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New teams: are they safe to share the track with?
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New teams: are they safe to share the track with?
Posted By: James Allen  |  12 Mar 2010   |  7:57 pm GMT  |  95 comments

There has been a lot of discussion today in Bahrain about the new teams and their pace, or lack of it.

Today the fastest car, Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes lapped in 1m 55.409 and the slowest, the Hispania of Bruno Senna managed a 2m 06.968, only just over a second faster than the fastest GP2 time today.

Hispania were still building the cars as practice started in Bahrain


The FIA has made it clear that it would like to re-introduce the 107% rule for qualifying, whereby any car which cannot set a time within 107% of the pole is not allowed to race. Senna’s time was outside the 107% time, which is 8 seconds slower, but the Virgin and the Lotus were well inside.

This 107% rule was dropped when qualifying with race fuel on board was introduced, but FIA president Jean Todt has just said that he wants to see it back. But he accepts that there is no way to get the 100% unanimous vote among teams required by the rules in order to make it happen this year. To pass it for 2011 requires just 70% majority, which means all the established teams, leaving the new teams in the minority.

Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali is also in favour and believes that it should be pushed through for this season on safety grounds if required.

But there are two fundamental problems with the 107% rule. The first is that it comes at too late a stage in the weekend. The most dangerous time is the first part of qualifying, where the cars are being driven on the limit and you have a combination of inexperienced drivers, high closing speeds and traffic.

The slow cars are eliminated after Q1. To have them in a race where all the cars are fat with fuel at the start and it all takes time to get going, is not so much of a problem. So why allow them on track at the most dangerous time of the weekend in order to stop them being there when everyone is travelling more slowly?

The second problem is that if you say a car travelling at 7% off the pace of the fastest car is a danger, how do you square that with free practice, where you can have some front running cars on low fuel quali simulations while others are full of fuel and lapping five or six seconds slower, as we saw this afternoon? That is almost 7% of difference.

In other words, although it might seem a good time to bring it back, in practice the argument is undermined by the conditions in practice.

There will be discussions and it is quite possible that the rule will return for 2011, more to set a benchmark for future entries than anything else, but I think that the Hispania car will get up to speed in the next few races and will be well inside the cut off anyway. As its driver Karun Chandhok has pointed out, the car is built by Dallara, who build GP2 cars. So with a lot more downforce and almost 200 more horsepower the F1 car must be substantially faster. People are underestimating Hispania. Let’s see where they are in four races time.

If voted in, the 107% rule will apply next year for the team which wins the 13th grid slot, which will go out to tender in a few days.

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95 Comments
  1. I was pleased to see HRT finally get a car out on track today and to once again have a Senna as part of F1. But I was more than a little concerned by what I saw and think the 107% rule should be brought back as well as a new rule that says a team must have done a minimum number of miles worth of testing before they can actually race.

    Although I know HRT is not yet at full speed, they were very slow and their car’s reliability is very much in doubt. Seeing something fall off the car at the end of the second free practice was quite disconcerting, especially after what happened to Massa last year.

    Chandhok is yet to even drive his car! He will have at best the hour’s free practice tomorrow and then has to qualify. He undoubtedly won’t make it past Q1 so will start the race on Sunday in a very unproven car. He, like Bruno Senna, has never raced a F1 car before.

    This is very dangerous. Not just to themselves but to other drivers.

  2. if DRIVERS are as good as they are supposed to be awareness is a given, they can judge speed, based on experience and course correct to avoid slower vehicles. It is highly unfair to install a rule on team that hasn’t even turned a lap in testing. It will be Lola 97 again, DNQ and DNP bust. We need cars on track 24 is good, 26 is better, forcing a rule to get 22 is pointless. Give the new teams a break, Bernie and Ferrari cannot seem to stop saying how poor they are. Lay off, stop being a bully, and accept your future revenue generating comrades, because without them, it will be boring watching the same 20 cars go around with no new blood.

    1. Tim says:

      You’re absolutely right. With proper flag marshalling and responsible behaviour from the drivers and teams at the back this shouldn’t be a problem.

      Anyone can accidentally baulk a fellow competitor in qualifying, even experienced drivers in very quick cars – Lewis Hamilton was penalised for it in Malaysia 2008, for example. Careless backmarkers are a constant risk for leading drivers and can be awkward to pass regardless of how much experience the driver has or whether the car is two, three, four or seven seconds off the pace. But a clear message at the drivers’ briefing should do the trick.

