Sospiri Rosset Marques Yoong

The last 4 drivers to lose out to the 107% rule (L-R): Sospiri, Rosset, Marques, Yoong.

The controversial 107% qualifying rule will make its return to Formula 1 qualifying sessions in 2011, the FIA World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) has announced overnight.

The rule ran between 1996-2002 as part of ensuring that slower drivers would be unable to start a race if they were deemed too slow relative to the pace-setting race leaders. At the time, several back-of-the-grid teams were employing drivers of (dare we say) questionable talent, and a front-to-back qualifying spread of over 10 seconds was not uncommon in the mid 1990s.

The rule was scrapped in 2003, due in part to shrinking grid sizes, the competitiveness of the overall field generally improving, and the advent of single-lap qualifying.

However, with the reintroduction of multi-lap knockout qualifying and with three new teams making their debut this season – with potentially a fourth joining the ranks in 2011 – the FIA has sought to reintroduce this rule.

The statement issued by the WMSC states: “From 2011, any driver whose best qualifying lap exceeds 107 per cent of the fastest Q1 qualifying time will not be allowed to take part in the race.”

It added that exceptional circumstances – which could include the driver setting a representatively competitive time in free practice – would allow for the stewards to permit a driver that qualified outside of the 107% threshold to start the race.

Were the rules implemented at the start of this season, the following drivers could have potentially missed the qualifying cut and not started:

  • Bahrain: Senna, Chandhok
  • Australia: Nil
  • Malaysia: wet/dry qualifying, times were not representative
  • China: Nil
  • Spain: Senna
  • Monaco: Alonso (no car)
  • Turkey: Nil
  • Canada: Chandhok (mechanical)

Each case of non-qualification highlighted above could have been successfully overturned upon appeal with the FIA Stewards, which begs the question of why this rule is being implemented when it is scarcely necessary.

Furthermore, the FIA has moved to eliminate instances of slow-moving cars dawdling on the racing line and ruining the fast laps of their rivals. For the 2011 season, a maximum acceptable lap time will be introduced that all cars will need to circulate within, even when on their in- or out-laps.

This should be interesting…

“With immediate effect, any car being driven unnecessarily slowly, erratically, or which is deemed potentially dangerous to other drivers, will be reported to the stewards,” the statement reads. “This will apply whether any such car is being driven on the track, the pit entry or the pit lane.

“In order to ensure cars are not driven unnecessarily slowly on in-laps during qualifying or reconnaissance laps when the pit exit is opened for the race, drivers must stay below the maximum time set by the FIA between the safety car line after the pit exit and safety car line before the pit entry.

“The maximum time will be determined by the race director at each event prior to the first day of practice, but may be amended during the event if necessary.”

Expect plenty of tears over this issue!

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.