Qualifying races are mentioned from 2020 to change the format of weekends in F1. But, audiences across the Atlantic show that the current qualifications are good.Liberty Media wants to conquer new targets on its audience and in particular the young
est. To do so, failing to have a lot of track action during the races, the idea of a messed up starting grid could increase curiosity, At least, that’s what they think!
Do not touch the qualification system
While engine manufacturers and F1 do not agree on the future of powertrain and the rules for 2021 are still under discussion, the idea of qualifying races could be tested as early as 2020 on three Grands Prix, this is what that he did behind the scenes.
And this new measure is far from unanimous, Max Verstappen claiming that it would be bullshit, Jacques Villeneuve thinks that it is no longer F1, Lewis Hamilton is more evasive but not against the idea of a new weekend format.
As for the qualification system, the Madeleine de Proust of the FIA has constantly changed the format without ever consulting the protagonists. The one in place deserves some adjustments, such as the fastest lap rule in Q2, which defines tire mounting for the start of the first 10 drivers.
Which on certain occasions penalizes those in 9th and 10th place on the grid, because the 11th of the starting grid is free to choose his erasers. At the beginning of the year, the idea of adding a Q4 session was mentioned, but what for? At a time when we are talking about cost reduction and capped budgets in the future.
F1 should learn from NASCAR
Changing the format of the qualifications to make mini-races with an inverted grid, this is a spectacle promised by Liberty Media, which crumples the promises of cost reduction! While the F1 calendar will show a record season of 22 races, the exhaustion of the bodies of the mechanics and the staff of the teams is already raising questions.
As for a qualifying race, which will precede another race, will we not taint the interest of the latter? Will a race, even shortened and called qualifying, still lead to an interest in the Grand Prix the next day? And, if the qualifying race is more distracting than the Grand Prix itself?
On the other side of the Atlantic, NASCAR has set up the Play-Offs, which define the final stretch of the championship. Concretely, the calendar includes 36 races, but there is a ‘regular season’ in which, the drivers must qualify (by winning a victory, for example) to reach the last square.
Of 16 contenders, then 12, 8 and finally 4 drivers for the final. The last round at Homestead Miami can only crown one pilot among 4 pilots surviving the playoffs. A system decried by the fans, which systematically attributes the title during the last race but whose audiences have sanctioned this new format. In the past three years, the NASCAR championship final has lost 45.6% of its audience, reaching only 4.2 million viewers.
ESPN Hearings Prove System Works
In the USA, NBC Sports broadcast F1 from 2013 to 2017 with an envelope of 4 million a year and refused to extend it for 40 million dollars for the next 7 seasons. NBC Sports did not want to overshadow the future official F1 streaming service.
ESPN (80% owned by The Walt Disney Company) will recover the broadcast in 2018 for free! To do this, they use several broadcasting channels and in particular, the Sky (devoid of ads), while ESPN had to team up with a sponsor to avoid cramming pubs randomly (and which triggered the discontent of viewers).
But, ESPN has recovered a series that was increasing in terms of popularity, over the last 5 years of broadcasting by NBC Sports, F1 has gained 70% of the audience to settle at the end of 2017 at 558,000 viewers per race. We are very far from the figures achieved by the two popular championships in the USA, namely the IndyCar Series and NASCAR, but there is an audience and advertisers also want to capture this audience.
From 2018, ESPN sees an increase of 2% to display 547,700 viewers and the year 2019 already displays a spectacular increase of 20% compared to the last season. Even better, qualifications are up 46%.
It is true that this season, the qualifying sessions offered their share of surprises, with Mercedes domination in the first half of the season, but pole positions divided to 4 units for Hamilton and Bottas, while Vettel won one in Canada and that Leclerc in collection 6 now, more than anyone else this season.
The qualifying session in his fight against the stopwatch is a real spectacle in itself; the fans are waiting for this moment to know who will be the fastest man of the weekend. Sacrifice this session in favor of a pseudo-mini-race will kill the statistics of pole position, the charm that had the challenge of the stopwatch and this mini-race will be without stake if not a place on the grid. A place on the starting grid where everything can be possible during a Grand Prix, so why want to randomly decide the starting order is a question that everybody is looking for an answer to.
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