      The comparison between HRT and Lola in 1997 is much used but a poor one in my book. After two days of practice and qualifying for the 1997 Australian GP, the fastest Lola was 113% off the fastest time. After one day, Bruno Senna was 110% off Nico Rosberg’s time in FP2. The HRT Dallara is a properly designed and built F1 car, whereas the Lola in 1997 was pretty much cobbled together from the parts bin.

    2. HowardHughes says:

      Agree completely.

    3. Bayan says:

      I don’t think it’s about bullying. HRT for example hasn’t even tested one of their cars so it’s probably got a some issues that haven’t been ironed out. There is a high probability that these issues will come up during qualifying and/or the race and will disrupt the race.

      1. Bayan says:

        also it would put other drivers (in addition to the HRT driver) in danger.

  3. Imran says:

    Hello James,

    Nice article but like most F1 enthusiasts i was hoping to read an article by yourself discussing the laptimes of to-day, particularly those set by the ”top four”. The picture is a convoluted one currently and any reference point would be appreciated. I give weight to the long runs where it will unquestionably matter come Sunday.

  4. Duane says:

    I’m not sure why (some) drivers, teams are making such an issue of slower cars on track.

    In Sports cars/Endurance racing the prototypes mix it up on the track with the much slower GT cars for a lot longer than F1. 24hrs in some instances, Le Mans, Daytona etc. The closing speed at the end of the straights and the speed differential in corners is quite simply mind blowing. Watching a P1 car and a GT car go into the Porsche curves together is a sight to behold, and a much bigger speed differential than we are seeing in Bahrain.

    These drivers are pros and know when to take a risk and when to pass all quite safely, If F1 drivers need lessons in passing slower cars they should watch these guys, who do it at much higher speeds for 24hrs. I really hope F1 drivers don’t turn into whinging Premiere League Footballers. Oh too late.

    1. GP says:

      Yes, the speed differential in endurance racing is greater, but I would argue that the context is different.

      In a 24 hour race you have plenty of time to prepare, line yourself up, and then execute the pass. It is expected of a professional endurance driver to not crash into a much slower car from a slower category.

      F1 is a sprint and that changes everything. Can you imagine Lewis, Alonso, and Michael neck and neck in the last few laps of a race and they come up to an HRT or a Virgin? It could decide the championship.

      By the way, remember when Michael ran into the back of a Spyker on the warm-up lap? It can happen very quickly.

    2. Rich C says:

      Too late, indeed.

  5. Red Andy says:

    I think it is more than a little disingenuous to suggest that the new teams’ lack of pace is a danger. Firstly the problem is exacerbated by the length of the Bahrain track – on a circuit of more conventional length the likes of Virgin and Lotus would only be 4 seconds or so off the pace, which doesn’t sound anywhere near as bad.

    Secondly it’s not as if there have never been cars in F1 that have been substantially slower than the frontrunners. You only have to go back to 2006 when Super Aguri made their debut; they were every bit as far off the pace then as Virgin and Lotus are now. HRT are a little further back but I don’t believe they’ve gone anywhere near close to the limit yet. They should be closer to the other new teams tomorrow.

    And back in 1994-5, you had the likes of Pacific, Simtek and Forti at the back of the field, well off the pace but I don’t believe there was ever a serious accident caused by a frontrunner tripping over one of them. So there is plenty of precedent for this kind of thing in F1 and no reason to suggest that it is dangerous.

    1. Rich C says:

      Yep, its all just a psych war tactic.

  6. Rui Vale says:

    James, congratulations on this article! You have based your thoughts in a very correct way! Hope Jean Todt reads your blog! ;-)

  7. Scott Bloom says:

    James,

    The 107 percent rule seems a harsh penalty. The FIA made a point of opening the grid to new teams. It is unreasonable for the FIA to expect that a team starting from scratch would immediately be on the pace out of the box. The proper remedy is the marshal’s use of blue flags and black flags during a race.

  8. Andy Gore says:

    Hi James,

    Id say that Virgin F1 and Lotus are safe to share the track with, although I did have some concerns with HRT today.

    No disrespect to the team or drivers, but I personally feel that they should have skipped the first race, and that the FIA should allow them a couple of testing days prior to the next race in Melbourne. There are just too many unknowns for them. Although Chandhok and Senna will soon get up to speed, they’ll have some confidence issues, due to the car being brand new, as well as neither having recent F1 experience. I know the same could be said of Alguersuari last season, but at least there was already confidence in the car and team.

    I just hope they dont have any issues similar to that of Virgin in the first few tests, flying wings and all.

    Hopefully this hasnt sounded too negative, and I wish the team and drivers all the best.

    Andy

  9. Martin P says:

    Hi James,

    I have two questions;

    1. Can the Stewards “black flag” a car they consider going dangerously slow?

    2. I’ve read that HRT were 7 seconds off the pace. How close is that to a time the pace car could set?

    1. Martin P says:

      Oops I meant 11 seconds, not 7 – I had 107 going round my head there!

