16 January 2015

Formula One's Worst Regulations of the 2000s

The noughties saw Ferrari dominate, winning the Constructors' Championship in seven of the 10 years in the decade, the emergence of Kimi Raikkonen, Jenson Button, and Fernando Alonso, the decline of Mika Hakkinen, David Coulthard, and some bonkers regulations.

Single-Lap Qualifying (2003 - 2005)

Michael Schumacher ruins his 2004 Chinese Grand Prix.
After Michael Schumacher finished every race in 2002 on the podium (and only one of those was a third place), the FIA panicked, and so between 2003 and 2005, Formula One turned into the downhill skiing. Drivers took it in turns to do a lap, one at a time, and the fastest person took pole. The drawbacks were that on circuits like Bahrain, qualifying was occasionally a bit dull where no one would make a mistake (and with runoffs extending to Saudi Arabia, any mistakes wouldn't be punished), and in addition, the running order was decided by reverse finishing position in 2005, and by a "pre-qualifying" session in 2003 and 2004 (which was pointless), which meant the fastest cars got the track in the best condition. Single-lap qualifying was also mind-numbingly tedious, especially when a front-running driver had done his lap early, meaning the rest of the session was a formality. There were some advantages, though, in that mistakes usually resulted in last place. But the biggest drawback is what weather could do. You can't delay doing your lap, as you have to be out of the pit lane in a certain timeframe. After the chaos of Australia 2005, where the track dried up rapidly, leading Giancarlo Fisichella to be 16 seconds quicker than the Minardis, who had gone out first. Felipe Massa was next to run and it thundered down during his lap when he was on dry tyres, so much so he gave up altogether. Michael Schumacher was next, and although on wet tyres, he qualified last. Thankfully, a crash for Takuma Sato brought out the red flag, allowing the track to dry somewhat, although Ralf Schumacher, Fernando Alonso, Rubens Barrichello, Kimi Raikkonen, and Juan Pablo Montoya were well out of position. Single-lap qualifying's regulations were found in a bin at the back of the Shanghai paddock, the final race of 2005...
(Stats include aggregate qualifying (see below))
First race: 2003 Australian Grand Prix
Last race: 2005 Chinese Grand Prix
Races applied: 53

Race Fuel Qualifying (2003 - 2005, 2008 - 2009)

Pole to third, second to sixth. Talk about "fake" poles.
On top of that, in 2003 the organisers tried race fuel qualifying, the rule being you weren't allowed to refill before the race, which led to cars running very short first stints in the race in order to try to qualify as high as possible. In Europe, Canada, and the United States in 2005, for three races in succession, the fastest car wasn't on pole, it was the lightest one. In Europe, Nick Heidfeld qualified on pole with team mate Mark Webber third, only for them to falter on their three-stop strategy. Heidfeld took a fortuitous second place whilst Webber crashed on lap one. In Canada, Jenson Button was on pole with Michael Schumacher second, but by the end of the first lap, the two Renaults of Fisichella and Alonso were first and second, with Button third, the two McLarens of Montoya and Raikkonen in fourth and fifth, and Schumacher only sixth. In the United States, Jarno Trulli qualified on pole, but we never found out where he would finish due to all the Michelin runners withdrawing on safety grounds. What we estimate at Benjamin's Blog is that he didn't have enough fuel to get out of his own way.
First race: 2003 Australian Grand Prix
Last race: 2009 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Races: 88

No Team Orders (2003 - 2010)

"OK. So... Fernando is faster than you. Can you confirm that
you understood that message?"
The FIA rule changes became ludicrous when they tried to impose this regulation after clumsy Ferrari team orders in 2002, in an effort to spice up racing. However, they failed to ban the root of the problem, which was that teams would often ask drivers to hold positions, leading to a huge loophole in the regulations. It wasn't enforced very well, and after Ferrari started resorting to coded messages in Germany in 2010, "Fernando is faster than you", the FIA realised what a terrible regulation this was (as any high-profile infringement could be covered by Article 141c, that one must not bring the sport into disrepute), and legalised team orders in 2011.
First race: 2003 Australian Grand Prix
Last race: 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Races: 142

Aggregate Qualifying (2005)

Aggregate qualifying... not a good idea.
Take single-lap qualifying. Multiply it by two. Add race fuel to one of the sessions. Add the times together. Yes, this was Formula One's horrendously complicated answer to the single-lap qualifying problem. The drivers did two lots of single-lap qualifying, with the times added together to determine the grid. On the 2005 Season Review DVD, its intention is stated as to "mix up the grid". Although it did do that in the chaos in Australia, explained above, it didn't for every other race, as the mistakes were nullified as they were a smaller percentage of the lap time, and it made the qualifying sessions seem more predictable. With race fuel only applying to the second session and not the first, at San Marino, Michael Schumacher was third in the low-fuel session, but put a ridiculous amount of fuel in for Q2, causing him to make a mistake, dropping him to 14th (promoted to 13th after an engine change for Massa), but even without the mistake, he would still have only been sixth or seventh. It was binned after just six races, with the drivers doing one run on race fuel levels.
First race: 2005 Australian Grand Prix
Last race: 2005 Monaco Grand Prix
Races: 6

No Tyre Changes (2005)

