Official: Real qualifying returns in 2010

2010 F1 season

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Low-fuel qualifying, last seen in 2002, returns next year
Low-fuel qualifying, last seen in 2002, returns next year

With the refuelling ban made official F1 fans can look forward to the return of proper, low-fuel qualifying in 2010. The following passage deleted from the 2009 regulations for 2010 confirms the decision:

Fuel may not be added to nor removed from any car eligible to take part in Q3 between the start of Q3 and the start of the race

This means all cars will now qualify for races in low-fuel trim, which should make for more spectacular, unpredictable and meaningful qualifying sessions.

Low fuel qualifying was last seen in F1 in 2002. It was banned because it was felt that making drivers qualify with their race fuel loads could help mix up the grid.

This was faulty reasoning to start with: in 2002, Juan Pablo Montoya qualified on pole position seven times yet never won a race. The presumption that drivers were always winning races from pole was false.

In fact, introducing ‘race fuel’ qualifying made it easier for the most competitive teams to start from the front of the grid on light fuel and dominate the race from there – as Michael Schumacher did almost every weekend in 2004.

Meanwhile the switch away from ‘low fuel’ qualifying disconnected F1 from its history. Comparing today’s drivers with great qualifying specialists like Ayrton Senna and Jim Clark has been rendered impossible.

Happily, that is all set to change. Proper qualifying is back next year, and long may it remain. In the meantime, chalk it up on the list of Max Mosley’s U-turns

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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120 comments on “Official: Real qualifying returns in 2010”

  1. YAY YAY first a reasonable punishment for mclaren and now this. The FIA are doing what we want. About bloody time too!

  2. oooo! I didnt really think about the full implication of the refuelling ban when I read about it earlier – thanks for pointing out proper qualifying is back :-D

  3. I like the ‘low fuel’ qualifying, but it’s sad to see pit stops gone, for me F1 is slowly dying. All these rule changes are just gone too far…RIP to F1.

    1. Robert McKay
      30th April 2009, 21:18

      There’ll still be pitstops for tyres.

      Anyway it’s arguable if “knockout” quali, even with low fuel, is “real” qualifying, but I’m looking forward to it nevertheless :-D

    2. Pit stops aren’t gone at all, and even if they were it wouldn’t make it any less F1. Races have been won in the past without pit stops you know!

      1. yes but when to cars fighting for track position come in at the same time, pitstops make it more exiting.

    3. I thought deletion of that statement only meant low fuel qualifying, not a ban of refuelling during races. (Only deleted the statement which enforces race fuel qualifying and not refuelling during races?)

  4. The engines are going to be carrying a very heavy load till maybe the last 25-30% of the race. Does anyone know how that might affect the engines?
    The teams will have to do some serious testing to establish the exact fuel burn rate for each circuit and how to optimize their settings. We will now see strategic racing, laptimes will be much slower as teans try to conserve fuel.
    The Brakes will also become something to watch out for during a race.


  6. I am glad they are still keeping tire pitstop. i remember the old days when teams could not do anything to the car during a race as far as fuel and tires were concerned.It was boring.

    1. Mussolini's Pet Cat
      30th April 2009, 22:00

      I guess it would be possible for a 0 stop strategy given the right conditions.

    2. sajonaraman
      1st May 2009, 0:28

      Good point Mussolini’s Pet Cat. We’ll be able to see who’s the real Rain King thanks to that. I can’t wait for the next season to begin already, which having quite a few races of this one is absolutely great.

      1. I’m ready for the season to start,there’s a lot of f1 fans hear in texas, and low fuel qaly’s sound like racing

    3. They haven’t eliminated the 2 tyre compound rule, have they? If not, we’ll still be seeing at least one pit stop.

    4. sajonaraman
      1st May 2009, 6:59

      Not in the rain Travis. The tyre rule applies to dry compounds.