  10. M__E says:

    they shouldn’t bother with a tendering process for the 13th car next year, they should just give it to Stefan GP, why risk another USf1 shambles?, I really do feel (among most it seems) that Stefan GP should be there this weekend. They have also been messed arourund no end and must be pretty livid at this stage having a newly designed Toyota at least midfield car sitting there collecting dust, while some of the new teams go ‘racing’..that is if they make it to the grid :roll:

    1. TM says:

      Sorry but i don’t see how Stefan have been messed around at all. They never had a place, but chose to continue getting rights to someone else’s car, (whereas the new teams going ‘racing’ (as you put it) are proper constructors), and spending money. Nobody made them, it was their own choice, and the gamble didn’t pay off. I don’t blame them for going for it, but at the end of the day nobody messed them about.

      They were also pretty foolish to mess with the FIA with their accusations and silly outbursts, when effectively they needed a favour from them! It would have been totally unfair to give them a place without the due process anyone else needs to go through.

    2. Why?? Apart from acquire a couple of Toyota’s on the cheap after the grid had been filled up, Stefan produced nothing to say they would be in any shape to race

    3. Martin P says:

      How have Stefan ever been messed around by the FIA?

      I could buy an old Corolla and a lock-up and the make grand statements that I intend to join the F1 grid next year when HRT get kicked out.

      But, just like Stefan, it would be nothing other than a dream. I wouldn’t have any sign from the FIA that I’d be allowed in, I wouldn’t have any confirmation that HRT wouldn’t be on the grid and the “mess” would be completely of my own making, it’s nothing to do with the FIA.

      On top of that, apparently it now emerges that Stefan were in no better financial position to complete a season than USF1 were.

      Keep the amateurs, jokers and chancers off the grid. The FIA got this decision spot on after all the criticism about letting USF1 through. We can’t attack them for learning from their first mistake.

      1. M__E says:

        To all above, ok, its funny how news is reported and also interpreted, I got the impression Stefan GP were going to have a strong car out of the box (rebranded 10′ toyota)
        and that financially they were in better shape than certainly USF1 were.

        I dont tend to live and breathe the politics of F1 as much, I prefer to know the more racing and tactics side of teams drivers and technical analysis of the pecking order and such thingswhich relate to the racing as a sport, so there may be occasions where I glance over some of the deeper political details, and to be honest F1 has suddenly got alot more un necessarily compicated with laundry being done out in the open rather than behind closed doors, and then released to the public. I mean its not like they actually listen to public opinion on these things, it makes no sense to a tendering process in public, but journalists have to eat, so..

  11. Eric Weinraub says:

    Dare I mention the idea of bringing back prequalifying?

    1. Tim says:

      Pre-qualifying was used in the late 1980s and early 1990s when the field was sometimes as large as 39 cars. To get down to 30 cars (the maximum for safety reasons) the teams who had performed the worst over the last six months had to pre-qualify so only the top 30 cars had a shot at qualifying.

      In 2010, the field is 24 cars – few enough to all be on track at any one time.

    2. Zobra Wambleska says:

      Please don’t.

  12. Matthew H says:

    HRT may need to be saved from themselves in the first race. Virgin lost a front wing in initial testing, HRT lost a wheel nut, do you really want to see that sort of thing happen in a race? Ironically, when was the last time a front wing seriously failed? Not worth thinking about.

    1. Dan says:

      1. Virgin fixed the wing, it was a design underestimation, and once it was sorted it has been fine!

      2. Even the biggest teams can have problems with a wheel nut… Renault in Hungary?? That is down to human error and not a ‘design flaw’ that is dangerous… those OZ wheels on the HRT are the same as any other OZ user in F1…

      1. Matthew H says:

        Still, the point remains. Testing is for finding the flaws, racing is for teams that are prepared. HRT are well short of preparation.

  13. James W says:

    I agree. Too many people have jumped on Hispania already. At the end of the day, new teams need to start somewhere, and it cannot be expected to occur straight away. This has rarely happened in F1 history.

    Wolf did it the late 70′s, granted, but they bought out Hesketh, with Williams know-how and a key figure from Lotus (cant remember his name). Even then, Wolf had effectively used someone elses car rather than started from scratch as Virgin, Lotus and Hispania have.

    Crofty made an excellent point in practice commentry this morinng. If the so called top teams are as good as they think they are, they’ll have no problems getting past the slower back markers.

