Why F1 doesn’t need the 107% rule


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. 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.

  2. Andy C said on 19th March 2010, 19:31

    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?

    • nick said on 20th March 2010, 8:32

      Very good point Andy

    • 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.

      • Andy C said on 20th March 2010, 10:41

        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.

        • nick said on 20th March 2010, 13:16

          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.

  3. Icthyes said on 19th March 2010, 19:37

    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?

    • Icthyes said on 19th March 2010, 22:24

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

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 19th March 2010, 23:48

      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?

      • Icthyes said on 20th March 2010, 1:21

        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?

  4. 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

  5. No 107% rule.

    Yes to Blue flags.


  6. 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.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 19th March 2010, 23:51

      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.

    • 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.

  7. Patrickl said on 19th March 2010, 20:49

    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.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 19th March 2010, 23:44

      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.

  8. Calum said on 19th March 2010, 21:32

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

    • 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…

  9. Bartholomew said on 19th March 2010, 21:38

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

  10. Ben 91 said on 19th March 2010, 21:51

    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.

  11. Absoulutly right Keith. The 107% rule was stupid and ruined some teams.

  12. cacarella said on 19th March 2010, 22:20

    Perhaps if they do put the 107% rule into effect next year they’ll also be smart enough to make some type of testing exception for the teams that don’t make the 107%.
    Maybe allow them unlimited testing until the next race
    or something along those lines? This way all the established teams are ‘safe’ on track during the race, and
    you haven’t totally squashed any of the little guys.

    • Personally, I’m beginning to think that the whole testing ban is a BAD idea.

      I’m all for reducing costs, but testing is important and I bet the teams spend more on on crazily-priced ‘nuts and bolts’ and their computer simulations than they would if they went to the track to test.

      • I like what USF1 had included in their deal with the FIA… that they would be able to go out on there own track. I think each team should be close enough to a track to do private testing. This way the cars won’t fall apart like Bruno’s did and they could save money as well on travel. There should be at least a mandatory 1 trip to the planned test sessions however as testing on your own track is never gonna be the same as testing on a hot tacky track where side by side analysis can be done.
        Give these teams a chance to be safe and cost effective at the same time, but require them to show up before the first race!

  13. Tombong said on 19th March 2010, 22:38

    “The slowest qualifier for last year’s Le Mans 24 Hours was 29% slower than the pole sitter.” I believe the gap that so wide it is caused by varying classes on Le Mans. Take a look at qualifying result per classes on Le Mans, there we can see how competitive actually their racing.

    • Adrian said on 20th March 2010, 8:57

      Yes, but Keith’s point was that you have cars with vast speed differences sharing the same track without it being considered a safety issue…

  14. I don’t think we’ll see a comeback of the 107 % rule this season, as allegedly they would need unanimous agreement from the teams to change the rules. As long as every of the driver in the slower cars shows they’re familiar with the practice of letting by the leaders as per the blue flag rule, I don’t see a problem with cars finishing two or three laps down at the end of the race.

    Reintroducing 107 % on the short term would seem like a knee-jerk change to me. First of all, it would not do the new teams any good if they were denied the opportunity to keep developing their car on the race track. Because there are no tests during the season, each Grand Prix distance is a valuable part of every team’s program. Also, I’m not at all expecting the new teams to be this far behind all season. I think it’s quite reasonable they’ll be able to put development to their cars so that they will catch up a second or two over time, because a pretty basic car, arguably, presents the most opportunity for improving in a relatively short amount of time, just by adding more sophisticated and more effective parts.

  15. Gilvan said on 19th March 2010, 23:30

    I also disagree with the 107% rule. It brings nothing to the sport. We (Fans, FIA and more established teams) should support the new teams. In the current economic climate, raising the funds for a new F1 team is no easy task. Just look at the USF1 fiasco. In fact I think the new teams should be allowed to unlimited testing (or as much testing as they can afford) during their first season in F1. That would allow them to get their car up to speed quicker and develop their infrastructure.

    • Bellof said on 19th March 2010, 23:48

      Yes i agree the new teams need a leg-up from the whole of F1 during there first season especially regarding testing.

      I seem to remember in the mid noughties teams outside the top 4 had certain testing advantages during GP’s why shouldnt those teams outside the top 10 ie new teams have certain benefits for joining the sport during these difficult times., especially when you consider only one will receive prize money under the concorde agreement!

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