  7. Mussolini's Pet Cat
    30th April 2009, 21:53

    Pit crews back to wearing shorts & baseball caps again. Thank god for that, seeing some poor fatty squeezed in a ‘race suit’ always seemed so unkind.

    1. I was thinking that too, but I bet for modern safety reasons, they’ll still be in full fireproofs and helmets for some reason.

  8. Good moove yesssir
    Hats off to Mo!

  9. Now we can see them really go for it for that pole lap.
    No more confusing false grids.
    No more explaining who really was the quickest driver after qualifying.

  10. I’m proper looking forward to next season now.

    Last person to run a race distance without stopping: Mika Salo in his Tyrrell, Monaco 1997. 61 laps on the same tyres and one tank of fuel. He ended up 5th for 2 points. Tyrrell’s last ever points finish.

    1. Terry Fabulous
      30th April 2009, 22:43

      Nice spot Ajokay.
      I remember Berger won his first race in 86 at Mexico in the Benetton. He had rock hard reliable Pirelli’s and went through without stopping for new boots while from memory, Prost in second pace ran the hard compound Goodyear B tyres and had to stop 3 times!

      It is a good decision.

  11. I would’ve liked to see some structure to the budget cap to try and save jobs etc

  12. the fuel tank will have to be twice as big?!!

    1. Or to put it another way, about the same size they were in 1993.

    2. …or they’ll have to find ways to reduce fuel consumption. Even a 10% reduction will make a huge difference to the weight of fuel they have to take to the grid.

      Can anyone confirm my vague memory that Rubens Barrichello was the last driver to run out of fuel? Possibly at the A1 Ring?

    3. yes but in 1993 the cars weren’t running at 18,000 rpm

  13. Eduardo Colombi
    30th April 2009, 22:50

    Great news!!! thank god, f1 is back where it should never been left, real qualifying, slick tyres, overtakes… just hope for that stupid rule of champions decided by wins dosn’t happens…

  14. I agree. 1994, Hill vs Schumi. No refuelling back then, and it was considered (if my memory is right) that often it was Benetton’s superior strategy which often got Schumi victory. Pit stops will be vital.

    What I find quite funny is in the Jan 2000 edition of Motorsport magazine they interviewed a few ex champions (amongst others) and Jacques Villeneuve was one of them. He suggested going back to slicks and banning refuelling back then…

    But yes, F1 seems to be on the right track now, what we as fans have been wanting for the last 10-15 years. Now don’t screw this up FIA!!!

    1. 1994 was the first season with refuelling allowed, it was 1993 when it wasn’t.

      Benetton were often quicker in their pit stops due to the fact they’d removed a filter from the valve which ment they could pump fuel into the car illegally quickly, rather than to excellent strategy or supreme skill by the mechanics.

      One of the many reasons Schumi’s first championship is still regarded by some as a bit dodgy.

  15. I think I’ll miss refuelling. The F1 teams had got it down to such a fine art, where else are the top refuellers going to find work?

    Other than that, lets see – the way F1 works the law of extremely tight averages will once again have us with pretty much the same situation, just played out in a different way.

    It will all now come down to tyres… So why change?

    1. Glad I’m not the only one who isn’t pleased about this.

      I don’t see how this would make qualifying more spectacular and unpredictable. Quite the opposite I would’ve thought.

      I enjoyed the strategy factor with differing fuel weights in the race too.

      Drivers are still required to use one of each tyre type during the race, yes?

    2. yeah i really think fuel loads is an integral part of the race.

      look at brazil 08, vettel pitted heaps of times, ran a super light load and caused an upset by pipping hamilton with a lighter car on better tires, if he had to run a full tank of fuel all race he would never have been able to get that close just on tires alone.

      i’ve seen closer better racing, and more races won from fuel strategies than tires.

    3. I cannot see the attraction in refuelling at all. It’s not racing.

      I don’t see how this would make qualifying more spectacular and unpredictable.

