OllieF1
2008 Qualifying Format: It Isn’t Much Of An Improvement

2008 Qualifying Format: It Isn’t Much Of An Improvement

The FIA have again tweaked qualifying. Instead of splitting the three sessions equally into 15 minute phases, they have now added 5 minutes to phase one (Q1) and deducted 5 minutes from phase three (Q3). The reason behind this change is aimed at reducing the fuel-burning phase that happened in Q3 last season. However, the FIA are attempting to solve the problem with the wrong solution and Q3 was a great disappointment for me earlier today.

Why Did The FIA Change Qualifying?

In 2007 drivers started qualifying with the fuel load they intended to start the race with. As qualifying progressed the drivers received fuel credits and essentially got the used gas pumped back in before the race. However, in order to set a really fast time, the car needed to be as light as possible. And fuel weighs a lot.

The driver would simply drive around the track for 5-10 minutes at the start of Q3, burning off the fuel and reducing the car’s weight. Then they would pit, change tyres and go for a flying lap. Not only was this fuel-burning phase boring to watch, but it kind of goes against the campaign the FIA have for making Formula One green.

Why I Didn’t Like Australia ’08 Qualifying?

The five minutes added to Q1 isn’t too much of an issue, it just means the cars stay in their garages a bit longer. When ITV started their broadcast of Australian qualifying, they cut to Nico Rosberg’s radio and we heard his engineer telling him to wait until the 8 minute point before going out. Ferrari left it even later, only leaving themselves enough time to squeeze in two runs.

However, Q3 should have been a mad dash for pole. We should have seen all ten drivers flying around Albert Park trying to get their last lap in last to ensure the track is at its fastest. It should have been a climax. Alas, it was not. Sebastian Vettel, who surprisingly got into Q3, just went out, scrubbed some tyres and returned to the pits on the same lap; he didn’t set a time. The reason behind this was because he obviously felt as though he couldn’t compete for pole on similar fuel load, so instead he chose to save his fuel in order to run a longer stint in the first part of the race.

At the very end of qualifying, in the last couple of minutes there were only a few drivers really going for it, on the absolute limit. Part of this problem is the change to the fuel credit system – it doesn’t exist anymore. The FIA removed this part in a hope to completely abolish fuel burning, and instead the cars start qualifying with the fuel they will start qualifying and the race with. But the knock-on effect is now the drivers are going for a reasonable grid slot while saving fuel. This means the driver can run longer in the first stint of the race and gain an advantage that way.

And to push the button further, I don’t like the fact that the pole lap is not the fastest set in the whole of qualifying. Take a look at the qualifying times. Kazuki Nakajima in fourteenth set that 1m26.413s lap in Q2. It is a lot faster than Lewis Hamilton’s pole-setting lap of 1m26.714s.

What I Think The Solution Is?

Years ago, the teams were given twelve laps and sixty minutes. “Now go get on with it”. That was pretty much it. Most drivers tended to go for a 4 three-lap runs; an out-lap, a quick-lap and an in-lap. That offers the driver four chances at setting the pole lap and the build-up during the hour was electrifying. The final few minutes of qualifying was a crazy dash with most drivers on track. The FIA moved away from this format though when it became clear a lot of drivers were leaving it until the halfway mark before venturing out on track. We still saw some action as the lesser-funded teams would go out just to get some TV coverage for their sponsors.

So what’s the difference between the top teams leaving it until the 30 minute mark in the old 60 minute session before going out, and the top teams leaving it until the 10 minute mark in a 20 minute session before going out? And this race-fuel issue? We do not need the extra complication and it ruins qualifying. The idea behind deciding the grid positions is that the cars run at their fastest; strategy shouldn’t come into it until the race.

What Did You Think?

I didn’t enjoy it too much, although Vettel impressed, as did Kubica. But regarding the format, did you enjoy it? Have your say in the comments below…

Oliver White

13 comments

  • Sadly I have to agree with you, I stood up all night to see an spectacular first qualifying for season 2008 but it was utterly disappointing, I’m glad you pointed out the way it used to be, with the sixty minutes qualifying time, I got entertained much more that way.

    do you think this less time for qualifying might effect the small teams, since the wont be on the screen that much anymore, thus their sponsors are going to pay less for the “time-on-screen fee” or tv-coverage? if so that is going to be a bad thing…

  • The smaller teams actually get more coverage. In theory, anyway. As a smaller team, you’re unlikely to get through to Q2, so all your work is done in Q1. And Q1 is now 20 minutes, as opposed to 15. And all the top teams wait before going out, so the cameras have to show the smaller teams as it is only them on track.

