The Failure of Qualifying Knock-out – A Protest By The Teams
It’s been clear for a little while that Bernie wants to spice up the show, he wants better ‘entertainment’ to get people watching and buying subscriptions to view the racing live. To do this he knows that the current format will not give him crazy races week-in-week-out and has been working to devise ways to change things.
Firstly you and I both know that lining the cars up in order of the fastest at the front, and the slowest at the back, you’re unlikely to see too many position changes as the natural order has already been found. Overtaking in races is usually due to strategy mis-match, errors, or drivers out of position.
Bernie’s original plan was to keep qualifying as it is, but add a success time penalty, so the driver who finishes on pole gets 1 sec added to his time, 2nd place 8 tenths… etc etc etc which would therefore shake up the grid. The pole-sitter would probably start 8th or 9th and it would work a bit like a GP2 reverse grid (without calling it a reverse grid, or just simply reversing the grid because that upset the purists).
This would create a jumbled up top ten and mean that everyone has to race hard & overtake if they want to win, and occasionally someone who wouldn’t usually win might manage to use track position and claim a win. A Williams or a Force India, Or a Toro Rosso maybe? Who wouldn’t want to see that?
Well the teams.. to be precise. They like Qualifying. It’s fairly simple, its predictable and works like clockwork. They can prepare their qualifying and race strategy in advance and pretty much have a good idea how everything is going to pay off. One thing they don;t like is Chaos, or of course anything that will make them anti-competitive.
Desperate for a change Bernie pushed for his qualifying success penalty, but instead the committee voted for a lesser of two evils, the knock-out system. A system they didn’t want (as it would throw up variables) but gave enough of a change to make it look like they were trying.
Trying is exactly what they didn’t do come Saturday in Melbourne however. With cars and drivers sat in the garage being eliminated one-by-one looking terrible on TV, ‘settling for their position’ rather than being racers and constantly trying to better themselves. The teams didn’t make a go of it, because they didn’t want it. They knew that if they made enough of a bad show, they’d be able to vote back their old comfy blanket of standard qualifying as an emergency. Thus a real power-play behind the scenes, one un-noticed by many is a sign of the teams flexing their collective muscle against Bernie and his plans to create a better ‘show’.
The knock-out qualifying format didn’t work as well as expected. Although it certainly could have. Q1 and Q2 were pretty exciting, A few tweaks were needed maybe, and maybe a shorter shoot-out Q3 would have been a simple way to fix but keep this new excitement. Of course all of this is irrelevant as the teams have got their blankets back.