Top ten… Reasons race fuel qualifying must go

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren-Mercedes, Spa-Francorchamps, 2007 | Daimler ChryslerAfter several years of messing around with qualifying a neat system was devised for 2006 – two knockout sessions would leave the top ten battling for pole position.

But there’s still one problem with the system, which F1 bosses are considering changing for next year.

Making drivers qualify with their race fuel loads makes no sense – and the ‘fuel burn’ laps we see because of that rule are embarrassing. Here’s ten reasons why it’s got to go.

‘Fuel burn’ is a joke

How on earth did this get in? Seriously, who sat down and thought that having ten cars driving around the track with the sole purpose of burning off fuel could ever be an acceptable way of running Grand Prix racing?

It gets slated for not being environmentally friendly, which I can agree with, but even ignoring that it still a complete waste of time.

Ruins the purity of qualifying

What is the point of qualifying? It used to be to set as quick a time as possible so you could start as high up the grid as possible. Now it’s a compromise between setting as quick a time as possible and having a good fuel strategy for the race.

Divides race into top ten (low fuel) and bottom 12 (high fuel)

Earlier in the season David Coulthard made the very astute point that it can be better to start 11th than tenth these days, as the person in 11th can start with a full tank of fuel and the driver in tenth can’t.

On Sundays we increasingly see two different races going on – one among the top ten using a lighter fuel load strategy, and the rest of the cars who started with as much fuel as possible.

Removes excitement from qualifying

Yes, there have been some sessions this year where the times between the top drivers have been very close. But when you don’t know whether that’s down to performance, or a stunning lap by a particular driver, it’s hard to get excited about it.

Has failed to achieve its stated purpose of improving the racing

The point of making drivers qualify with their race fuel loads was because people felt that traditional qualifying meant that cars were lining up in the order of who was quickest and spoiling the racing.

Whether that was true or not in the first place is debatable (I don’t agree it was). But because the drivers towards the front of the grid are now usually the lighter ones, we increasingly see races where the top drivers spread out and never see each other again. The Belgian Grand Prix was a perfect example.

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, Nurburgring, 2006 | Ferrari MediaRuins the historical record

Ayrton Senna’s record of 65 pole positions was surpassed by Michael Schumacher – but many of his came in the race fuel qualifying era, when he may have taken pole position on occasions simply because his rivals were fuelled more heavily.

It’s become harder to distinguish who are the really great one-lap drivers among those who are usually in the top ten.
No other racing series uses it

Reduces the technical challenge

Drivers and engineers once faced the twin challenge at a race weekend of extracting the best ultimate one-lap pace out of a car, and getting it in good shape for a long race distance.

Now the former challenge is greatly diminished. For the top ten their final lap of qualifying is the first lap of the race.

Makes the top ten of the grid more uniform

With each car locked into its fuel strategy its much harder for a driver in one of the lower teams to jump up the grid order by nailing a perfect lap.

We might occasionally see a low-fuel glory run for pole (Ralf Schumacher at Suzuka in 2005 springs to mind) but that’s hardly a substitute for the kind of inspired lap that put, say, Jenson Button third on the grid at Spa-Francorchamps in 2000, or Anthony Davidson 11th at Istanbul this year.

Makes it too difficult to explain qualifying

Have you ever tried explaining how the final part of qualifying works to someone who isn’t familiar with it? We used to be able to say that qualifying was ‘the bit where they go out to see who can do the fastest lap’.

Now it’s ‘the bit where they all try to set the fastest lap until there’s only ten left they then have to put their race fuel loads on board and set a lap but because they all want to set their qualifying laps with as little fuel as possible they all do a lot of extra laps first to burn off fuel then go into the pits and change tyres and do a fast lap then afterwards they get a lap’s worth of fuel back for every lap they did’.

Photo: Daimler Chrysler | Ferrari Media

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22 comments on Top ten… Reasons race fuel qualifying must go

  1. Number 38 said on 23rd September 2007, 15:22

    Welllllllll, this posting spans the full gambit of qualifying and many seen to refer to the old 12 lap system. Bernie scraped that as only Minardi would go out early, there’s be nothing on teh tele screen for 45 minutes and then everyone scrambled at the end. This COULD have been saved if it was ammended to 10 laps in the first 30 minutes and 10 laps in the second 30 minutes fastest single lap determines ones grid position. There would been tele coverage for an hour, the ticket holders would get more for their money, it’s the way it SHOULD have been, instead we got ONE HOT LAP …… can you imagine paying a ticket price and sitting in the stands for an hours to see “your favore” go by ONCE? Then came this silly Q1,Q2,Q3 business. The odd bit here is the ONE HOT LAP mentality has ruined it. No one qualifies for 15 minutes. They all sit out half the alloted time and time it to produce their ONE HOT LAP at the last instant. A roll of the dice would be more fun!

    I’m with most everyone else …..back to one hour with a minumum number of laps in the first and second halves, slick tyres, V-10 or V-12 engines, NO LIMITS. This is supposed to be the “pinnacle of motorsport”, why are there limits? Cost savings? HA! NOTHING MadMax has done has saved a penny! Team budgets are at all time highs …… and going up!

