Why F1 doesn’t need the 107% rule

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The 107% rule would make life even harder for teams like HRT

The 107% rule would make life even harder for teams like HRT

FIA President Jean Todt has hinted strongly that the 107% rule could be revived in the near future.

Neither HRT car would have qualified for last week’s Bahrain Grand Prix had the rule been in place (see below). But why bring back a rule which would only serve to make life even harder for the sport’s most vulnerable teams?

The 107% rule, which prevented any driver who failed to qualify within 107% of the pole sitter’s time from starting the race, was dropped at the end of 2002.

Since Bahrain it’s been suggested that having cars that are more than 7% slower than the quickest runners on-track at the same time isn’t safe.

This is clearly not the case. The slowest qualifier for last year’s Le Mans 24 Hours was 29% slower than the pole sitter.

The Circuit de la Sarthe is narrower than most F1 circuits and they race at night – so I’m not buying any claim that F1 drivers can’t cope with lapping cars that are 7% slower than them.

The 107% rule is a bad rule. It harms the sport and it harms small teams like HRT for whom every minute of track running and every second of television exposure they can get is precious.

Throwing them out of a race weekend when they’ve already gone to the huge expense of flying to Bahrain or Malaysia only makes it even harder for them to compete in the future.

If the FIA really wants to stop cars that are too slow from competing then it should be done without forcing the teams to fly their cars halfway around the world first. They could hold a pre-season qualification test to make sure all the cars can lap within a certain time of each other – but with a cut-off closer to 29% than 7%.

A snobbish attitude to new teams which aren’t on the pace yet does F1 no favours. An important part of racing is having to share a track with other cars and finding ways to get around them. It’s an area where F1 is hardly excelling at the moment.

Having to deal with slower cars and lapped traffic is the down-side of being the race leader. In series like IndyCar, where backmarkers aren’t given the blue flag ordering them to get out of the leaders’ way, it helps keep the front runners within sight of each other, encouraging closer racing.

And isn’t that something we’d all like to see?

Bahrain Grand Prix Q1 with the 107% rule

Pos. # Driver Car Q1
1 5 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1’55.029
2 7 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1’55.313
3 8 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1’54.612
4 2 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1’55.341
5 4 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’55.463
6 6 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1’55.298
7 3 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1’55.593
8 1 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1’55.715
9 11 Robert Kubica Renault 1’55.511
10 14 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1’55.213
11 9 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1’55.969
12 15 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1’55.628
13 10 Nico H?â??lkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1’56.375
14 22 Pedro de la Rosa Sauber-Ferrari 1’56.428
15 16 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1’56.189
16 23 Kamui Kobyashi Sauber-Ferrari 1’56.541
17 12 Vitaly Petrov Renault 1’56.167
18 17 Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1’57.071
19 24 Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1’59.728
20 18 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1’59.852
21 19 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 2’00.313
22 25 Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 2’00.587
107% time 2’03.081
23 21 Bruno Senna HRT-Cosworth 2’03.240
24 20 Karun Chandhok HRT-Cosworth 2’04.904

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175 comments on Why F1 doesn’t need the 107% rule

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  1. ajokay said on 19th March 2010, 16:11

    I have faith that HRT will be right on the backs of the Virgins and Lotii(?) within a few races anyway, they’re really not that far off already, considering they had 0 testing when Virgin and Lotus had 2-3 week’s worth.

    But yes, we don’t need the 107% rule, and I’m one for scapping blue flags and anything else that makes it easy for the drivers. They should quit moaning quite so much, and start racing.

    I never managed to hit anyone on the motorway who was travelling 30% slower than me, let alone 7%, and these Tilkedromes make 3-lane motorways look like narow country roads.

    • The plural for Lotus is Lotuses :) I wouldn’t have bothered but you did put a question mark after so I’m guessing you wanted to know.

