The suggestion to split the qualifying session for this weekend's Monaco Grand Prix between the faster and slower contenders to try to avoid problems with traffic has been scuppered by Lotus Racing founder and team principal Tony Fernandes.
Last week, Hispania Racing rookie Bruno Senna had tabled the notion of making the 20-minute Q1 segment in Monte Carlo the exclusive preserve of HRT, Lotus and Virgin [see separate story – click here
], all three new to the grid in 2010 and all three still some way shy of the leading pace. In Q1 in Barcelona last weekend, the quickest of the sextet – Lotus' experienced Jarno Trulli – lapped more than 3.2 seconds adrift of pace-setter Mark Webber, whilst Senna was almost six seconds away.
Should those deficits prove to be similar in the tight and tortuous Principality – with 24 cars on-track around a circuit at which overtaking room is ever at a premium – there are fears that faster drivers could find their qualifying efforts severely hindered by getting caught up behind one of the tardy backmarkers.
Another idea was to divide the field into even and odd numbers, sending twelve drivers out in one ten-minute session and twelve in the other – but with Fernandes having blocked the unanimous agreement required to pass the motion, qualifying in Monaco will now proceed in the usual manner.
“There was talk at FOTA (the Formula One Teams' Association) of having a split-qualifying, going into a hat with twelve in one and twelve in another,” the AirAsia entrepreneur told Reuters
. “I said no. We want the race to be exciting, we want it to be unpredictable – so let qualifying be the same as well. I have been in Formula 1 for seven months now, and these guys are very good drivers and they are paid to drive well.”
McLaren-Mercedes star Lewis Hamilton – a former winner in Monte Carlo – had been an advocate of making a one-off alteration to the qualifying format for this weekend, but the 2008 F1 World Champion's team principal and FOTA chairman Martin Whitmarsh reflected that without the consent of every single entrant, the rules would have to remain as they are.
“If no-one can get a lap in, it's not really a challenge,” Hamilton mused. “When you come around a corner at 100mph and there's a car standing there waiting to try and get a gap to the car in front, that's a dangerous position to be in.”
“There are those who are concerned about the safety and the randomness of it,” added Whitmarsh. “To have a speed differential – as we have between some of the cars at the moment – makes it difficult for the quicker drivers. It also makes it difficult for the slower drivers, because they are going to spend the lap looking in their mirrors trying not to impede anyone and get a penalty.
“Monaco is a very tight, confined and claustrophobic circuit in which you've got to try and tame a Formula 1 car. I don't think you want cars of such great speed differentials on the circuit at same time. However, inevitably, from midway down the grid and further back they actually want a lottery effect and therefore are unlikely to agree to any changes.
“The counter-flip is that the sport needs a bit of a shake-up, and if there are problems and issues in qualifying and that influences the grid then it means the teams will have to deal with that in the race and that's good for the show. I think the drivers themselves had a fairly sensible conversation about it, but we will have a Q1 with all cars on the track at the same time and all the challenges therein...”