Formula One is set to trial a new qualifying format for the first 2 events of the season and if it proves successful it will be retained for the remaining 20 races this year.
The last time F1 tinkered with qualifying led to the infamous Martin Brundle comment back in 2016: “So you know, if you asked me to name 10 things that I’d like to change in Formula One, qualifying wouldn’t have made it into the top 10.”
F1 has an ever decreasing jeopardy issue
The problem facing F1 is there is an ever decreasing amount of jeopardy. During the early years of the sport there was a host of things that could shake up any predictability in F1, though over time and through the vast budgets the teams now have, much of this has gone.
Hence the sport feels the need to keep increasing jeopardy through its sporting or technical regulations.
So for 2016 an elimination system was created for qualifying which knocked out a driver every 90 seconds. There were still 3 qualifying sessions but this proved confusing because a number of drivers were eliminated while on their first flying lap.
2016 F1 qualifying rules proved a joke
The problem was further exacerbated when in Q3 the teams decided to send their drivers out for their quick laps at the beginning of the session to avoid elimination. This meant the second part of Q3 saw an empty track with no action.
The TV graphics were entertaining though as they showed a driver being knocked out every 90 seconds, and as the camera cut to the relevant racer he was often out of the car chatting to the mechanics.
This format survived just the first two events of the season then everyone agreed to revert to the current format.
New F1 qualifying to be trialed in 2023
Well Formula One is again to experiment with qualifying at the start of 2023. This time though it is in the name of sustainability rather than improving jeopardy.
The tyre allocation for the F1 weekend is being cut by 2 sets from 13 to 11 and the teams will be forced to run each of the qualifying sessions on a given compound.
In Q1 the competitors will use the hard tyre, the medium in Q2 and the soft tyre in Q3.
Sustainability the claimed objective
The FIA claim, “This will be done to evaluate the impact of the reduction in tyre allocation on track-running, with the overall intention to move to more sustainable use of tyres in the future.”
The Pirelli boss Mario Isola supports the idea believing “it will save a lot of tyres.”
1760 to be exact for a 22 event F1year.
Isola explains, ”We got the proposal….. it is my favourite scenario. We are talking about durability. Currently with the current regulations, you have to be careful with the Soft tyre for qualifying and you can’t use it for the race.
“If you allocate two sets of Hards for Q1, two sets of Mediums for Q2 and two sets of Softs for Q3, you still have six sets for the race. That’s perfect. We save a lot of tyres with that, without disrupting the F1 show.”
Will it hurt the slower cars?
Some F1 observers believe this will harm the slower cars who at present often choose the quicker tyre in Q1 hoping to get the jump on a faster car using a slower tyre.
However, with the new ground effect cars introduced in 2022, it was noticeable that at the same time on the same circuit cars would be quicker on slower tyres than others on harder compounds.
In Sau Paulo, for example Sebastian Vettel in his Aston Martin breezed by Lando Norris in the opening laps even though the McLaren had been quicker all season and they were on the same tyre.
Mercedes and Ferrari also struggled at times with the hard tyre and could be well off the pace until they switched to the medium or soft tyre.
So as in 2016, we can hope the new qualifying system is a success and again brings a little more jeopardy to how the grid for the grand prix is set.