    • fordsrule said on 20th March 2010, 0:48

      So you would be fine if your favourite driver crashed out of the lead while trying to race a car that should be lapped? or if they are trying to lap someone and someone else passes them for the lead? I don’t think you would, They need to keep the blue flags.

      • Of course it would be fine if my favourite driver crashed out whilst being unable to overtake a backmarker. Same goes for my least favourite driver or any other driver.

        • fordsrule (@fordsrule) said on 20th March 2010, 2:07

          I’m sorry but I cant see the logic there, it is just plain stupid in my opinion.

          • Adrian said on 20th March 2010, 8:30

            I think the logic is that it would be the same for everyone so it would be fair. And if you can’t overtake a car that is considerably slower than you then tough luck…

          • A-Safieldin said on 20th March 2010, 12:03

            Im sorry but if you get paid millions of dollars a year to go racing, I dont think you have the right to complain about a car thats 7% slower in a track thats a million miles wide. 7% means while vettel or whoever is going at 100 miles an hour another guy is going at 93….. hardly sound like a lot to me. Not only that but the FIA allowed these HRT and other people to come to F1 in there crap cars, they cant kick them out when they actually show up to races.

    • The Dutch Bear said on 20th March 2010, 10:31

      Clive James, who did a couple of the FIA season reviews in the eighties (filled with his dry and sarcarstic humor), used to say Lotae. Which I think, I have had some education in Latin, is right.

  2. James said on 19th March 2010, 16:13

    Fully agree. Crofty on the 5live commentry of practice one said that if the big boys (refering to the existing, and more specifically the top teams) are half as good as they think they are, then they’ll have no problems passing and overtaking the slower cars.

    All news teams have to start somewhere and beating them back down is doing the sport no favours. The teams have come in, found a budget of some sort in a time when the world is pretty much pennyless and have scope to stay in the sport for some period. Shouldn’t the top teams be praising that?

  3. You haven’t hit anyone going 30% slower or 7% slower. But which one is it easier and SAFER to overtake? imo HRT shouldn’t have been allowed to participate in Q at all yet alone the R, where Senna was 7seconds per lap slower than the leaders and that Indian bloke managed to crash on one of the widest tracks today. It’s just as awful as Alex Yoong managed in his best laps.

    • ajokay said on 19th March 2010, 16:28

      But it’s like saying that because Fimblewoodchester FC aren’t allowed to play Manchester United in the 4th round of the FA cup, even though they got there on merit, because they’re more than 107 league places below Man U.

      Sure it would be easier and safer for Man U to recieve a bye into the next round, but thats just not the point.

      And the safety thing is just hot air. People don’t die in F1 cars nowadays. The cars are safe, the tracks are beyond safe, and have plenty of room for manouvering. A car travelling at 180 mph, with an incredibly experienced driver at the wheel, should have no problem passing a car that’s doing 167 mph, rookie at the helm or not.

      • Robert McKay said on 19th March 2010, 16:41

        “But it’s like saying that because Fimblewoodchester FC aren’t allowed to play Manchester United in the 4th round of the FA cup, even though they got there on merit, because they’re more than 107 league places below Man U.”

        But that argument rather breaks down if you ask whether on not the new teams actually got there on merit. They won a tender process.

        Perhaps an argument for a better “pyramid” system of motorsport, rather than the franchise system?

        I don’t necessarily disagree with you, I’m just pointing that aspect out.

        • ajokay said on 19th March 2010, 16:47

          I admit that the idea of reaching F1 on merit is a grey area, I thought that as soon as I hit the ‘submit comment’ button.

          But they are there, and they were chosen from a group of what’s believed to be 15 or so candidate teams by the FIA… so the only reason Hispania are in F1, albeit by the skin of their pearly white Iberian teeth, is due to the FIA’s merits.

          The FIA runs the thing, the FIA chose them and 3 others over anyone else, therefore the FIA say it’s fine for them to be there.

      • LewisC said on 19th March 2010, 17:04

        People don’t die in F1 cars nowadays.

