Fixing What Didn't Need to Be Fixed

In case you haven't seen it yet - the F1 Strategy Group and the F1 Commission has voted on and approved a new "knockout" qualifying format to go into effect this season.  This isn't a fully done deal - the FIA's World Motorsport Council still needs to approve it during their meetings next week prior to implementation, however it seems that the expectation is for them to rubber stamp it.

You can find the details on how this new qualifying is supposed to work, Motorsport and just about every other website that covers F1 has the details. Every time I re-read how this new format is supposed to work it starts to make a little more sense - but it still seems to be overly complicated.

The intention behind this new format is pretty clear - it's an attempt to make qualifying and thereby race day more unpredictable and therefor more exciting.  Except for one problem - the fastest car and driver combination will typically end up on pole.  That shouldn't change, its one of the rewards of getting it right, if you drive fast and your car works, you end up at the front.  Sometimes - an expected favorite won't perform as well and end up deeper in the grid, it's happened under what's about to become the legacy system and only time will tell if it's going to happen more often under the new system.

But the real question is - why this change? Of all the things that are wrong with F1, why did this get approved? Is this something that the teams actually wanted, or did it come from the same Land O' Great Ideas that gave us double points? There's already been rumors that this suggestion was driven by the promoters (aka FOM) to "improve the show."  But as with many of the changes implemented for the purpose of "the show" it misses what fans are asking to be fixed - the racing.  

Before looking for ways to bury the fastest cars deeper into the grid, how about looking at the root cause of why there's rarely close racing in F1.  Modern F1 cars are designed in a manner that makes them harder to control when they are following other cars closely. In a close racing situation the wash off the leading car causes the following car to have less grip and more tire wear, as a result the longer a driver is fighting close behind another driver the less likely they are to pass the leading driver, and the greater the likelyhood that they're going to have to drop back, sometimes significantly.  Instead of forcing the faster cars back down the grid - how about allowing teams to design their cars so that they're not so aero dependent and can follow and pass?  That would seem to make better sense than monkeying with qualifying...

Posted on February 25, 2016 .