New Formula One Qualifying Format Tossed Out After Disastrous Debut
Team bosses unanimously agree to revert back to old systemby Kirby Garlitos, on
When Formula One decided to dramatically alter qualifying sessions for the 2016 season, many thought it would jolt some drama back to a format that had already become too predictable, according to some. Turns out, after just one round into the new season, the new qualifying format has been thrown out and the old system will be brought back in time for the next round in Bahrain. To say that the new format was a disappointment would be a massive understatement. The words “sham,” “disastrous,” and “rubbish” were used and even then, none of those words could probably encapsulate the awkwardness brought by the new format.
Here’s what happened: the new elimination-style format was supposed to feature exciting wheel-to-wheel racing because of the rule that a driver is knocked out of the session after every 90 seconds during the three timed sessions. To be fair, the first session was actually exciting because all 22 cars got in some laps. But as the field whittled down, the excitement left with it. Less cars on the track meant less action and with four minutes left in Q3, it was just down to the two Ferraris and the two Mercedes cars. But Ferrari – smartly – decided not to send out its cars knowing that Lewis Hamilton’s fastest lap would be hard to beat. Instead, they opted to park their cars and save up their tires for the race. Without Ferrari, Mercedes did the same thing, leading to a completely empty track in the final minutes of the session.
The whole format was immediately and roundly criticized by just about everybody involved in the series. The drivers hated it. The teams hated it. Fans hated it. Even Bernie Ecclestone, the driving force behind the new qualifying format, couldn’t even find any silver lining to hang his hat on. And just as soon as the new format was introduced, it was thrown to the trash just as fast. F1 team bosses met after during race day and unanimously decided to ditch the new system. As such, the previous system will be re-introduced for the Bahrain Grand Prix on April 2, 2016.
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Why it matters
I definitely admit I was on board with this move because I thought the old system had lost its excitement. I did throw some caveats and reservations, but for the most part, I wanted to see if the new format was going to generate the kind of excitement I expected from the qualifying round. Boy, oh boy, was I wrong.
I watched the qualifying session for the Australian Grand Prix intently and I’ll be the first to say that the first session was actually pretty exciting. But in hindsight, that was because the entire field was still involved. But as the number of cars that fell by the wayside grew, I noticed the distinct drop in action on the track. By the second session, a lot of the cars were actually in their garages because the teams opted to preserve their tires knowing that they wouldn’t be able to improve their positions on the grid. It got worse in the third and final session when nobody went on the track in the final minutes for the same reason: preserve those tires.
So we were left with an empty track at what was initially thought to be the most climactic part of the new qualifying format. It turned into a complete joke. By the time the checkered flag was waved, (to nobody in particular) most of the drivers were either already getting weighed or were already in their street clothes.
So yes, I’m with everybody here. The new format was a complete disaster. It’s terrible that as much as I didn’t like the original format, I and everybody else are so eager to go dump the new format after an unspeakable qualifying event. Back to the drawing board for you, Bernie.