Toyota’s Sebastien Buemi has lashed out at the Le Mans 24 Hours qualifying format, saying excessive traffic has turned the pole position shoot-out into a “joke”.
On Thursday night, Kamui Kobayashi got pole for Toyota with an astonishing lap record of 3m14.791s, benefiting from a lap without significant traffic following a red-flag period.
Before the two Thursday qualifying sessions, Buemi told media he feels the existing qualifying format makes getting a perfect lap around the Circuit de la Sarthe too much of a lottery.
“I hate the qualifying sessions because I feel like it’s becoming more and more a joke because of the traffic and because of the luck you need to have to achieve something decent,” said Buemi, whose #8 Toyota will start Saturday’s race from second alongside its pole-winning sister car.
“No one in LMP1 had a clean lap [on Wednesday]. All of them at least lost a second in traffic.”
Buemi thinks organisers should revert to the qualifying system used in the other FIA World Endurance Championship races, with separate qualifying shootouts for prototypes and GT cars.
“I feel like they should update this regulation and do more something like the WEC, where they have half an hour for the GT and half an hour for the LMP,” he said.
“Everyone wants to be on pole in Le Mans because it’s such a big thing but it’s such a mess to try and achieve it.”
The Redbull F1 test driver says the speed difference with the GT cars is a major factor, and that the way the slower cars defend track position is a “farce”.
“The problem is they all do their own races and they want to do the best they can,” said Buemi. “Nobody really cares about the other guys.
“The GT cars don’t like to be overtaken under braking or in the corners, because they lose time. In the Porsche Curves they sometimes drive in the middle of the track to make sure you cannot pass them.
“The problem is you sometimes avoid the GTs at the last minute. They don’t like it, they get pissed off and start to block you. Some of the GTs are even ready to lose time themselves to make sure you cannot pass. It’s a farce.”
He added: “Some of the speed differences with the GTs are unbelievable. When you enter the Porsche Curves you are over 270 km/h; they do 180, 190 maximum. When you arrive behind that you cannot believe it.
“The good thing would be for the GTs to be quicker in the corners. I don’t mind the difference on the straights, it’s okay to pass them. In the corners you cannot pass them.”