Why F1 doesn’t need the 107% rule

CommentPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

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???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”

  1. Last place teams should be able to test all year long.
    Of course their own budgets would limit the amount of testing time.
    This would allow the new and slower teams to develop more quickly to be competitive.
    You can then award test days to the teams who struggle to develop. A mid field team would have less test days and a top 4 team would have none. That’s the price for being the best.
    I don’t agree with the 107% rule. They paid to be there like everyone else.
    Just my two cents.

    1. sounds reasonable

  2. With the testing ban, it will be extremely difficult for a struggling team to ever catch up to the rest of the pack, and so they will be doomed to spend their entire season outside the 107% at every race. This would be damaging to teams such as HRT.

    Having said that, I still believe F1 should be the pinnacle of motorsport, therefore teams which are so slow shouldn’t be there in the first place as they are barely any faster than GP2 cars. I know teams have to start somewhere, but look at Virgin and Lotus, they are doing a good job.

    1. I’m sure the leading cars on their very first day out testing were much slower and sorted their way through the winter to be where they are today. HRT is exactly at the beginning of that cycle. FIA ensuring that every team tests before racing is more important than thinking of enforcing the 107% rule. We wouldnt be having this discussions if the proper process were followed.

  3. I really find it difficult to understand those defending the 107% deal and bashing HRT. If Bruno Senna had been .159 secs quicker (which is a very narrow margin!!!) he would have made the cut and nobody would have been able to say he was too slow. This makes the whole aqrgument seem rather futile.
    On the other hand if HRT -or any other of the shoestring teams- turns out to be consistently slow they might end up weeding themselves out of the field: if time goes by and their performances don’t improve they’ll probably find it ever tougher to find sposorship and pay-drivers willing to commit to a flop.

  4. With this rule wouldn’t it have meant that Fisichella would not have qualified for the Brazilian GP last year? He only managed a 1:40.703, whereas Barrichello ran a 1:24.100 on pole. That would have meant a Ferrari, albeit a very slow one, sitting the race out. That wouldn’t be good for the sport would it?

    Or does this rule not apply when it rains during quali?

    1. well said….. one bad choice of tires for a good team would also run them the risk of being excluded if the 107% rule was in place. I think 107% enforcement is not really the way to go.

  5. I don’t know what the 107% stands for per circuit or even per corner. So, maybe the actual speed difference at spots where this is dangerous should draw the line.

    I”m not sure, but I can imagine that a difference in a high speed corner like suzuka 130R of less then 7% can be more dangerous then in a slow corner.

    That is, IF you really want to draw a line.
    For me it is no issue, since we have only two cars over the limit in their first actual test. Even if the rule is reintroduced, HRT will be within the limit in a few races.

    And the NO-blue flags is a good idea indeed!

  6. I don’t understand why people want to drop the blue flag. It will just ruin some peoples race. Its not like the backmarkers were actually competing with the leaders, so why make them a moving obstacle? I can already see some end of season races with drivers purposely going slow to hold up title contenders ( 1997 Jerez?)

  7. have there been a regulatory change this year? In previous years a driver was not allowed into Qualification if he didn’t turn laps in FP on second day. Case in point Timo Glock and Toyota in Japan last year.
    “The team applied for permission for Kamui Kobayashi, who completed both Friday practice sessions, to race.

    But stewards said the rules require a driver to take part in at least one practice session on the second day of the event, the Saturday, if he is to race. ”

    So with that in mind since Karun didn’t turn a single wheel he shouldn’t been allowed to participate in the Qualification at all? Why was he allowed to?
    if there been a written rule change then ok. But this seems once again to be a unconsistent stewards decision that is highly questionable.

    1. This was mentioned during the BBC commentary and yes, apparently there has been a rule change after the Glock incident last year.

  8. latley there has been a big emphasis on trying to get 26 cars on the grid for the GP, but we have 24 at the moment, if the 107% rule is back then we might end up with 22 or 20 cars and we will be right back where we started, sounds like alot of money wasted.

    with no inseason testing, and possibly no race time how do you expect hispania, to ever gain pace?

    in all honesty (weather the FIA is doing it intentionally or not) it sounds like the FIA is making it easier for teams that dont need help and harder for those who actually need it.