  14. Ron Colverson says:

    All valid points but there’s a more fundamental issue. If the 107% rule is combined with the testing limitations, it creates a Catch 22 situation – how are the new teams supposed to get the track time they need in order to improve enough to be allowed to race?
    You can argue that they should have been ready earlier, but it’s a mountain to climb and not all of the established teams made it to the first winter test.
    If everybody’s so worried about them being slow, then why not just give them some extra track time, say on the Thursday or early Friday, for the next couple of races. It’s hardly going to benefit them to the point where they’ll be a threat to the others but it would surely help them get up to speed more quickly and that’s got to benefit everybody.

    1. TM says:

      Very good post. I like your ideas a lot.
      Don’t imagine Ferrari would go for it though, the bully-boys couldn’t possibly give the new boys a break.

  15. MikeW says:

    There’s also something of a problem with the in-season ban on testing. Failing to qualify for the race also denies a team from alarge chunk of time to continue development.

    Perhaps a team that fails to qualify gets an extra day of testing. Or add some additional FP time at the next event. You could use that extra period as practice for the new drivers, and kill that problem too.

  16. Shane says:

    The 107% rule is useless with the testing ban! IF a car is that slow, there is no way to test parts and upgrades to get it up to speed. Who’s gonna sponsor a team that’s never in the race? Besides…..le mans racing has far greater differences of speed between cars. It’s rarely caused them a problem. They say it makes f1 look stupid and silly having cars so far off the pace, I personally think making a slower be forced to move over with blue flags makes f1 look silly. F1 doesn’t need the rule back but it’ll come in anyway to keep the big teams happy.

  17. Robert mcKay says:

    Firstly the fuel load effect and the length of the circuit means the times are more spread out, even amongst the established teams. Quali will provide a bit of a better reference point of them all.

    In reality I don’t think HRT are 11-12 seconds off the pace. What Senna did today was a shakedown. If HRT can get some running tomorrow in FP3 that’ll come down a bit further, although they are still going to be a couple of seconds shy of even the Virgin and Lotus.

    I think the real problem is that with zero laps on the board at all they need to get Chandhok out running from the very start of FP3. He needs at least 15-20 laps before going into qualifying. Throwing a rookie into a frantic 20 minute Q1 with a very slow car would be pretty dangerous if he only got, say, 5 or 6 laps through more technical drama, which is eminently possible.

    On the 107% rule you make some good points James. The calls for this are a bit of a kneejerk reaction, with some people having been spoiled by a very tight grid over the last few seasons suddenly thinking Lotus and Virgin are “dangerous” and/or “embarrassing”, even though it’s only a couple of seasons back that 4-5 seconds off the pace was regarded as a reasonable effort.

    But equally there has to be some sort of imposed cutoff where you say “no, that’s too slow”. Partly for safety and partly to preserve the pinnacle of the sport.

    There’s only 6 of them now, instead of 8 (with no USF1) but I always thought they should have their own Q0, if you will, with the top 2 cars from that going on to Q1 and the rest having their grid position set.

    Adds extra time to the quali show, yes, but removes an element of the problem of having so many extra slow cars in Q1.

  18. Bec says:

    The problem with the old 107% rule is that is was ‘discretionary’, on more than one occasion, a ‘top’ team failed to qualify within the 107% rule for mechanical problems or driver related errors, but were given special dispensation to start.

    If the rule is reintroduced, it should be for all the teams, and not just the teams Ferrari dislike.

    1. TM says:

      Totally agree.

  19. Gord says:

    The different classes of teams racing at LeMans (LMP1/2 GT1/2) never had an issue with drastically different lap times…

    1. S.J.M says:

      Exactly, If a car driven by a professional driver can overtake safely on Mulsanne Straight in pitchblack conditions, Id like to think a driver in a top team in F1 can do the same.

    2. Tim says:

      Indeed – at Le Mans in 2009 the relative gap from the front of the grid to the back was 130%…

  20. HowardHughes says:

    Third problem with 107% rule is that a new team will literally never get the chance to develop up to speed if they’re only ever getting quali and practice laps in, but no testing or racing. How many new teams could survive more than a handful of non-races?

    1. TM says:

      Yes I agree. However Ferrari in particular won’t like this point because seeing it logically like this would mean they would have to stop stifling the new teams, and then they couldn’t use their failure to prove their petty point.

  21. rafa says:

    how come they accepted Campos, now ridiculously branded HRT, Lotus, Virgin and USF1, which are all horribly off the pace and ruled against Prodrive or Villadelprat´s team which had better foundations and funding. The word is that it was a move designed by Mosley to force a low budget F1: seems a very daft move to me. Any opinion on that James?

