F1’s New Qualifying Won’t Debut Until Spanish Grand Prix
Scheduling issues nix initial season-opener debutby Kirby, on
Those who are hoping for a more exciting Formula One season in 2016 are in for some good news and bad news. The good news is that the sport’s new elimination qualifying format will likely take effect this season. The bad news is that with the season-opening race in Melbourne scheduled for March 2016, there won’t be enough time to have the system in place for the season’s start. Take that for what it’s worth.
In a conversation with The Independent, F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone indicated that changes to the qualifying format will “probably” take effect during the Spanish Grand Prix, the fifth race in the calendar season. Timing is the root cause of the issue, specifically the time the FOM needs to ready the new timing software. Turns out, changing from one system to another is a far more complicated process than most people think. The biggest impediment at this point is the actual changing of the software that handles the timing systems. Software coding takes time, and even when they’re are done, there’s also that issue of testing and debugging the software.
The 2016 season season effectively starts in less than three weeks, so even if the FOM has all hands on deck to rewrite the entire system and work out all of its kinks, there’s simply not enough time before the Australian Grand Prix takes place.
It’s a bit of a complication, especially for all the parties involved. But if it makes for a better season altogether, the inconvenience should be worth the momentary hassle it’s causing.
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Why it matters
It just felt like something like this would happen, right? That, in some ways, is what you get with Formula One. There’s a lot of risk that comes with this move, not the least of which is whether the new qualification system will have enough of a change to warrant the switch in the first place. But to do it when the season’s already underway without enough practice runs is really going to be a huge gamble on Formula One’s part. That doesn’t even take into account any possible glitches that could happen during an actual qualifying run.
Here’s the thing: I think that it’s going to work and I think that it will be a fresh change from what we’ve seen over the past few seasons. However, wouldn’t it be a better idea to hold off on this change, at least until the first real break in the season happens? The risk with that scenario is the break happens between the German Grand Prix on July 31 and the Belgian Grand Prix on August 28. That would essentially give FOM four months to work on the new system and another month for the F1 teams and drivers to get acclimated to the new qualification format. From that perspective, that’s an ideal timetable.
The downside is that it happens between the 12th and 13th races of the season, which means that it’s just after the halfway point of the season. I don’t know if that’s fair for all of the teams, especially the championship leaders. They could feel like they’re getting penalized for a change that’s probably better off happening in the 2017 season, especially if the new regulations aren’t ready for the 2016 season.
I know Formula One needs that jolt in interest that a qualifying system like this can provide. I just don’t think it’s smart introduce the regulations midway into the season and run the risk of potentially screwing up the whole year in the process.