Familiar Top Three as New Qualifying Format Falls Flat on its Face



After four grueling months, fans of Formula One finally got their fix as the 2016 season finally kicked off in Melbourne, Australia. However with a new elimination-style qualifying format rushed through in the closing stages of pre-season testing, F1 was in for some shock results... er, or not.

With a lack of running on Friday practice due to inclement weather conditions, the teams would have to make the absolute most of the third and final practice session on Saturday morning. With both low and high fuel runs being completed at different stages of the session it was still not entirely clear what the pecking order would be even with a dry track.

Qualifying has always been about extracting the maximum performance from the car and there's no doubt that under this new system, this premise still holds true. However, drivers who are able to extract that performance may find themselves eliminated mid-way through a session if they haven't gotten their lap together in time before drivers start getting eliminated.

Essentially, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the way this new - and needlessly confusing - format works, the slowest driver at the end of each 90 second interval will be eliminated from the session, irrespective of whether or not they are on a faster lap. However these eliminations don't start until a certain time in the session has been reached. This means that there is a flurry of action to start each session as drivers must get out and set a fast enough lap so that they're not vulnerable come elimination time.


Hamilton takes pole amidst the qualifying chaos.

Now, this all sounds very exciting in theory, but as it was plainly showcased today, this system just simply does not equate to better viewing. This is because teams and drivers simply don't bother to go out again if they've gotten the best lap they can, or if they don't have enough time to set a faster lap. The net result is a qualifying session where the first five or so minutes are spent actually qualifying, and the next 7-8 minutes are spent sitting in the garage watching the clock count down.

The third and final qualifying session was a prime example of this as the pole position was determined with 3 minutes still remaining, with TV pundits like Damon Hill stating after the conclusion of the session that the irony of the whole thing was that Lewis Hamilton had enough time to pull into the pits, hop out of his car and wave the chequered flag to mark the close of the session as a grand total of zero cars circulated the track.

There's no question that the new system has not worked as intended, and the teams' engineers and drivers knew that this kind of thing would happen, but still the FIA ignored them and pushed ahead anyway. Still, the FIA can't be all to blame for this silly idea as it was the teams themselves who unanimously agreed to the change in format with just two weeks before the start of the first Grand Prix. Why they agreed? Well, they thought it might improve "the show", but clearly it was a mistake.

Christian Horner and Toto Wolff have both stated that the new system is total rubbish and that the fans should receive an apology. With such a negative backlash to the new scheme and with the teams having the power and as it would seem, the intent, to enforce the return to the older and vastly superior system, whether or not we'll see the elimination qualifying ever return again... Well, you do the math. But! If the teams and the organisers are short sighted enough to implement a system such as this in the first place, it honestly wouldn't surprise me to see it remain, either.


Sebastian Vettel would claim a familiar third place after being pipped by Rosberg towards the end of Q3.

In essence it's designed for the purpose of mixing up the grid to facilitate a more variable race come Sunday. However for all the good intention they had, we still ended up with a grid that resembles Noah's Ark.

Anyway, there were actually some cars out on track today, and with the new qualifying overshadowing things rather a lot, here's how the grid is shaping up for Sunday's race. Despite all the doom and gloom surrounding qualifying, I've got to say that given the grid positions, this could actually be a very enjoyable race.
  1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) - 1:23.837
  2. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) - 1:24.197
  3. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) - 1:24.675
  4. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) - 1:25.033
  5. Max Verstappen (Toro Rosso) - 1:25.434
  6. Felipe Massa (Williams) - 1:25.458
  7. Carlos Sainz Jr. (Toro Rosso) - 1:25.582
  8. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) - 1:25.589
  9. Sergio Perez (Force India) - 1:25.753
  10. Nico Hulkenberg (Force India) - 1:25.865
  11. Valtteri Bottas (Williams) - 1:25.961
  12. Fernando Alonso (McLaren) - 1:26.125
  13. Jenson Button (McLaren) - 1:26.304
  14. Jolyon Palmer (Renault) - 1:27.601
  15. Kevin Magnussen (Renault) - 1:27.742
  16. Marcus Ericsson (Sauber) - 1:27.835
  17. Felipe Nasr (Sauber) - 1:27.958
  18. Daniil Kvyat (Red Bull) - 1:28.006
  19. Romain Grosjean (Haas) - 1:28.322
  20. Esteban Gutierrez (Haas) - 1:29.606
  21. Pascal Wehrlein (Manor) - 1:29.642
  22. Rio Haryanto (Manor) - 1:29.627*
*3 place grid penalty for collision with Grosjean in the pitlane at the start of FP3.