    1. TM says:

      How could you possibly predict whether Prodrive or anyone else would have better pace than the new teams? It’s pure speculation based on absolutely nothing. Are you saying Nick Wirth, Mike Gascoyne, Dallara and Campos don’t have good foundations?

      People might be disappointed by this fact, but they’re going to have to stop bashing the new teams soon because already Virgin and Lotus are doing ok, and HRT’s run today was purely a shakedown so impossible to know how far off they are. These teams just being in Bahrain is an amazing achievement, and while that doesn’t mean they deserve charity, they are clearly not asking for it. They do however deserve respect.

      USF1 is of course a different story, but you can’t lump the three teams that are there with one that unfortunately failed.

    2. ranavalona says:

      Discussions on why these four teams were selected in preference to the likes of Lola and Prodrive have been carried out and, in fact, done to death, over the last year on every F1 forum, including this one.

  22. Seisteve says:

    Why now? surely all the teams knew that this would happen, so mid season 09 they were saying how good it would be to have extra teams (Except Ferrari who wanted three cars) and now we hear noises about how slow they might be… I think it is sour grapes and maybe a worry that one day these guys might be playing with the more experienced back markers and maybe beating them.

    15 years ago we had teams joining and leaving on a more regular basis and whilst it was not perfect everyone had to deal with the slower cars causing a challenge for all. If they survive 10 years they will become the backbone of the sport and we will be thankful they made the effort when in all honestly FOTA seem to have done little to level the playing field and making them welcome…

    1. TM says:

      I agree fully!

      1. Rudy Pyatt says:

        Amen!

  23. Tom says:

    The rule just wouldn’t be fair with the three-part qualifying: when the slowest cars are eliminated, they have no idea what the eventual pole time will be. They may miss out on the best conditions, plus they’d have had only 15 minutes on a crowded track so may not have set a representative time.

    All the teams could do themselves a favour – not just the new ones – and begin the season by not flying off all over the world. That would help everyone get up to speed too.

  24. John H says:

    HRT should not even be here in my opinon. Virgin and Lotus had structural failures in testing that were put right – that is exactly what testing is for. The FIA seem to have forgotton Massa’s incident very quickly and HRT should be at Imola or something testing that car so they can race at Melbourne. I’m sure all the other teams would vote 100% on that.

    1. TM says:

      As if Ferrari would vote in favour of letting them miss a race to test!

      1. Ashley says:

        Have you thought of joining the Ferrari fanclub TM? Every reply you have made pretty much has a dig at Ferrari and correct me if I’m wrong but James didn’t even mention Ferrari at all in the article. Your hatred for the team is way over the top.

        As for HRT, I was hoping they’d do well as its a miracle they are even on the track but no one can deny that it was a little bit of a problem. Vettel got cut up badly by Senna in Practice 2 and he had to slam the brakes on, he gestured to Senna to say “What are you doing” and that shows you the issue right there. It will be alot worse in Qualifying aswell because everyone will be pushing as hard as they can and with the speed difference it’ll cause a problem, at the very least they’ll block someone.

        Also bare in mind that if a Lotus, Virgin or HRT car is on a hot lap then they don’t have to give way and they will ruin a few drivers laps. If the HRT is 11 seconds off, Hamilton could start a lap 12 secons behind and into the last corner he’ll be in the HRT’s dirty air which would compromise his lap.

        I’m all for new teams but i’m sorry but I don’t think new teams being 6-11 seconds off the pace is good for the sport, they aren’t exactly competing are they?

      2. TM says:

        I don’t hate them. I’ve said before on this very site that they’re legendary.
        John H thought that the teams would agree 100% that they could miss a GP. In my opinion Ferrari would not allow it.

        Moreover, i don’t think Senna getting in Vettel’s way and Vettel signaling to him is very strong evidence that HRT shouldn’t be allowed in the sport. And why on earth should the new teams yield if they’re on a hot lap?

        Throughout F1 history there have been much slower cars trying to get faster. Seriously, I’m sure the other teams can cope without somebody holding their hands past the new guys.

  25. JR says:

    In terms of danger, the experience of the driver is surely much more relevant than the relative speed of the cars? An inexperienced driver will be more unpredictable — and it’s unpredictability that creates the danger, rather than any speed differential, is it not?

  26. rpaco says:

    As you say James in free practice even the same car will be 3 seconds or more slower on different runs depending on fuel load. thus the possible difference between a Ferrari on fumes and a Hormone on full fuel could be something like 8 seconds or so per lap.

