Elimination qualifying gets last-minute reprieve
Controversial qualifying system escapes the axe as Formula 1’s stakeholders fail to reach agreement on a better solution
Formula 1 retained the new elimination qualifying format for the Bahrain Grand Prix, in spite of teams agreeing that it should be dropped immediately after it misred at the season opener in Australia. Fundamentally incompatible with the current tyre regulations, the system bamboozled fans and commentators – and left the track empty in the nal moments of Q3 as the top drivers saved tyres for the race.
Team bosses and sporting directors held an emergency meeting on race-day morning in Melbourne and agreed unanimously to revert to the previous system. But that decision carried no legislative weight, and F1’s Strategy Group – which includes other stakeholders besides team representatives – subsequently voted to persevere with the elimination format and evaluate it after Bahrain.
The new format was introduced because Ecclestone told the teams he insisted on changing qualifying to spice up races. He gave them two choices: the elimination format, and a different one which retained the old qualifying but then shufed the top eight cars, either by reversing them or re-ordering them based on their nishing positions in the previous race.
The teams voted for the elimination format believing it the “least worst option”, according to Mercedes boss Toto Wolff. When the change was agreed, the FIA asked the sporting directors to analyse it. They identied the issue that the end of Q3 was likely to feature no action because of the limited tyre quota, but the World Council voted to impose the system anyway.
“It is an exciting format, a shoot-out,” Wolff said, “as long as you are capable of transmitting that in the right way on the television.”
Ecclestone publicly backed the decision to keep the faith until Bahrain, saying, “After that we will then have a good look and decide whether what was done was the right thing to do, the wrong thing to do, does it need modifying, does it need scrapping?”