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ATA qualifying format needs reviewing

NEWS STORY
23/07/2023

While grabbing pole position may have caused Lewis Hamilton to rethink his stance on the new qualifying format, rivals feel that it needs a review.

Speaking on Friday, Hamilton expressed frustration at the new format being trialled here and at Monza, and which involves drivers restricted to just one compound in each phase of qualifying, hards in Q1, mediums in Q2 and softs in Q3.

"We only had one tyre that we were going to use this session so it's not really a great format this change they made for this weekend," said the Mercedes driver. "It just means we get less running, so not ideal."

Indeed, he suggested that rather than cutting back on the slick tyres it ferries from race to race Pirelli should reduce the number of wets, which are usually scrapped without being used.

"There's a lot of wet tyres that I think they throw away after every weekend, like, a lot," he said. "Maybe they should look at something like that rather than taking time on track away from the fans."

Twenty-four hours later and having claimed the 104th pole of his career, the seven-time world champion's view had changed somewhat.

"I'm not really sure," he said. "I mean, people said that we criticised the ATA, I think it was more just the fact that just being conscious of the fans here, when we only have one set in the session, we have less running.

"When they changed the rules many years ago, when we only have two sets in the session doesn't lead you to a lot of running and we have less time on track as well.

"So I'm not sure that was necessarily the best for the Friday for entertainment, but today clearly provided great entertainment, it was great starting on the hard in the first session and then over to the medium. I generally enjoyed the qualifying session in that respect."

"I like the normal format," said Max Verstappen. "I don't think there's anything wrong with it. When you have cars which are just very close, like we had now a Q3 on a soft, that was probably still the most exciting. So you can still also have that in Q1, Q2 on soft tyres. So doesn't really matter in the format.

"I think it's more important, like Lewis said on Friday, that we just run, instead of just sitting in the box. People are paying so much money to sit on the grandstand and you're not doing a lot of laps, so that's not ideal."

At Ferrari, Carlos Sainz believes the new format cost him a place in Q3.

"I find the format interesting for qualifying, for the rest of the weekend, very dull, very boring," said the Spaniard. "We arrive here on a Wednesday to prepare everything, and then on Friday, you spend more time in the garage than running in front of the fans, because we have no tyres."

Of course, some might see where F1 is heading with this – two-day weekends anyone...

"Why even bother doing two one-hour practice sessions if you don't have tyres to run," said the Ferrari driver. "Why even have Friday if we have no tyres to run on them and to learn from the car, the track and put on a show for the fans?

"Definitely, something needs reviewing," he insisted, "either the format or the tyre allocation, the two at the same time, it's like you're not doing one thing or the other.

"That's what I think comes from trying to spice up the things," he sighed. "Today, I have paid the price for it. But for F1, if they want to spice it up, I mean I don't think they need to, but if they want to mix things up a bit, then mix them up. But that's why I don't complain about qualifying and I complain a bit more about the free practice stuff."

"It was strange, but not a big deal," said Fernando Alonso. "I think the biggest downside of this format is the practice that we cannot test because we are saving tyres.

"I'm not a fan of the format," he admitted. "I think it was a disaster to see cars not running in free practice because we are saving tyres.

"I think it didn't add anything to the show. I feel sad for the spectators, they paid the ticket for Friday, FP1, FP2 and FP3, and cars in the garage because we don't have tyres to run."

Check out our Sunday gallery from the Hungaroring here.

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