Teams opposed to Q3 tweaks
Formula One Teams' Association chairman Martin Whitmarsh has warned against changing Formula One's qualifying format in order to coax all ten drivers out on track in the final session of qualifying.
At the last six races at least one driver in the top-ten shootout has opted not to set a time in order to save tyres for the race. Each driver is allocated six sets of tyres for qualifying and the race and several teams have taken the view that the advantage gained by holding back fresh sets for Sunday outweighs the advantage of one or two potential places on the grid.
As a result several Q3 sessions have been played out among the top seven or eight drivers, while those gunning for the remaining positions in the ten-minute shootout remain in their garages. It has been argued that the Q3 no-shows are having a negative effect on the spectacle and tyre supplier Pirelli has offered solutions to get around the issue, but Whitmarsh says the teams do not see any need to alter the regulations.
"There has been a debate in Formula One about whether there should be extra tyres for Q3," he said. "And this is based upon - as I think we all know - the fact that some teams have tactically chosen not to run in that session. I think, generally, when that's been discussed, it's been the view of the teams that actually qualifying is quite an interesting format now. Some of us will remember that we went through a stumble of changes for qualifying over a number of years and I think often they weren't thought through and we made it worse.
"So I think we should exercise quite a lot of caution before we change what is, frankly - certainly for those of us sat on the pit wall - pretty gripping. Even if you think you're a top team, the opportunity to go through Q1, potentially, on the harder, slower tyre makes it quite a tantalising session, whoever you are and I think that's quite a good format, it seems to work quite well and makes it a little bit more interesting.
"I think that by the time some of the middle teams have got through to Q3 they've typically done more running than maybe some of the faster teams, so on balance, I think the consensus view appears to be that we shouldn't change the format. We don't think there's a fundamental problem that some people choose to run tactically in Q3. So there has been a discussion, as I would summarise it, but if any of my colleagues want to elaborate. I hope that helps."
Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn, whose cars are usually fighting for the positions from seventh to tenth, agrees that the current format does not need tweaking.
"I think Q3 is very exciting," he said. "Quite honestly, when you get into Q3 the fans' focus is primarily on the guys at the front and I think the ability for other teams to take a more tactical approach to try and compensate their performance is an added dimension. As Martin said, we should be careful not to fiddle with it because it's actually quite a good show. I think that last run in Q3 for pole position or whatever it is is a great show. I think the fact that some teams choose not to run in Q3 is not really very significant."