x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Qualifying regulations in need of a rethink for Formula One

The qualifying rules need to be adjusted after flaws were shown in the tyre regulations in Singapore.

Paul di Resta, the Force India driver, was among the participants not to set a time during the final part of qualifying in Singapore.
Paul di Resta, the Force India driver, was among the participants not to set a time during the final part of qualifying in Singapore.

Rule change required

The sight of three drivers opting to remain in their garage rather than try to post a quicker lap in the final stint of qualifying was further proof that the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) needs to rethink its regulations.

Michael Schumacher, the Mercedes GPdriver, and Paul di Resta, and Adrian Sutil, the Force India drivers, all chose not to set a lap time in Saturday's third part of the qualifying hour.

Teams are more concerned about saving their Pirelli tyres than fighting for a higher position on the grid, safe in the knowledge that with devices such as kinetic energy recovery systems (Kers) and adjustable rear wings (DRS), overtaking a slower car is no longer a grand concern.

It is no disservice to Vettel - who has claimed 11 from 14 pole positions this season - to say the importance of qualifying is being made a mockery of.

Marko's wish will not be granted

Helmut Marko, Red Bull Racing's motorsport consultant, said he would like Sebastian Vettel to seal his second successive world championship in South Korea as a way of banishing the memories of last year's inaugural Korean Grand Prix where the German driver and his teammate, Mark Webber, both failed to finish.

Vettel clearly had no intention of drawing out the title chase as he performed flawlessly, leading the Singapore Grand Prix from start to finish - the first time this season he has achieved such a feat - and the only reason he failed to secure his second drivers' title was because Jenson Button finished second for McLaren-Mercedes.

Marko's wish will not be granted though as Vettel will surely take his second championship in Japan in two weeks. The only way his coronation will be delayed further is if he were to finish 10th or below on the Sunday at Suzuka and Button wins the race.

Massa cannot forget - or forgive

Ferrari's Felipe Massa was well within his rights to be angry with Lewis Hamilton this weekend after their second collision in two days, but it is hard to fathom the Brazilian being quite so angry were he involved in such a scenario with any other driver. The two racing rivals have a chequered history that ultimately dates back to the final race of the 2008 season.

Massa had crossed the line at his home grand prix in Sao Paulo as a world champion, only to watch in horror as Hamilton passed Timo Glock on the final corner to usurp him at the top of the standings by a single point and steal the crown. It was riveting viewing for an outsider, but for Massa it must have been heartbreaking.

Through it all he remained noble, but it will undoubtedly have changed the relationship between the two drivers.

As Massa fights to save his career at Ferrari this season, he has more than once now seen his race ruined by Hamilton's aggressive style. An already strained friendship has grown frosty and it will not be helped by the memory that Hamilton has a championship title that once - albeit only for a few seconds - belonged to Massa.

Button's excuses wear thin

The McLaren driver was visibly annoyed by Kamui Kobayashi in the final stint of Sunday's race. Button was squeezing the absolute maximum out of his car and quickly closing the gap on Vettel, who had eased off the gas in the closing stages, but he found himself stuck behind Sauber's Japanese driver for an entire lap.

The Englishman reckoned he lost between three and four seconds by Kobayashi's reluctance to let him pass.

He eventually finished only 1.7 secs behind Vettel at the chequered flag, so theoretically at least, he could have pushed the champion into a more pressurised final few laps.

But he would never have caught Red Bull's champion-in-waiting. Vettel was took quick all evening and had plenty in the tank had he needed to build a gap once more.

Singapore puts on a good show

It may not provide the most enthralling racing and it may not have the history and heritage of a Spa or Monac0, but Singapore understands what modern day Formula One is all about. It is about entertainment as much as it is about motorsport and it would be impossible to visit the Garden City and remain ignorant to the fact a race is going on - something that cannot be said about several other races on the calendar.

Not only does driving under nightfall add extra glitz to proceedings, but it also means the social events going on around the race lasts all day and all night. And the drivers - all of whom continue to operate on European time zones - can get involved, too. Fernando Alonso was still doing social appearances past 1am local time.

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae


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