A revamped form of the elimination qualifying format could yet be used for the Bahrain GP weekend, despite the teams voting to abandon the new system.
After the disaster of Australian GP a meeting of teams was held in Melbourne on Sunday morning, hosted by the FIA’s Charlie Whiting. It was unanimously agreed to drop the new system and revert to what was used in 2015 for Bahrain. Bernie Ecclestone was not in Australia, but backed the change, having always maintained that he didn’t like elimination.
However, at the start of the meeting both Force India and Williams had initially indicated that they would like to keep Q1 and Q2 in an elimination format, with Q3 as a ‘standard’ session with all cars in a position to run all the way through.
This idea was first suggested several weeks ago after the team managers and engineers had first had a proper chance to study the idea that the F1 Strategy Group had suggested.
Sources indicate that Jean Todt was not willing to accept this compromise and make a change to the plan that had come from the Strategy Group, and which then had to be voted on by the F1 Commission and World Motor Sport Council.
Ironically it appears that after the teams agreed to dump it completely Todt now supports the Williams/Force India route, and wants to have the hybrid system, rather than go back to 2015 style qualifying.
Any change at this stage has to be agreed unanimously by the Strategy Group (six top teams plus Todt and Ecclestone), then the F1 Commission (as before plus the rest of the teams, Pirelli and promoters) and finally by the World Motor Sport Council.
It would appear that Todt is hoping to force the compromise solution through in order to save at least some of the elimination format, with some tweaks to the timing of the sessions built-in as well.
Force India deputy team principal Bob Fernley suggested that the Sunday vote to drop the new format completely was an overreaction.
“Obviously it’s something of a knee-jerk reaction in some ways,” he told this writer. “I think we should have let the weekend go through and evaluate it. It was the whole purpose of what the changes were made for, it was about trying not only to spice up qualifying a little bit, which it certainly did in Q1 and Q2, but also from the point of view of what it was going to do in the race with the tyres and so on.
“Clearly Q3 didn’t quite tick all the boxes and needed to be looked at, but that was one element of it. I think we should have waited. A lot of thought had gone into it in the first place, and just to throw it out without following the whole process seemed to me just too hasty.”