Thursday, July 30, 2009

Ready to Race: Final Grid Positions

At the end of Saturday qualifying a sheet showing the provisional grid positions is published. It is provisional while the cars are checked over to ensure they comply with weight and tyre regulations. Once this has been confirmed a final grid will be issued.
By this time the drivers will be well into their debrief with their engineers, logging the behaviour of the car and making final plans for the following day’s race strategy. A few hours later they’ll be sleeping, ready to be in peak shape for the climax of the weekend – the race itself.

Surrendering grid position

A team may accept a lower grid position than possible. Basically teams would do so in one of two situations:
  • _ The race team decides that its best race strategy involves a heavy fuel load and that the disadvantage a heavy load brings in qualifying will be more than made up for during the race. This strategy is feasible only at tracks where overtaking isn’t too difficult.
  • _ A driver has qualified so badly that the team reasons it would be better to start him from the pit lane. Opting for a pit lane start after all
the others have reached the first corner allows the team the option of changing its fuel load – something that it can’t do if it starts from the grid. If everyone else had opted for a two fuel stops so that their cars were lighter during qualifying, going for one fuel stop is theoretically the quickest way to complete the race and could put you on a better strategy than everyone else. Of course, the benefit of starting from pit lane could outweigh that of starting from the grid only if you had qualified a long way down the grid and had little to lose.

No stopping for the weather

A driver may begin his qualifying lap in the dry and then have the heavens open half-way through. If so, it’s his tough luck. Conversely the track may be damp as qualifying begins but then dry out as the session goes on, thereby giving a massive advantage to those late in the running order. Due to bad weather, the warm-up at the British Grand Prix was heavily delayed a few years ago, and in the 2003 Brazilian Grand Prix the race started under a Safety Car, but qualifying has never been affected and this random factor is part and parcel of the new qualifying format introduced for the 2003 season.