Rumoured qualifying changes for 2008

Honda, Istanbul, 2007 | HondaRacingF1.comI’ve seen a few details on F1 forums about changes to next year’s qualifying regulations that apparently were agreed by the teams last week.

I encourage you to take the following with a pinch of salt, but the changes seem sufficiently odd and unnecessary to convince me this really is something the FIA has suggested.

The first, second and third parts of qualifying will be 20, 15 and 10 minutes long respectively (currently they are all 15 minutes long.) This seems to make sense as there are more cars in the earlier sessions than the later ones. But it is the proposed changes to fuel loads that confuses me.

Apparently there will be no refuelling allowed during qualifying. This will mean that the teams will set their fuel loads for the race at the beginning of qualifying.

If true this has many confusing implications. Teams that would expect to make it to the final part of qualifying on pace would run a heavier fuel loads. Teams that would expect to be knocked out in the first part of qualifying would run with less fuel – but potentially then be able to run light enough to make it to a later session.

It sounds very confusing to me and once again I wonder what the casual fans of the sport will make of yet another seemingly arbitrary rule change – if it indeed comes into force.

Formula 1 has seen a raft of changes to qualifying since 2003, when the governing body started fiddling with the format in the hopes of improving ‘the show’. The changes have always involved forcing drivers to qualify using their race fuel loads to vary the grid and create strategic complexity.

Has it worked? On only three occasions this year did a car other than a McLaren or a Ferrari qualify in the top three, so I don’t think it has.

Though this proposed change might create some confusion and jumble up the order for the first few races, I am sure that once the teams have conquered all the strategic combinations we will be back to much the same grids that we have now.

I actually rather like the current qualifying system . At least, I enjoy the first two parts of ‘low fuel’ qualifying where you can really tell which driver is doing the best job – like Anthony Davidson’s stellar lap at Istanbul.

Instead of eradicating the ‘low fuel’ sessions the FIA should extend it to the final part of qualifying, drop the ‘fuel burn’ and ‘race fuel qualifying’ nonsense and give us back proper low-fuel qualifying. Then the fans know the positions they are seeing are genuine and not just the product of varying fuel loads.

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18 comments on Rumoured qualifying changes for 2008

  1. Personally aside from the fuel burn aspect I think the efforts to improve ‘the show’ of qualifying have worked well. There’s a win or lose situation every 15 minutes which keeps the tension going all through the session. OK, so it hasn’t produced any topsy-turvy grids, but it’s miles better than the old days of staring at an empty track for half an hour and only the last few minutes really deciding the outcome.

  2. Vertigo said on 19th December 2007, 22:06

    Definitely, the changes made qualifying watchable again. Why mess with a system that works?

  3. Nathan said on 19th December 2007, 22:07

    Surely these rules can’t be real. They make no sense. Sure, it’ll create some crazy grids, but is that what we really want? I don’t think so. I agree, bring back low-fuel qualifying and get rid of this stupid “race fuel qualifying” nonsense.

  4. Journeyer said on 20th December 2007, 1:31

    Hmmm. I doubt these rules a bit. If they were true, the major F1 sites would have been on it by now. But there’s nothing on Pitpass, Grandprix.com, or any of the other F1 tickers. Anyway, assuming it’s true, from what I see, it was Mr. Domenicali (Ferrari’s new TP) that did mention it.

    I guess the thing with the “no fuel burn” rule is that we might see a return to the same team always being on pole each race. And with F1 cars now having such a hard time with overtaking, this may be a damage limitation exercise to prevent even more boredom creeping in to the races. At least now with fuel-burn, you have some slight variations at the front. Better than nothing for them, I guess.

    And oddly, it seems that all the teams are OK with it. I wonder why…?

  5. I love those first two qualifying sessions – watching all of the lower-tier teams fight to make it out. Seeing that knockout zone shuffle around in the last 30 seconds is great fun, going “Sato’s in, so now Button’s out, oh but Liuzzi’s in but he gets knocked out by Trulli…”

    However, I think we should get rid of the fuel burn session, since all it does is say to the environmentalists, “look at us – we’re being as wasteful as possible as you drive around in your Prius!”

  6. Steven Roy said on 20th December 2007, 2:52

    I was not aware of any meeting so I am surprised there is a proposal from it. There is no way the teams at the front of the grid would have accepted a 10 minute final session.

    Personally I think all the messing about with qualifying since the 12 lap system has been bad. The 12 lap system was scrapped because every now and then you had ten or fifteen minutes at the start of it where nothing happened. So make it a 45 minute session or give the teams a few more laps.

    Nothing that has happened in any qualifying session since they started making changes compares with watching Senna get ready for a last minute pole attempt. Forget his lap the anticipation of his lap was better than a season’s worth of the current system.

    Qualifying should be on low fuel, maximum car performance, hand grenade engine and sticky slicks.