    1. Dan says:

      It’s more like 5 secs between a full tank and fumes, so if a Mercedes on ‘low fuel’ does that 1.55, it would do a 2.00 on full tanks… HRT did a 2.07, and if they say they can get 5 secs just through setup, they’ll be down to a 2.02… looking a lot like Lotus or Virgin all of a sudden, and WHOOF all the dangerous rubbish goes out the window…

  27. Dazza says:

    I like Tom’s (No 4.) idea, here’s another: why can’t we have a Friday and Saturday quali session like we did years ago??? The cars and teams are shipped over all over the world which no doubt is exhorbitantly expensive; why not increase the whole value of the exercise by having the cars out on the track more often? Seems simple really. Friday quali can act as pre-quali with the 107% rule applied, with fastest times from either day deciding the grid. As for cars getting baulked in qualifying, this has been happening often in recent years (e.g. Webber-Sutil at Bahrain last year)… what has changed? They are all big boys and can sort it out on the track; it’s supposed to be a competition and being smart about positioning during quali should be a component of this.

  28. Dazza says:

    I like Tom’s (No 4.) idea, here’s another: why can’t we have a Friday and Saturday quali session like we did years ago??? The cars and teams are shipped over all over the world which no doubt is exhorbitantly expensive; why not increase the whole value of the exercise by having the cars out on the track more often while they are there? Seems simple really. Friday quali can act as pre-quali with the 107% rule applied, with fastest times from either day’s session deciding the grid.

    As for cars getting baulked in qualifying, this has been happening for years and still quite often in recent years (e.g. Webber-Sutil at Bahrain last year)… so what is new? They are all big boys and can sort it out on the track; it’s supposed to be a competition and being smart about positioning during quali should be rewarded. This is the pinnacle of motorsport and strategy is one of the things I love about it.

    1. Martin P says:

      Why?… Television.

      Splitting qualifying over two days (one of them a working day) doesn’t double the audience because few networks will find a slot for it in the Friday schedule. Which means the cars are pootling around with little valuable TV coverage.

      Also, imagine if due to some driving error someone like Alonso didn’t make it through to Saturday….. the TV audience in Italy and Spain would drop to around six.

      It just wouldn’t work.

      1. TM says:

        Yeah and also Friday never really made any difference to the outcome of quali unless there was rain or something on the Saturday, in which case the grid is all messed up. Like Spa 94.

    2. Ambient Sheep says:

      Because on weekends where it was sunny on Friday and raining on Saturday, nobody went out on the second day.

      I think they may have tried aggregate times one year to get over that problem, but that just ended up confusing; also if somebody had had a serious problem on the first day, again it wasn’t worth them running on the second as they could never make up the difference.

      Having seen all the different systems come and go over the years, I firmly believe that the current qualifying system is the best possible one we could have, and I hope they never change it (unless they think of something even better!).

  29. David says:

    The major problem with the 107% rule these days is the lack of testing. Its just not fair and rather unreasonable on the smaller teams, for whom the early races at least are going to be extended shakedowns. Restricting them to gathering data purely in the practise sessions (whilst they’re also working on setup and many other things) would mean that only the established teams get track time to improve, increasing their performance gap, and making it more likely that the new teams will be outside the 107% at subsiquent races.

    Really, in my opinion, track testing should be allowed (and even ticketted for spectators) at the teams home circuit, to keep costs at a minimum, and many problems would be solved.

  30. Raj says:

    I think that the teams should be able to test the day after the race at the same circuit. This will help bring them up to speed and the costs would be cheaper then to test between races at different circuits.

    1. Rudy Pyatt says:

      This is a great idea and something that used to be common. Too much common sense for F1, though.

  31. AJ says:

    Hi James
    Wonderful blog as always! I’m sorry that this post is off-topic … I have read other commentators alleging that there is friction within the Mercedes camp due to Michael Schumacher and his demands. Firstly, the rumours are that the data on the two cars are not being shared and secondly, there was a story circulating that when Michael first arrived to the pits, the whole garage setup had to be revised when he demanded that his car was to be set up on the other side.

    Does any of these have any element of truth or are these baseless concoctions from the anti-schumi brigade?

    Personally – I’ve always tried to give him the benefit of the doubt and dismissed his prior teammates (particularly Herbert and Rubens) complaints as mere sour grapes; as he always proved to be the quicker driver (just a natural gravitation within the team similar to McLaren last year). But if true … these actions on the first race smacks of… …. loss for words really.

    1. James Allen says:

      There is a lot of that talk around. He looks tense, that’s for sure. I’m looking into whether he got upset yesterday morning, as has been alleged

  32. Spyros says:

    With so many small (some might say REALLY small) teams lining up for a F1 slot, why not go back to an old recipe: 15+ teams and pre-qualifying!

