F1 viewership is dwindling, along with worldwide interest.

Accordingly the powers that be have been seeking ways and means of improving the show; making the cars faster, improving overtaking, increasing difficulty for the drivers. Anything that will recapture the audiences has and will be investigated.

The area currently under the spotlight is qualifying and there's been a lot of debate about the proposed changes in the last week or so - from teams, drivers, media and the F1 world at large.

The current system has been in place since 2006, featuring three periods known as Q1, Q2 and Q3. The first two sessions run as in a knockout format of a set time, while the last determines the top 10 grid positions based on lap times from that session.

That is set to change, possibly as soon as the first race in Melbourne later this month. Q3 will remain the same, but it will feature only eight drivers, rather than 10 as was previously the case. Q1 and Q2 will last 16 minutes each and after seven minutes drivers will start getting knocked out at 90 second intervals. That will leave eight drivers to fight for pole in a 12-minute shootout to ensure the drama at the end of the segment remains (although Q3 was originally also proposed to adopt the knockout method of Q1 and Q2).

Reaction from basically everyone involved in F1 has been sceptical at the very least, if not downright negative. But I must admit that I disagree. The original qualifying format that I grew up watching was nothing more than a 50 minute wait while the odd car bumbled about, until the last five when all hell broke loose with everyone on track trying to put in a quick one.

Various formats were trialled, starting in the late ‘90s. But it was the 2006 split into three session's that immediately added intrigue. I'm now inclined to watch the whole hour - and indeed that format has thrown out some surprises - but there was still an element of the driver having a good few chances to build up to a proper flyer.

The new format on the other hand will mean drivers have to be on it every lap, or risk elimination every 90 seconds. There'll be less room for saving tyres, which has a knock on effect for the race. There's less room for error. However there's also no room for putting in a safe lap. 

It might be a contrived system, injecting excitement in what a purist might deem a fake fashion. But that same purist would hark back to a time when drivers were being killed on a regular basis, a time when F1 was dangerous. And nothing attracts interest like a bit of danger. Modern F1 can't offer that - good thing too - so what it can do is this and I look forward to it.

 

Article written by Miles Downard
04.03.2016
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Posted by: JohnEE
Submitted: 20-04-2018
next time