New F1 Qualifying Rules. Hot or Not?

A few posts ago I complained that Formula 1 needs to change to make it more exciting and entertaining again, but feared that the old farts in FIA move too slow to make real changes anytime soon. Now I stand firmly corrected.

Last week it was decided to throw out the old rules covering the qualifying sessions in F1, and introduce new ones. Some elements of the old rules are retained, but F1 qualifying is now moving from a system where the X fastest drivers at the end of a session would be able to join the next session, to a knockout system. I don’t know of any other motorsports where this system is used – but I’m not terribly familiar with anything except for F1 and Formula E, so there might be plenty.

Qualifying will still be split into three sessions, like today: Q1, Q2, and finally, Q3. Q1 will last for 16 minutes, and all cars are allowed on track. The slowest driver will be eliminated after 7 minutes, and have to return to the pit lane. Then, cars are eliminated at 8m30s, 10m0s, 11m30s, 13m0s and 14m30s until 16 cars remain. The same procedure will be used in Q2, but that session is 1 minute shorter than Q1, meaning that the first car will be eliminated after 6 minutes, the next one after 7m30s, and so on. At the end of Q2, 9 cars remain, and these cars will be allowed to run in Q3. That session is an additional minute shorter, 14 minutes, with the first car being eliminated after 5 minutes, the next after 6m30s, and so on. In all three sessions, all remaining drivers may complete a flying lap if they have crossed the line in time. This also applied with the old qualifying rules. At the end of Q3, the final classification is established.

The new rules will be effective from the first race of the 2016 season, which is Australia’s Melbourne Grand Prix next weekend. The rules will get everyone on the track at the same time, and keep drivers, pit crew, stewards, and the commentators busy. Hamilton or Rosberg will probably start from pole position with the new rules as well, but hopefully, the changes will give the audience the entertainment they deserve. We’ll probably see some proper racing during the qualifying sessions, and it’s pretty much guaranteed that some drivers will complain about being blocked to the stewards. How well these new rules will work in practice, remains to be seen, but I, for one, am pretty excited.

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