107% rule to result in depleted F1 grids

Former team owner Gian Carlo Minardi wonders whether the 107% rule could result in depleted grids this season.

Ahead of the final pre-season test many questions are still to be answered. While most attention is focused on the plight of the Renault powered runners, and in particular world champions Red Bull, others are wondering just how much of an advantage the works Mercedes team will enjoy in the opening rounds. And then there's Ferrari and Williams.

However, the question that Gian Carlo Minardi is pondering is the 107% rule. Initially introduced to F1 in 1996 – though the FIA wanted it in place mid-1995 – the rule was intended to weed out uncompetitive cars at a time when due to the smaller number of entries everyone qualified for the race no matter how great the speed differential between those at the front of the grid and those at the back.

Dropped ahead of the 2003 season, the 107% rule – which has been used in other disciplines of motor sport – was introduced again in 2011 with an eye on the new teams that had entered F1 just a year earlier.

Reflecting on the wide ranging spread of the field during last week's test in Bahrain, Minardi wonders whether the 107%, which remains in place this year, could cause problems.

"I don't want to pour salt into a wound, but there are still many unclear points, especially in light of what we saw in Bahrain last week", said the Italian. "Apart from having reliability issues, the 107% policy limit hasn't been duly taken into account.

"If we take a look at the four-day-session's standings and timesheets, we realize that only 14 cars would have been qualified, if we compare the test times they recorded with Nico Rosberg’s best time," he continued.

"Besides the obvious reliability issues, the 107% rule should have been also taken into consideration," he argues. "It's true that exceptions exist (as we saw in past seasons),however, it is necessary to record a time within the 107% rule, at least in free practice, to qualify.

"At this point I think it's necessary to revise the 107% rule, without ruling it out", he added. "This rule should only be revised, not ruled out because it would be difficult for race commissioners to deal with cars which have a huge technical gap between each other.

"Today's cars have difficulty running a few laps in a row, or they have to turn off the energy recovery systems (which is not easy to do) in order to run as many kilometers as possible, but, as a consequence of that, they become less performing. This season, using the KERS means to have a 4-second-advantage on a single lap, which is equal to 90 HP."

Having previously posed the question of safety, particularly the placement of the batteries, Minardi believes the Safety Car is going to be a regular feature this year.

"I expect the safety car to be deployed very often," he said, "since its deployment is directly linked to the rescue crew intervention time. We don't have to forget that the rescue crew cannot get into action before the green light, which is installed on top of each car, switches on. When the green light is switched on, the rescue crew can get into action and take a car away from the track. This could make intervention time much longer and, as a consequence, the safety car would be deployed more often.

"And after this last test session a briefing should be arranged to discuss the madness of the double-point rule for the season finale," he concluded. Pitpass

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