Formula 1 teams have agreed to introduce an extra strategic element to races this season by forcing leading drivers to start races on the same tires that they qualified on, AUTOSPORT
With the ban on refueling for 2010 already forcing a big change in tactics compared to how grands prix have run in recent years, the new rule looks set to have an impact on how teams approach qualifying as well. Although the tweak has not yet been committed to the regulations, sources have revealed that last week's meeting of the Sporting Working Group agreed to the change as a way of improving the show.
It is understood that the majority of teams present voted in favor of a rule that will require the top 10 cars that make it through to the final session of qualifying to start the race on the same tires that they set their fastest Q3 time on. This will open up the possibility of teams gambling on sacrificing the best possible time in Q3 by running a more consistent, but less quick tire so as to have a better chance in the race. Alternatively, teams may choose a tire that is better over a single lap to secure a good grid position, even if it runs the risk of compromising race performance.
The teams hope that the rule tweak will serve to mix up the tactics throughout the grid and therefore lead to more exciting races. The change still needs to be voted on by the Formula 1 Commission and the World Motor Sport Council next week before passing into the regulations, but this is likely to be a formality.
The refueling ban this season has brought about mixed opinions about whether it will improve the racing – with some suggesting that the difficulties in passing for position will result in races becoming even more processional. McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh said on Monday that he hoped the ban would prove a positive for F1.
"Inevitably, when you make a change, there are pros and cons," he said. "Regarding the pros, it arguably makes qualifying purer because the fastest car/driver combination will be setting the fastest times, and the public can understand that. Secondly, in the race itself, overtaking was often being planned and implemented to occur as a consequence of strategy, and therefore happening in the pit lane and not the circuit.
"In the absence of that effect, drivers will have a greater incentive to overtake. There have been occasions in the past where a driver hasn't had that incentive because he knows he will be running longer and can get past the car ahead strategically through the pit stops.
"Additionally, the fact that drivers will qualify on low fuel, and then the next time they drive the car in anger into the first corner will be after a standing start with cold tires and cold brakes and 160kg of fuel. That will be very challenging for them, not just in terms of getting 'round that first corner, but in terms of how they look after their tires and how the balance of the car will alter as a consequence of that. And there will be drivers who are able to deal with those changes better than others.
"Those are all the positives. On the negative side, it's possible that if all of the above is managed equally well by every driver, then we'll have lost one of the strategic campaign interests that the more avid fans enjoyed in the sport. Hopefully the former points will outweigh the latter."