  2. Enzo Kemm said on 6th January 2008, 15:18

    Well..Im here to propose a new qualifyin system which the faster teams would definately disagree on!. lol.. Wel here it is.
    On the day of Qualifyin, all teams should choose one of their 2 drivers who will have 5 or 6 minute to make fastest time around the track. This is in order to see who can make the fastest time. for example, ferrari can choose whoever they want to do their 5 minute run without the FIA interrupting. NOW THE FUN STARTS HERE. If the fastest time was made by The any of the cars on the grid, for example, if the Mclaren makes the fastest time, thennnnnn…. EVERYONE should have another 5 minute run around the same track with the same MCLAREN!, u get me?. this will then show that, ok, the Mclaren proved to be faster on this track therefore we’ll all go in the mclaren to do our final qualifying time. Therefore if for instance, Jenson button has the best time in the final 5 minute run in the mclaren, he then starts the race the next day back in hes HONDA butt with POLE Position, so if hamilton could not make a better time in hes own car than another driver, and then he made 8 best time, he gets back into hes mclaren in 8 position on the race day!.. lol.. This is fun isnt it, i know the fastest teams would no way agree with that, but come to think of it, it allows us to know who can actually be good or rather which of the 23 drivers is actually the best.
    So if Kimi could not do a good time in the Mclaren and lets say he had 15 best time in the mclaren but durin the first 5 minute run hes ferrari made 2nd best time, this makes the race more interestin the next day when he gets back into hes ferrari cus then he has alot of work to do and people to overtake in order to get his ferrari on podium.
    I know this is kind of a weird style of qualyfin but personally i think it will bring alot of fun during race day, jus imagine all the guys in the weaker teams made better times than the guys in the strong team, then the Grid for the race day would be like what i have made below, when they all get back in their actuall cars on race day, then the final result of the race would NOT BE PREDICTABLE IN ANYWAY AT ALL.. Trust me, i have tested this on the FORMULA ONE CHAMPIONSHION EDITION ON THE PLAYSTATION 3 by putting the weaker teams ahead of the stronger teams and then watched what happend and trust me, it was nothing close to prediction. This would also make bettin more fun and unpredictable.

    Qualyfing Times Below;

    1.Anthony Davidson
    2.Takuma sato
    3.David coulthad
    4.Christijan Albers
    5.Vittatonio Luizzi
    6.Jarno Truli
    7.Jenson Button
    8.Alex Wurz
    9.Filipe Massa
    10.Lewis hamilton
    11.Rubens Barichelo
    12.Adrian Sutil
    13.Robert Kubica
    14.Giancarlo Fisichela
    15.Heikki Kovalainen
    16.Scott Speed
    17.Kimi Raikonen
    18.Ralf Schumacher
    19.Mark webber
    20.Nick Heidfeld
    21.Nico Rosberg
    22.Fernando Alonso

    in order for alonso to get anywhere he has to struggle to get past Nico Rosberg who is a bloody good driver as well, who also has to struggle to get past Heidfeld. Down the front row Felipe Massa also has loads of Good drivers who proved themselves capable on Qualyfin therefore hes got work to do also, and hamilton has alot of homewor to carry out also!.

    So just imagine how a starting line up like what ive made above would end up on race day! Thanx and God bless, do let me know what u think by postin a reply on this page! thanx!
    Enzo Kem!

  3. Drivers hopping into a car they’ve never driven are unlikely to do as well as the regular drivers. Not to mention the hasssle of setting the car up, getting the seats in, all during qualifying…

    I don’t think trying out on a game console counts as proof of concept.

  4. Enzo Kemm said on 6th January 2008, 18:44

    I get wat u mean. but if the same drivers are allowed to have also a but of time to practice ith the fastest car, they may not do as well as the original owner of the car but im sure some drivers would prove exceptional. Plus the game is exactly the same as the real f1, i mean, the fastest cars are the ferrari, mclaren, renault, bmw and co. and also the way each driver drives in real time is the same as the game concept. for example kimi is very very aggressive on it, and so is he in real time. however if you still do not agree with what ive said, then i think FIA should make a a qualifyin car used only and only for qualifyin alone, then after that, the drivers can get in their actuall cars for on race days. U get me?. So therefore, every driver uses the same setting or is given an amount of time in which he or she can set up the qualifyin car. In this way everyone can know which driver is good as it will reflect during qualifyin and everyone would still know which constructor is good as it also will reflect on race day.

  5. theRoswellite said on 6th January 2008, 22:14

    Sorry, no disrespect intended, but I can’t take Enzo’s system seriously.

    Agree, with Daniel, Tommy and SoLiD……eliminate fuel restrictions, shorten last period, return the classic idea of…”the fastest guy”…period.
    (I even like the idea of awarding points for qualifying…make it a bigger deal)

  6. better late than never said on 25th March 2008, 10:02

    I disagree that current  qual. method was put to improve races. The reason was that people on the circuits went to see the qualy and in the 1 hour  it lasted, they only saw cars in the last 20 minutes. I can remember watching tv  people boooing because it was minute 40 out of 60 and they only had seen minardis and arrows .

  7. Desire said on 24th October 2008, 18:24

    Let me sum up everyone’s opinions at this time for convenience’s sake.

    MOSELY IS A NAZI? He looks like one
    KICK MOSLEY OUT OF F1? Why not?
    BRING BACK OLD FORMAT? Please do, i insist.

    Thank you

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