The FIA has made some subtle last minute changes to the F1 qualifying rules for this season, to ensure that cars go out in the third and final part of the session. And FIA Race Director has cleared up some important details about how other aspects of the racing this year will be policed.
All cars will be given an extra set of the softest tyres brought by Pirelli. The cars which qualify between P11 and P22 are allowed to use them in the race, but the cars which qualify in the top ten have to use them in Q3 only. They will then start the race on the tyres they used to set their Q2 time.
Fernando Alonso’s reaction to the changes was, “I think it will not be a huge difference, from the outside especially. OK there were some cars that didn’t run in Q3 or they only did one run in Q3 and now maybe we’ll see an extra lap from everybody but apart from that I think it’s not a huge change in approach in the qualifying for the teams and the drivers. Anyway, I think this change is welcome, to see more cars on tracks. I arrive many times with no new sets for Q3, so now I’m happy.”
To accommodate the changes, Q1 has been shortened and Q3 lengthened slightly. This should make for a busy track in all three sessions and some traffic problems in Q1 and Q2 particularly.
There is concern this weekend that we may not see some cars running in the final practice session on Saturday morning due to reliability concerns. If a team thinks it has a problem it is unlikely to risk running in FP3 and then lose the chance to compete in qualifying due to being forced to change a power unit, which takes far longer than the two hours between Fp3 and Qualifying.
FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting acknowledged that some teams have already indicated to him that they may well do this and the rules do not forbid it.
These are early days with this technology, but Whiting stressed that the F1 teams will get on top of it and this is expected to be a short term problem.
In a briefing to the media, Whiting clarified a few points. The new 5 second penalty for a driving infringement will be applied as a car pits before any work is done on it. If the driver does not need to stop again the penalty will be applied on the slowing down lap and the results adjusted accordingly.
The 107% rule for cars being allowed to race, despite being too slow to qualify – the stewards will use their discretion on this and only if a car has been able to do hardly any laps at all will it possibly fall foul of the rule.
Another key point is that Pirelli has asked for three aspects of tyre use to be regulated by the FIA:
A minimum starting tyre pressure
End of straight camber (the angle at which the tyres lean in at the top) to protect the tyre shoulders
A maximum temperature for the tyres in the blankets prior to use (this will be regulated by a thermometer sticker on the tyres)