        Tell that to Massa’s wife – he couldn’t have got much closer.
        Tell it to Henry Surtees’ family. Not an F1 car but a formula car built to the same safety standards I believe.
        Racing is dangerous.

        But FWIW I totally agree with Keith’s point – I’ve been to Le Mans and the closing speeds between the fastest cars and the slowest are insane: but the drivers deal with it.

        If you’re trying to find the best driver in the world, being able to overtake slower cars quickly and decisively is surely something they should be capable of?

        • Jarred Walmsley said on 19th March 2010, 18:54

          Well those things were not relating to the speed or crashing which I think is the point he was trying to make. The cars are very safe and under normal circumstances people do not die in them, the Massa and Surtees accidents were both freak accidents that could not have been avoided

          • We want turbos said on 19th March 2010, 21:08

            Exactly!!! Look at kubica at Montreal 180 mph into a wall n walked away and to be fair it was the most reliable car of last year that caused massa’s accident.

          • Exactly exactly. Obviously Henry Surtees accident was incredibly tragic, and Massa has lived to tell the tale of his, but both were effectively freak and rather nasty blows to the head, which could happen anywhere. Neither were directly related to a violent racing accident or anything to do with the car, like the last 2 men to die at the wheel of a Formula One car were. It’s been 16 seasons now since a driver’s death in F1, the biggest gap ever, and hopefully it’ll carry on forever, but there have been many many major crashes during those last 16 years which drivers have walked away from. Kubica’s accident in Canada instantly springs to mind, as well as, was it Luciano Berti in Spa in 2001/2002? That was major, he was able to hobble away. Even Martin Brundle’s crash in Melbourne in 1996 looked very, very nasty, the car folded in 2 and disintegrated, he jogged back to his spare car.

            Yes motorsport is dangerous, and quite frankly, it wouldn’t be half as amazing to watch if it wasn’t. I just feel that everything in F1 is so, so safe now, that they could probably start to let the lead back out a bit with regards to cornering speeds, track design (remove all those ‘Senna S’s that hastily got shoved in 15 years ago) and just the general racecraft.

            Give these guys a chance, if in 10 race’s time, they’re still 10 seconds off the pace, then yet, questions should be asked, but don’t pull the rug out from under their feet before they’ve even had the chance to get their balance.

      • These guys aren’t there on merit… they have yet to show that.
        MU players shouldn’t be injured by bitter loser(y) teams just because either.

    • sulzerpower said on 19th March 2010, 21:24

      “You haven’t hit anyone going 30% slower or 7% slower. But which one is it easier and SAFER to overtake?”
      Someone going 30% slower than you, surely? As you get past them quicker and you have a larger choice of overtaking points for that reason?!

      • Adrian said on 20th March 2010, 8:36

        Totally agree.

        I think it’s also worth pointing out a comment made by Chandhock on the BBC coverage of Qualifying.

        He said that they would be trying to stay out of the way of the front teams because they didn’t want to ruin anyone’s race.

        Now surely as long as the slower drivers are aware that there are going to be faster cars coming up behind them, and the faster drivers are aware to keep an eye out for the slower cars, then these drivers (who are supposed to be the best in the world) can cope with the speed difference…

        • MikeW said on 20th March 2010, 9:46

          And the teams now have the use of sophisticated GPS tracking of the cars.

          The teams at the back know exactly when one of the front-runners is approaching.

      • Utter rubbish – it’s much safer to be lapping backmarkers that are relatively close to the pace.

        Tailenders who are 30% slower than the leader may be easier to pass but are much more of a danger. You have to lap them much more often during the race, increasing the risk, and the speed differential is much much higher – you can be on top of them before you or they realise it. Is it safer to drive on the motorway at 30mph surrounded by cars going perhaps three times the speed? Of course not.

