Alonso: ‘New qualifying is just for the fans’

PH caught up with Alpine F1 drivers Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon ahead of the British GP

By Becky Wells / Friday, July 16, 2021 / Loading comments

From our experience, PHers fall into three categories when it comes to Formula 1 – you’re either big fans, who naturally can’t wait for this weekend’s British Grand Prix; you have no interest whatsoever in millionaires driving round and round as even you ‘could do that for a hundred million quid’; or, you’ve watched Netflix’s Drive To Survive and are now crushing super hard on Romain Grosjean as “the man who walked out of fire.”

Either way, you’ll probably be aware there’s a shakeup going down this weekend in Silverstone. It will be the introduction of the F1 Sprint, also known as Sprint Qualifying. Instead of everyone rushing out en masse in an attempt to scrape together a qualifying lap time in between everyone else, it will now be its own mini race. The Sprint will take place over 100km, meaning 17 laps in Silverstone’s case, lasting around 25-30 minutes. All drivers will be able to go flat out with no pressure of pitting.

If you’re confused looking at your TV guide, there is also ‘normal’ three-part qualifying happening this evening (Friday). This qualifying will then determine the starting position for Saturday’s Qualifying Sprint which will then determine the order for the main race. Got it? There’s lots of talk about the need for this change to help shake up the F1 format as a whole, but one consideration has been to offer more of an experience to the fans, both spectating live and watching on the telly.

“I think the fans are the priority in this type of format,” said Fernando Alonso, legendary driver currently racing for Alpine F1, when we chatted to him earlier this week. “I think we are all happy about that because they are the core of the sport.

“I don’t know if it will change much [of the race], to be honest. The fans and the spectators would love to see even more changes than this one, to see the fastest cars or the leaders of the championship starting at the midfield or at the back. There is something else that could add even more spectacle.”

Fellow Alpine F1 racer Esteban Ocon also commented: “I think it’s going to be interesting trying this new format. We have to be very much on it, right in that first practice session, because that first session is probably one of the most important sessions of the weekend.

“It might not spice it up much but there will be more show to watch for everyone during the weekend.”

Alonso thinks that this style of quali is still too easy, though, having experienced a range of formats over the 20 years he’s been in the sport. “I think qualifiers that had only one chance, one lap, they were my favourites. You only had that opportunity and you had to deliver in that single lap. You have one set of tyres, the track just for yourself, and any lock up, any track limits, any mistake you put on the lap, you start last.

“Now, with the current systems, you have 80 minutes and multiple sets of tyres and multiple runs that eventually, the fastest cars will always be at the front. There’s no room for creativity or any surprises.” What do you think of the change of rules? Do you think it will make a difference? Are you looking forward to watching? Share your thoughts below…

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