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

  1. Xanathos said on 19th March 2010, 23:38

    This whole discussion is ridiculous. HRT will be within 107% by the time we get to Malaysia, if not already in Melbourne. And the rule really won’t be helping anyone since the biggest speed differences occur in free practice.

  2. Pengo said on 19th March 2010, 23:52

    With no 107% in effect yet, the situation will reveal itself pretty quickly over the next couple of races. If HRT turn out to be nothing more than traffic hazzards (especially if they are held responsible for contributing to a race outcome by the top teams) then we can expect to see it being implemented. HRT should get some time to develop the car, but by say by Monaco they haven’t showed the ability to keep up, then we need to look at the 107% rule.

    On the other hand, wouldn’t this mean that any team that, say, had mechanical problems with one or both of their cars that they wouldn’t be allowed to race? Even if a Ferrari, Red Bull, Renault, etc. started from the back, they could still feasibly climb their way up to 10th at least to get valuable points.

  3. MEmo said on 20th March 2010, 1:19

    Your article is as fine as ever, Keith. Your point is spot on. But I disagree: if a team isn´t fast enough it shouldn´t compete. True, that will kill new teams, but if they aren´t fast enough, they shouldn´t be in F1 to start with.

    • Icthyes said on 20th March 2010, 1:34

      We can’t let teams build cars and come to races, which is the first time we can find out if they’re “fast enough”, and then tell them they have to go home because they’re not, just on the point of principle, dark horses, or a few fans complaining it somehow degrades the sport. It’s a miracle HRT attended at all, now we should be saying they can’t race?

      The original 107% rule was brought in when you could test during the season, when there was no excuse not to be up to speed. HRT didn’t exactly plan for their finances to go awry and have no chances other than at race weekends to improve their cars. So we should be saying that teams can spend all that money and hire all those people, only to then guarantee them their failure?

      • MEmo said on 20th March 2010, 21:44

        We see if they are “fast enough” in qualy through the 107 rule! They aren´t within the 107, then they are not “fast enough” and don´t race! End of story. You have your opinion, I have mine.

        • Icthyes said on 22nd March 2010, 0:42

          Except 107% is completely arbitrary…

          • MEmo said on 23rd March 2010, 1:40

            Ok. There you have a point! I´d stay with that number: 1) because it was already used in F1, so it´s kinda historical and 2) it´s quite tough, so as I said, leaves only the “fast enough” teams in the race.
            But you are right: the number is really arbitrary…

  4. kramkroc said on 20th March 2010, 3:01

    Great article Keith, I also agree with you. Am I right in saying all the drivers now have a lights system on-board and they are aware if a faster car is aproaching from behind, plus all the new teams are aware of the penaltys involved so they will be on the radio to tell their drivers to let the leaders pass. the 107% rule is too harsh on the new teams as you pointed out. All I say is give um a chance to come up to speed and welcome to F1.

  5. José Baudaier said on 20th March 2010, 3:29

    This 107% rule is really stupid. If the FIA wants the cars get better it should open test dates for the cars below the 107%. This way the teams would be able to do an actual proper test (which HRT wasn’t able to do so before) instead of having to wait weeks for a “race test”.

    • MEmo said on 23rd March 2010, 1:43

      I really like your idea: all cars beyond the 107% don´t get to race, but should get (let´s say) one more hour of practice on friday. That should balance things out…

  6. Rum and Coke said on 20th March 2010, 6:51

    Of course the 107% rule is needed!!!! Its lunacy to suggest there is no place for it!! Purely on the grounds of safety is enough reason to reinstate it, and should be done so as soon as!! You cannot have drivers pedalling around at the back 9 seconds off the pace as we saw in Baaaahrain!! Makes F1 look like a 2 tier series watching cars being lapped time and time again! I know I dont want to see my favourite driver plough up someones chuffer !!! #:)

  7. If we have 40 cars desperately going for 26 positions, then we don’t need an arbitrary speed cutoff. Surely there are enough teams in the world who can build and run Formula 1 cars within 1% of the leader. Formula 1 just needs to let all of them play and sort themselves out the natural way.

  8. Adrian said on 20th March 2010, 9:04

    Personally I don’t think it helped either HRT driver that they were on a new track layout that they weren’t familiar with, so as well as learning the car they were learning a large section of the circuit.

    Once we get to tracks that Senna and Chandhok have raced on before then I think their laptimes will dramatically improve as they’ll be focussing more on the car than learning the track.

    I do also agree with everyone saying that all the new teams will quickly close up the gap to the back of the existing teams.

    After all it’s often been said that it’s a lot easier to find those few seconds to get you close to the pack, than the tenths and hundreds that get you from the back to the front.

    I’m against the 107% rule, I’m for getting rid of blue flags, but I do think that the FiA should stipulate that whoever gets the 13th grid slot for next year MUST attend at least 1 pre-season testing session.

  9. Great article Keith, couldn’t agree more…

  10. ExplosiveFace said on 20th March 2010, 11:21

    FIA: Okay, new team time.
    HRT: Yay, we made it!
    FIA: Oh, you’re 10 seconds off the fastest time? Sorry, but there’s this new rule. You’re out.

  11. Pingguest said on 20th March 2010, 11:42

    Formula 1 indeed doesn’t need a 107%-rule. It wouldn’t fit the current qualifying format either, because of the post-qualifying parc fermĂ©.

  12. carlos said on 20th March 2010, 13:27

    It is more of an attempt by F1 honchos to make the race even more boring.They have a lot of practice in this subject. Lets not upset the apple cart by having one of the top notch prima-donnas, having to deal with a slow paced car in his quest for glory. Why make him have to pass anyone, by God, he qualified 1st so he has a 98% chance to win the race anyways. There are no passes in F1 for the first 8 cars. This is a Sunday drive in the park.

  13. taurus said on 20th March 2010, 13:38

    Why make F1 so easy for the top drivers? It’s supposed to be a challenge.

    If Alonso/Button/Schumacher/whoever have a problem in Q1 and set a lap 20 seconds off the pace, there would be outcry of ‘oh they would have qualified, let them in the race’. but if Senna/Chandhok/Di Grassi make a small error on their lap and set a time 2/10ths outside 107% they’re kept out of the race.

    More to the point, whats the difference between 107% and 106.9%?

    Stupid rule.

  14. Guelph35 said on 20th March 2010, 15:31

    Bring back the 107% rule, but allow anyone with a car that meets technical specifications to participate.

    No guaranteed grid positions, no restricted entry process. Limit 2 cars per team.

    Top 26 within 107% in Q1 get to race. Qualifying is much more interesting when someone has to go home.

  15. Accidental Mick said on 20th March 2010, 15:34

    I am repeating myself from a previous chain but I feel strongly on this.

    Keith is right. This is racing! That means that a faster car/horse/push-bike/runner has to overtake a slower one. If you find that difficult, stick to simulators.

    We need blue flags because drivers cannot see anything in those stupid little mirrors.

    • “We need blue flags because drivers cannot see anything in those stupid little mirrors.”

      Why do we need another thing when the other thing is the problem?

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