F1 takes step in right direction, still ways off

Reinaldo Llerena/ Staff Writer

After two poor qualifying showings from Formula One, the FIA, the governing body of F1, announced they are returning to the old qualifying system from last year, but not taking scrutiny from both drivers and fans.

The new “knockout” qualifying system, introduced last offseason, was supposed to allow for continuous action on track during qualifying.

In Qualifying 1, the cars would be out for 15 minutes. After seven minutes, the slowest car would be eliminated. After the first car was knocked out, a timer would count down from 90 seconds.

After seven cars were eliminated, the remaining 15 cars would advance into Qualifying 2, where the process begins again. Then the final eight cars are entered into a 12-minute session for pole position.

Instead, as seen in the first two races in Australia and Bahrain, there were cars were going into inspection with five minutes left in the session, leaving both spectators and teams furious at the new system.

For instance, at Bahrain with almost seven minutes left in Qualifying 2, all of the cars were sitting on pit road, waiting for the next session to start.

Because the new system was not doing what it was intended to do, the Grand Prix Drivers Association, the equivalent of the MLB Player’s Union or the NFL Player’s Association, issued a letter to F1’s stakeholders and fans regarding the decision-making of F1’s executives.

“We feel that some recent rule changes – on both the sporting and technical side and including some business directions – are disruptive, do not address the bigger issues our sport is facing and in some cases could jeopardise its future success,” the letter stated.

“Therefore, the drivers have come to the conclusion that the decision-making process in the sport is obsolete and ill-structured and prevents progress from being made.”

Shortly after the GPDA letter was published, Bernie Ecclestone, the chief executive of the Formula One Group, said that the new qualifying system would be given another shot to prove itself. It didn’t.

As of Monday, April 11, the FIA has overruled the new qualifying system in favor of last year’s qualifying system. The old system had the same time restrictions as the knockout system, but cars would not be eliminated until the end of the session, rather than every 90 seconds.

The qualifying rule changes add to the questionable decisions F1 has made in recent years.

At first, the new 1.6-liter 6-cylinder hybrid engines were criticized for being too quiet. Mercedes, the reigning constructor’s champion, tested out a louder exhaust system in May 2014 with poor results.

The exhaust, shaped like a megaphone, did not increase the noise of the engine and hurt the car’s performance. To this day, Mercedes aims to make the cars louder without compromising performance.

Fans have also criticized Formula One Management for being too strict on their copyright. For instance, FOM has taken down several YouTube videos and video game modifications to protect their copyright.

Also, fans cannot find race replays online because FOM does not allow anyone to reproduce their product. Compared to other racing series, such as the WeatherTech Sports Car Series or the Blancpain GT Series, FOM is stuck in the 1990s because they do not post full races online.

In the future, Ecclestone wants the modern Formula One cars to be around three seconds a lap quicker than current models by increasing downforce to all cars.

However, Formula One fans are against Ecclestone’s idea.

The fans believe if the cars get added downforce, then there will be no close racing because the turbulence from the car in front will ruin a car’s handling and make passing nearly impossible.

However, not every decision FOM makes has been questionable.

The new tire rules for 2016 has been widely celebrated by fans and teams for adding another level of strategy to a race.

Now, a team is allowed to bring whatever sets of tires they deem necessary for a race weekend, but they must use at least one set of Pirelli-mandated tires. Therefore, the team must balance their choice of tires with Pirelli’s choice of tire for the race.

So, although Formula One has taken several steps backwards in recent years, the new tire rules and the elimination of the “knockout” qualifying system shows that FOM is willing to listen to its fans.

However, until FOM reduces its copyright holds, they are going to be falling behind other racing series that allow free use of their product.

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