Download the NewsOnF1.com
The FIA fuel the foolishness - The Quali-flyer explains how banning refuelling between Qualifying and the Race will render Qualifying meaningless
The New Rules, an object lesson in planned change management - The Quali-flyer's comments on the latest regulation changes by the FIA for 2003 and beyond
The death of Real Racing ? - The Quali-flyer's comments on the new regulations for 2003
The Real Races :
Strategy, tactics, weather, tyres, traffic, mechanical
failure and luck, all these play their part in a F1 race. The opportunities to
point the finger of blame away from the driver are plentiful. How then can a
driver measure himself against his peers, either stroking his ego or denting
it in the process (not that I'm suggesting that a F1 driver would be
egotistical) - and who are his peers? Is Coulthard going to gnash his teeth in
angst because Michael Schumacher laps a track 1/2 second faster than he can,
or will he just accept that the Ferrari today is a faster car? Did Paul
Stoddart measure Webber's points tally in Melbourne against MS's and find him
wanting? Where then is the real race and who is the opponent?
One opportunity exists to minimise or control those influences and to put two drivers into almost identical cars under almost identical conditions and measure their comparative skills. The afternoon before each race, for one hour every driver gets the chance to say "Here I am, I'm better than the other guy". Strategic (and contractual) implications will see Schumacher beat Barrichello in races, talent is required to put him in front on the grid. Where a driver sits on the grid for a race is primarily down to how his car compares to the other cars. Michael Schumacher could not put a Jaguar or a Minardi on pole. Many of the lead drivers could put a Ferrari there. Qualifying levels the playing field within a team, allowing the selection of 11 Alpha Males from the 22 starters.
Any driver's personal priority is to beat his team mate, in qualifying and in the race. After that he will try to maximise his position against the other teams.
Measuring the gap between drivers across teams in qualifying is the indicator of comparative strength of the teams, measuring the gap between drivers (refer to graphs) within a team establishes the comparative skills of those drivers. While the pecking order at Ferrari is well established and constant, few other teams can show such a strong supremacy.
Rookies impress or fail not on their ability to gain positions relative to the field, but relative to their team mates. They improve and reduce the differentials across a season, or they maintain those gaps and sink into obscurity. Lead drivers keep their premiership and salaries by beating their team mates consistently, or they get relegated.
My objective in these pages is to quantify the results in
the real races (The Heretic provides excellent coverage of those other races
held on Sundays) and to look at the drivers away from the various elements
that can influence GP positions. As the season progresses the relativity
between drivers will develop not only in the championship points tally but in
the real race, qualifying.
Charting the results
The differentials between the qualifying times of the two
drivers are presented graphically on each race page. Progressive average gaps
are also presented which show the ongoing relative qualifying performance for
the season to date. Where a driver does not present for a race due to injury
etc. or qualifies outside the rules* (eg Sato did not set a qualifying time in
Melbourne) that round is discounted for calculation of the average.
A table is also shown which shows the times that each driver
has outqualified his 'opponent' during the season. This table is sorted
according to the finishing position for each real race (the grid position for
the next days GP) and shows each driverís best position so far this season,
the wins-losses to his team mate and quali-points for the season. Quali-points
are awarded for the best 6 qualifiers using the same 10,6,4,3,2,1 basis as the
Where best times are discounted for race grid position (for example Barrichello had his best time at Brazil disallowed by the stewards) these best times are used for Real Race purposes.
*In order to start in a race a driver must, during official
qualifying set a lap time that is no more than 107% of the lap time of the
fastest driver. If he fails to make that cut-off it is then at the stewards
absolute discretion as to whether he is allowed to start from the back of the
grid. While drivers have been excluded from races (as Yoong was in San Marino)
the stewards will allow a start where special circumstances exist or where the
driver has been 'competitive' over more than one practice session (generally
taken as achieving laps within 107% of the fastest time during a particular
The best three qualifying performers, relative to their team
mate, are exalted as Heroes and placed on the Qualifying podium for that
Also Ran Award
Among the 22 drivers there are some who are consistently
very good, some who have flashes of brilliance, some who are consistently
mediocre and some who simply shouldnít be there at all. There are also some
who are legends in their own mind, who are much better at talking than driving
and who look to lay blame for their own failures on the doorstep of the car,
the traffic, the weather or the Feng Shui of the track. These drivers are
overrated, overpaid and often overawed with their own importance. Experienced
lead drivers should outperform their team mates, when they donít they should
accept their failures gracefully and get on with the job. Some donít or
canít do that, these are the candidates for the Also Ran awards.
Every race will be assessed on its merits and, where it is deserved, the Also Ran awarded to an outstanding example of this philosophy of Cover Your Ass or to that deserving soul who performed to the least of his ability on the day.
Want to submit any comments you have on this section ? We'd love to hear from you. Fill in the form below.