'MUSICAL CHAIRS IN F1': Lewis Hamilton (left) and Sebastian Vettel speak on the new qualifying format. Image: AP / Rob Griffith
There is no denying that the worst aspect of the season-opener in Australia was the new qualifying system, introduced for the first time in 2016.
Teams, drivers, and fans hoped the absurd format would be scrapped for the 2016 Bahrain GP but to the dismay of many, the FIA stated that it will continue to use the new qualifying rules.
The new qualifying provides an elimination-style format, where, in each of the three sessions, drivers are eliminated every 90 seconds after an x-amount of minutes have expired. It resulted in Q3 – the session where the fastest drivers challenge for pole position – being settled with five minutes remaining on the clock.
In an emergency meeting held after the Australian GP to discuss the way forward, it was McLaren and Red Bull who opposed the FIA’s suggestion to continue with the new system in Q1 and Q2, and reverting back to the 2015 method for Q3.
It now came to light that Toro Rosso and Williams also opposed the FIA’s suggestion.
Lack of leadership
Though the new qualifying format was approved before the season started, the FIA gave teams too much of a say in the matter going forward. The new system failed, no doubt about that, but there was no voice of authority in doing what is best for the sport and its followers.
The FIA showed no leadership in making a decision and instead relied on the teams for a solution.
All things considered, this weekend will probably see qualifying ending with more minutes left on the clock than in Australia. Maybe the FIA should use that time to reevaluate the sport's future.
Fortunately, thanks to some wheel-to-wheel action in the race (below), the Australian GP could be salvaged. Here's to hoping for the same in Bahrain.