The FIA and Formula 1 teams are set to meet later this month to decide on an immediate shake-up of the current qualifying rules, with any change set to come into effect at next month’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
The sport’s governing body will convene a meeting with the series’ team managers during the second pre-season Formula 1 test at Bahrain to discuss whether a change-up to the current qualifying format is required.
The three-stage format in place has come under criticism from fans and the press, particularly in the wake of a number of top-ten qualifiers opting not to attempt a timed lap in a bid to try and maximise their tyre life in Sunday’s race.
It is understood that the sport’s Strategy Group will discuss ideas on how to force drivers to push for representative lap times in Q3 in order to return qualifying to a proper spectacle for the sport’s fans.
Under the current rules, the top ten qualifiers have to start the race on the same tyre set with which they set their best Q3 lap time.
However, this has led to situations where some drivers have opted to sit out Q3 entirely, giving themselves a free choice of which tyre set to start the race on, which could present them with a strategic advantage later in the Grand Prix.
We understand a number of proposals have been put forward, including:
Forcing the ten fastest qualifiers to start the race on the set of tyres they used to post their fastest times in Q2, which would remove the incentive to sit out Q3;
To issue the Q3 drivers an extra set of tyres for the session, which are returned to the FIA and not used again – this would allow the drivers to push ‘all out’ without fear of impacting their race strategy.
Additionally, the Strategy Group will consider lengthening the duration of Q3 from its current 10 minutes to allow each driver to complete two timed qualifying runs.
Should any proposed changes be given the green light, this will mark the tenth difference qualifying format used by the sport in the last dozen years, most of which have seemingly sought to address a problem that largely didn’t exist.
Any changes to the current qualifying format would require the unanimous support of all teams.
Image via Mark Webber