What is qualifying for?

I think we’ve spoken on this blog several times about what can be done to improve qualifying but I’ve started to realise an underlying nagging problem. I’m not sure I know what qualifying is for?

In the old days qualifying used to be a method for ensuring that all of the cars were suitable for racing on Sunday. It also was a chance to see the cars running at their absolute optimum flat out. The only way to get the cars to run flat out was to give the teams and drivers a something worthwhile to compete for grid position. But what is qualifying for now? It has almost become a separate event and we have lost the principle aims of qualifying. You can no longer fail to qualify, and the spectators don’t get to see an ultimate fastest lap because of qualifying with race fuel.

Why was race fuel introduced? Apparently it was introduced to spice up the show and to make the grid order occasionally erratic. I’m not sure it has been totally effective at this. What seems to happen is that things are erratic and uncertain for the first few races of a season, when these kinds of rules are introduced, and then after a while everything returns to normal.

The simplest option would be to either return to a free for all qualifying format like in the old days – which will result in most of the qualifying session being sat out by competitors. Or perhaps a preferable option for the TV audience which is that we stick with what we have now but have the final session be like sessions 1 and 2 with no race fuel.

The problem is that this leaves us with the grid order being almost certainly fastest at the the front slowest at the back and no overtaking. I must admit to being a fan of the reverse championship grids suggested here last year and most recently by Patrick Head. I understand some people think that they aren’t pure and some people think cars will get stuck behind other drivers but what we have now is non-pure. Race fuel confuses things, Kimi was fastest last week but opted for more fuel. That’s a pretty confusing state of affairs which points to the increased irrelevance of qualifying. And I’m pretty sure that the teams would suddenly wake up to the problems of overtaking a slower car. Aerodynamic simplification would have to happen and quickly because it would suddenly be in the teams best interests.

But what would we do on Saturday? Bernie won’t be able to sell all of those precious tickets – he’d never allow it. Unless…

What if qualifying on Saturday was a pure qualifying, no race fuel. Just the fastest cars going as fast as they can. I personally would still go for the three sessions and just have the third one be without fuel. It means people are racing the whole time.

But why would drivers go quickly? Simple. We’ll give them points:

1st – 5 points
2nd – 4 points
3rd – 3 points
4th – 2 points
5th – 1 point

This would throw up one weird possibility that qualifying well on Saturday could move you backwards on the grid on Sunday. But I think that would be the exception rather than the rule.

What do you think? Too radical?

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About Alex Andronov

Alex Andronov is a writer who lives in the UK. He is currently working on 7 novels, 5 film scripts, 2 plays, 2 TV series, 1 history of the United States, 1 travelogue and trying to find some focus.
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