    Sorry, I know it’s not a ‘timely’ idea, when team running costs are on everyone’s lips, but I can’t help wondering what would have happened if, for instance, Prodrive were allowed to have a go this year. I somehow doubt they would be so far off the pace…

  33. JamesF1 says:

    I may be mistaken, but wasn’t the 107% rule mainly in force back in the dark days when competitors had to ACTIVELY lap the slower cars? Unlike today where they get 3 waved blues to get out of the way? The rule isn’t required today IMO.

    I’m sure Hispania will be close to the pace of Lotus and Virgin soon. The chunky back end of the Lotus worries me though – looks too big to ever be quick.

  34. Prisoner Monkeys says:

    “Safety grounds”? Who is Stefano Domenicalli kidding, other than himself? Ferrari don’t care about “safety grounds”, they just want to see the new teams out.

  35. MF says:

    Do we want new teams or not? If we do (and I say yes)then you have to expect that hey are not going to be on the pace straight away, or even after several races. If the FIA expects new teams to come in and be racing at the same speed as the top teams, then frankly you have to say the FIA are naive. Wake up, smell the coffee. New teams are going to be slow. That is the nature of this pinnacle sport. Oh and Ferrari, grow up. If everything is not going your way 100% you have to have a bitch and a moan. This is F1 not junior sports day!

  36. Fuller says:

    Surely the fia can’t have this both ways. They want new teams and yet to have both the testing ban and the 107% rule would make that nearly impossible! It’s a vicious circle, if a team is too slow to be allowed to race but they aren’t allowed to test the car to make it better how can they ever hope to actually start a race?!

  37. PaulL says:

    In other news Damon Hill will be a steward at 2 races. Can you imagine Hill stewarding Lewis Hamilton or lack thereof?

  38. Silverstoned says:

    Just a word on old teams. ..
    Sutil really stole Alonso’s thunder in Practice 1. It may have been just a glory run by Force India, but Alonso himself is partial to glory runs of this sort as we know.
    Or maybe the F I is on the pace?

  39. niceguyrichy says:

    no, just don’t mention it, please..

  40. Rudy Pyatt says:

    Add my voice to the chorus of much ado about nothing. Again, these are supposed to be “the best drivers in the world.” As others have pointed out, endurance racers deal with more traffic, and for much longer, in every race they run.

    Drivers in all the “lesser” series can handle traffic. It speaks poorly of F1 drives if they can’t.

    1. Rudy Pyatt says:

      “drivers”

  41. Rich C says:

    If these ‘Elite of the Elite’ drivers can’t handle what goes on in sports car series around the world all the friggin time then perhaps they are not so “Elite” after all?

    My response to them would be the same as to Ferrari’s bitching: just shutup and drive.

  42. Chuck Jones says:

    John Ross Harvey, Duane, Red Andy,etc. After having read your comments,I agree with you! My experiance in F1 says you summed it up nicely! In the 70′s and 80′s there were as many as 17 teams at,one point in time,and clearly not all were front runners. We ran full fuel loads and no pit stops. Yes their was a 107% rule but it diden’t effect to a great degree. This is Grand Prix and at the top you should be able to handle moving chicanes. As was pointed out, they sure as hell do in prototype!!!!These new teams need time to improve, not cribbing.

  43. Owen.C says:

    I heard that HRT are using steel brakes and wishbones. If this is true then there is some tie to be had via weight saving and also braking distances. Have you heard of any of this and how much time they will bring to the car?

  44. Paul says:

    I think a 107% rule and the current restrictions on in-season testing would be a ridiculous combination.

    Perhaps both cars in a team failing to make the 107% could trigger some sort of testing allowance.

  45. rricco says:

    I think they should have something like a tweaked pre-qualifying where you have to participate if your car’s fastest lap through practice 1,2,3 is less than 107% of the fastest lap through practice 1,2,3 and then you dont get to go to proper qualifying but are automatically sent to the back of the grid. On the other hand the team whose driver set the fastest lap from practice 1,2,3 is automatically through to Q2.

  46. Peter Jones says:

    James,
    If the 107% rule is brought in either this year (unlikely) or in 2011, what happens if say Hamilton or Alonso have a mechanical problem in Q1 and they can’t post a time fast enough to get them inside of 107%? Are they excluded from the race or does some other course of action come in to play?

    1. Rudy Pyatt says:

      And there’s rub. No doubt they will try to put in some “refinement” to “handle” such a case (probably in form of a wink and a nod from… take your pick) if the rule is brought back.

  47. JohnBt says:

    As for the slow cars, it’s very obvious that drivers should allow passing professionally although all will not be perfectly executed. Main concerns are falling parts which is much more dangerous than getting lapped. Let’s hope all goes well during quali and raceday. We will see. A couple of hours to quali, finally the season begins.

