The hot topic of the day is of course what happened in qualifying for the Malaysian GP earlier on today.

The session was a little mixed up due to the constant threat of rain which ensured most of the teams went out earlier in each session than usual to put in a decent time in case the heavens really did open - which they didn’t in the end.

What has caused the consternation amongst F1 followers is that a couple of drivers, Fernando Alonso and Nick Heidfeld, claimed they were held up while on a fast lap at the end of the session.  TV pictures backed the pair up, with the onboard shots from Heidfeld’s car in particular showing just how dangerous it appeared to be - the speed differential between Heidfeld and the slower cars was in the region of 200km/h.  A coming together at that rate would have been catastrophic, and very possibly fatal so obviously this isn’t something that should be swept under the carpet.

On first viewing, it appeared that there were several drivers involved who could be up for punishment if the FIA decided to investigate, but in the end it was just the McLaren pair, Heikki Kovalainen and Lewis Hamilton, who were called in to explain their conduct.  Further pictures confirmed that while there were other drivers circulating slowly, the two McLaren drivers were the only ones who had done so without at least moving from the racing line.

The consequence of their actions is that their third and fourth places on the grid have now become eighth and ninth following a five-place penalty each.  McLaren accept the punishments, but stress that any blocking was done unintentionally - what a load of cobblers!  Firstly, if you do something wrong, whether intentional or not, you deserve to be punished - and secondly as soon as Heidfeld passed Lewis he swerved out onto the opposite side of the track - surely a sign that he knew he was actually in the wrong.

In this age of having to find someone to blame for everything, who should carry the can for today’s antics?

It’s easy to blame the FIA, after all they make the rules and had the rules been different then this wouldn’t have happened - in fact every F1 blog I can find is going down this route but for once I don’t think they are to blame for what happened today.

I agree with most of what is being said about the FIA elsewhere - I don’t think the current qualifying format is the best we’ve ever seen, but similarly had we continued with the old one I dare say people would be blaming the FIA for being dull and not experimenting with different ideas a bit from time to time.  But rules are useless unless everyone can understand them, so usually the simpler they are kept the better as everyone knows where they stand - to this end a return to the qualifying system of old may in actual fact be the way forward, but that argument is for another day.

The FIA are criticised for taking kneejerk reactions at times, but then at other times they are faulted for taking too long to reach decisions so I think this is another case where they can’t really win - should qualifying be changed for the next race and should it go wrong then the FIA will get it in the neck again.  Shoud they keep it the same and a similar situation occur in a later race, everyone will be jumping on their backs.

I don’t know what is for the best - I can’t find my crystal ball at the moment - so I will wait and watch what happens over the coming weeks and months like everyone else will have to.

Back to today, and if I don’t blame the FIA who do I blame?  Simple - the drivers and their teams.

In normal circumstances, drivers try to cross the line as late as possible to start their last flying lap in the hope that it will result in their fastest time.  If this happens then the session is effetively over as soon as they cross the line so it is entirely safe for them to drive back to the pits at whatever speed they desire.  Today however, due to the possibility of rain, most drivers went out a little early and were finishing their laps while there was still a few seconds of the session left.

There’s no problem so far, however Heidfeld and Alonso had held off for some reason and only just started their flying laps as everyone else finished their’s.  Due to current regulations, the drivers are encouraged to drive back to the pits as slowly as possible to conserve fuel - it should have been obvious to onlookers that the sector times for Alonso and Heidfeld were inicating that they were travelling much faster than everyone else, and the other drivers should have been warned.

Due to everyone except the McLaren drivers moving off the racing line, it will be interesting to hear whether the other teams had cottoned onto this and warned their drivers over the radio.  If so, then this would be another piece of damning evidence against McLaren’s aility to run a racing team properly after the mismanagement disasters of last season.

Kovalainen and Hamilton seem to have been genuinely unaware that faster drivers were closing down on them, but even without a warning from their team they should have been aware that the session hadn’t ended and therefore they shouldn’t have been on the racing line - and they should have been watching their mirrors.

From the TV pictures it appeared that Hamilton was following Heikki very closely, as he always seems to do, so perhaps Heikki really couldn’t see anything other than his teammate behind him - and it’s possible Hamilton was too preoccupied with his poor qualifying result to keep an eye on his mirrors.

For sure the fact that drivers have to start the race with their qualifying fuel load has been a factor in all this, but for this rule to take the entire blame for what was a very dangerous situation seems a bit simplistic to me.  A little bit of sense from McLaren could have ensured Heidfeld and Alonso were capable of completing their laps in the best time they could, so I think the bulk of the blame has to lie at their feet.

I’m disappointed that the FIA continue to tinker with the qualifying format, and perhaps they are too ashamed to be seen to go backwards to a previous format which is what results in the constant tweaking year after year.  I would fully support a change to something a little fairer, more sensible and ultimately simpler which would guarantee that the best man who does the best lap in the best car is the man who starts on pole.

Today’s antics will provide some ammunition with which to attack the FIA in the hope that a change such as this will come about, but to blame the qualifying format for the whole thing is taking it too far.