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The Editor's response to the Quali-flyer  

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The Editor from writes "So I've decided to respond to you publicly!! 
Mr Quali-flyer, whilst I agree that the new changes will make the 'Real Race' more of a lottery, I don't think the changes are that bad. It is true that the new format will only allow a single flying lap on Saturday but they do also allow one on Friday so we actually have 2 flying laps and so they have halved the maximum allowed number. Sure the conditions aren't the same but I'll get to that. 
Track conditions always change and that is a fact that drivers have to live with regardless of the format. How many times did a driver leave his last flying lap till the final seconds only to find that the conditions have become worse. My point is that it has always been a factor and with the new format you have double that factor. 
As for grip, I don't think the track will be much 'grippier' at the end of the session than at the start for the simple reason that their won't be much running. Assuming 20 cars will take part, there will be 60 laps in total. In the old format the cars would have done 180 laps in total before going out on their final run. That is a third of the rubber laid. 
The weather, well, how many sessions did we have this year when the weather affected the session dramatically ? And if we did, wasn't the grid a lottery ? 
Now to your point about comparing team-mates, well if they are in identical cars and they are similarly skilled then they will probably go out only a few minutes apart. In that case, the comparison is probably more accurate than the current format as it takes out traffic from the equation. Of course you'll have the odd case when a team-mate stuffs up the Friday time and ends up going out early on Saturday but that is when they become a candidate for the Also Ran award! 
Now here are the good things I see in the format change: 
- Continuous action on both Friday and Saturday sessions. Spectators will get their full 2 hours worth, the current format only gives us around 40 minutes tops. 
- The sessions will highlight - even more than the current format - those special drivers who get it right on a green track and I don't think that is a bad thing, their team-mates would of course!! 
- Nail-biting finishes will remain. So many other forms of sport (including motorsport) have a similar format and fans will be hooked until the last car completes its lap to see who gets on Pole 
- TV coverage will be a lot easier and thus we are guaranteed to see the best laps from all the different angles. 
Perhaps the 'Real Race' has been diluted by these changes but massively, I don't think so and in any case, I am sure that you'll find your Qualifying Hero and Also Ran in every race. This is my view but we'll see how it turns out come March - (Ref - The death of Real Racing ? - The Quali-flyer's comments on the latest F1 regulation changes)

The Quali-flyer replies: 


Gee, How does one tell the boss he's wrong? You're Wrong!

You're wrong in stating that there are 2 laps, there's one. Friday's Farce has two purposes, one to establish the sequence for the Saturday lap and secondly (I assume) to replace the 107% rule, which cannot be applied to a single lap qualifying. A blinder on Friday will only effect your slot for Saturday, not Sunday.

You're wrong in assuming that the last qualifier won't get some advantage over the earlier runners from a grippier (and probably warmer) track. OK, so there is only one third the rubber laid down compared to the old system but look at the movement in times from first run to second and third runs under the pre-2003 conditions. Times dropped dramatically over the course of a 'typical' session, firstly because the track becomes more user friendly and also because the teams have the opportunity to micro manage the car's set-up. It is true that this micro-management will not be a factor in 2003 but the track conditions certainly will.

I still believe that we will see the Minardi's being run to the limit (lets hope Alex isn't the one trying to do it though) and others at less than 100%. The last qualifier knows exactly what time he needs and that will be the time he chases, not the fastest possible lap.

I have never tried to gather empirical data on the reduction in lap times over the course of the flying laps during qualifying sessions but I do certainly recall the very large numbers of aborted laps by drivers like Schumacher and Senna caused not by traffic but by a slight mistake early in the lap. I cannot in all conscience award an Also Ran to a driver because he failed to make a best possible lap in one from one attempts. One from four is a whole new ball game.

Comparing drivers within a team is, as you say, theoretically easier. They should start from adjacent time slots in most cases. With only one lap they will not however get the opportunity to adjust the car's set-up and if one car (they never have identical set-ups to allow for differing driver styles) has a perfect set-up and the other is off then we have a potential Qualifying Hero and an Also Ran, not because of driver talent or car capability but because of an assumption of conditions by a team member. There is no court of appeal here and no subsequent run to get it right. The session will indeed highlight those who get it right on a green track but with only one opportunity to do so it will not help the rookie team mate who has done only 10 or 20 laps of that track, the last one some hours before.

Adrian Newey has raised the issue of car's purpose built for qualifying and that will happen. For 2003 at least we will see engines built not for 12 laps like the 19,000 RPM BMW's of 2002 but for TWO, an outlap and a flyer and if they don't make it back to the pits so what.