  9. The reintroduction of the 107% rule can only be a good thing for the sport. I know that many of you on this site think that cars should be allowed to turn up at the first race of the season without even i lap of testing but I have to saw how wrong it is. Yet again the talk is of cost and the cheapest easiest entry into F1. Can we ever remind ourselves what this sport actually represents? The idea of letting cars drive outside a set limit only proves that they have no chance of anything. If you don’t make the grade you don’t race. This sport which I have followed every way I can is going to the dogs and nearly as fast as some of the teams that are now there. It is not because Ferrari and Mclaren have been there for 35 and 60 years it’s about being competitive and developing into an F1 team and having achieved nothing just because you made the pit lane. Let them test, develop and improve and when you are in the 107% you can race. The issue of not flagging backmarkers only continues to weaken the sport. Why not introduce stray big game animals or foam baths on the track to add to the sport?? It was always for the best of the best, let’s keep it that way.

    1. Remember Toyota? Came into F1 in the most expensive way, spent vast amounts of every year, and now…?

      If a small team is too slow, then it’s because it’s a small team. Where is the actual damage to the sport? People weren’t saying the Premier League was going to the dogs when Derby County barely won a game in a whole season; they recognised the team was poor and the negative publicity was confined to the team, not the league. And this is a sport where, as many smaller clubs have shown in the past two seasons, you can do well without massive budgets. This, in a sport where spending is even more extravagant than F1.

    2. I know that many of you on this site think that cars should be allowed to turn up at the first race of the season without even i lap of testing but I have to saw how wrong it is.

      I don’t think they should either but surely we can agree that letting them turn up and kicking them out again is an even worse waste of time and money?

      It was always for the best of the best, let’s keep it that way.

      No it wasn’t – a glance at some of the grids of the fifties, sixties, seventies, eighties and early nineties shows that. It was only in the mid-90s when Max Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone became preoccupied with reducing the number of entrants that that changed.

      1. I have to say that I too get fed up with this precious attitude which somehow believes that letting new teams into F1 will ‘devalue’ the sport. What rubbish. Ferrari et al feeling that way I can understand because it’s in their interest to safeguard their ‘brand’, and to have less competition, less pesky backmarkers. But really, did jokers like Andrea Moda cheapen F1? Did anybody seriously think, way back when, “Oh my God, any sport than allows those clowns at Forti to compete is not fit for my precious time and investment?” Of course not! These teams were sideshows to what was going on at the front. At worst, they baulked the leaders a few times during races. At best, they created some wonderful, priceless folklore for F1 die-hards, as well as opportunity for endless ‘if only…’ type speculation. Sometimes the well-versed motions of the top teams can get a little too slick, and some of the ‘human’ element can disappear (although of course in reality this element does exist in every team, even if it is hidden behind the corporate talk and practiced motions).

        With reference to 2010, all of the new teams are built on solid technical foundations which means that, even now, in their first races, none of them constitute or will become safety hazards. HRT has Dallara bulding their cars. Virgin has Nick Wirth on the case while Lotus has Mike Gascoyne and half the old Toyota team. In other words, none of these cars are being knocked up in a shed at the bottom of some deranged entrepreneur’s garden. Considering the restricted running and limited resources at their disposal, they’ve all shown great pace and have done more than enough to prove they deserve their place in F1. Give them a chance. Everybody – team, driver, business – has to start somewhere. You can’t expect to come out of the womb and simply get up and walk. The growing process is often messy and unpleasant but necessary.

        I think it was Bernie E who said: “First you’ve got to get there, then you’ve got to get rich, and then you can get honest.”

        1. The rich are never honest.

  10. I think the lack of blue flags in the US is more important because they bring the safety car out for pretty much anything. More so in Nascar then IRL. In turn however this means staying on the lead lap is very important as if you can stay infront of the leader once that inevitable safety car comes out you are the best part of a lap up on where you were before (compared to the leader). this means drivers will fight tooth and nail to stay on the lead lap and back markers will fight it out with the leaders as they try to lap them. While yes it makes good viewing… its that one step too far that makes the race a bit Jerry Springer (read fake).

