MotoGP: New Qualifying Format for 2013

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Qualifying for the MotoGP class is to undergo a shake-up starting from next year. Instead of the current one-hour qualifying format, two sessions of 15 minutes will settle the starting grid, with the riders divided into two groups on the basis of their combined times through the three sessions of free practice.

The new system is a hybrid of the current system and the superpole format used by World Superbikes and Formula One. An intial selection will be made on the basis of the combined times of the first three sessions of free practice, with the 10 fastest riders going straight through to QP2, with the rest left to fight it out in QP1.

The 2 fastest riders in the 15-minute QP1 session will go through to QP2. The original 10 fastest from free practice will be joined by the 2 fastest from QP1 to fight it out for the top 12 grid positions in the 15-minute QP2 session. To compensate for the shortened qualifying sessions, a 30-minute-long fourth session of free practice will added before qualifying starts.

The idea, put before the riders at the last race in Aragon, is to spice qualifying up a little. It codifies the current situation, in which the riders spend the first 40 minutes of the hour-long qualifying session working on set up, before pushing for a grid position in the last 15 minutes or so.

It takes the current practice and pours into a more TV-friendly format, with the set up work to be left for FP4, while the intensity of the last 15 minutes of qualifying is distilled into QP1 and QP2.

The splitting of the two sessions also cuts back the number of riders on track at the same time during the hectic push for a fast time. With between 22 and 24 riders expected in the MotoGP class in 2013, each session will contain some 12 riders. The format also allows a rider with problems during free practice to advance to QP2 by giving them a chance to shoot for the top 2 times in QP1.

The downside of the change is that it will impact on TV coverage of qualifying for the Moto3 and Moto2 classes. The entire period containing FP4, QP1 and QP2 is now 80 minutes long, instead of just an hour. That leaves less time for Moto2 and Moto3, though there are no proposals to shorten qualifying for the support classes.

A possible solution could be for FP4 for the MotoGP class to be run prior to qualifying for Moto3, though it is unknown whether this is currently under consideration.

The meeting of the Grand Prix Commission, in which the qualifying changes were announced, also contains a revised definition of MotoGP’s calendar year. But what it doesn’t contain is any word of the 2014 regulations, the introduction of a standard ECU and a rev limit. The future of MotoGP remains on hold. That situation cannot be allowed to last for long.

Photo: Ducati Corse

This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.