        This is why the challenge of multi-class endurance races like Le Mans is so great. Race-bred Peugeots and Audis are competing alongside virtually road-spec Ferrari GT cars. The difference in both straightline and cornering speed is huge. The likes of HRT, Lotus and Virgin lose time round the corners because they have less downforce, not so much down the straights.

  4. Robert McKay said on 19th March 2010, 16:24

    The 107% rule is useless from a safety point of view as they have to trundle round for three full practice session and a qualifying session before you chuck them out, just as you have finally stuck them to the back out of the way for the race.

    From a standards point of view, though, I think at some point you have to arbitrarily say “this team is not fast enough to be racing at the pinnacle of the sport”. For example, 10 seconds plus is too big a gap and makes the sport look a bit daft.

    Haivng said all that, I have no problem with the Lotuses and the Virgin’s pace, which I think is entirely respectable given how quickly those teams came together. And the HRT’s weren’t so far off the other new teams, given they were essentially doing a shakedown.

    My issue more was with the HRT’s having so little track time before going into quali, Chandhok especially, He coped admirably with it, but I’m not sure it’s a precedent we want to be setting.

    Anyway HRT have got over their most difficult weekend, and can begin to hopefully start competing as opposed to just participating.

    • George said on 19th March 2010, 17:01

      I agree Robert, personally I dont mind either way about the 107% rule (I dont think it will be needed after a few races anyway), but F1 cars running at GP2 pace is pretty embarrassing for the sport.

      I disagree about blue flags being removed as well, we already have enough trouble in qualifying with blocking ruining people’s races, can you imagine what would happen if a leader got cut up by a backmarker and was run off the track/damaged his car?

  5. Sirko said on 19th March 2010, 16:31

    Well, I’m against the 107% rule, but the new teams should rise fast in terms of speed. Otherwise it really makes no sense to be there.

    • I think it is early to say mandatory 107% rule because they weren’t as far off as I expected and seemed to get out of the way just fine.
      As far as the absolutely defenseless opinion that there should be no blue flags, maybe these people need to watch a few other racing leagues. Lapper’s have to get out of the way; it is unfair to punish leaders by being a freaking roadblock and safety hazard. Whats next would be my question, why not let a few camel roam around the track at Bahrain or maybe a herd of cattle play a role in determining the victor at Silverstone?

      That’s a bad opinion and unqualified to say the very least. I’ve heard dirty jokes in better taste. This is the supposed to be the pinnacle of sports and I am of the opinion that one of the things that separates F1 from Nascar is that the drivers have class, know how to speak in an interview and get the hell out of a fight they aren’t in. These naysayers of the blue flag probably have their friends jump people in the street they can’t beat themselves. Weakness. Weakness.

      • Sirko said on 20th March 2010, 18:28

        The banning of blue flags is something really weird. There are some basic principles of auto racing, they should respect them.

      • Sirko said on 20th March 2010, 18:39

        If there’s a fight between two cars, it should be a fight for the higher position. That’s all.

  6. alex said on 19th March 2010, 16:33

    im all for the 107% rule.

    i say if cars are too slow theres no point being in the sport because its not like your gonna win anything anyway. is all the HRT’s do is slow up the track and the race.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 19th March 2010, 17:16

      So where do you draw the line? 20%? 10%? 5%? Because 7% is completely arbitrary.

      • Keith, everything is arbitrary. What isn’t arbitrary is what a panel votes on. Regardless of the actual number, teams, the FIA and drivers all agree on what is an acceptable number and that is all that can be said to be on par and fair. If one were to say that 5% is too little and 10% too great, then a good compromise is 7-8%. Period.

        • Not everything is arbitrary – Keith’s point (as I understood it) was that there is no evidence base that clearly points towards 7% being right and everything else being wrong.

