I’m not ashamed to be a huge fan of Formula One – this is a sport which sees the fastest cars driven by the bravest of drivers with some of the most advanced technology in the world. And even when the racing is a tad less competitive than we might hope, Qualifying has always offered something exciting – today that excitement was twisted, torn and changed – and it’s got to end.
I was a huge fan of the concept of the new regulations for Qualifying in 2016. On paper they had the makings of something very exciting.
There would still be three sessions of qualifying, but instead of the elimination of the slowest drivers in each session taking place at the end of the session those eliminations would take place every 90 seconds throughout the session.
This would culminate in the fastest two drivers battling out for Pole Position in the final 90 seconds of qualifying.
Well after the very first running of the new format, the results are in. It sucked.
So, what did you think of the new #F1 qualifying??
— EFTM (@EFTM) March 19, 2016
But what a rollercoaster of emotions that was!
I watched intently during Q1 – the first session. And frankly, I think this was brilliant. Nico Rosberg made a mistake on his first flying lap. If that had left him unable to set a slightly faster lap he may have faced elimination – he needed to go round again.
While the end result was almost as expected, Red Bull’s Kvyat was eliminated and that’s one team unhappy from the get-go.
What I loved throughout that session was I was gluded to the TV. Normally I know I can take my eyes of things, I could go get a snack, maybe a drink – hey, even a toilet break was possible.
But no way – not with these eliminations going on. Q1 was awesome.
Q2 wasn’t too dissimilar. A bit of excitement, eliminations throughout, but by the time it got down to the last lot of eliminations we had drivers sitting in their cars in the pits not even trying to get through to the next session.
But the real controversy is Q3 – this session saw the best eight drivers battling for Pole Position. Well, it should have.
While the excitement of seeing Ricciardo eliminated after a few minutes stressed the importance of setting a good time – what happened next was a complete farce. Driver after driver looked up at their laps, decided not to bother and got out of their car.
Lewis Hamilton set his fastest time with four minutes left in the session.
Pole position was declared. What?
In the last few years you’d have the chequered flag fall at the 0:00 mark on the clock – with drivers still out on track trying to beat the best time.
Nope, no-one. The driver press conference could have started before the chequered flag was flown.
So, while the new format was exciting – it only added excitement to the first two sessions.
I don’t advocate scrapping the system completely – there is some merit in it.
But we have to know why it was so bad in Q3. Was it because drivers have such tyre restrictions that they couldn’t afford to waste another set and go out again? Was it because the grid looked ok so they didn’t bother? Was it a strategy from the teams to make the new format look bad and get it changed?
Whatever the case, the F1 bosses need to make immediate changes. Don’t give it a few rounds to settle in, just make the change.
Qualifying 3 is critical, it should produce a “down to the wire” experience. So, either give the drivers two clean sets of tyres for Q3, or remove the elimination in Q3.