    1. Not to sound with any disrespect, but so you ever wonder why they do this?

      Nascar and the IRL usually are on shorter tracks, with the majority being 1.5 miles. They are also caring a much higher average speed. In F1 marshalls can clear up a wreak and move the cars before the others come by again. In Nascar/IRL the cars will go bye twice or three times at full speed.

      Again, the majority of the tracks in Nascar and IRL are banked Ovals, which mean the cars will self clear down the track. I can’t say this for the IRL except for the Indy 500, but in Nascar the field size is just about doubled, meaning cars are continuously circling the track at full speed. With the more cars, this means accidents have a higher chance of involving more than 1 car making clean up longer.

      As for road courses, Both Nascar and the IRL have sectional yellows instead of full course cautions depending on the severity or lack of the incident.

      1. …and to be fair, they get the safety car out in F1 these days for the most puiffling of incidents…

      2. There was no jibe meant towards either Nascar or IRL in my statement, for the most part bringing out the safety car is absolutely the right thing to do.

        Though anyone that things Nascar don’t manufacture reasons to bring out the safety car is kidding themselves, the old “competition caution” always makes me blush.

    2. Plus they only turn left, have closed frames designed for impact and still have rules as to what is allowed when blocking.

      1. “still have rules as to what is allowed when blocking.”

        Rules for blocking? The only rule Nascar has that is remotely relevant to blocking is driving on the apron on superspeedways. The apron is obviously not the racing surface.

        And if you want to start a safety argument Nascar isn’t the one to start with. There hasn’t been a death in F1 since ’94. There have been three since 2000 in Nascar.

  11. The 107% rule should not exclude the slower teams but should be used to allow extra testing days to help them up to speed. A much better solution IMO.

    1. That is a great idea in my book – as long as nobody goes intentionally slow to get free testing time!

      1. Which will of course happen, the teams aren’t stupid, they will do what they can to get more testing time.

      2. Well, we thought no one would crash intentionally to bring out a safety car!

        1. Yeah well, We didnt think someone would crash into another car intentionally to win a championship either and looked what happened.

  12. I agree with Keith. On the subject of safety, and in particular closing speeds; I thought I would do the math.

    When I ran through the figures for Bahrain Q1, Vettel’s quickest lap works out at an average speed of 122mph, whilst the 107% cutoff, which Senna just missed, averages 114mph; a closing speed of a little under 4 metres per second.

    If 4m/s is a safety risk, then McLaren’s rear wing for this season ought to be banned on safety grounds, as this is allegedly the kind of advantage it gives them, and as for KERS last year (and technically this year); cognitive dissonance anyone?

    1. Very good point Andy

    2. I’m not sure that’s a fair analysis of the problem as that includes average speed and not closing speed, but all the same fair play Andy C.

      1. Yeh, it’s not completely representative, but I think average closing speed is a reasonable approximation in the absence of instantaneous closing speeds for every part of the track.

        1. I have to agree, I think as a high level analysis its fair to assume the speed difference applies pretty evenly across all parts of the circuit. Lack of down force will make them slower on the corners but lack of aerodynamic performance will make them slower in a line too… average it out and I suspect your calculations are probably closer to the truth than you will get credit for.

  13. The 1907% rule doesn’t need to come back, and like the talk about brining in two mandatory pitstops, is just a knee-jerk reaction to what happened in Bahrain.

    There is no in-season testing allowed, save for special circumstances (bringing in a new guy). Practice and the race are all these teams have to improve their cars. So why prevent a team which needs to get up to speed from getting the needed mileage?

    I’#m sure HRT will soon be within the 107% anyway and the whole thing will be forgotten.

    As for blue flags, I do think they should go, but then what happens at Monaco? Remember Coulthard complaining he was being held up by an Arrows so they could get more TV time from having a McLaren stuck behind them? And this was racing for position as well, which went against Coulthard’s argument. What if it was a car being lapped? Could there be blue flags for some tracks and not the others? Maybe dress it up as a safety rule, so that at the tight circuits a lapped car becomes a hazard and must move over?