What is your take on the new qualifying format? Do you think the race will be exciting? Can Ferrari finally challenge Mercedes on race pace?

Images credit: F1Fanatic.co.uk

Update: The team principals from all teams have had a meeting this morning (Sunday 20th) and have decided unanimously to ditch the new system and revert back to the previous season's system for the next round in Bahrain.

The decision will obviously need ratification from the Strategy Group, F1 Commission and the FIA, however if successful, which is highly likely, we will be seeing the return of the old system in place for Bahrain.
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Can someone explain why Ferrari didn't push Vettel and Kimster out for a second flying lap in Q3? Was it because they figured they had no chance at beating Merc and didn't want to waste a set of tires? Aren't the super softs going to be useless in the race?
Lemme be the first... to say it was a Trainwreck. And I don't mean in Amy Schumer way.
That way was way too Trainwreckless than this. Shame. No one seems to know what's happening. I really hope they'll change it before next race.
Back to last season, say. What's wrong with it I never understand. But I would just looove the old qualy format, you know, if you're not too young to remember... one hour for all and that's it.

Oh I wasn't the first, David overtake me. Something we rarely see. In F1 I mean.
Oki then... lemme be the second. :p

Yeah David I was asking myself the very same question.
Among other 43 questions I demand the answer from myself.
Just hope that Bernie is having a ball. :poop:
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Can someone explain why Ferrari didn't push Vettel and Kimster out for a second flying lap in Q3? Was it because they figured they had no chance at beating Merc and didn't want to waste a set of tires? Aren't the super softs going to be useless in the race?

From reading some of the various F1 news sites, yes that's exactly why they didn't push them out. They didn't want to waste a set of tires.
They should just let each car do a fix set of laps for quali and be done with it.
Whether that should be a max of 1 lap ,3 laps or another amount of laps does not really matter but that quali session was a total disgrace!
....Just hope that Bernie is having a ball. :poop:
Seems it doesn't.


Bernie Ecclestone declares F1's new qualifying format 'pretty crap'

But what really smells like :poop: to me is this part:
"If we go back to the old system, I tell you what would happen: Mercedes would be first and second," he said. "Pretty simple."
Is that the whole point? That Mercedes doesn't take front row??
What a brainiac.
Like Mercedes 206 is the first dominant F1 team, ever.
So we now must change rules just to screw them?!
Dear Lord....
Looking at the grid I am happy to see Massa still be so fast and surprised Rio Haryanto going faster, very slightly but still faster than Pascal Wehrlein. It's good to see that Alonso & Button are in much better shape than last year. I hope in a McLaren resurgence this year :D
Good result for Lewis and especially Max but can I just say that the system is horrendously bad!

Maybe when the teams will accustom to the new system it'll be a nice show but this just hurt my eyes so much
The new format wasn't entirely terrible. I thought it was a good option for Q1 and Q2. It reminded me of bicycle track racing on the velodrome and the "miss and out" races. But for Q3 they should go back to the previous qualifying system.

