AUGUST 27, 2001
One shot qualifying demanded by Walkinshaw
THE idea of 'one shot' qualifying is not a new one, but Tom Walkinshaw is pushing for this form of qualifying to replace the time-honored 60 minute strategy to be ousted in favor of the lottery-style qualifying session in a bid to enliven the all-important race day.
In CART, Superbikes and touring car racing, the single flying lap qualifying is a regular feature, and occasionally allows for something of a shake-up in the order if the regular frontrunners aren't right on the pace in their single shot at setting a qualifying time.
By running an out lap, a flier and an in lap the minimum of three laps required to qualify for a race is met, and further means to shake up the order - such as running in reverse with the fastest car out early on - can bring added variety.
"It's all too predictable and there is so much emphasis on qualifying, the race is almost over by Saturday afternoon," said Walkinshaw. "Hungary was a classic example. If a driver wasn't on the front two rows there was little chance of winning. If qualifying was done in a slightly different way, extra sparkle could be added."
In touring cars it was proved that, barring someone dropping oil or a snap change in the weather, the exercise merely highlighted that the best cars and drivers could do the same job in one lap as they do in a traditional qualifying session.
Walkinshaw will have a hard job truing to convince the other team bosses that surrendering the strategic initiative of working through the current 12-lap 60-minute session could be to their advantage - and spectators too have found the lack of excitement over who will squeeze in a good run through the vagaries of traffic, track temperature and stoppages hasn't really been replaced.
Walkinshaw, though, whose TWR-run Volvo team thrived in the One Shot Showdown era of the British Touring Car Championship is eager to see Formula 1 at least consider the idea for the sake of the show.
"It would add excitement because you could have potential front-row guys in the middle or the back of the grid," he said. "They would then have to find a way through the pack on race day. It would make for a much more interesting race without being too artificial. Under my scheme the cars would come out at intervals. They would do their installation lap, their flying one and the slowing-down lap. The action would be non-stop. And the fastest cars would still have an advantage because everyone reckons the track becomes quicker towards the end of a qualifying session. But there would always be the chance someone like Schumacher might get it all wrong and finish well down the field."