    1. 1907% Even USF1 could manage that with one of their company trucks!

    2. Here’s a thought: if we got rid of the blue flag rule would teams be less inclined to run their cars so marginal on cooling that they can’t follow another car closely – like we saw with Ferrari at Bahrain?

      1. I think they’d actually continue to run it marginally, gambling that the extra performance advantage would get them up at the front. Maybe there needs to be standardisation of a minimum size, as right now it’s hurting following and overtaking?

  14. I think they should consider a weaker 107% rule as a window one [maybe over 5 set of races], on failing this they [F1] can consider asking[and ensuring] the team to get more resources or help to alleviate their speed / reliability issues [rather than telling them not to race]. Innovation can come at the back of the field as much as in the front.

    Compete, but not squeeze out the smaller guys. It is important that sports be looked in the open spirit that it all started with, Let be clear about one thing ! We want racing between good teams with different approaches to the same problem [drivers, CFD, more more] … and hopefully develop better technology which reaches the cars, roads, defence, and a lot of other things

  15. No 107% rule.

    Yes to Blue flags.


    1. 100% agree with you

    2. Basically those are fine the way they are.

  16. I don’t think the 107% rule would be fair with the current 3-part qualifying. The slowest seven are finished long before the pole time is set, and maybe they’ve chosen not to do a final run, for any number of reasons. Track conditions may be faster by the top-ten session, say if it had rained before qualifying and washed all the rubber away.

    Even if we’d had the 107% rule in Bahrain, I suspect Hispania could have appealed (if they’d had the energy left to do so) and been let back in the race.

    I’d love to see the blue flags relaxed and the art of lapping put to the test again. Maybe the blue flags could be applied more strictly at street circuits (Prost, Hill and the other new stewards could help define the limits) – I remember good battles at Monaco being ruined and broken up by some backmarker wombling round on his own. As Vettel pointed out, it wasn’t a problem at Bahrain, where drivers can see futher ahead than Monaco or Singapore.

    1. Even if we’d had the 107% rule in Bahrain, I suspect Hispania could have appealed (if they’d had the energy left to do so) and been let back in the race.

      Given how strictly the rule was enforced last time – at dry events at least – I doubt it.

    2. Good point Tom and Vettel, I would tend to agree certain tracks have a much more dire need for safety. Australia at dusk gets pretty bad visibly and could create really bad situations. As far as Monaco goes, for sure there is a visibility problem, but they are going so much slower at that track that I don’t think it would ever come to a life-threatening end so I’m gonna have to say no 1XX% rule there- ever. Besides, there’s no place for them to pull over to except the pool.

  17. The 107% rule served a purpose. It was installed to get rid of the teams who simply couldn;t and would never be able to compete.

    In this case F1 (or FIA) practially begged these new teams to come in. They didn’t have to put up a deposit, were promised monetary incentives and were promised help from the bigger teams. It would be rather daft to make it impossible for them to get up to speed.

    If HRT is still not up to speed mid season then I’m all for getting rid of them, but they do deserve a chance.

    In the end the cars shoul be within the 107% time if it’s in the rules or not. Otherwise it will indeed look bad for F1. What’s the point of having cars doing GP2 times in a F1 race? Let them move to GP2 then.

    1. It was installed to get rid of the teams who simply couldn’t and would never be able to compete.

      Either that or it was a self-fulfilling prophesy which send potentially viable teams to an early demise.

  18. Going too slow is dangerous, that’s why people get pulled over at the sides of motorways for doing less than 50mph.

    1. Motor racing *IS* inherently dangerous – the comparison is spurious.

      And as many others have pointed out, HRT were within a whisker of the 107% rule despite not testing! It’s not like we’re talking about The Lola’s from 1995…

  19. I am opposed to this rule. The more, the better.
    People gotta make a living

  20. Sponsorship is hard enough for even the more established teams to find at the moment. Bringing back the 107% would make this nearly impossible for the new teams to find if there was a chance they may not even race. If the 107% rule is brought back in and without the promise of a budget cap, I seriously doubt many applicants for the new entry process for next season.

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