F1 qualifying shake-up gets official go-ahead
Despite a barrage of negativity surrounding tweaks to Formula 1’s qualifying format – it was seen as the answer to a question no one was asking – the sport’s governing body, the FIA, has officially signed off the changes, which means they’ll come into force at this weekend’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.
Plenty of teams and drivers expressed their confusion over why the changes were needed, with F1 tsar Bernie Ecclestone going on record to say that software problems with the new system would prohibit its introduction for several months. The reality is that qualifying issues were conspicuous by their absence, particularly against a backdrop of complaints about the racing, so attention has foolishly been drawn away from the sport’s much bigger issues.
Anyway, the World Motorsport Council has rubberstamped the changes – in the hope that qualifying might become random, thus the racing might be more unpredictable – so we’re stuck with them.
In case you’re not sure you’ll know what’s going on when you tune into qualifying from Albert Park, here’s how the revised knock-out format will work:
Qualifying 1: The session lasts 16 minutes. All cars are allowed to run. The slowest driver is eliminated after seven minutes – with the same procedure at 8m30s, 10m0s, 11m30s, 13m0s and 14m30s, until 16 cars remain. At the end of Q1 all remaining drivers may complete a flying lap if they have crossed the line in time. When those laps are completed and the classification established, the slowest driver is eliminated, leaving 15 to contest Qualifying 2.
Qualifying 2: The session lasts 15 minutes. All remaining cars are allowed on track. The slowest driver is eliminated after six minutes – with the same procedure at 7m30s, 9m0s, 10m30s, 12m0s and 13m30s until nine cars remain. At the end of Q2 all remaining drivers may complete a flying lap if they have crossed the line in time. When those laps are completed and the classification established, the slowest driver is eliminated, leaving eight to contest the final stage, Qualifying 3.
Qualifying 3: The session lasts for 14 minutes. All eight remaining cars are allowed on track. The slowest driver is eliminated after five minutes – with the same procedure at 6m30s, 8m0s, 9m30s, 11m0s and 12m30s until two cars remain. At the end of Q3 both remaining drivers may complete a flying lap if they have crossed the line in time. When those laps are completed the final classification will be established.
Di Resta lands Williams reserve role
Paul di Resta will make a welcome return to the Formula 1 paddock in 2016 after joining the Williams team as reserve driver. That means that the 29-year-old Scot will stand in for Valtteri Bottas or Felipe Massa in a 2016 race if the need arises.
Di Resta, who’s been a part of the Mercedes family for a number of years, having won the 2006 European Formula 3 Championship in a Mercedes-powered Dallara, lifted the DTM touring car crown for the Three-Pointed Star in 2010 and contested 58 Grands Prix in a Force India-Mercedes between 2011 and 2013, will attend every race and spend time in the simulator in preparation for a last-minute call-up.
Since losing his Force India seat at the end of 2013, di Resta has been back in the DTM fold, taking 15th and 8th in the past two drivers’ title reckonings. It’d be great to see him back on the grid – and, amazingly, as the first British driver to race a Williams since Jenson Button in 2000.
The team has bolstered its back-up team by not only retaining 22-year-old Brit Alex Lynn as development driver, but also hiring di Resta’s fellow DTM champion Gary Paffett as a simulator driver, a role he conducted for many years at McLaren. It has also taken young American F3 racer Lance Stroll under its young-driver-programme wing.
Montoya doubles up on St Pete streets
Juan Pablo Montoya made it two in a row on the streets of St Petersburg, the Colombian taking a 2.3-second win over Penske team-mate Simon Pagenaud in a fairly chaotic IndyCar season opener in Florida.
Second-fastest qualifier Pagenaud led away at the front after polesitter Will Power in the third Penske was deemed unfit to start thanks to a Friday-practice shunt had left him with mild concussion and nausea. Several caution periods for multi-car collisions shook up the order, before Montoya stamped his authority on the field to take his fourth series win since returning to the series in 2014 after a six-year stint in F1 and almost eight years in NASCAR.
Di Grassi’s charge goes flat in Mexico
Lucas di Grassi won the fifth round of the FIA Formula E championship in Mexico City to take the series lead. Well, that was until the Brazilian was stripped of the victory for running a car that was 1.8kg lighter than the permitted minimum weight limit. The Brazilian’s Abt Schaeffler Audi Sport machine was disqualified, with second-placed Jerome d’Ambrosio handed the victory – his second in the all-electric single-seater series. Third-on-the-road finisher Sébastien Buemi was promoted to second, a move that handed the points lead back to the Swiss driver.
Photography courtesy of LAT