Scrap Qualifying, Scrap the Strategy Group, Scrap the FIA!

newhouse-thumb-aus-2016Grand Prix Rejects is excited to announce its first regular columnist, John Newhouse. John is a paddock figure who has achieved some of the highest accolades in motorsport, yet has little to no respect around the paddock. His CV is unmatched in its bluster and self-importance. Today, he files his first column, focusing on the qualifying debacle which unfolded in Melbourne last weekend.

Saturday, 9:30am. I am roused abruptly by a nuisance phone-call from a telemarketer. He goes by the name of Heinz-Harald Frenzten. I tell him the only funeral services I’ll buy from him is if he’s the one in the casket.

This turned out not to be the only rude awakening of my morning. I fired up the computer and had a look at the qualifying report from Down Under. Why not watch the qualifying with my own two eyes, you may ask? I know better than anyone else, and predicted this new format would be an utter disaster. I don’t even need to witness something first hand to give an informed opinion on it.

I would take all the credit for this discovery myself, but for the sheer obviousness of the predicament the sport finds itself in. It would take no more than two brain cells to rub together to have seen it coming; thankfully, I have three.

In my day, you had to work hard and put in the effort on the track to claim a good grid spot. Nowadays, these part-timers need only do a half-hearted single lap, and then bugger off to their trailers while the clock is still ticking. This young generation has no endurance; they always finish early, unlike myself.

For a fleeting moment – one similar in length to a Nigel Mansell soundbite which actually sounds interesting – the FIA saw sense and was heading back to the 2015 system. Obviously, the previous format presents nothing like the nerve-shredding challenge which I faced during the most successful year of my career, but at least it still provides a borderline serviceable level of entertainment. It’s the Karate Kid II to my original blockbuster. The new qualifying system played out more akin to Speed 2: Cruise Control. Without a Canadian at the helm, what’s even the point?

Alas, like a badly beaten housewife, the FIA crawled back to its abusive partner, forgiving it for its transgressions, even though the rest of the world are crying out in anguish at how terrible a decision it will be.

But what of the Strategy Group themselves? The melange of imbeciles who forced this down the throats of the teams, drivers, and viewing public? These unqualified bureaucrats have somehow come up with the worst idea since making Gary Brabham the host of To Catch a Predator Australia. They have demonstrated themselves to be unfit for purpose, and it seems there is only one way to fix the sport, both in the short and long term.

This is more like the type of "think tank" we need.

This is more like the type of “think tank” we need.

We need to go back to the good old days, when a single figurehead ran the sport and made all the important decisions, free of political interference and third party meddling. Running anything by committee is doomed to failure. Okay, so Mao Zedong’s human rights records were pretty poor, but he got results by ruling China on his own. That’s the example we must take, although today’s people are a bit soft for the odd bit of forced labour.

The solution is simple. We need a no-nonsense, straight talking leader who knows the sport inside out and how to get things done without delay or fuss. An ideal candidate, to my mind, would be the 1997 World Champion himself, Jacques Villeneuve. Never one to pull punches – and also one of the select few who can pull off a bald head in a classy fashion – he’ll clean up the system, get rid of this modernist nonsense like think tanks and ugly, pointless ‘safety’ devices like Halo. F1 is enough of a video game as is.

Our new dear leader waves to his loyal subjects

Our new dear leader waves to his loyal subjects.

Focusing on short-term solutions though, we need an emergency patch to fix this urgent situation we find ourselves in. We can invent something new and have it in place by next week; this is how the current system was implemented, after all. Formula 1 has forgotten the purpose of its existence – to be the cutting edge of the automotive industry. We need to abandon all this limitation and conservation nonsense. They must open up the engine quota. Can you imagine how much more powerful these units could be, if we weren’t so concerned about the reliability of all this eco-garbage attached to them?

If you really want to turn qualifying into a standalone spectacle, let the teams amp up their powerplants to four figures of horsepower, let the qualifying session be a demonstration of drivers controlling a bucking bronco. Less Toro Rosso, more Toro Loco. The Dutch teenager will end up wetting himself, and finally wake up and realise this is supposed to be a man’s game, not musical chairs and party-bags of points.

F1 has to go back to its roots. There must be an element of danger, and not the element where you’re worried about chipping a nail, fracturing a bone or breaking a leg, but the danger where you might end up with your family dealing with the Frentzens’, the biggest danger of all.