  7. I heard about this proposal about a couple of months ago. I think it aired on Raceday, which aired on Star-Sports, before the race begins. Also read it in a magazine, really do not seemingly remember which one, so could not quote the source.

    I summarily dismissed it. Thinking it to be crazy enough on one too many grounds(Most importantly, as it has already been twisted and contorted, one too many times). The current scheme is a tad boring what with the fuel burning going on. What i believe is that they are only to reduce the last run by 5 minutes, with all things remaining the same. This is what i believe i saw on telly and read in the mags. Which is somewhat acceptable. As it will have the potential to give us every now and then a surprise pole sitter(of course a gamble on fuel), which, however, will not be very often.

    I liked yesteryears qualifying though. All out banzai laps. Teetering on the edge of disaster. Treading a thin line between the genius and insane. Absolutely enthralling. Yes, it was all in the dying minutes. This still can be made to work though. No starting fuel requirements will make teams/drivers to push ever so more. Could be fun. Am hoping it is.

  8. Nathan Jones said on 20th December 2007, 9:04

    if that new system is true!
    all of quali is effectively a fuel burn phase
    as the top teams will use q1 and q2 to burn off fuel for q3!
    keep the system as is but drop the fuel burn in q3!
    or give us back the 12lap/1 hour system! which, altho i do like the new system, i do miss the old sytem! simply because was always saw the fastest guy on the weekend! not muddled by fuel.
    senna would turn in his grave if he knew that now the pole is decided by who has less fuel!

  9. Robert McKay said on 20th December 2007, 10:06

    I remember reading at the end of last season that the teams had agreed to shorten the final session, Q3, to lessen the fuel burn stint. And I’m fairly certain that they agreed they would no longer get fuel “credits” back, so what they were left with at the end of Q3 would be what they would start the race with.

    I’m not sure about the “no refuelling at all during qualifying” statement though. I think Q1/Q2 will be as they were before, low fuel runs. Then the runners in Q3 fill up before that session, knowing what they use is gone and they will start the race with whatevers left. If it is as you say, no refuelling at all, that will just be stupid, frankly.

    Anyway I have to mention this comment: “The first, second and third parts of qualifying will be 20, 15 and 10 minutes long respectively (currently they are all 15 minutes long.) This seems to make sense as there are more cars in the earlier sessions than the later ones. But it is the proposed changes to fuel loads that confuses me.”

    Yes, that makes sense for the reason given. But if you think the top-10 shootout for pole is meant to be the highlight of the session, it doesn’t make sense that it gets so little time! It just becomes even more of an anticlimax.

  10. Steven Roy said on 20th December 2007, 16:36

    It looks like it is going to happen if the comments attributed to Domenicali are true.

    Nathan makes a great point which I hadn’t considered. If you want a banzai lap in Q3 then you are going to run at the minimum necessary speed in Q1,Q2 to get the fuel credit. That is going to lead to lots of complaints about traffic.

    Unless the bit about not re-fueling before the race means that there is no fuel credit system any more.

  11. the only thing I found about this on the web is the “hint” dropped by Domenicali …

    there is definitelly still some way to tweak the existing system, that I actually quite like, except the boring fuel burn part of Q3

    I think they should allow the cars to go out with minimum fuel and give each session just enough time for at least 2 timed laps per car. then we would not see nothing happening for 5 minutes in Q2 and slow burn in Q3

  12. 3 session Q’s have been great, EXCEPT for the fuel burns. Make all 3 low fuel, add whatever fuel you want after Q for your race strategy.

  13. Number 38 said on 24th December 2007, 22:19

    Let’s face it the ONE HOT LAP mentality still pervades qualifying. 60 minutes, 15 minutes, 10 minutes, it doesn’t matter they all still wait until there’s only time for ONE LAP !!!
    And if you can prevent your team mate from getting in his ONE HOT LAP all the better!!!!

  14. With the ban on tire warmers, it will give a whole new meaning to “hot” lap, won’t it? Seriously, instead of fuel burn laps will we now have tire warming laps before the hot lap can be registered?

    And Nelsen Jr and Heikki both know who number one is don’t they?

  15. Mike Fritz said on 28th December 2007, 0:03

    All this Quali talk makes for good discusion, however I think the bigger X factor is the loss of Traction Control. We might see the return of DC as a fronrunner providing he’s got a good car set up because he’s the only veteran in the field to remember what it’s like to race with no TC. I believe you’ll see a lot more overtaking this yr and not only is it a factor on the grid but also out of the pits. We might even see cars being pushed back to the pit box for refiring because of engine stalls thus loosing valuable time and positions. We all knew a couple of yrs ago that F1 was gearing up for major rule changes for 08 and it’s hear and I got less then 80 days to see which teams made the adjustments that will make them winners.

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