I know that most F1 fans dislike rule changes in the middle of the season, but this one won’t affect the F1 viewer much and won’t actually impact your F1 viewing experience.
We have often seen drivers making it through to Q3 of qualifying only to not set a laptime in the final qualifying session. There are a few known reasons why they would choose not to do so, it could either be to save a set of fresh tyres for the race or if they are suffering from any mechanical problems.
In both cases, it would mean an unfair advantage to the driver, as you would then start in a position you actually didn’t put a qualifying lap for (in Q3). The current rule also allows the driver a free choice of tyre, should the driver not set a laptime in Q3.
This situation is currently believed to be under review. Not only does the driver save a set of tyres, but he also gets to choose what tyre compounds he would like to start the race on. In comparison, drivers in Q3 have to start their race on tyres they set their fastest lap on.
Recent examples of Michael Schumacher in Monaco (Read: 2011 Monaco GP Race Report) and Adrian Sutil and Nick Heidfeld in Valencia (Read: 2011 European GP Race Report) can be good examples to prove that this rule does need a change.
While one can argue that setting a competitive lap should be made compulsory in Q3, we could then see drivers cruising around the circuit only to clock that one timed lap. And how would one define competitive? (Employing the 107% rule in Q3 would be even more comical!) Formula1 did go through this comic phase when they had the single lap qualifying rule in the early 2000s.
The suggested remedy is pretty simple and will be effective should it come into action. The remedy has been suggested by Pirelli. Should a driver choose not to participate in Q3 for whatever reasons, he should then be made to start his race on tyres that he set his fastest laptime in Q2.
In my earlier post, I wrote on driver reprimands that will result in a penalty starting from the Silverstone GP. Alongwith that, this tweak in the qualifying rule should be good as it doesn’t force a driver to set a compulsory laptime neither does it give him an unfair advantage due to non-participation.