Formula 1 slams new qualifying format

Date published: March 19 2016 - Editor

While Lewis Hamilton misses the “old days of qualifying”, Christian Horner says F1 needs to make urgent adjustments after an anticlimactic qualifying in Melbourne.

Ahead of this year’s championship Formula 1 bosses agreed to alter the format in a bid to up the excitement.

And while it definitely did that in Q1, 22 drivers scrambling to put in their best laps in seven minutes while squabbling over track position, Q3 was over four minutes before the chequered flag was even waved.

Eight drivers contested the final segment but after putting in an early effort all but two – Hamilton and Nico Rosberg – ventured out to try and save themselves.

“I miss the old days of qualifying when you would go out and run and run and run,” Aussie GP pole-sitter Hamilton told Sky Sports F1.

“This whole out one lap is neat but I think people were saying it was not exciting for the fans. All my engineers were saying it would be the case, they told the FIA but they ignored them. For me it proved how smart my engineers are, although I knew that anyway.

“I don’t have the solution. I didn’t see it so I don’t know what did or did not work. To improve you have to make mistakes. Perhaps this is a step in the wrong direction but I’m not saying go back to the old system.”

Sebastian Vettel, who qualified P3, went for the ‘I told you so’ approach after many of the drivers panned the idea before it even came into effect.

He said: “I don’t see the point why everyone is surprised – we said what is going to happen and it’s happened. It’s not very exciting.”

As such Nico Rosberg has urged Formula 1 to “go back to the old system”.

However, it is not the drivers who were disappointed.

Christian Horner told BBC Radio 5 live: “I think we should accept it, we tried it, it didn’t work – I think we should apologise to the fans.

“You haven’t got the right to reply to have guys like Seb [Vettel] and [Kimi] Raikkonen in fast cars and whole qualifying being done with five minutes to go. Qualifying should be building up to a crescendo, we need to learn from it. The important thing is not to stick your head in sand and change it.

“I think it needs to be done for Bahrain. I would prefer to go back to qualifying we had, but that is my personal opinion. I think it was better the way it was.”

Mercedes non-executive chairman Niki Lauda, speaking to Sky Sports, backed the Red Bull boss.

“I fully agree with Christian Horner,” he said, “have a quick discussion before Bahrain. Everyone makes mistakes – this is a big mistake.”

But perhaps it was Toto Wolff who summed it up best, calling the new system “rubbish.”

“I’m the first one to say we shouldn’t be speaking bad about things on TV, but I think the new qualifying format is pretty rubbish,” the Mercedes motorsport boss said.

When asked whether it could change or be dropped, he replied: “We need to discuss that. Everbody is trying to do their best to improve the show. Sometimes when we find out we haven’t improved the show but we have made it worse, we need to sit down and say what can be done, can we come back [to the old format]. I think that discussion is going to take place.

“We all sat in the room and what we want is to listen to everybody, the promoters, that’s important. If the Saturday is something that needs to be improved then we must look at it. That’s what we did but the solution is not good in my opinion and that’s why we need to come back and look at it again.”