          • Tim, every rule is arbitrary. The existence of the planet is arbitrary. As stated above, as you missed it, the best we can do is agree on a number. I’m not saying 7% is the number – it doesn’t matter – what I am saying is that if there is to be a number it has to be an agreed upon number. If one person said that the cut-off is 6.849% then I’d say that sure, that’s pretty “arbitrary” and since one person came up with it, we have no reason to accept it. However, I am sure someone on here with too much time has figured out why it was 107% in the first place. My guess is a combination of data and a voting panel… This is a fair way to come up with a rule (regardless of the number).
            Next you will tell me the number of laps

  7. theRoswellite said on 19th March 2010, 16:34

    Exactly, these new teams need help not an arbitrary limit imposed just before the race. It is the FIA that is limiting their testing time. I would suggest trying to assist them in improving their performance by allowing them unlimited testing time for a given period…say, half the season.

    • David B said on 19th March 2010, 16:54

      Good idea. Agree.

    • LewisC said on 19th March 2010, 17:05

      Makes sense. In fact I’d say the whole first season.

    • Joey-Poey said on 19th March 2010, 17:22

      I agree this sounds like a nice idea, but it enters a bit of a grey area and feels a bit like you’re coddling the new teams.

      I think there’s something to be said about having to pay your dues. Someone made a comment in another post listing the first race results of many other previous now-established teams. Everyone was placed on the same footing before and had to deal with the same rules the big boys did. Giving the new teams more testing time is saying “these rules apply to some, but not all.” What happens if a new team gets off to a great start and are right up there? Unlikely, I know, but look at Brawn last year. What constitutes a “rookie” team? Giving an advantage to a team just because it’s new would be a double standard. If you’re going to play, you play by the same rules as everybody else.

      That said I am NOT in favor of the 107% rule. I am not surprised by the new teams being slow, but I do not think they should be excluded for it. Let them pay their dues and hopefully someday they’ll be one of the regulars.

      • Spud said on 19th March 2010, 18:57

        This has budget cap written all over it.
        Everyone or noone should be allowed to test IMHO.

        The bigger teams have vast sums of money to spend that the smaller teams simply don’t have. So even if testing is brought back, the bigger teams have a bigger margin to test more parts than the smaller teams ever could have.

        The budget cap, if it ever gets enforced, should only apply to the racing car. Let teams spend what the like on motorhomes or wages or any kind of perks they like. The fact is all the perks in the world won’t make the car go faster.

        Bring back in season testing, bring in a budget cap of a reasonable level, then we’ll see whats what.

        Also, as I’ve said before, do away with the silly Q3 rules, allow refuelling if the team wishes, get shut of the two compound per race rule.

        Sorry if this sounds as if I blurted all this out in a hurry, but I did.

        Go HRT!!!!!!

        • Joey-Poey said on 19th March 2010, 19:03

          I wasn’t saying I was for or against in season testing, simply making some arguments against the idea of “new” teams being allowed to test while others arent. If you’re going to ban in season testing, do it for everyone equally.

          • Søren Kaae said on 19th March 2010, 22:00

            Allowing the new teams to test in season, would be just another new way to punish the best. As we see with the rule about the top ten qaulifiers tyres this season. You dont make the worst better by punishing the best.
            What I would like is that when new teams applicate for participation in F1, they should have at least some experience with runnig a racing team. For me it seems ridicoulus that Prodrive didnt get a spot this season. I mean, if the mechanics in HRT cant even tightened a wheelbolt properly, then why let these people in to such a great sport.

          • Adrian said on 20th March 2010, 8:42

            Yes, because non of the established teams has even sent their car out on track without the wheel on correctly or with the fuel hose still attached have they.

            I’d also point out that HRT was Campos who do have considerable experience of running a racing team…just not an F1 team.

    • I am absolutely for extra testing for new teams. I hope that next years team/teams get some extra time. It is my understanding that the new teams weren’t even sure that they would have a team till late last year and then had to build a car with less time than the Ferrari’s and Mclarens of the world. What? Yeah, give the new teams a few extra weekends of testing before imposing rules.

      • I feel the new teams should not have been let in so late in the day. There should have been a definite 3 month cutoff prior to the start of the season by which all participants should have been registered ( no exceptions) thereby ensuring that every team gets the mandatory testing done before the start of the season.