      At the moment the first two parts of qualifying are great – you’re seeing a real contest. Then when you get to Q3 all the excitement and tension vanishes because even if someone does a really quick lap you just think ‘oh, they’re probably just light on fuel’.

      Drivers are still required to use one of each tyre type during the race, yes?


      more races won from fuel strategies

      Yawn. I want to see racing, not some tedious exercise in fuel consumption management and timing pit stops to avoid having to race other cars.

    4. I see where you are coming from Keith but F1 does have racing along with pit stops and refuelling.

      All the elements are part of the race from the design of the car to the strategic use of fuel and tyres. Then a driver that can drive precisely to a strategy to increase the chances of success.

      It’s really all going to come down to just tyres, rather than tyres and fuel. As is said above, we won’t get many if any, balls out light fuel three stoppers. Segmenting the race into sprints amongst a grid of not-quite-sprints – surely that makes for better racing?

      I am however all for running quali with quali fuel loads for the fastest possible lap.

  16. Billy7766
    1st May 2009, 0:07

    *hands clasped together praying* “…..and then make qualifying exciting again, and get rid of all the talk about single engines for all teams, oh and ban Eddie Jordan from the BBC…..”

  17. I think there was refueling in 1994 Clay, remember Vestappen?

  18. I like this move very much- it puts the emphasis back on driver skill, and not on who has the most fuel onboard. I look at Heikki at McLaren and how many times he was fueled heavier than Lewis last year- he would have done much better under this system.

  19. Great, one less thing to watch on Saturday. I enjoyed the knockout quali.

    1. I don’t understand your post – knockout qualifying is staying.

  20. excellent news!

  21. So the fastest cars will start up front for sure. Combine that with no refueling and we get to see less overtaking and basically none after the initial start since car weights will be the same. It will basically be a drag race at the start and the only thing that would create a change is a wreck or a mechanical failure.

    So what about this is so appealing to you all?

    1. Agreed

    2. I agree. It sounds like its going to be a procession ‘race’

    3. I agree. Thats what I’ve been saying all along.

    4. The fastest car on low-fuel is not necessarily the fastest car with a full tank. So you’ll still see some fast cars out of position, and even better, the pit stop strategies will be much less predictable, as drivers no longer get “free” tyre change to go with their fuel.

    5. ILoveVettel
      1st May 2009, 6:29

      I completely agree with you Steve K. Now we shall have to wait for either safety car period or rain to see some proper racing. And if a team produces a car superior to others, they will be untouchable. In other wards, the season would be finished in Winter Testing.

    6. The fastest car on low-fuel is not necessarily the fastest car with a full tank.


    7. Extrapolating your angle Keith, all the cars would be the same, running the same tyres and fuel loads to find the best driver. But that’s not F1.

  22. Am I missing something, or doesn’t

    “Fuel may not be added to nor removed from any car eligible to take part in Q3 between the start of Q3 and the start of the race”

    mean that all cars will run Q3 with a full tank?

    1. No. As cars can now add or remove fuel betweeen Q3 and the race, they will obviously add fuel after qualifying.

      So cars in quali will be fuelled as light as possible…the fastest cars will be at the top. Saturday just got a hell of a lot more exciting!

    2. @Arnet

      No, that sentence was removed from the 2009 regs in making the 2010 regs.

      They can qualify with fumes in the tank and then fill up for the race.

  23. Yes, and take twice as long to do a lap – sorry Keith, but I think it’s a step in the wrong direction.

    Saturdays are now free for shopping with the wife!

    1. and take twice as long to do a lap

      Sorry, why are they going to take twice as long to do a lap?

  24. I’d be interested to know how many of the pro-refuelling camp have only been watching F1 since 1993.

    Personally, I first watched in 86 so that’s 7 years without refuelling and 16 with it.

    I’m glad to see it go. Now, the fastest car will be on pole. That’s a plus. Also, light-fuelled cars qualifying high and holding people up till they pit won’t happen as often.

