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
|1||5||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault||1’55.029|
|6||6||Mark Webber||Red Bull-Renault||1’55.298|
|10||14||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||1’55.213|
|12||15||Vitantonio Liuzzi||Force India-Mercedes||1’55.628|
|14||22||Pedro de la Rosa||Sauber-Ferrari||1’56.428|
|15||16||Sebastien Buemi||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||1’56.189|
|18||17||Jaime Alguersuari||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||1’57.071|
|22||25||Lucas di Grassi||Virgin-Cosworth||2’00.587|
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