May 6th, 2013 (F1plus).- Qualifying is no longer as important as in the past, according to Mark Webber, who has only made it to the front row -as second- in the first race at Melbourne, then a 5th in Malaysia to then last and 16th in the last two rounds.
"Previously," the Australian is quoted by the German-language T-Online website, "qualifying was almost everything -- 75 to 80 per cent.
"It's now much less than that," the Red Bull driver added.
Webber, 36, has been one of the leading critics of the 'new' formula one, in which Pirelli's heavily degrading control tyres are dominating.
Now, starting position is arguably completely outweighed by race strategy and tyre management.
"There's still a little bit of chess on a Saturday to make sure you're in a good position," Webber continued, "but it's no longer as important as it once was."
Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen has a slightly different view, even though so far in 2013 the Finn has won from seventh on the grid in Australia, and qualified eighth yet finished second in Bahrain.
"The further forward (on the grid) you are," he said, "it helps you to save the tyres, and keeps you away from any (first lap) accidents."
More generally, F1 is looking into how the 'Pirelli effect' gels with the current weekend format, amid reports a harder tyre could be supplied exclusively to spice up the often meagre early action in practice sessions.
And there have been suggestions the 'knockout' qualifying format is no longer working well, with tyre conservation strategies becoming more common.
"It's early days," Pirelli's Paul Hembery said. "Let's see what happens through the season.
"It's a game of opinions. Ultimately we'll do what the sport asks us to do, of course, and if we do feel together that qualifying is not working I'm sure we'll all find a solution together."