    As for pit stop strategies disappearing – not the case. There have been plenty of races in the past where one driver has stayed out, another has pitted for fresh tyres and then has hunted down the leader. Eg Mansell and Senna at Monaco.

    I find this a much more interesting strategic situation than fuel load differences.

    1. I can beat you by six years – and the “fastest” cars won’t be very fast at all.

      And yes, I’m pro-refuelling.

    2. I’d be interested to know how many of the pro-refuelling camp have only been watching F1 since 1993.

      Personally, I first watched in 86 so that’s 7 years without refuelling and 16 with it.

      I’m glad to see it go.

      I think you’re onto something here. These whippersnappers!

    3. Lol, if only – I started watching F1 in 1976, age 7 have watched it ever since. Maybe missed a handful.

      I’m a refueller. Not every season in the non-refuelling past was a no holds barred battle for the WDC. Ever since tyres, brakes and aerodynamics reduced overtaking zones to what they are, F1 evolved a different kind of race.

      As for the increase in minimum weight. Is that not a reduction in efficiency?

  25. Get the qualifying flying laps back is the ONLY thing I can see with good eyes in all this – but with a cost – no more in race refueling – less emotion… why not do the qualifying on low fuel and have each team decide what to put in for the race start ? Is it too strange? Didn’t any of those master minds thought about that?… Bah!

  26. Thats good news.I hope pitstops are not banned completely.They add some spice to the races.

  27. scunnyman
    1st May 2009, 6:47

    Firstly i’d like to know where CARLOS gets ths idea where teams were not allowed to refuel and change tyres during a race in the old days.

    When was this??????????????

    And secondly do the pro refuellers not know what the racing was like before 1994 when refuelling was introduced.

    Not every pole sitter won the race and many people won from further back on the grid than the 1st 2 places.

    Not every race was a procession, in fact i think there have been more processional races since 94′.

    I just wish the FIA would get rid of all these mickey mouse rules for f1
    too much aero on cars
    different tyre compounds
    engine restrictions

    Let’s get back to proper racing like we used to get 15+ years ago.

    Like Jonathon Leggard said during the Bahrain race ” they’ll have to go Motor Racing” meaning the drivers will actually have to race each other, rather than relying on fuel stops and such.

    I think if you ask most fans who watched f1 bfore 94′ will be looking forward to the ban on refuelling.

  28. There is now a reduction in the strategy component of F1 racing for two reasons.

    1. Qualifying light vs. heavy to make up places is no longer an option.

    2. With the refueling ban, all pit stops will take exactly the same time for all the teams (assuming they’ll nail the process down), no more 11 seconds vs. 7 seconds for different amounts of fuel going in.

    While it is true that a light car in qualifying can behave differently from a heavy car in race trim, I would imagine qualifying will offer roughly the right order in terms of car+driver capability. At least most of the time on most tracks.

    This reduces uncertainty in the sport, and that is always a bad, bad thing. There will be an heavier reliance on rain or accidents to make things exciting. Otherwise, expect a processional display in several tracks, not just the boring “tilke tracks” we’re complaining about now. We’ll also need to rely on plenty of off-track “excitement” like the Singapore night race, and fans gushing about how “gorgeous” the cars look.

    Uncertainty is the life blood of sport. They just reduced it in F1.

    1. Uncertainty was thrown out of the window once and for all when the weights of the cars started being published before the race.

      I’m glad to see refuelling go.

      Instead of using clever strategies (which are clever – Schumi Hungary ’98 is probably the only good reason for refuelling I can think of) to win over the race, the drivers will just have to race each other on the track to win.

  29. Lewis’ Turkey race would not be possible. He would probably have finished dead last.

    1. How ironic – when I read this I thought you meant his ’06 GP2 race in Turkey. The one where he dropped to 16th at the start and finished second.

      How did he make up those places? By overtaking. Not with some tedious strategic dodge or getting lucky with a safety car – by passing people on the track.

