Formula 1 - Qualifying 'not devalued', drivers insist

Formula 1 drivers and teams are adamant that the importance of qualifying has not been devalued by the fact that overtaking is now much easier.

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Although there was a time when starting from pole position was almost essential for winning races, the role played by tyre strategy and use of DRS means that drivers can come through from further back to triumph.

Most outfits also concede that setting their car up for the race rather than qualifying is more important, which suggests the fight for pole position does not carry the intensity it had before.

However, leading figures insist that the status quo does not mean that qualifying is no longer of value.

Felipe Massa told AUTOSPORT: "It is always better to be in front. This is something we always need to work for - although we cannot make the car worse for what we have in the race because we need to be the quickest car in qualifying.

"We know that the most important thing is the race. But if you start the race tenth then for sure it is quite hard to fight for the victory.

"If you start the race in the top five, the top three, everything is still possible."

Red Bull's Mark Webber says that qualifying at the front is no longer as vital as it once was, but is still not something that can be ignored.

"Qualifying has become less and less important over the years," he said. "Back in the day it was everything really - it was 75-80% of where you come around on the first lap.

"Now it is less of a factor, but it is still important in terms of traffic. You don't want to be sitting in too much traffic with the tyres - they don't like being in disturbed air and they wear a lot more.

"That shortens the first stint quite a lot, which will load up the stints after that.

"There are still some chess games to play on Saturday to make sure you are in a good position."

Kimi Raikkonen added: "It helps if you can be in front, to save your tyres, and you also have less chance of having issues at the start."

Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali backed up the view that it was the tyre factor that meant qualifying was still essential.

"It's important because if you are able to start in front then you are able to manage the tyres the best way that you can," he said.

"But considering the situation that we have seen in the first four races, everything is possible.

"If I have to think about if, for sure I like to start in front then I can cruise – well, cruise is not the right word – but I can manage the tyres better."

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