Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

History may hold the answer to qualifying's sit-out situation // Drivers waiting out qualifying is on the increase, so what is the solution?

Published by Christine

This weekend we saw a fantastic race in Spain that held a little bit of everything - intrigue, overtaking, suspense, strategy and, of course, an underdog winner. The great racing we are seeing on Sundays is tempered only by the fact that qualifying excitement has been sacrificed to generate such great Grand Prix.

Fisichella has the Hockenheim asphalt all to himself
Fisichella has the Hockenheim asphalt all to himselfCredit: Steven Tee/LAT

Since the Pirelli tyres were introduced, we have seen more and more drivers try the option of scraping through to the third session of qualifying and then failing to attempt a flying lap in those final ten minutes. They have their reasons, which are perfectly understandable, but it doesn't give the fans much to cheer about when the P1 pressure is really on.

Qualifying King

The problem has become high-profile once more

The problem has become high-profile once more after the action in Spain, when qualifying supremo Sebastian Vettel opted only for a reconnaissance lap on the harder tyre before settling himself in the garage to sit the rest of the session out. If even Vettel doesn't want to give it all he's got in the hopes of pole position, then something is definitely wrong.

There are arguments for both sides of the story. We've heard Paul di Resta defend himself with the knowledge that he does more laps getting into Q3 anyway, so the fans are not missing out. We've heard plenty of people say that as long as the races are more interesting, it doesn't really matter what happens on a Saturday.

The answer must surely lie somewhere in between. We want to keep the racing good, and the Pirelli tyres are doing a very fine job at that. However, it'd be better if Saturday was worth watching, and drivers didn't just hop in the cars if they feel like it.

For me, the solution is simple - bring back single lap qualifying.

One at a time

Each and every driver has to complete a lap

I'm confident that I am one of just three people that enjoyed single lap qualifying, and was sad to see it replaced at the end of 2005 for the current system. It would improve the show this season at a most fundamental level - each and every driver has to complete a lap. There would be no fuss about saving tyres, because drivers would only have to do the one tour of the circuit. There would also be no complaints from drivers being held up by others. Traffic would be a thing of the past in the post-qualifying press releases.

Some of the drawbacks of the single lap qualifying system included the fact that it could unnaturally mess up the order - particularly if a qualifying session was half wet, half dry. With the regulations the way they are, this could prove to be a benefit. Thanks to DRS, out of place drivers won't get stuck behind slower cars anymore, they will be able to fight their way through the field, just as Lewis Hamilton did in Spain.

Good times

I loved the one lap format, as it was easy to follow and allowed time to ponder what was going on without long minutes with no track action at all. It toed the line of being too drawn out by still managing to provide an exhilarating climax - making that "one driver left to do it" moment all the more obvious. I think it would be a great thing to have back, and I feel it would solve more problems than it would create.

As my final argument, it would also stop FOM randomly deciding not to show a particular team, because that would be two full laps of dead air. Bonus!