      And the same goes for Ayrton Senna at Suzuka in 1988, Nigel Mansell at the Hungaroring in 1989, Alain Prost at Mexico in 1990…

  30. schumi the greatest
    1st May 2009, 8:34

    Brilliant news! im absolutley delighted with this! Banzai laps for pole…so much better than the stupid rules now where “fuel corrected” the fastest driver is normally on the 3rd row!!

    Keith are there any plans to change the format back to the old style 1 hour 12 lap routine or is the q1,2,3 format staying??

    i think the teams (especially the lower funded teams) would like it to stay as it does give their sponsors air time because the camera’s focus on the lower drivers in q1 and 2 to see who gets the chop.

    The main problem with the old system was that for the 1st half hour no-one left the pits!

    Brilliant news

    1. As I stands, the knockout qualifying format will remain. Which is even better!

      3 sessions, all low-fuel. Much better than the old system where no-one came out onto the track for the first 30 mins except for the Minardis and Arrows – like you said.

  31. Pingguest
    1st May 2009, 8:54

    Keith Collantine, I disagree. The post-qualifying parc fermé will continue to exist. Drivers won’t be allowed to change anything except the front wing settings and (new for 2010) the fuel load. Any other (setup) change is not allowed.

    1. Sorry but where do we disagree?

  32. Accidentalmick
    1st May 2009, 9:22

    Enough of this “how long have you followed racing”

    My first race meeting was in the late 1940s at Brands Hatch when it was still a grass track.

    Keith is right. Stirling Moss never became world champion because he was hard on cars and often retired (particularly with broken gearboxes). Jim Clark became WDC because he could nurse Colin Cahpmans fragile Lotus to the end. Senna could do it, Schumaker could do it and I could go on.

    Part of F1 is about driver endurance and the ability to keep focused on the car for 2 hours. There will still be stategy (because of tyre changes) but this rule change puts more emphasis on the driver/car partnership which can only be good.

    All the talk about re-fuleing ban causeing a processional race is just rubbish – go away and watch football or something. Anyone can make a car go faster if you have unlimited fuel, all you need is to find a way to force more petrol in the engine. the ban will promote more engine efficiency developement.

    Godd article Keith.

    1. I agree here, I’ve been watching since the 60’s Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Jacky Stewart etc. I’m in favour of light fuel for qualifying and they should give 1 point to pole so that they really go for it. No fuelling during the race can also be good as a great driver will look after his tyres early and benefit later. A point for fastest lap will also make the drivers push hard towards the end when the tyres may be going off. Finally 4 point difference from first to second place in the race.

    2. I do think it’ll make it more processional, but I’m open to trying to understand why you say that idea is rubbish.

      We already have some processional races with the starting grid jumbled up, why would it get better with this qualifying format. In Bahrain we saw that a faster car still (even with OWG ideas implemented) find it difficult to pass a slower car (and not just because of good defending).

      Aren’t we all being a little too optimistic about drivers’ ability to pass people on track? We all _want_ to see it happen, but it’s only on rare occasions, such as Lewis making a mistake, dropping back and clawing his way up, do we see real overtaking (apart form opening laps, a la Bahrain). Passing isn’t as common a phenomenon as we’d all like it to be.

      I don’t think comparing to historical races is fair, because these cars even now rely much more on aerodynamics than before. Plus the technology differential between teams is no longer that high.

  33. HounslowBusGarage
    1st May 2009, 9:22

    I can’t remember the years, but at one point in the Turbo era there was a maximum amount of fuel allowed for the complete race – the idea was to make the cars more economical.
    The result was that drivers would often be unable to race in the last half or third of the race because if they did, they wouldn’t have enough fuel to make it to the finish line.
    I know the situation is not identical, but I fear that the ban on refuelling could turn F1 into an Economy Run rather than actually improving the racing.

  34. mertyazan