In a year of widespread reforms to the regulations, the FIA are perhaps looking to employ more alterations ahead of Melbourne, as the current Qualifying format comes under scrutiny. This is hardly surprising, considering that many Q3 sessions have become somewhat of a non-starter in recent years as teams look to prioritise race strategy over grid position. With a meeting scheduled for 21st February, could the Qualifying landscape be set for alterations?
All-Out In Q3
The spectacle is always at the forefront of the FIA’s mind and the spectacle on Saturday’s has been in decline in recent seasons. As tyre degradation and the delta between compounds has increased, teams who have not been in with a decent shot at the Pole Position have instead opted to ‘qualify’ on the prime compound tyre or alternatively, not even hit the track in the final ten minutes of the session. The collective groan which was an inevitability when one, two or even three cars remained within the confines of the garage at what should be the climax of Saturday, undoubtedly concerned Ecclestone and company.
Consequently, there are reports suggest that the governing body are ready to take action. Team bosses are scheduled to meet the FIA in Bahrain on the third day of the second pre-season test, where they are set to discuss possible reforms to the format, (according to The Mirror and Autosport). Past suggestions for alterations have been introducing an unbroken one hour session, where all drivers would post times throughout the hour. Another idea, which has been highlighted as a possibility by Pirelli, is to introduce qualifying tyres, specifically for Q3. These tyres would only be permitted for use in the final part of the session and would not be used again during Sunday.
The latter idea seems more suitable. In my opinion, changing the qualifying format in such a revolutionary season seems unnecessary and I doubt it would be accepted by teams. Surly they have enough to contend with this year, let alone the possibility of a radically modified Qualifying session.
Do We Really Need Change?
Personally, I feel that there are a number of issues with the possibility of reform. Firstly, the timing of the meeting seems awkward, considering that team bosses will be preoccupied with the stresses of tests and will perhaps not be in the correct frame of mind to deliberate possible regulation reforms. However, Team Principal’s are rare breeds of people – they have an incredible ability to absorb stress and maintain a professional attitude in all circumstances. What could derail the talks is the fact that this season’s tyre compounds are markedly harder than the predecessors. Drivers have already developed an understanding following the first test as there was a notable difference. Naturally, this should push teams into running in Q3, as strategy in the race will be devalued due to less degradation and therefore, more freedom in regards to pit-stops. The issue of teams refusing a run in Q3 has only been a problem since tyres have become more fragile – Up until then, the three session format was praised on a frequent basis. Since its introduction in 2005, the format has provided memorable moments, with criticism only being a recent development.
Consequently, my feeling is that the FIA should refrain from making radical changes to the format until after they have observed how the new era of Formula One affects Saturday entertainment. If the Q3 issues still remain after 2014, it would make sense to make alterations. For now, patience may be the best bet for the FIA.