GP2 will split its 26-car field for qualifying at Monaco this year. Details via a press release from iSport:
On Thursday qualifying will be split into two groups, with each group out on the track for a total of 14 minutes each. The overall driver with the fastest time, will then start on pole in the Feature Race on Friday.
The groups will be determined by their number, i.e. odds in group 1 and evens in group 2. This will see Marcus Ericsson up against the current leader in the Championship, Davide Valsecchi, and Jolyon Palmer in the same group as Giedo Van der Garde.
This follows the chaos during last year’s qualifying session:
Now I’m not pretending for one second that there weren’t some potentially serious incidents there. But I think splitting the field into two is an over-reaction and I’m disappointed to see GP2 go down this route.
This wasn’t the first time GP2 qualifying had been run with 26 cars at Monaco. By taking a tough line with the drivers and warning them not to back off excessively on their in-laps and promising harsh penalties if they did, I think they could have prevented a repeat of last year’s nonsense.
There’s also the question of how this diminishes GP2 as a place where young drivers train to race in F1. There will be 24 cars on the track during Q1 in F1 on Saturday, and if we had a full entry of 13 teams there would be 26. Nor does GP2 have F1′s problem of some cars being several seconds slower than others.
Split qualifying was considered for F1 in 2010 when the field size increased from 20 to 24 but thankfully was dismissed:
It’s not clear from the press release how they’re going to sort the times out but it’s difficult to see how they could do it without potentially disadvantaging some drivers and over-rewarding others.
I think GP2 has taken the easy way out here and come up with an unsatisfactory solution. Frankly, it’s another example of the sport being dumbed down.