Fernando Alonso, the seasoned Formula 1 driver, has voiced his dissatisfaction with the sport’s qualifying format, branding it as “obsolete.” His critique comes in the wake of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) making adjustments to the regulations, particularly for the 2023 Singapore Grand Prix.
Traditionally, F1 qualifying sessions have featured a maximum lap time requirement, dictating the pace at which drivers can complete their in-laps and out-laps. Deviating from this stipulation could result in penalties for driving “unnecessarily slowly.” However, during the Friday night drivers’ briefing leading up to the Singapore Grand Prix, a unanimous vote among the drivers led to the abandonment of this rule.
The drivers’ rationale for this change was clear. They believed that adhering to the lap time restriction in this instance would hinder tire preparation and create unnecessary traffic congestion on the track, which they aimed to avoid. Nevertheless, even with the rule change, the first qualifying session (Q1) saw fierce competition for track position, exemplified by Max Verstappen being cleared of impeding Logan Sargeant due to the lack of available space amid the crowded conditions.
Fernando Alonso, driving for Aston Martin, seized this moment to express his discontent with the entire three-stage qualifying format introduced in 2006, asserting that it is no longer suited to the current state of Formula 1.
Alonso emphasized that drivers will continue to test the boundaries of the rules, making it challenging for the FIA to maintain order. He remarked, “It is difficult to handle, I think. Whatever [the FIA] do, we will find a way to sail that kind of rule. They have a very difficult job in terms of managing traffic on street circuits and things like that.”
In response to these challenges, Alonso proposed reverting to a single-lap qualifying system, akin to the format used in 2003. According to the two-time world champion, this approach is the only viable way forward. “I have said many times that there is only one way to find a solution, which is single-lap qualifying. All the other solutions we can test but will never work because we will find a way. I think this qualifying format is obsolete. It has been the same for 20-25 years [sic], but the cars are not the same. We have hybrid engines, we have to charge [the battery], we have to cool the tires, so the only way to go forward is one lap,” Alonso explained.
Fellow driver Lando Norris of McLaren shed light on the drivers’ motivations for seeking changes to the lap time rules. He clarified, “Initially, the reasoning for having it was to limit approaching speed differences, especially in Monza. They said the reason for it was not to try and sort out traffic and overtaking but to sort out people going 10km/h when you go 300km/h into the last corner. That’s not a safety issue, that’s just driving to find your own position. If you don’t want this, you can go out five minutes earlier and get on with your lap and do it yourself. I think it was a good decision that they made; it was better for everyone.”
In the ever-evolving world of Formula 1, discussions and debates surrounding the sport’s rules and formats are par for the course. While the drivers seek improvements to enhance the quality of racing and fairness during qualifying, the FIA faces the ongoing challenge of striking the right balance to maintain the sport’s integrity and excitement. As the 2023 season progresses, it remains to be seen whether Fernando Alonso’s call for a return to single-lap qualifying gains traction or if alternative solutions will be explored.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Formula 1 Qualifying Format
What prompted Fernando Alonso’s criticism of the F1 qualifying format?
Fernando Alonso criticized the F1 qualifying format due to the imposition of maximum lap time rules during in-laps and out-laps in qualifying sessions. Drivers unanimously voted to scrap this rule for the 2023 Singapore Grand Prix, believing it hindered tire preparation and caused unnecessary track congestion.
What did Alonso propose as a solution to the current qualifying format?
Alonso suggested a return to a single-lap qualifying system, similar to the one used in 2003. He argued that this approach, where cars run individually with only one attempt to set a time, is the only feasible way forward in the modern era of F1.
How did other drivers, like Lando Norris, react to the rule change?
Lando Norris of McLaren supported the decision to abandon the lap time rule. He explained that the rule’s initial purpose was to limit speed differences between cars, particularly at high-speed circuits like Monza. Norris believed that this rule was not addressing safety concerns and that drivers could address positioning issues by going out earlier if needed.
What challenges does the FIA face in managing traffic during qualifying on street circuits?
Alonso acknowledged the difficulties faced by the FIA in managing traffic on street circuits. He pointed out that regardless of rule changes, drivers often find ways to test the limits, making it challenging for race stewards to enforce regulations effectively.
Will Alonso’s proposal for single-lap qualifying be implemented in future F1 races?
It’s uncertain whether Alonso’s proposal for single-lap qualifying will be adopted. Formula 1 is a dynamic sport, and discussions surrounding rule changes are ongoing. The decision to alter the qualifying format ultimately rests with the FIA and Formula 1 stakeholders.