The FIA World Motor Sport Council has formally approved F1’s new elimination qualifying system, and thus it is now expected to be used from the start of the season after all.
The FIA announced tonight that “The World Motor Sport Council approved the new qualification format, the principles of which were unanimously accepted by the F1 Commission. The new system should be introduced for the first round of the 2016 FIA Formula One World Championship.”
The intriguing use of the word “should” suggests that there could still be some doubts.
Bernie Ecclestone had suggested recently that the change could not happen straight away because his FOM organisation could not ready the software for the timing system and associated TV graphics. However, that issue appears to have been addressed.
The system was initially agreed after meetings of the F1 Strategy Group and F1 Commission in Geneva on February 23rd. However in the days since the original announcement there had been considerable confusion.
Many drivers and team members expressed doubts about the change, and it did not prove popular with many fans, who viewed qualifying as an aspect of F1 that did not need adjustment.
Ecclestone, who also made it clear that it was not his idea and that he preferred some form of handicap to shake up grids, said that the new system would have to wait until the start of the European season in May.
This claim came as a surprise to the FIA and race director Charlie Whiting, who is ultimately responsible for implementing rule changes, and who was adamant that the change could not come in the middle of the season. Discussions continued this week with teams, and Whiting also met the drivers to address doubts about new the system.
As previously reported the system is based on the three sessions that we previously had, but in each of them the slowest cars will gradually be flagged off at 90 second intervals in the last part of each session. Seven of the 22 drivers are eliminated in Q1, seven in Q2, and only eight progress to Q3. By the end of Q3 two cars will be left fighting for pole in the closing minutes.
This week there was a suggestion that the third period of qualifying could remain as normal with all cars on track at once, but it was too late for the idea to be processed by the WMSC today. Instead the format was agreed as originally announced.
Ecclestone told Forbes after today’s meeting: “It is going to be is exactly what we voted for the other day and we agreed. We thought we wouldn’t be able to write the software in time but I think we are going to be able to do that so we are OK. We have been cracking away so it is from Australia for sure. We are going to get the software done in time.
“I don’t like it but it’s good that we are going to do something even if we don’t like it. It might work if we knock out a few people. Having two cars at the end might work.”