Formula One appears unlikely to tweak the current qualifying format despite concerns in 2011 about a flagging spectacle.
Overall, the ‘knockout’ format has been popular in recent years, with fast drivers graduating from the Q1 segment to Q2, and then from Q2 to the decisive top-ten Q3 session. But in 2011, with fresh sets of Pirelli’s heavily-degrading tyres at an unprecedented premium, a tactic increasingly deployed is for a driver to move into the next ‘Q’ segment but then sit out the actual session.
By doing this, the driver ensures a decent grid position and saves a fresh set of Pirellis for the race.
Team bosses in Abu Dhabi admitted that the phenomenon has been discussed recently during meetings.
“I think, generally, when that’s been discussed, it’s been the view of the teams that qualifying is actually quite an interesting format now,” McLaren’s Martin Whitmarsh said.
He said that after F1 moved from the free 60-minute format of 2002, several new formats were briefly trialled but then abandoned.
“So I think we should exercise quite a lot of caution before we change what is, frankly – certainly for those of us sat on the pitwall – pretty gripping,” said Whitmarsh, also the chairman of the FOTA group. He revealed that “the consensus view” during bosses meetings is that the existing format should stay.
Mercedes’ Ross Brawn concurred.
“Quite honestly, I think the ability for other teams to take a more tactical approach to try and compensate their performance is an added dimension,” he said when asked if drivers sitting out sessions is a problem. “As Martin said, we should be careful not to fiddle with it because it’s actually quite a good show.”