Rumoured qualifying changes for 2008

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

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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