F1 qualifying: Why do elimination rules remain for Bahrain GP?
Thought you'd seen the last of elimination-style qualifying after its dreadful Australia debut? Here's why it remains for Bahrain...
By James Galloway and Matthew Morlidge
Last Updated: 04/04/16 2:41pm
Why hasn't elimination qualifying changed?
F1's stakeholders failed to deliver the unanimous agreement required to make an immediate change to the regulations when the Strategy Group and F1 Commission held votes last Thursday.
But hadn't teams already agreed in Australia to drop it?
Yes. Team representatives met with FIA race director Charlie Whiting at a hastily-arranged meeting on race-day morning in Melbourne and all agreed the qualifying format should revert to the 2015 rules from Bahrain.
"We made a mistake and will go back for the next race," Red Bull chief Christian Horner told Sky Sports News HQ. "We are usually a pretty dysfunctional group but there was absolute unanimity."
So what changed?
Essentially, the F1 Strategy Group and F1 Commission - the first two steps on the sport's complex legislative ladder - were not in the end able to vote to completely abolish elimination qualifying.
The proposal instead put to e-vote by the FIA, F1's governing body, was for a hybrid version of the system to be introduced - whereby Q1 and Q2 would remain under the controversial elimination rules, but Q3 would revert to the old format when all cars were on track for the whole final session.
"The new qualifying caused a bit of shock, but maybe we can salvage the good of the format," said Bernie Ecclestone ahead of last Thursday's vote in a hint towards what was to come.
Who voted against the hybrid version?
Although the compromise solution could still have been considered the least-worst option for Bahrain, McLaren and Red Bull are understood to have made clear they would only support a full rollback of elimination qualifying and not simply a tweak to Q3.
But with such an option not on the table, their opposition to the FIA's alternative meant the vote failed to garner sufficient support and F1 was stuck with what it had in Australia.
Why did the vote have to be unanimous?
F1's Sporting Regulations state that only changes made for safety reasons can be made by the FIA after March 1 of the previous year unless all competitors agree.
Will qualifying be any better in Bahrain?
While the final session was quite obviously flawed, one of the reasons the elimination format flopped in Melbourne was that teams just didn't understand it. Take Sauber, who sent Felipe Nasr out in Q1 with a new set of supersoft tyres - only for his flying lap to be timed out and cut short.
After one round of qualifying, team analysts will have formulated a stronger plan to tackle the system and in theory we should see fewer problems with timekeeping, at least.
"The teams were unanimous in their opinion of it on Sunday in Melbourne and it wasn't a positive opinion," said Mercedes' Toto Wolff. "We haven't found the right format with this change and it's hard to see how it might be more entertaining for the fans this weekend in Bahrain."
Engineers predicted the little running in Q3 however and, particularly if Ferrari find themselves in the final four again, an exciting final few minutes seems unlikely. Sergio Marchionne was one of the fiercest critics of the format and it seems inevitable that the Scuderia will opt to save rubber for the race again should they find themselves up against Mercedes. Sending cars out for the 'show' would only weaken their case against this format.
Is it here to stay in 2016?
Unless there is a seismic shift in excitement for fans and perception from the paddock - no. Team principals are already unanimous in their damning verdict after a single trial and it was only the restrictive nature of last week's vote that saved the format, most likely for one more race.
Ecclestone confirmed an upcoming review, telling Reuters: "After Bahrain, we're going to have a look at it." Wolff added: "The sport is under scrutiny on this matter, so careful thought is required in order to make coordinated, intelligent steps forward from the position we are in right now."
Be prepared for another week of voting, strategy groups, and debate then...
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