Last night and today 2 sorts of news popped up. Felipe Massa and David Coulthard joined Martin Whitmarsh and others in calls for changes to Q3 format or rules. Then Bridgestone announced they will evaluate 3 different types of slick tyre compounds in April test in Barcelona. It is all about the same issue – having at the same time on track cars with big difference in speed.
We all still remember last weekend and the super slow return of some cars to pits at the end of Q3 while Heidfeld, Alonso were still on their flying lap. Place few snails into the racing line (let’s call them for example Hamilton and Kovalainen) and we have recipe for disaster.
Coulthard’s big mouth made news recently, here is nice summary if you like to read it, but he also has a valid point on this issue (last sentence, in bold):
“In my view a rule change is the easiest way to make sure this problem doesn’t keep occurring. I like the suggestion that drivers will be penalised unless their in-lap is within a certain percentage of their best time. It’s clear-cut, and there would be no grounds for a stewards’ enquiry. If you’re one-tenth slower than the time you’re supposed to do then you’ll get a penalty. People won’t do it then – simple as that. But give them the opportunity to try and save fuel and they will.“
To forget about race fuel qualifying in Q3 would eliminate the need for fuel saving but the drivers can still choose to go slow on their way in … So some sort of speed limit and penalty may be the only way to go. The only issue I see here is that the in-lap is not a complete lap. I am not sure how would they plan to time it or compare it to their best time. In any case it looks like the talks are on to have some changes ready in time for the Bahrain GP next weekend. Let’s hope FIA and teams come up with something sensible, not with some half cooked amendment that will be hard to police …
It is strange that nobody actually thought about these problems earlier because this is not the first time the slow versus fast cars on the track issue is discussed. Already during the winter testing there were complains from drivers about the proposed ban on tyre warmers from 2009 season onwards. It would take few laps for cars to warm their cold tyres without the warmers and make them several seconds a lap slower than other cars on track. These few seconds were already described as potentially dangerous situation. The Q3 rules created situation where the difference between Heidfeld and Hamilton in Malaysia was perhaps half a minute per lap …
The upcoming tests by Bridgestone of several slick tyre compounds are set to address this issue with cold tyres warm up. Hirohide Hamashima, director of Bridgestone’s motorsport tyre development:
“We are thinking about the compound range at the moment. We want to check our warm-up issue, because in the winter time we had a warm-up problem and many drivers complained about the warm-up of the tyre. It took too long and there was an imbalance, because the rears warmed up quickly. So after two or three laps, the fronts were cold and the rears were hot. So the rears got a little bit tired before the fronts came in, which made it difficult to drive.”
I am wondering why is it necessary in the budget control days to spend the money on all this development and testing when cheaper solution called tyre warmers is readily available … What is wrong with them anyway ?