  • I haven’t liked any of the formats since the 60min/12laps was abolished.

    Today’s session was no better than the nonsense last year, and I probably won’t be bothered getting up for the other far eastern qualifying sessions.

  • The solution is dead simple, but to clever for Mosley to get it. One hour, 12 laps minimum, required to run in each 15 minute segment. Everyone gets equal television coverage. Traffic? Boohoo.

  • The current qualifying format isn’t great but I actually prefer it to the 12 lap version. At least there is a little bit of excitement every 10/15 minutes as we find out which teams are on the bubble.

    The 12 lap version only requires watching the last few minutes.

    The right answer might be a to split Q3 into a top 4 shoot out or something and just run it as fastest car and get rid of the entire fuel fiasco.

    There are other options too — I’ll spend some time on it at F1-Pitlane next week ….

  • One hour, 12 laps minimum, required to run in each 15 minute segment.

    This is what I’ve been saying since they abolished the old 12-lap/60-minute session. Just enforce a run every 15 minutes. It isn’t rocket science.

    @Christine: Thanks for the update.

    get rid of the entire fuel fiasco

    I’m right behind you on this one John. The race-fuel thing is just silly. Yes, it adds a little excitement to the race, but it takes away a helluva lot from qualifying.

  • “And to push the button further, I don’t like the fact that the pole lap is not the fastest set in the whole of qualifying. Take a look at the qualifying times. Kazuki Nakajima in fourteenth set that 1m26.413s lap in Q2. It is a lot faster than Lewis Hamilton’s pole-setting lap of 1m26.714s.”

    Ollie, i really enjoy your blog, but that is a ridiculous statement. Nakajima didn’t progress onwards to Q3 because of the fact that 13 drivers set a faster time than him in Q2. Does it honestly matter that much if the times look irregular on a single table of results? Each fan understands the format, and those that do not will understand in due course. Regardless of fuel consumption, limitations or predesignations he wasn’t the fastest on the day.

    I prefer to make the best of any given situation, and although there are prominent issues that need to be addressed within qualifying, let’s just extract what entertainment we can and keep annoyances that could detract from this experience seperate from any given race weekend.

    I understand your reservations over the current format, but you have a far greater resource in your noggin than to rely on general nitpicking.

  • I understand your reservations over the current format, but you have a far greater resource in your noggin than to rely on general nitpicking.

    Thanks for your comments Jamie, reading the opinions/thoughts of regular visitors always brings a smile to my face.

    Regarding Nakajima setting a quicker time than the final pole position, I do understand why this happens, but it irks me that qualifying is less about a battle to be the fastest and more about the battle to have the best strategy during the race.

    By comparing Nakajima’s lap to Hamilton’s I had hoped to point out that (and back up) my issue with the format: it being more about strategy than outright speed.

    I don’t see my comments about qualifying as nitpicking as I find qualifying is/was a fundamental part of the grand prix weekend, and I feel that raising these points while fresh in my mind is better. However, I do see that perhaps posting this immediately after the re-run of qualifying (for UK audiences) was a tad crude.

  • “I understand your reservations over the current format, but you have a far greater resource in your noggin than to rely on general nitpicking.”

    Jamie, general nitpicking is the best bit! that’s why i read blogs… the devil’s in the detail. life would be pretty dull if 50 bloggers all wrote:

    “hamilton was fastest, w00t!”

    hell, it’d be just like reading the tabloids.

  • the devil’s in the detail.

    *Ollie goes off in hunt for the supposed devil lurking in his detail…*

    Thanks for stopping by bigotez. I have a question for you if I may: Why are your posts on your site in Spanish but the titles in English? I presume you are Spanish-speaking, so why not write the titles in Spanish as well? Please forgive me if I’m prying; I have nine lives so curiosity rarely does me any major harm. 🙂

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