Nail biting finishes? As the session goes on the grid will form from the back, yes MS or JPM might make a mistake and get relegated to the rear but at 1:50 pm the starting order will be pretty much firmed up. Under the old system it was still a complete unknown, with no drivers in a confirmed or even relative location.

What will be the impact within a team? Rookies can forget it. It is only an impression (I don't have the data and haven't been back to check the commentaries to confirm it) but I would just about guarantee that if we took only the first qualifying laps from each round for 2002 that Kimi Raikkonen would have been soundly thrashed by David Coulthard. Very different to the actual position when a best of four laps is taken. Inexperienced drivers need a few laps back to back to get the best out of their cars. Machines like Schumacher and Coulthard can use the hundreds (thousands in some cases) of laps they have done of every track and their prodigious memories to get it almost perfect first time out.

What's good about it? The fans will get an hour of exposure each day but even that's watered down by the fact that they will see only one car every 3 minutes on a flyer, outlaps and inlaps ain't that exciting. Williams won't be sandbagging as much, they will have to have a go on Friday to get the best possible (ie last) starting slot on Saturday. TV coverage (in those countries where qualifying is covered of course - not all do) will be enhanced and that's the one big plus I can't argue with.

I don't see this, or any of the rule changes having a significant impact on the Sunday outings, beyond the occasional start from the rear by a top car. I also don't see the points system elevating Minardi's to challenge for the championship, it might take a little longer for MS to win the title and Nick Heidfeld will certainly be happier with his points total. Other than that, we won't see more on track overtaking on Sundays by equivalent cars and we won't see grids forming from scratch in the last 5 minutes of qualifying. What we probably will see is times in Friday pre-qualifying that are quicker than qualifying because there is much less to lose from an off track excursion then and quite a bit to gain from a later time slot in the real qualifying session

No boss, your wrong, this won't be better and Also Ran's will lose much of their impact when fans can justifiably say that Ralf was unfairly treated because he got only the second corner wrong in an otherwise perfect lap. It's a bit harder to justify getting it wrong 4 times.

Having said all that, The Quali-flyer WILL be around come March to see if some relevance can be salvaged from the new situation.

The Editor replies:

Dear Quali-flyer,

I don't have a problem with people telling my I am wrong if indeed I am. Remember that we won't know the full effects until we see at least a few weekends with this format. Then we'll be able to say if the new format is a flop as well as finding out if the finishes are indeed nail biting or not!

Having said that, I want to correct you on the following:

- There will be 2 flying laps, that is a fact, whether they are in the same hour or on different days doesn't really matter. Putting in a good time on Friday will - in theory - reward you on Saturday by going out later when the track is 'grippier'. So in theory, the first flying lap will help you do a better second flying lap. If you stuff up on Friday and Saturday then surely you qualify for an also ran ?.

- I didn't assume that the last qualifier won't get an advantage. I never said that. What I said is that it won't be much 'grippier' so the advantage - while there will be one - will be smaller and that is why comparing team-mates should be easier as they will normally be leaving within minutes of each other.

- While the new format will be tougher on rookies, they'll just have to adjust more quickly. They may have to practice a bit more in qualifying trim. After all newcomers are always disadvantaged so what's new ?

- And finally, I didn't say that the new format is better, I said they aren't that bad ;-)

As for the technical issues, my understanding is that the teams will be meeting soon to try and close all the loopholes possible but your example of engine power is very valid.

Oh and I agree with you that the impact of these changes won't affect the Sunday event by much but I was addressing the 'Real Race' issues with you and I still maintain that you will be able to hand Awards very fairly in a similar fashion to what you've always done.

And the Quali-flyer replies:

Dear Editor,

Does this mean that a blinder on Friday which puts, say, Kimi in the gun seat for Saturday will promote him from last place if he spins off during the one 'real race' lap come Saturday? Or does it mean that a woeful performance on Friday, followed by a hot lap on Saturday pushes him down the field Or does it mean that there is indeed only one qualifying session that counts toward the grid (and what else does count?) with a pre-qualifier on Friday that doesn't?

Newcomers are always disadvantaged, true. But not this much!

And finally, ...... They (the new format) are too that bad

The Editor replies: 

Ok, agreed that Friday doesn't count directly towards the driver's final grid position but it affects which slot you take on the Saturday and hence has an influence on how well a driver can potentially do on Saturday. It is just like qualifying and the race in the old format. If you qualify well then you'll potentially do better in the race but it doesn't give you any points and if you stuff up in the race then it is all over. Does this make qualifying in the old format a farce ?

And the Quali-flyers replies: 

Old qualifying format a farce? Nope - It was a Real Race, with real opportunities to pick Also Ran's and qualifying heroes.   March will tell, but ......... that doesn't mean I have to like it.

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Japanese GP 
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1 M Salo
2 J Villeneuve
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