Tag Archives: Qualifying

Formula One: Mercedes elevate Haas in Qualifying

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The Haas F1 team achieved their best qualifying positions of the season Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutiérrez qualifying 8th and 10th respectively for the Japanese Grand Prix earlier today.

The teams elevated positions on the grid can be in part attributed to continued concerns from Mercedes Powered teams around the reliability of their power unit following Lewis Hamilton’s engine failure at the Malaysian Grand Prix. The Williams F1 team, whose drivers Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas qualifying 12th & 11th confirmed they were using an older power unit (unit 3 of the allocated 5 per season) at the request of Mercedes.

It is understood similar precautions have been taken with at both Force India and Manor Racing. The Mercedes works team also confirmed neither Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg were permitted to run power units at fully optimised levels during qualifying. Completing qualifying in at reduced performance levels may explain why the gap to Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Ferrari was less than in recent qualifying sessions.

Non Mercedes powered teams can expect  similar cautionary actions to be taken in the race tomorrow, no doubt every effort will be taken by other teams to capitalise on this opportunity and apply pressure to the power unit dominating the series.

Formula One: Lewis dismisses ludicrous sabbatical talk

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After setting a dominant pole position around the Circuit de Barcelona – Catalunya this after noon Lewis Hamilton put to bed any speculation that he was considering a sabbatical bluntly remarking: “A year out? No way. Whoever wrote that was smoking something. Some pretty good stuff.”

British tabloid and elements of the broadsheet media set about the story earlier this ahead of today’s qualifying session. Lewis took the opportunity of the FIA top 3 qualifying press conference to respond to the rumours directly.

The Mercedes AMG Petronas team secured their 58th pole position, moving one ahead of the Red Bull Racing team in the all time tally, in dominant style with Lewis setting a 1:22.000 time. Setting the time in his second run in Q3 Lewis’ time was 0.280’s ahead of team mate Nico Rosberg.

Speaking about his pole time and tomorrow’s race in prospect Lewis commented “That felt great today to finally put the lap together, I’m very very happy. You always need to put that performance in, it reassures your belief, and Nico had been so fast this weekend, sometimes two tenths quicker, sometimes more. I could see on my data where I was losing, so I had to try and figure it out on track, and it is so satisfying to attack that obstacle and get through it. I am really grateful to the team for working hard overnight to put the car in the right place for me to fight – and now it’s three poles from three for me when I’ve been able to do the laps in qualifying. I haven’t had a proper race with Nico yet this year so I am hoping that will start tomorrow. It’s very hard to overtake here, so strategy is important, as is looking after the tyres: the forces round this circuit means it just eats the tyres up, so you need to get that balance just right and see it through to the finish”


Formula One: Rio Haryanto “It was an interesting session for us”

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Temperatures tumble for Qualy creating slip-slidey conditions at the Sochi Autodrom

Sochi Autodrom

Pascal  Q1  P20  10 laps  1:39.399

Rio  Q1  P21  10 laps  1:39.463  

Rio Haryanto:

“It was an interesting session for us; it feels like we’ve made a step up and we’re closer to those around us versus previous races. My last lap could have been better. I suffered a bit with traffic and lost about two tenths in the last sector, so it was frustrating not to get a clean lap. As for tomorrow, I can’t wait. The aim is to get a good clean start, especially with such a long run down to the first corner, then get the maximum from the car. Our long runs on Friday looked positive so with good tyre management I’m looking forward to a strong race tomorrow!”

Pascal Wehrlein:

“Qualifying was a bit frustrating today. This morning the track temperature was much hotter and the sun was out, so it was easier to bring the tyres to temperature. This afternoon it was harder to get them into the working window. We were hoping for more to be honest, because in FP3 we looked good. I think the race will be a different story; you can see from today that my lap times have improved so I think after 5 to 10 laps we’ll be okay. In qualifying you only have one or two laps and when you are just sliding; it’s hard. So, I’m focusing on tomorrow and hopeful that we can have a good battle with Sauber and Renault.”

Dave Ryan, Racing Director:

“After final practice this morning it seemed that the hard work last night had paid off for us but we struggled slightly more in qualifying when the cooler ambient temperature made it more difficult to get the tyres into the right operating window. The tyres were improving with every lap so that bodes well for the race tomorrow and hopefully we can enjoy a good battle with the cars around us.”

Formula One: FIA confirm qualifying to revert to 2015 format

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In a short press release the FIA have confirmed that in full agreement with the teams and the rights holder, subject to the approval of F1 governing bodies, qualifying will return to the 2015 format from the Chinese Grand Prix and will apply for the remainder of the season:

At the unanimous request of the teams in a letter received today, Jean Todt, President of the FIA, and Bernie Ecclestone, commercial rights holder representative, accepted, in the interests of the Championship, to submit a proposal to the F1 Commission and World Motor Sport Council to revert to the qualifying format in force in 2015. 

This proposal, if approved by the F1 governing bodies, will take effect as from the Chinese Grand Prix and will apply for the rest of the season. 

Jean Todt and Bernie Ecclestone welcomed the idea put forward by the teams to have a global assessment of the format of the weekend for 2017. 

