A meeting of the F1 Strategy group failed to reach agreement over new format, which was universally panned after Australian GP
The controversial qualifying format introduced at the Australian GP will remain for the second round in Bahrain.
In a meeting prior to the start of the season, the new qualifying format was announced out of nowhere, unanimously voted through by the F1 Strategy Group.
The aim was to mix up the grid and bring some unpredictability to the show.
The new format failed to bring any surprises in the grid for the Australian GP. As a result, it was rumoured, and then seemingly confirmed, that Formula One would revert back to the old qualifying system.
The fans spoke, the teams listened, fast… https://t.co/6Dv3byHwqU
— WILLIAMS RACING (@WilliamsRacing) 20 March 2016
The Austrailian GP should have marked the welcome return of Formula One for the 2016 season – Christmas finally arriving for fans after a long winter – but even a spectacular race failed overshadow the debacle and criticism that arose from qualifying.
Team bosses were quick to criticise and lament that their warnings went unheeded and they knew it would be a failure, and assured fans watching that the format would be scrapped for Bahrain.
We now have another reminder that Formula One can’t seem to solve its own crisis, as Red Bull and Force India voted against tweaks to the current system. Because unanimity was not reached, the elimination rounds will stay.
Doomed from the start?
When first announced, the idea was criticised for being too complicated for the casual viewer, and would not encourage new followers to the sport.
A rush then ensued to adjust the proposal, whereby the first two sessions would feature the elimination rounds, but the final session would be similar to that of the 2015 season.
However it was too late, as the original proposal had gone before the World Motor Sport Council, who can only approve or reject proposals and not amend them. They approved the format sixteen days before the start of the season; Formula One would have elimination rounds in all three sessions.
Teams seemed to struggle to get to grips with the new system, as many drivers were eliminated when in the pits, on out-laps, or moments before they were able to complete a flying lap (drivers are not allowed to finish the lap they are on unless they are the last one on track about to be eliminated. Simple, right?).
The ban on radio communication also meant teams could not inform their drivers of upcoming traffic, or that they were in danger of being eliminated if their out-laps were not fast enough for them to complete a flying lap in the 90 second window.
But the worst consequence of the new format was that in the final four minutes of the final session, there were NO cars on track attempting to fight for pole position.
Ferrari opted to stay in the pits and save a set of tyres for the race, leaving only Rosberg and Hamilton on track. Both then pitted, meaning we knew the grid lineup before the session had even finished. Supporters of the new system hailed the crescendo of two cars out on track fighting for pole positon; in reality we were left with no cars on track before fifth place Verstappen was officially ‘eliminated’.
Team bosses unite in criticism
Niki Lauda told the BBC it was the “worst decision in F1”.
Red Bull team prinicipal Christian Horner also told the BBC, “It didn’t really work did that qualifying for me and we should apologise to the fans here. We didn’t put on a great show.”
Mercedes team boss told Sky Sports, “I think the new qualifying format is pretty rubbish. We need to discuss it. Everyone is trying to do their best to improve the show and if we haven’t we need to discuss it.”
— BBC Radio 5 live (@bbc5live) 19 March 2016
So, what did you think of the new qualifying?
Answers on a postcard, or in the comments below!