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. Dennis said on 20th March 2010, 17:39

    Well Le Mans 24 hours race cars do have different aerodynamics and that makes it easier to pass. Besides, don’t F1 cars go a LOT faster? I do think it’s a stupid rule but it does have some validity. A team like HRT that didn’t get their act together before the season started harms the sport’s image. Their first weekend was a total joke. There is some validity in getting new teams to prove themselves before starting the season IMO. What way to do that is debatable and I think Keith’s idea of pre-season qualifying is good too. That does raise a few questions as to when etc.

    But the main reason I’m against the 107% rule is that the FIA is just TOO LATE! I mean, I’m not an expert on F1. But if I was the head of the FIA and I saw 3 new teams, all with restricted budgets and all with that new Cosworth Engine, I’d think about it a little longer than 3.5 seconds. You KNOW the’re bound to be slow and probably unreliable, so you KNOW you should take measures BEFORE the season starts. It doesn’t take a professor to see that. This should be a wake up call to the FIA to start thinking about their decisions instead of just doing whatever springs to mind.

  2. William Wilgus said on 20th March 2010, 18:20

    I can think of at least one track where the 107% makes sense: Monaco.

  3. PeterG said on 20th March 2010, 21:19

    In the 70s there were entries for one race only.
    Sometiimes this lead to a grid of 30+ cars. So severe accidents happened due to the big grid or the slower cars then. There is no reason why anyone that builds an F1 car, is ready to enter in all races should be banned from actually racing.

  4. The Limit said on 21st March 2010, 3:06

    The problems with these new teams is not just the lack of pace, but the lack of testing and preperation they have been allowed to do over the winter. HRT are a classic example, the car only being launched a few weeks before the Bahrain event. The first time their car saw action being in Bruno Senna’s hands in Thursday practice, a driver who has spent a year on the sidelines with no prior F1 experience of note.
    When we think of the now absent Toyota and Honda teams who, despite all their billions of dollars worth of investment in F1, achieved so little, it really puts things in perspective.
    Personally, I think the ban on testing was a mistake. If anything it costs more money than it saves, stiffles the development of new drivers coming up through the ranks, and denies fans the opportunity to see the cars in action. Let people see these cars enmasse, whether the tests are conducted in Spain or England, and split the proceeds between the teams taking part. Offer an incentive!
    If we are not carefull, we will be left with a grid with only four or five teams, giving the FIA no choice but the deploy the three car rule. New teams have to be encouraged.
    If it were up to me, the eight engine per season rule would be scrapped. Give the drivers hard tyres only and manual gearboxes.

  5. GeeMac said on 21st March 2010, 8:48

    If they re-introduce the 107% rule and keep the testing ban any new team that comes into F1 are doomed. End of argument.

    My proposal is that if teams fail to meet the 107% rule in quali, they should be allowed more testing time between races to help get them back up to speed.

  6. Oliver said on 21st March 2010, 16:40

    I’m not going to read any comments right now, but I agree with this article entirely.
    F1 has changed completely from a few years ago. It is even more difficult for a new team to enter F1, despite the absence of the $50M bond, than it was in the late 20th century.
    Even teams that have spend hundreds of millions in recent years still get it woefully wrong, what then do you expect from a team without even the basic infrastructure.

    Indeed we want serious and `competent teams, but it cant happen over night.

  7. Spot on Keith, no 107% rule should be allowed. If there were an excess number of teams competing for limited places, you could justify a pre-qualifying round or qualifying within 107%.

    These were hand picked teams adjudged by the FIA to be competent race teams. Let them run until they develop the skills and or sponsorship to get competitive. After all, it is a learning process. And what the hell, back markers getting lapped may be the only passing we see this year.

  8. Chris Snell said on 22nd March 2010, 1:50

    Maybe the blue flag should be taken back to its origins – a warning of a faster car approaching from behind – not a mandatory ‘Get out of the way or be punished’ rule.

  9. Praful said on 22nd March 2010, 6:56

    I just caught a couple of minutes of the Bahrain GP… the part when Ferraris overtook Vettel. And it felt really boring and drab to me. “It must have been me missing a lot of the race or checking it at the wrong time”, I thought… But as it seems now the race was exceptionally boring and everybody thinks so!

  10. Chaz said on 22nd March 2010, 18:30

    I am not in favour of the rule. It’s counter productive and self defeating. Many of the top teams were once at the bottom of the grid and life would have been all the harder with the addition of this rule. Give the lads at the end of the grid a break. They already have lots to deal with not to mention wildly differing budgets and resources…

  11. Martin said on 23rd March 2010, 21:35

    if someone could flesh out a bit just what notifications drivers receive of cars approaching from the rear/cars up ahead, it would help me to understand the safety element of the 107/blue flag disputes – given the knowledgeable folks on her, I’ll just say thanks in advance! :)

    • Alex Bkk said on 25th March 2010, 1:03

      I don’t think that you need a 107% rule, as long as you have a blue flag rule. Backmarkers can make for a very interesting race. A faster car getting around a slower car is good to see, but a slower car holding up a race leader would be a nightmare. I’m sure even the Lotus could find a way to hold up a Ferrari if a Lotus wanted to.

      Considering the problems of passing any car in F1 I think that the blue flag rule is fine as it is. If the aerodynamics of the cars were changed to allow passing then you could consider revising the blue flag law.