The statement can be found here.

Formula One: Hamilton SMASHES Bahrain Lap Record!

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Lewis Hamilton smashed the Bahrain International Circuit lap record earlier this evening setting a sensational pole position lap time 0.077 seconds faster than teammate Nico Rosberg. The previous lap record for the Bahrain International Circuit, held by Mark Webber, was set in 2005 during the V10 era of the sport. A time which many regard as the pinnacle of unconstrained design.  Hamilton’s Pole time was 0.034’s clear of the previous lap record, serves to add further weight to arguments that current F1 engine technology should be regarded as true works of excellence.

Also noteworthy is that Lewis’ 2016 pole time was 3.078’s faster than the 2015 pole lap.  Much of this improvement could be attributed to the super soft tyre being used for the first time in Bahrain, but such an step in performance over a 12 month period demonstrates the capabilities of both the Mercedes AMG Petronas team and the entire grid.

With performance evolving at this rate, perhaps the FIA and Strategy group should reconsider the need to fundamental regulation changes for the 2017 season.

Lewis Hamilton
I’m really happy with that – the last lap was so much fun! Throughout practice and most of qualifying my laps weren’t quite perfect and Nico would be ahead by a tenth here and a tenth there – whatever it might be. So, to finally put it all together when it counted was really satisfying – and quite a relief! There was big pressure too, as I went off on the previous lap and knew I had to make a big improvement. A massive thank you to everyone here at the track and also back at the factories in Brackley and Brixworth for this car. It’s really very special. It will be important to get a good start tomorrow, like always, especially as there’s a longer run down to turn one here than in Melbourne. It’s something we’ve been working on – but we’ve only had a couple of weeks since the last race, so I don’t expect big improvements. Hopefully it’s better than last time – we’ll see.

Nico Rosberg
My lap felt good and I was sure that I had got pole when I crossed the line – but then the guys told me that Lewis was just a bit quicker. He did an incredible lap at the end, so a good job from him. The good news for me is that this is one of the tracks where pole position counts for the least. Strategy tomorrow will be important and maybe even quite messy, so there are still a lot of opportunities. You have a few more places to overtake here than at other tracks too, so I’m quite confident for tomorrow. Tyres are going to be a big issue. We have softer tyres here than last year and it will be interesting to see how long they last and when they will start graining. It should be an entertaining race, so I’m looking forward to it.

Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
Leaving aside any comment on the qualifying format itself, the actual battle today between our two cars – and also between ourselves and Ferrari – was very close and really exciting. It was only in the final part of Q2 and Q3 that Lewis and Nico hooked everything up – and for Lewis it came down to his final Q3 lap after he ran wide on his first run. What he produced was a stunning lap, the fastest ever on this circuit – quicker even than the V10 era – and more than three seconds faster than last year’s pole. Really impressive. Nico came very close to beating it and fell less then a tenth short in the end after his fastest lap of the session. My feelings about this qualifying format haven’t changed and there is nothing to add to what I’ve already said about it. Now we focus on tomorrow’s race, on getting off the line well – and what I am sure will be a very tight battle with Ferrari.

Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical)
A fantastic competition between our two drivers and the two Ferraris – the result of having four cars very close in performance here. There was a lot of excitement building up to those second Q3 runs, with Lewis making a mistake in the final corner and adding extra pressure to his second lap. All four cars made it out for another run and it was a closely fought thing, with terrific laps from Lewis and Nico to lock out the front row. There’s a great sense of pride in seeing this car set an all-time lap record tonight. There’s a lot of negative talk around at the moment, with suggestions that these cars aren’t fast or exciting enough. In fact, they’re now proving to be quicker than those of the V10 era – previously the fastest machines in Formula One history. All credit to the men and women on both the chassis and Power Unit side of this project for their innovative, record-breaking work.

Formula One: Qualifying Fix – Bernie was right

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With the exception of one or two drivers who qualified slightly out of position and a tiny minority of supporters, the consensus of opinion among teams, drivers, broadcasters, and most importantly fans, is that the new qualifying system does not work.  An immediate response is required.

Team principles, the FIA, and representation from FOM (Formula One Management) will meet ahead of the race tomorrow to discuss how the system can be overhauled. The most likely outcome is that the qualifying format will revert to that used in 2015, but before this decision is taken consideration should be given to why a change in qualifying was first proposed.

If qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix told us anything it was that Mercedes AMG Petronas  have retained if not extended their advantage over the rest of the field. A season of Silver Arrows domination is in prospect. This is not good for the reputation of the sport and it is not good for fans of racing.

Perhaps than, Bernie Ecclestone’s proposal to radically overall qualifying should be reconsidered. Whilst details around the proposal are vague, it is understood a proposal for a reverse grid based on a top 10 shoot out was mooted.  Critics suggest teams would then compete to set the slowest time in a shoot out situation, but this could be overcome through awarding points for qualification. In so doing the relevance of qualifying would be increased and a further strategic balancing act added to the weekend.