        • nothing against the slower teams. It is good to have more cars on track but just need to ensure that they have sufficient test time.

  8. David B said on 19th March 2010, 16:51

    Agree with Keith.
    They spend a lot, with the testing limitation they aren’t able to develop other way than during race weekends, and some would also keep them off the race???
    I add that in the past some of the most difficult drivings for the leaders was when they had to overlap someone else. It’s been part of Senna or Schumacher talent to be strong and resolute in overlapping, why now cut this part off???

  9. John M said on 19th March 2010, 16:53

    I agree completely.

    If it’s not safe then cars shouldn’t be on track during practice sessions and qualifying. It doesn’t make sense to exclude them from only the race.

  10. craig said on 19th March 2010, 17:05

    Bring back the %107 rule and lets go back to 9 teams? That’s the spirit. We should take a look back at the racing we all think we remember. One or two cars race out half a lap in front and we all start yawning. Back more than 20 years ago the only thing that mixed up the results were heavy mechanical non finishes which gave the odd backmarker and chance to slip into the points.

    • I’m against the 107% rule but it wouldn’t take us back to 9 teams – Virgin and Lotus were both well within it at Bahrain. Only HRT was outside it at 108%.

  11. I don’t see any need for the reintroduction of the 107% rule either. If there is any danger in situations like this it will be due to the drivers more than the car, and the FIA can always revoke the drivers super licence like they did with Ide a few seasons ago if it becomes apparent they are a problem.

  12. Crid [CridComment at gmail] said on 19th March 2010, 17:12

    Brilliant blog post. Blue flags are madness. Why do people prattle about “overtaking” when there are rules to make it unnecessary?

    There’s a lot of be said for a sport where the Michael Shumachers and Lewis Hamiltons are compelled to show a little humility to Karun Chandook around the paddock.

  13. John H said on 19th March 2010, 17:14

    I disagree on this for once.

    If F1 teams cannot field a car that is within a certain range (107% or otherwise), then we might as well have a B-class race and be done with it.

    Last season Force-India after starting the season at the back, nearly ended up winning Spa – I cannot see that happening with HRT for example and there lies the problem.

    The problem lies with the FIA letting underprepared teams into F1 in the first place. All this talk of 26 car grid is missing the point, because why not just fill the back of the grid with GP2 cars in that case?

    I understand you need revenue by running in races in order to fund development, but there has to be a limit otherwise F1 becomes devalued and will no longer be the ‘peak of motorsport.’

    • Mark Hitchcock said on 19th March 2010, 18:04

      “Last season Force-India after starting the season at the back, nearly ended up winning Spa – I cannot see that happening with HRT for example and there lies the problem.”

      That’s one of the reasons why the slower teams shouldn’t just be dismissed. Yes it’s extremely unlikely HRT will come close to winning a race this year, but they may well be on pace with the back of the pack in a few races time. And then in a couple of seasons they’ll be in the points and eventually fighting for wins.

      I don’t think having slow teams devalues the sport. If anything it puts into perspective how good the front-running teams are.

      • RandomChimp said on 20th March 2010, 11:33

        “I don’t think having slow teams devalues the sport. If anything it puts into perspective how good the front-running teams are.”

        was about to make a similar point myself

  14. Mark said on 19th March 2010, 17:31

    I agree with not having the 107% rule and scrapping the blue flag.

    We would get far better and more exciting racing if the leaders got bunched up behind a backmarker…. then we would see who was the real racer who could overtake and we would be treated to real racing action.

    BTW havinga a 107% while at the same time preventing teams from testing combines to make F1 an elite closed shop.

  15. andy k said on 19th March 2010, 17:40

    if you get rid of all the slow cars you would end up with 8 or 10,and you would still have a back marker if you only had 2 cars 1 would be a back marker,the sport needs slow cars we all love losers

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