The complaint about no drivers being on track at the end of Q3? Well, under the old system how many times has the track been empty at the beginning of a session? At least in the new format the top teams were mixing it up with the slower teams from the start of Q1 and Q2 which made it more interesting. Last year the Mercs did a whopping total of 1 flying lap in Q2. Yes some cars put a ton of laps in during qualifying, but if you look at those who advanced to Q3, the disparity in total laps run was striking - across Q1, Q2, and Q3 on the low end was Vettel with 12, Rosberg with 14, Hamilton and Bottas with 16. On the high end half the riders advancing to Q3 had 20+ laps during qualifying.

But yeah, Q3 was a letdown. Though I would say the bigger issue isn't the format change but still the relative dominance of Mercedes to the field. Last year, the only real excitement in Q3 would be if Rosberg or Hamilton would take the pole as the clock ran out (and after spending most of their time in the garage between two flyers).
Except for the 1st few minutes qualifying was terrible.

On face of it it appears the new honda engine is slower than the year old ferrari engine. same for renault. This is simply ridiculous.

Rosberg for all the performance at the end of last year, slots back into a familiar role and spot.

Looks like its going to be another bore fest. 16 years watching F1 (i know its not a lot) but its difficult to keep the motivation going. We had bore fests before but they had years in between dotted with superb racing that kept the interest up. Ferrari had to fight in 2003, Renault in 2006, Bulls in 2010, 2012, but the situation now is terrible.
TBH I think the people running the various leagues at RD could do a way better job of running F1 than these clowns. Qualifying was about the only part of the sport that wasn't crap last season so lets ruin that. Makes it a lot easier to have a lie in tomorrow morning rather than getting up early to watch the race :(
The one thing that wasn't broken... now is.
Even I could see this coming from 'miles' away... and said as much, when it was announced.
If the FIA wanted more cars on track in the now 'old format', all they really needed to do was allocate two sets of new super-softs (instead of one) to all teams at the start of qualifying.
The current extra set along with the additional set, to be handed back at the end of qualifying.
Don't think for a second all teams wouldn't use the opportunity to collect as much data as possible by running...especially with the limited testing.
Watch!...between now and next race there will probably be another "stupid" rule imposing fines or penalties for not running in future Q3 sessions.
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I am very disappointed with how the qualifying turned out. I expected cars to be on the track the entire time for the whole session.

The way the new rules were announced it sounded to me that after the slowest driver would be eliminated, all driver's times would be reset, so they all would have to go out, post another lap time and then the slowest would drop out again and after that rinse and repeat till the final 2 cars battle for pole.

Now that would be very very exciting, but having witnessed how it actually panned out is more bull :poop: than the manure that both the Red Bull and Torro Rosso bulls can manage to produce in a decade.
I completely agree with everything said here. In my opinion it also gets worse the further qualifying progresses. Seb and Kimi were already out of the car 5 minutes prior to the end of the session, that just shouldn't be needed. Also feel bad for Jenson, he was ready to go but just didn't have enough time.
Total rubbish and it defies belief that these intelligent guys in F1 couldn't see that coming when everyone else saw it as soon as it was announced. Incredible. So many things that do need looking at yet they tamper with one of the few things that didn't need it
This is what happens when clueless people in power run roughshod over the opinions of the people that matter: team bosses, engineers and drivers.

Shambolic, farcical, embarrassing. If it isn't broken, don't fix it. It's not going to make Mercedes any slower or the rest faster. They need to look at the root causes to address that.
I didn't mind it so much at all. It is a bit confusing at first, but since T&S put the shot clock on the board its pretty easy to follow. It did tend to bring the excitement early on versus later on but I blame that to the performance gap between Merc and Ferrari. Ferrari just threw in the towel.

Had that gap closed over winter, we would have LOVED the last five minutes of Q3 - instead, it was all decided. It will take time for the new format but the old format would not have changed the results, I don't think.
They've been screwing up F1 gradually for about 20 years now. No wonder it would end up this way as nobody is stopping these old farts and their crazy ideas over @ FIA. No idea about the successor to the old concorde agreement and how long the teams are now bound to stay in F1, but i do hope there will be a breakaway series sooner or later and we can start all over again without silly rules and unattractive cars.

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