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Another Thought On Qualifying

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Qualifying: it’s still the elephant in the room.

After the controversial elimination format was kept for the Bahrain Grand Prix to give it a chance for redemption and the possibility of sticking around all season, we had the exact same type of session as Australia. With around three minutes left in Q1, Q2 and Q3, we knew who qualified where, and the checkered flag was waving on an empty track.

Frankly, having this largely unwanted qualifying system shoved down your throat before a race is like your parents telling you to eat your vegetables so you can get a dessert. We have to put up with this monstrosity before we can maybe have some enjoyment with a race.

Unsurprisingly, F1 teams are trying to find a way out of this current dilemma in the coming weeks. Formula One could stick with the qualifying that worked so well for the last few years, or continue to go down the route of trying to innovate with a fresh idea if the sanctioning body feels they need contrived drama.

If we must have something original, many people, such as ex-driver Martin Brundle, have suggested the idea of a qualifying race on Saturday. What would happen if we scrapped the current system and tried something radical?

Imagine a sprint race of at least 30 minutes with the grid set up randomly, such as the reverse of championship order. If this was taking place before the race in Bahrain, it would leave rookie Stoffel Vandoorne in first place, ahead of Daniil Kvyat and Esteban Gutierrez at the start of a qualifying race.

It would be awesome to see the Ferraris and the Mercedes having to battle through the field, potentially denying cars at the rear of the pack a high grid position.

With this format, we could have surprises and may also be provided unexpected pole winners. There are many drivers in the last few years who have claimed the odd pole — Robert Kubica, Heikki Kovalainen and Pastor Maldonado to name a few — and this may give other drivers a realistic chance to claim such an accolade.

If there was a grand prix like last year’s United States Grand Prix, where the track is washed out, it may also give an interesting battle in wet conditions before a dry race, rather than a procession of laps.

With the drivers having to display their skill by avoiding trouble, crashes could put drivers out of position for the actual race and if they damage the car, could put them at an even larger disadvantage if the team is low on spare parts.

Another race at full throttle would allow the drivers’ emotions to run high. For example, if Mercedes has a competitive season where both drivers are going for the title and they once again are playing mind games, how awesome would it be to see them affect each other on Saturday as well as Sunday, leaving less time to mope.

There would also be no place to hide from the media as drivers would have to come back the next day and the chances of getting controversial quotes for pundits to discuss would increase.

However, you would probably want to properly implement this after 2016 if the cars were guaranteed to have better aerodynamics to be able to pass each other more efficiently. Obviously, having a race or any other proposal couldn’t provoke a reaction that the historic honor of a pole position is destroyed or becomes unjustified.

Qualifying races would give fans more on-track action with no time for pauses and a bit more enjoyment for their money. Seeing the results of a race play out in front of you is also a very simple way of being able to follow the action while sitting in the stands, not needing graphics or calculators to decipher what is going on.

Most importantly, it would stop us from having to talk about eliminations and potentially put a smile on our faces on an otherwise dull Saturday. This is obviously a last resort to take if we do need turn in a new direction, but who knows what we will be watching on the Saturday of the Chinese Grand Prix weekend.

EMAIL CAMERON AT cpatersonf1@gmail.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularOpenWheel.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement. 

Cameron Paterson

Cameron Paterson is currently studying Media as well as writing for several websites. A watcher of motorsport since 2007, a casual television watch evolved to watching and reading anything related to something with wheels and an engine. A fan of writing, it was a no-brainer about what to do to try and get into the sport.

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