Raikkonen's suspension lets go as the tyre cries enough.
Unless you can prove that you had a puncture or other tyre-related issue, in 2005 no tyre changes were allowed, causing Bridgestone and Michelin to develop tyres as hard as wood. One set of tyres had to do qualifying and the race (unless it was raining), putting far too much pressure on the tyres to survive. McLaren had the biggest issues, with Kimi Raikkonen's front right tyre letting go on the last lap of the European Grand Prix whilst in the lead. In Italy, Raikkonen's rear tyre exposed its carcass (as did Montoya's): McLaren changed Raikkonen's tyre, but not Montoya's. The final straw was when Juan Pablo Montoya drove over a loose drain cover in China. The problem, however, with having one tyre brand spanking new and three tyres having done over 100 miles, it creates a huge mechanical grip imbalance, which is why, these days, when a driver gets a puncture, all four tyres are changed.
First race: 2005 Australian Grand Prix
Last race: 2005 Chinese Grand Prix
Races: 19

Fuel Burn Phase (2006 - 2007)

Quick enough for my tiger token?
2006 saw the introduction of the "knockout" qualifying system still in place today due to its popularity, but with the FIA keen to impose a race fuel qualifying system, the top 10 runners had to declare their fuel loads between Q2 and Q3. Q3 was initially 20 minutes long, and for each lap you did, you "won" some more fuel to counter what you had burnt off (added to your car before the race), as long as your lap was within 110% of the final time you did in Q3. The drawbacks were that it was boring, and that if a car was on a three-stop strategy with therefore less fuel, you knew he would be on pole with 17 minutes remaining after they'd all done their first times. The fuel burn times weren't even good enough as banker laps, as Lewis Hamilton found out in 2007 when he crashed due to a tyre failure and his fuel burn laps only got him 10th place. The session was shortened to 15 minutes after just 10 races, and scrapped for 2008, with Q3 being done on race fuel, and race fuel was finally scrapped altogether when refuelling was banned in 2010. Ecomentalists (of which I am not one) said this was nothing more than a waste of fuel, and the irony-o-meter hit the roof when the 2007 "Earth car" Honda, with a livery designed to raise environmental issues, was not above joining in with this process...
First race: 2006 Bahrain Grand Prix
Last race: 2007 Brazilian Grand Prix
Races: 35

No Safety Car Pitting (2007 - 2008)

Felipe Massa ruins his race and Raikkonen's too.
Technically not true in the title, but the oddest of the odd regulations. With refuelling being a bit dreary, this was another overblown solution to a non-existent problem. In 2007 a new regulation was devised that you would not be allowed to pit behind the safety car until all the cars have caught up to the safety car. This was a total, complete, and utter farce if the safety car came out in pit windows. This rule formed the basis for "Crashgate", where Renault fixed the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix. Fernando Alonso had qualified somewhere near Indonesia in a car capable of the front row, due to a mechanical failure. Jarno Trulli predictably formed a Trulli train as he was on a one-stop. Alonso came in for his first stop on lap 12 and dropped to last place. Team mate Nelson Piquet then crashed two laps later: Mark Webber, Rubens Barrichello, and David Coulthard scraped in before the pits closed, but Nico Rosberg and Robert Kubica weren't so lucky, and had to incur a 10-second stop/go penalty after the restart. With Singapore a long circuit, we had the farcical situation of the front-runners, Felipe Massa, Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen, et al, trundling round behind the safety car in top gear, waiting for the pack to catch up. When the pits finally did open, Felipe Massa was given the green light and drove off... with the fuel hose still attached... right into the path of Adrian Sutil (earning him a penalty). Due to the chaotic pit lane, the normally automated lights system Ferrari had been using since late 2007 was manually operated. This therefore wrecked Raikkonen's evening too. Whilst Ferrari threw the lights system into a bin, the real reason this was removed is that it became apparent that it would be quicker to pit early and take a penalty than to wait until the pits were open, as Rosberg found out.
First race: 2007 Australian Grand Prix
Last race: 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix
Races: 35

Must Use Both Tyre Compounds (2007 -)

Massa's on the... er....
The tyre manufacturers (note the plural) used to bring two dry compounds to each race: a harder one, which was slower but lasted longer, or a softer one, which was quicker but wore out quicker. When Bridgestone became the sole tyre supplier in 2007, a rule was introduced that one had to use both types of compounds in a race, with a white stripe (later a green stripe) denoting the softer tyres. Pirelli in 2011 introduced a bonkers colour coding scheme (red, yellow, white, silver, getting harder throughout; silver changed to orange in 2013). In the 2008 Japanese Grand Prix, the tyres were painted green, making the distinctions almost impossible. Mandatory pit stops aren't popular, as cars would sometimes run the whole race (bar lap one or the final lap) on one set of tyres.
First race: 2007 Australian Grand Prix
Last race (at time of writing): 2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Races (at time of writing): 138


  1. Ill thought out rules like this, together with constant reduction in freedom of how cars can be built, have over the years reduced my interest in F1 a lot. It is now a poor second to the WEC in my book.

  2. The Australian Grand Prix 2018 saw Vettel finish first with 25 points on the board, whereas Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Räikkönen finishing 2nd and 3rd with 18 and 16 points, respectively. The Championship has just started with only 1 race done out of 20. Watch Formula 1