  12. Daniel Meyer said on 23rd June 2010, 19:15

    Quote: “This is clearly not the case. The slowest qualifier for last year’s Le Mans 24 Hours was 29% slower than the pole sitter.” Does the author understand Le Mans? The circuit is massive and there are 4 different classes also it isn’t about raw pace, but strategy and reliability. Think before you write, don’t compare endurance and F1…

    Quote: ” 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%.” Oh yes just make them fly to testing at all the circuits for the season before it starts??? That makes no sense. Certain cars can be substantially slower or faster at different circuits, just look at Ferrari at Istanbul. You would have to test at all tracks to make that workable and what if they don’t make it at pre-season? Then they can’t participate at events and develop their cars throughout the practice sessions? The entire concept is frivolous.They get TV coverage in practice and qualifying so let them have their time but don’t let them ruin a good race.

    7% is a huge margin too. Let’s say the average track is 80 seconds at top qualifying pace for Q1. That means a slow team could be 5.6 seconds off the pace. Thats a huge margin by modern F1 standards. It’s not going to play out weaker teams all that much, only remove slow cars when they are going to be a nuisance.

    To those of you who say the back-loggers are good, I beg to differ. Have any of you gone karting? You should know the frustration of being stuck behind a slow driver with little grip who blocks the racing line, makes contact or any one of a hundred things that slow you down and allow your competitors to catch up with you. It doesn’t add dynamic, it removes the principles of fighting from behind, opening up the gap etc etc. It just makes racing difficult. What about when two rivals are battling it out, go in for a pit-stop but are separated on the exit by a slow car. It widens the gap and removes the fun of an epic battle. Decently fast cars don’t allow to large a gap to form and the battle that takes between them is good to watch.

    Come now, we need this rule! It was removed in the first place because Michael Schumacher was so blisteringly quick and there was such a huge discrepancy in times. That has come down and now we need the rule to stop this discrepancy in times occurring again. It drives development and speed!

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 23rd June 2010, 21:46

      Does the author understand Le Mans? The circuit is massive and there are 4 different classes also it isn’t about raw pace, but strategy and reliability. Think before you write, don’t compare endurance and F1…

      I used the Le Mans example to debunk the ‘safety’ argument for the 107% rule, not to pretend endurance racing and Grand Prix racing are alike. The comparison is entirely valid for that purpose.

      Oh yes just make them fly to testing at all the circuits for the season before it starts?

      I didn’t say anything like that. The teams already congregate at the same circuits for pre-season testing (with the rare exception of HRT this year) so some kind of evaluation could easily be introduced there.

      It just makes racing difficult.

      Which is a good thing in a world championship where we’re trying to find out who the best drivers are. Drivers getting caught behind backmarkers gave us some of the most exciting and pivotal moments of the last race.

      It was removed in the first place because Michael Schumacher was so blisteringly quick

      No it wasn’t. It was removed because qualifying with race fuel loads was introduced in 2003.

  13. rlatchana (@rlatchana) said on 26th March 2011, 14:11

    I suggest a different rule… lapped cars should leave the track!

  14. Bret Branon said on 11th April 2011, 21:16

    The 107% Rule.
    It worked in round One. HRT was Out, cause they are not good enough.
    This weekend in Malaysia we saw how weak that 107 rule really is.
    The teams view Q1 like practice. Fastest time was a 1:36 in Q1 and the slowest a 1:42. It’s worth saying here that Vettel was 10th in Q1.
    In Q3 Vettel got Pole and had a time of 1:34.
    The 107% rule should apply to the Pole time. Not the time guys are making it around in Q1, testing their set ups. The good team it seems view Q1 like More Practice.
    107% of the best qualifying time, Period. That should be the knock out standard. The 107 rule is feeble otherwise.
    We watch F1 to see the best drivers, the best teams, the best machinery and the ultimate in racing. Delivering the audience anything less makes a fan’s heart look elsewhere.

  15. Rhys Coles (@lightmas) said on 14th October 2011, 3:00

    Couldent agree less!

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 14th October 2011, 3:50

      @lightmas Why?

      • Rhys Coles (@lightmas) said on 14th October 2011, 6:41

        I will answer properly later when less asleep :)

      • Rhys Coles (@lightmas) said on 14th October 2011, 20:16

        Ok :)

        I think having a car 129% off the pace would be dangerous, we have seen accidents already that prove that. I really dont think using endurance racing is a good comparison to F1 corner speed manly, plus the cars are very different.

        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.

        This is probably a little out of date, the new teams have been more or less accepted, and I think the amount the back marks effect the races is just about right. Not having blue flags is a whole other argument. The rule has been around for a long time (apart from a gap) with good reason.

        Above all though, whats your problem with the rule, considering HRT and Virgin are within rule? If they are within it now, going backwards isnt an option. If its on there radar, they should not be in F1. Thats my opinion. This is the pinnacle of Motorsport, the top top class. If a driver went only a fast as he needed to and not push 100% he would have no future, so why accept this attitude with teams?

        Anything below what they are doing in terms of performance or ambition is too low, therefore wanting to drop the rule to 110% is a joke. HRT do fill a role, the driver over the hill who has already had too many chances, and the pay driver (which thankfully now deserves to be in F1). Having the rule forces teams to at least try and go faster.

        As for the pre-season test idea, teams are slower/faster at different tracks so….it would not work.

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