Official: Real qualifying returns in 2010

2010 F1 seasonPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Low-fuel qualifying, last seen in 2002, returns next year
Low-fuel qualifying, last seen in 2002, returns next year

With the refuelling ban made official F1 fans can look forward to the return of proper, low-fuel qualifying in 2010. The following passage deleted from the 2009 regulations for 2010 confirms the decision:

Fuel may not be added to nor removed from any car eligible to take part in Q3 between the start of Q3 and the start of the race

This means all cars will now qualify for races in low-fuel trim, which should make for more spectacular, unpredictable and meaningful qualifying sessions.

Low fuel qualifying was last seen in F1 in 2002. It was banned because it was felt that making drivers qualify with their race fuel loads could help mix up the grid.

This was faulty reasoning to start with: in 2002, Juan Pablo Montoya qualified on pole position seven times yet never won a race. The presumption that drivers were always winning races from pole was false.

In fact, introducing ‘race fuel’ qualifying made it easier for the most competitive teams to start from the front of the grid on light fuel and dominate the race from there – as Michael Schumacher did almost every weekend in 2004.

Meanwhile the switch away from ‘low fuel’ qualifying disconnected F1 from its history. Comparing today’s drivers with great qualifying specialists like Ayrton Senna and Jim Clark has been rendered impossible.

Happily, that is all set to change. Proper qualifying is back next year, and long may it remain. In the meantime, chalk it up on the list of Max Mosley’s U-turns

120 comments on “Official: Real qualifying returns in 2010”

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  1. YAY YAY first a reasonable punishment for mclaren and now this. The FIA are doing what we want. About bloody time too!

  2. oooo! I didnt really think about the full implication of the refuelling ban when I read about it earlier – thanks for pointing out proper qualifying is back :-D

  3. I like the ‘low fuel’ qualifying, but it’s sad to see pit stops gone, for me F1 is slowly dying. All these rule changes are just gone too far…RIP to F1.

    1. Robert McKay
      30th April 2009, 21:18

      There’ll still be pitstops for tyres.

      Anyway it’s arguable if “knockout” quali, even with low fuel, is “real” qualifying, but I’m looking forward to it nevertheless :-D

    2. Pit stops aren’t gone at all, and even if they were it wouldn’t make it any less F1. Races have been won in the past without pit stops you know!

      1. yes but when to cars fighting for track position come in at the same time, pitstops make it more exiting.

    3. I thought deletion of that statement only meant low fuel qualifying, not a ban of refuelling during races. (Only deleted the statement which enforces race fuel qualifying and not refuelling during races?)

  4. The engines are going to be carrying a very heavy load till maybe the last 25-30% of the race. Does anyone know how that might affect the engines?
    The teams will have to do some serious testing to establish the exact fuel burn rate for each circuit and how to optimize their settings. We will now see strategic racing, laptimes will be much slower as teans try to conserve fuel.
    The Brakes will also become something to watch out for during a race.


  6. I am glad they are still keeping tire pitstop. i remember the old days when teams could not do anything to the car during a race as far as fuel and tires were concerned.It was boring.

    1. Mussolini's Pet Cat
      30th April 2009, 22:00

      I guess it would be possible for a 0 stop strategy given the right conditions.

    2. sajonaraman
      1st May 2009, 0:28

      Good point Mussolini’s Pet Cat. We’ll be able to see who’s the real Rain King thanks to that. I can’t wait for the next season to begin already, which having quite a few races of this one is absolutely great.

      1. I’m ready for the season to start,there’s a lot of f1 fans hear in texas, and low fuel qaly’s sound like racing

    3. They haven’t eliminated the 2 tyre compound rule, have they? If not, we’ll still be seeing at least one pit stop.

    4. sajonaraman
      1st May 2009, 6:59

      Not in the rain Travis. The tyre rule applies to dry compounds.

  7. Mussolini's Pet Cat
    30th April 2009, 21:53

    Pit crews back to wearing shorts & baseball caps again. Thank god for that, seeing some poor fatty squeezed in a ‘race suit’ always seemed so unkind.

    1. I was thinking that too, but I bet for modern safety reasons, they’ll still be in full fireproofs and helmets for some reason.

  8. Good moove yesssir
    Hats off to Mo!

  9. Now we can see them really go for it for that pole lap.
    No more confusing false grids.
    No more explaining who really was the quickest driver after qualifying.

  10. I’m proper looking forward to next season now.

    Last person to run a race distance without stopping: Mika Salo in his Tyrrell, Monaco 1997. 61 laps on the same tyres and one tank of fuel. He ended up 5th for 2 points. Tyrrell’s last ever points finish.