    1. rpaco says:

      Falling parts were nuts and wheels!

  48. James Allen says:

    Of course. It’s a question of percentages

  49. Tony says:

    What we need are Non Championship races, one before the first race of the season and one mid season. The big teams get to run setups and drivers they wouldn’t in a championship race and the new teams get to hone skills without getting in the way of a World Championship battle. Which is what all this is realy about of course. Ferrari have a long history in f1, so long in fact that they have forgotten that Enzo started off running someone elses cars (Alfa) and were happy to run “cast offs” (Lancia) when it suited them. They have also on occasion been very off the pace.

    Nice to see Lotus doing well, although that bit falling off (the diffuser?) was a bit worrying but traditional. Early Lotuses were always a bit fragile. There is a book “Theme Lotus” that gives a great insight into the early years of the team. If Mrs Chapman approves of the new team using the name them there should be no dispute, if it wasn’t for her £50 there wouldn’t have been a Lotus!

  50. Smiley says:

    I was fairly impressed with Lotus and Virgin, they put in a good number of laps with respectable times for a new team. HRT were are different story though. I don’t think the issue is ‘should we bring back the 107% rule’ but should untested cars be allowed on the track at all. Testing is essential for performance and safety, the deadline for when a car is fit to enter should be, at minimum, the last test weekend.

  51. Murray says:

    So why not drop GP2, let all comers build cars that comply as F1s, perhaps with a rev limit for second rank, and go racing? Those that finish high in a second rank championship or race get a chance to qualify and race in the main event, prequalifying against the slower F1s. Slow F1s get relegated to second rank.

    1. Rich C says:

      Let them do it just like Saturday Nights at the local dirt track: anyone that shows up and passes tech inspection can attempt to qualify. None of this FIA “selection process” bs. *Then we’d see who can start a new team!

  52. Stu says:

    This new Bahrain layout will highlight the slowness of the new teams a lot more than anywhere else. Particularly in the middle sector where the slowest cars were a clear 5 seconds off the pace in Q1.

    The new teams need as much track time as possible. But having a test session when others are trying to race is in no ones best interest.

  53. Kevin Cauchi says:

    Why aren’t the new teams, mainly the HRT given 3 days of testing during the season in order to get some much-needed milage?

  54. Alexis says:

    Hi James

    Anybody you know at FOM who you could point out the lack of TV captions to today?

    There were no positions down the left hand side on the world feed so none of us knew what was going on during qualifying!

  55. Jeff says:

    There’s plenty Rolex Cup and ALMS races that are just a couple hours like an F1 race. They are not always 100% incident free either but neither is F1 especially in turn one

  56. Frankie Allen says:

    We have to have new teams, but what we are seeing at the present is a real threat to safety. The FIA have to give these teams far more time in shake down to be able to safely compete. Lotus seem the most professional and although slow, I believe they are an acceptable risk. Hispania should never be let near a grand prix and they should be allowed extensive shake down time to get them up to speed. The real cowboys to me are Virgin, the mistakes we are seeing being down to a lack of professionalism they should be beyond with their resources.

  57. Oli says:

    I don’t see any reason why the new teams are a “real threat to safety”. Yes, they’re all new to the sport, but all have pulled in plenty of capable people. Out of interest why do you regard Virgin as cowboys? John Booth has won tons of championships in the lower formulae with Manor; Nick worth is former chief designer and aero guy at Benetton. These aren’t exactly novices to the world of Motorsport.

    Hispania have got Colin Kolles and Geoff Willis. Lotus have Mike Gascoyne. All recognisable names in the worls of F1. To write them off so soon as “dangerous” is crazy in my opinion. Admittedly HRT have had to rush things a bit, but nevertheless their times were less than a second outside the 107% mark and I have no doubt that they will make that up very quickly with the help of Dallara.

    I do agree that they would have been better off if they had been allowed to turn up in Barcelona, but that’s the way the financial situation played out. Penalising them at this stage helps nobody. For now I think everyone should be patient and not write them off until they’ve had a chance to show what they can do.

    One other point on the driver side is that lack of experience doesn’t seem to historically have been that linked to danger. You couldn’t regard Buemi as a danger, for example- he kept his nose pretty clean in his first year. So did Alguersuari. By comparison Sato, Karthikeyan and others (who did benefit from coming in before the testing ban) were wild and crash-prone in their early days. Pace may be a problem, but safety- I’m not so sure.

    (On a side note I am a little bit reminded of the laughs of derision when Vijay took over Spyker, and look at them now!)

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