I hear whispers from the underbelly of the Strategy Group (which is not a rude description of someone involved) that there is serious effort going into looking at whether or not it would be a good idea to change the format of Formula 1 Grand Prix weekends. Such a move will probably have the traditionalists up in arms, but one needs to wait to see what is being proposed to really understand whether it has merit or not. The goal is obviously to provide a better show, both for spectators and for TV viewers. Qualifying as it is can be exciting, but there have often been Q sessions in recent years where the showdown has been a bit of a damp squib.
As I understand it, there is a suggestion that there could be something akin to a qualifying race on Saturday afternoons. The idea is that this would not only set the grid for the Grand Prix, but would also allow for more points to be scored. One presumes that the status of being “a Grand Prix winner” would not be changed by such an event, even if points were awarded. I am not sure why such a thing needs points, because the fight for grid positions ought to be enough, but I guess it would make the action more intense.
Follow that logic, however, and qualifying would have to be pushed back to Saturday morning. I am not sure that the knock-out structure of today will be dropped, but rather it could be redefined in such a way as to give the session more of a flow (i.e., without stops between Q1, Q2 and Q3) but with elimination of drivers being more like musical chairs. I am not sure how this would work, but it would mean that the cars would have to be on the track all the time if, for example, the slowest driver was eliminated every three minutes. It would be more complicated to organise and to police (and to report on), but with the current communications the drivers could be informed that they were out. However there would be a danger that they would get in the way of the others as they toured grumpily into the pits. Logically, this paring down process would stop at a certain point and leave a set number of drivers to go for pole in the final minutes, in order to maximise the excitement.
If there is to be qualifying on Saturday mornings, there would not be time for practice and so that would have to be shoved into Friday. I suspect that this would mean that the four hours that teams currently have before qualifying would be cut significantly, thus reducing the costs. Whether the cars would be seen more or less than they are now is an interesting question. The answer probably is that the appearances would be about the same, but would likely be more concentrated, which would be better for fans, with less empty track visible.
GP2 has the daft rule that the top eight finishers in the first race start in reverse order in the second race, which means that all kinds of make-weights can win the second event, depending on whether overtaking is possible or not. As I understand it, this is NOT being proposed for F1. It seems that the first race would be a 45-minute sprint affair, with cars using the same tyres as at the end of qualifying (as is currently the case). There would be no obligation to change these tyres and no fuel capacity limit. In other words it would be a flat-out affair, so that there could be no criticism about fuel saving and so on. With a 100km race, the cars could use up their fuel more quickly and go faster, thus creating more spectacle. The points on offer would be substantially less that those on Sunday.
I am not entirely sure whether having more points on offer during a race weekend would increase or decrease the likelihood of the championship going on longer, as a dominant car would collect more points. One impact of this would probably be to increase the entry fees if the maximum points for a driver for a weekend was, for example, 33 points rather than the current 25.
From what I hear the main race would be shorter than is currently the case, with a limit of 90 minutes, which would logically mean a reduction from 300km to 200km, which would in turn mean that the cars would run the same overall racing distance over the race weekend as they do today. There would be fuel use restrictions of 100kg (but with shorter races that would mean the cars going faster) and there would be a requirement for a change of tyres.
It all sounds like something that has been dreamed up by a committee, but there may be some merits in the ideas, if only to stop people being negative about the racing being restricted by fuel usage. Stopping the constant whining about this would be a good way to stifle the negativity that surrounds the sport at the moment, which would be a fine idea.
There is much in F1 that is positive, but the negativity has been allowed to have a louder voice.