    1. Terry Fabulous
      30th April 2009, 22:43

      Nice spot Ajokay.
      I remember Berger won his first race in 86 at Mexico in the Benetton. He had rock hard reliable Pirelli’s and went through without stopping for new boots while from memory, Prost in second pace ran the hard compound Goodyear B tyres and had to stop 3 times!

      It is a good decision.

  11. I would’ve liked to see some structure to the budget cap to try and save jobs etc

  12. the fuel tank will have to be twice as big?!!

    1. Or to put it another way, about the same size they were in 1993.

    2. …or they’ll have to find ways to reduce fuel consumption. Even a 10% reduction will make a huge difference to the weight of fuel they have to take to the grid.

      Can anyone confirm my vague memory that Rubens Barrichello was the last driver to run out of fuel? Possibly at the A1 Ring?

    3. yes but in 1993 the cars weren’t running at 18,000 rpm

  13. Eduardo Colombi
    30th April 2009, 22:50

    Great news!!! thank god, f1 is back where it should never been left, real qualifying, slick tyres, overtakes… just hope for that stupid rule of champions decided by wins dosn’t happens…

  14. I agree. 1994, Hill vs Schumi. No refuelling back then, and it was considered (if my memory is right) that often it was Benetton’s superior strategy which often got Schumi victory. Pit stops will be vital.

    What I find quite funny is in the Jan 2000 edition of Motorsport magazine they interviewed a few ex champions (amongst others) and Jacques Villeneuve was one of them. He suggested going back to slicks and banning refuelling back then…

    But yes, F1 seems to be on the right track now, what we as fans have been wanting for the last 10-15 years. Now don’t screw this up FIA!!!

    1. 1994 was the first season with refuelling allowed, it was 1993 when it wasn’t.

      Benetton were often quicker in their pit stops due to the fact they’d removed a filter from the valve which ment they could pump fuel into the car illegally quickly, rather than to excellent strategy or supreme skill by the mechanics.

      One of the many reasons Schumi’s first championship is still regarded by some as a bit dodgy.

  15. I think I’ll miss refuelling. The F1 teams had got it down to such a fine art, where else are the top refuellers going to find work?

    Other than that, lets see – the way F1 works the law of extremely tight averages will once again have us with pretty much the same situation, just played out in a different way.

    It will all now come down to tyres… So why change?

    1. Glad I’m not the only one who isn’t pleased about this.

      I don’t see how this would make qualifying more spectacular and unpredictable. Quite the opposite I would’ve thought.

      I enjoyed the strategy factor with differing fuel weights in the race too.

      Drivers are still required to use one of each tyre type during the race, yes?

    2. yeah i really think fuel loads is an integral part of the race.

      look at brazil 08, vettel pitted heaps of times, ran a super light load and caused an upset by pipping hamilton with a lighter car on better tires, if he had to run a full tank of fuel all race he would never have been able to get that close just on tires alone.

      i’ve seen closer better racing, and more races won from fuel strategies than tires.

    3. I cannot see the attraction in refuelling at all. It’s not racing.

      I don’t see how this would make qualifying more spectacular and unpredictable.

      At the moment the first two parts of qualifying are great – you’re seeing a real contest. Then when you get to Q3 all the excitement and tension vanishes because even if someone does a really quick lap you just think ‘oh, they’re probably just light on fuel’.

      Drivers are still required to use one of each tyre type during the race, yes?


      more races won from fuel strategies

      Yawn. I want to see racing, not some tedious exercise in fuel consumption management and timing pit stops to avoid having to race other cars.

    4. I see where you are coming from Keith but F1 does have racing along with pit stops and refuelling.

      All the elements are part of the race from the design of the car to the strategic use of fuel and tyres. Then a driver that can drive precisely to a strategy to increase the chances of success.

      It’s really all going to come down to just tyres, rather than tyres and fuel. As is said above, we won’t get many if any, balls out light fuel three stoppers. Segmenting the race into sprints amongst a grid of not-quite-sprints – surely that makes for better racing?

      I am however all for running quali with quali fuel loads for the fastest possible lap.

  16. Billy7766
    1st May 2009, 0:07

    *hands clasped together praying* “…..and then make qualifying exciting again, and get rid of all the talk about single engines for all teams, oh and ban Eddie Jordan from the BBC…..”

  17. I think there was refueling in 1994 Clay, remember Vestappen?

  18. I like this move very much- it puts the emphasis back on driver skill, and not on who has the most fuel onboard. I look at Heikki at McLaren and how many times he was fueled heavier than Lewis last year- he would have done much better under this system.

  19. Great, one less thing to watch on Saturday. I enjoyed the knockout quali.

    1. I don’t understand your post – knockout qualifying is staying.

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