Building on the details available of Bernie Ecclestone’s proposal, reverting to the 2015 format of qualifying over 3 sessions culminating in a top 10 shot out should be reintroduced. Drivers making it into Q3 would be awarded points on a sliding scale from 10 – 1 (10 for pole, 1 for 10th) points would only be awarded if a lap time is set. In awarding a significant number of points for pole the reward of a guaranteed 10 points out ways the risk of starting 10th.

Given the advantage Mercedes AMG Petronas and Scuderia Ferrari have over the rest of the field placing them on the 4th and 5th row of the grid at every race would ensure high quality wheel to wheel racing and ultimately may not overly influence the race result.

Purists will say such a system devalues the sport, diminishing the efforts of a driver, but perhaps it is time for the sport to evolve. Legendary drives are not those where a driver starts on pole leads every lap and is never challenged. Legendary drives are those where a driver has had to fight to get to the front. Formula One has the opportunity deliver those drives in 20 races this year, so when considering how to ‘fix’ the system tomorrow please don’t forget why it needed to be changed in the first place.

Formula One: Toto Wolff ” The new qualifying is rubbish”

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Despite Lewis Hamilton setting his 50th pole position today in Melbourne Mercedes AMG Petronas Team Principle Toto Wolff was one of the first to criticise the new qualifying process calling the new system rubbish in an interview for Sky Sports F1.

Christian Horner and Niki Lauda later joined public criticism of the system and have called for the teams to agree for the system to be dropped for the 2nd race of the season. In order for the system to change mid season a unanimous decision from the teams will be required.

As suggested on this site when the system was announced the intention of the system was promising, but the practical implementation flawed.  A system in which 6 of the 8 cars taking part in the final session of qualifying only run once, leaving the circuit empty for the final 4 minutes of the session does not build to any form of crescendo, the tension of qualifying is lost.

Teams further down the field clearly didn’t quite understand the system, with the likes of Sauber and Haas sending their drivers out onto the circuit with less than 90 seconds before their driver was eliminated from the session. Team’s indicated in pre-season testing the new format was flawed and would lead to confusion and reduced track action, they must now act collectively to ensure a change.

Lewis Hamilton has called for fans of the support to use social media to share their views on the system and suggest changes.

It can be expected the FIA will act to tweak or drop the format ahead of the 2nd race of the year.

Formula One: OPINION: Elimination Qualifying – a wasted opportunity

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Much has been written about the revised qualifying process set to be introduced at the 2016 Formula One World Championship season opener in Melbourne in 10 days’ time. Questions have been raised around its introduction, is it simply change for the sake of change? whether or not the broadcasters and timing software providers can support the change at such short notice and perhaps most fundamentally will the change have any impact on the racing itself.

For context the FIA announcement regarding the qualification process and details around the changes themselves can be found here.

As a fan of the sport, I believe the new qualifying process could have been fantastic. Unfortunately owing to the politics of the sport in which regulation is defined by committee, what may have started out as a great concept became watered down into something that may have little or no impact. I believe the originators of the concept may well have been mandated to bring jeopardy to Formula One action on a Saturday. To increase the frequency of cars on track and increase coverage of mid field teams. To make qualifying ‘must see TV’

In order to achieve this, inspiration was taken from the world of cycling. More specifically from the Elimination race which takes place in a velodrome. In this event competitors lap together all on track at the same time, once a certain distance is met the rider in last place is eliminated lap by lap.  This film from the London 2012 Olympic Games shows a race in full.

Now, imagine if the FIA had been able to implement a system where by qualifying positions were determined in this format.  In a totally unconstrained view of the process, drivers could actually be challenged to overtake in qualifying to move up the grid. It’s possible to imagine this kind of session could far exceed the entertainment of a standard race let alone a qualifying session.

Then sanity kicks in, how do you determine the order in which car’s leave the pits to ensure no unfair advantage? Not possible. So the session becomes time rather than position constrained. All cars must be lapping on track at all times, and the slowest lap after a predefined point in the session becomes the first car to be eliminated, until there are only two cars left.

Also not possible. Current tyres would not last an entire session in which drivers would have to complete at least 25 laps (warm up laps then 22 elimination laps, one per car)  So the system is sanitised again through maintaining the Q3, Q2, Q1 philosophy, with a set number of drivers eliminated from each session after a predetermined period of time.  Splitting the session allows drivers to pit and not be disadvantaged.

Finally, the concept that all cars eligible to run in a session must be running on track at all times with only their last lap being the lap that counts. Again not possible because it sends out the wrong environmental message about fuel and tyre waste. So the system is sanitised again. Drivers have to set a lap time within the opening 7 minutes of a session, after which time the slowest driver will be eliminated one after the other with every 90 seconds that passes. Which means the top teams will possible run even less than with the current format, and this is the new process we are left with.

The originator of the regulation had a fantastic concept, drawing from great sporting events, but in order to achieve that much heralded ‘unanimous approval’ from the F1 commission, the concept is watered down in to a change that the casual fan may not even notice. Sure we should wait to see the process in action, but I doubt the objective of making qualifying must see TV will be achieved through this change.  Democracy in Formula One is serving only to stifle the sport.